Must Watch: Is “The Shivering Truth” the best show of the century?

Inspired by something out of a haunted children’s novel or a late-night halloween special, the show plays out as a never ending story.

Adult+Swim%E2%80%99s+%E2%80%9CThe+Shivering+Truth%E2%80%9D+is+one+of+the+greatest+shows+of+our+time+%E2%80%93+and+no+one%E2%80%99s+talking+about+it

THE MIRROR | DASHIELL DEKKER

Adult Swim’s “The Shivering Truth” is one of the greatest shows of our time – and no one’s talking about it

   It’s hard to classify a show as underrated when the fact of the matter is that it only takes one viewer for a program as a whole to leave an impact. While there will always be shows that ‘everyone’ is watching, in conjunction a slew of forgotten, imaginative, and beyond infinitely more interesting shows will never see the light of day. So I’d like for the first time to recommend one specific TV show I absolutely adore, one which I don’t see anyone I know talk about:

THE SHIVERING TRUTH (ADULT SWIM)
Inspired by something out of a haunted children’s novel or a late-night halloween special, the show plays out as a never ending story.                    THE SHIVERING TRUTH (ADULT SWIM)

  If you put your entire stream of consciousness onto paper, with absolutely no restraint on taboo or logistic improbability – with the creativity of a child on drugs, the collective humor of a Harvard-graduate and a schizophrenic, and the aching agony of a person on the verge of suicide, you’d get a little something like Adult Swim’s stop-motion animated mirage, “The Shivering Truth”.

   Created by Vernon Chatman (Emmy-award winning writer) as a comedy/horror/drama/mindf*ck anthology, “The Shivering Truth” presents itself almost as a modern iteration of “The Twilight Zone”: A series of various journeys featuring new characters and settings every episode, with a consistent undertone of menace, uncanny suspect, and acid-influenced visuals. 

Filled to the brim with interconnected characters and set-pieces in a horrifyingly liminal world – all lovingly narrated by show creator Chatmen himself, offering a signature voice that acts as the only consistent character of the series. Every episode plays out like a dream, bizarre coincidences and deja-vu overturn the senses and we are transported to a world that is simultaneously both real and unreal. 

   The ebb and flow of an average episode usually ranges from one bizarre scene to the next, expressing as much symbolic insanity as possible within the confines of its 11-minute runtime – slowly connecting the many dots its just introduced to you before your very eyes, blending the sticky seep of every story into each other — it makes a cosmic mix that defies genre, pace, and storytelling itself. From a little girl who plays peek-a-boo so well she literally goes missing, to a man who’s personality disorder is so bipolar, he horrifyingly separates into two halves… to a decapitated head and his beheader performing an Abbott-and-Costello-esque standup routine? There is simply so much absurdism to digest in “The Shivering Truth” that it can feel like an allegorical overkill, and can overwhelm even the most introspective of contemplations.

   It’s a fantastically realized, pitch-black-comedic odyssey that confronts the deep unconscious fears we all share in our respective conditions. It’s meticulously crafted and wonderfully imaginative, always with a foot in reality to ground its message — making for one confrontationally profound piece of art and one of the most entertaining shows I’ve ever seen.

The sheer amount of work that went into solidifying this series’ uniqueness through these intricately detailed, beautiful stop-motion set pieces is unimaginable considering how rare of a medium that style of animation is nowadays – especially on TV. (THE SHIVERING TRUTH (ADULT SWIM)

 It’s easy to deem any sequence from the shows many, many surrealist exercises in provocative dream-like vignettes as a meaningless menagere of pointless accounts of fake cartoon characters, but it takes the slightest bit of intuition (and most of all sympathy) to see that what “The Shivering Truth” offers beyond its relentlessly palpable visual language and super out-there comedic style is a show that offers a sense of human nature in an extreme so intimate and uncompromising, it sings a song of genuine truth – and a profound poeticism that has been missing from the heart of animated American-television. 

  The subjective nature of its extremist humor and horror will obviously be up to the viewer, but the artistry is unquestionably evident, and the universal resonance the show possesses has the power to overwhelm anyone over with a ferocious intensity.

   The sheer amount of work that went into solidifying this series’ uniqueness through these intricately detailed, beautiful stop-motion set pieces is unimaginable considering how rare of a medium that style of animation is nowadays – especially on TV. It’s an incredible artistic feat that only assures it’s genius and impressiveness the more you expose yourself to it. Here’s a brief example on how the show is created in this behind-the-scenes video from Adult Swim’s YouTube Channel.

“The Shivering Truth” plays on unconventional and uncanny fear              THE SHIVERING TRUTH (ADULT SWIM)

There’s one moment I’d like to highlight as an example of the show’s potency for bafflingly brilliant and questionably stupid scenarios: We see in the show’s pilot episode, “Chaos Beknownst”, a suicide-hotline operator (Michael Cera) is on the phone with a man who explains to him how every attempt to end his life has accidentally resulted in a miraculous positive action – and that he has reached a level of honor and stardom to the point where the general public encourages him to try to end his life because of all of the accidental good it brings. This entire story is visualized in front of us as we see him unintentionally save victims of a kidnapping, create a mixture of pills that end up creating a cure for cancer instead of a poison, and finally as he jumps from a building to promptly land (and kill) the kidnapper from earlier in the story. Bored with this overblown and pointless babble, the hotline operator hangs up the phone, leaving the man on the other end to reign successful in one final attempt – leading to his long-awaited death, as the phoneman celebrates his first ‘successful call’. If you couldn’t tell, its a messed up show.

   It’s a show that takes the biggest swing imaginable and doesn’t ever once leave you time to overanalyze or breathe, it completely washes over you from the second it starts to the second it ends, and that iconic, chilling bedtime lullaby rolls in the credits.

   From its sacreligious imagery, to its unflinching intellectualism, “The Shivering Truth” will leave you starstruck and unable to look away from its disgusting yet beautiful descent into madness. Every episode, every joke, every existential outcry, all accumulates into one of the most controversial, singular, and essential shows of the century. An emotionally resonant psychological satire that will make you look under the bed and stare into the abyss of fear and shame. In other words, it is the truth

   It’s hard to say if we will ever see this gem of a show continue beyond its 2 seasons and 13 episodes but even if we never do, it will remain some of the greatest 143 minutes of television ever created – and one of my absolute favorite shows to come around in a very long time.

10/10

Want to know if the show is for you? Watch the entire series for yourself, for free here (My personal favorite is “Holeways” S2E6): https://www.adultswim.com/videos/the-shivering-truth