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Behind the scenes, it’s a strange puppet world on TV

Discussion in 'Puppet News' started by Phillip, Apr 14, 2002.

  1. Phillip

    Phillip Administrator Staff Member

    Here's an article from a couple weeks about Greg the Bunny. Quite a few Muppet references too.

    Behind the scenes, it’s a strange puppet world on TV
    Courtesy of TV Data Features Syndicate

    Even before Punch & Judy slapped each other senseless for giggling audiences in the 17th-century Britain, the antics of puppets have delighted young and old alike.

    The star of Greg the Bunny, a Fox series premiering Wednesday, March 27, is not Punch & Judy. If young and old watch the show together, the old likely will find themselves clapping their hands over the eyes and ears of the young and hustling them off to watch something safer, like WWF Smackdown!

    Greg the Bunny follows the adventures of a small, brown bunny puppet (or “fabricated American,” as he prefers to say) who has just gotten his dream job on the children’s show Sweetknuckle Junction, with some help from his human roommate, Jimmy (Seth Green), the son of the show’s producer (Eugene Levy).

    The cast of “Sweetknuckle Junction” is a mixture of humans and puppets, the conceit being that puppets are alive and independent. Greg (whose button eyes in the show’s pilot were replaced with slightly less creepy doll eyes for the series) is a wisecracking smartmouth with a bad attitude and an addiction to video games.

    The concept for the half-hour show actually was born in 1997 as part of Junktape, a New York public-access TV show created by Dan Milano, Spencer Chinoy and Sean Baker. In January 1999, Independent Film Channel (IFC) offered Milano and Chinoy the opportunity to do The Great the Bunny Show as a series of five-to-ten-minute spots introducing Tuesday-night IFC films.

    After 18 months on IFC, Milano and Chinoy reinvented Greg the Bunny one more time, eventually landing their current gig on Fox.

    While Greg uses puppets-and Milano and Chinoy currently are writing Muppet Haunted House for Him Henson Productions – it cannot in any way be confused with a series suitable for children (for instance, Jimmy’s girlfriend’s dog is neutered just off camera in one episode to keep him from chewing Greg to bits).

    Greg may have one big rabbit foot in fantasy, but its other is planted squarely in TV satire – and there’s a reason for that.

    Milano and Chinoy’s fellow executive producer is Steve Levitan, whose long list of credits includes being co-executive producer of HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show. For those without pay cable, the comedy which ran for six seasons, starred Garry Shandling as an embittered, dysfunctional late-night talk show host.

    A look behind the curtain at the nightmare world of TV chat, Larry skewered actors, writers, producers, networks, fans and hangers-on with equal glee. Perhaps more popular with entertainment insiders than the public at larger, Larry offered a dark vision of what goes on when the cameras go off.

    An argument can be made that The Muppet Show – which lies at the far end of the TV spectrum from Larry – is the other direct antecedent of Greg. The 1970’s syndicated series also featured puppets as independent beings, blending some of the Jim Henson Muppets that were seen on the PBS series Sesame Street with a bunch more puppet characters and human guests.

    With Kermit the Frog acting as emcee, theater manager and occasional therapist, The Muppet Show went backstage for each week’s production, as the beleaguered Kermit shepherded diva Miss Piggy, piano-playing Rowlf, sensitive comic Fozzie Bear, eager “go-fer” Scooter and others through a series of musical and comedy skits.

    Along with the backstage antics, the other thing that Greg and The Muppet Show have most in common is the puppet’s self-awareness and off-stage lives. Human performers always interact with puppets as if they were real, but it’s far less common that the puppets also have agents, dressing rooms and contractual disputes.

    Greg takes this one step further, with the “bio” for its star (the puppets are credited as playing themselves) saying Greg is the product of a rabbit-puppet mother and a human father. Thankfully, no further details of this union are offered.

    And the concept is not limited to puppets. In the 1990’s, the Warner Bros. series Tiny Tons and Animaniacs, both executive produced by Steven Spielberg, portrayed their cartoon characters as independent beings, to the point of an animated Spielberg making Tiny Toons guest appearances (in an E.T. baseball cap) and the Animaniacs cast singing about their “pay-or-play contracts” in the theme song.

    Then there’s always the boozing, chain-smoking, perverse stuffed rabbit Mr. Floppy, of The WB Network’s 1995-’99 series Unhappily Ever After, which functioned as a companion and adviser for an over-stressed family man (Geoffrey Pierson).

    The target demographic of Greg, nurtured on television and saturated with pop culture, biting satire, off-color humor, and self-referential, hop irony, likely will find the show feels as familiar as a warm blankie.

    For everyone else, there’s still Kermit.
  2. Jivepuppet

    Jivepuppet Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the article
    (and new forum!- It's great!)

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