For those who missed AMC’s first season of Freakshow starring Todd Ray and his family, plus extended family, a spot of binge watching may be required in order to prepare for season 2. Ray, aka T Ray, was a successful force in the music industry as a record producer. Reportedly, after a chance meeting with a man called The Human Cigarette Factory, whose real name was Otis Jordan, Todd eventually turned his back on the industry to pursue his current career.
The reason? Well, Otis, who has no limbs, could roll (make) a cigarette using only his tongue, chin and shoulders. When Todd watched Jordan perform this feat of incredible coordination, Ray confessed to Otis that he could never do that. The Human Cigarette Factory replied that if he could do it then a young fellow like Todd could do anything he ever “dreamed of.”
This statement, combined with the chance encounter, changed how Todd saw the world. Apparently Ray has had a life-long fascination with the “wonders of the world.” He has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the old time “freak shows” and in 2006 he opened the Venice Beach Freakshow. Since then, he has searched tirelessly for all things bizarre and abnormal. Todd also began his mission to change the meaning of the word freak.
Ray’s emphasis is on the fact that we are all “freaks” and that the people he collects for his show, and adds to his family, are more than special. He feels that his show proves just how wondrous these people are. His constant refrain is that in the old days “freaks” were treated like royalty and this is how he sees his family today.
Sword swallowers, fire eaters (his 20 year-old daughter Asia fills this role), tiny 3 feet one inch Ali Chapman, the bearded lady, recent addition George Bell – a giant, Murrugun the Mystic, Morgue – a shock artist who seems to be getting very close to Asia, Creature – the most tattooed and decorated man in the world who did all the work on himself are among others make up this family of performers.
In the first season, which really should be binge watched to prepare for season 2, of Freakshow apart from Todd’s “regular” performers, a number of new acts are introduced to viewers. George Bell being the first and then throughout the season several other old friends and colleagues of Todd and his family drop in to perform as well as visit.
In the runup to the season 2 “proper” premiere, viewers were introduced to the Englishman with the world’s stretchiest skin, Boobzilla – who can crush things with her massive breasts and the snake charmer. While Ray loves the idea of the exotic snake performer, daughter Asia is not impressed and says up front that she is not comfortable sharing the stage with an act that is all about sex.
After the dancer is bitten by one of her slithery partners, it looks like her time may be very short with the family. Watching this show back-to-back allows the viewer an opportunity to bond with these unique and uplifting people. Performers who bring wonder to all those who witness the things that they can do. Viewers may want to be aware that there is a real danger of falling in love with this extended family, especially daughter Asia with her tireless enthusiasm and courage in trying new things.
Binge watching Freakshow in an effort to prepare for the beginning of Season 2, which began last night, is not a requirement. The first season just provides a little slice of backstory. The members of the Venice Beach show are all fascinating people regardless of their “freakish” nature. Todd Ray has already reached part of his goal to make “normal” folks understand that the definition of freak has changed for the better. AMC has a very different show on its hands and one that can become a bit of an addiction. The show airs on Tuesday nights.
By Michael Smith