As a child, I always thought puppets were a little freaky. I wasn't
terrified by them, but it was just a little unsettling to have an obviously
inanimate object talk and move. The Canadian cable channel The Comedy Network
has taken that uncomfortable feeling and ratcheted it up a couple of notches
with their show Puppets Who Kill, a live action half hour comedy
The concept behind the program is that puppets are alive, and inhabit
the same world as we do. Nobody looks twice at a cute little puppet
walking down the street or eating at a restaurant. But sometimes
puppets, like people, go bad. This is the story of four such puppets.
They were all in jail, and are now in a half way house before being released
back into society.
Rocko, the toughest of the bunch, was a children's TV show puppet, until
one day he snapped. Now he chain smokes, swears, and is always starting
trouble. A very in your face type of puppet.
Cuddles was a cuddly puppet that hospitals would give to their terminal
patients. He would comfort them and help them with their problems.
"Now he's the problem."
Buttons the Bear was designed by a marketing firm to be a corporate
mascot. Unfortunately, they forgot to give him a moral compass.
Now he uses his soft furry exterior to seduce women.
Bill is a ventriloquist's dummy. Oddly enough the 58 ventriloquists
who have owned him have all died in unusual accidents.
These puppets without morals are all looked after by a human social
worker, Dan. Dan has a few foibles of his own, he's petty and selfish,
and not the best person to look after a group of murders.
The thirteen episodes in this first season are amusing, if not outrageously
funny. The show has some good plots, like when Cuddles is in a tower
with a rifle shooting at people, but a lot of the jokes are old or telegraphed
way in advance, which takes some of the sting out of the show. Maybe
it is because of South Park, and shows like it, that have raised
the bar on edgy humor but Puppets Who Kill doesn't come across as
outrageous as it should. Yes there is some humor that you won't find
any where else, like seeing a puppet have sex with a human, but the show
comes across and being run of the mill rather than offensive.
That's not to say the show isn't funny, it is. It just isn't as
consistently humorous as I would have hoped. Another criticism is
that the show gets old fairly quickly. Yes it is funny seeing offensive
puppets smoke and curse in the first episode, but after the shock wears
off there is not a lot holding the show together. Still it is an
unusual show, and each episode does have a laugh or two.
One thing that I was very happy to discover is that the program has
no laugh track. I really dislike the idea of laugh tracks.
If the creators have to include other people laughing to cue the viewer
in when something funny happens, then the show can't be very humorous.
The producers of this show were at least confident enough of the quality
of their program to dispense with the dreaded canned laughter.
The thirteen episodes from the first season are presented on two DVDs
that come in a single width double Amray case. There is a insert
with a column by Canadian film critic Rob Salem and an episode list.
For some reason the shows are not presented in the original airing
order listed on the official Puppets Who Kill Web site. I'm not sure
why they changed the shows around.
The two channel audio was appropriate, but not outstanding. The
while there wasn't any hiss or distortion, the audio sounded flat.
It wasn't as dynamic as I was hoping. Still, you could easily hear
the dialog and the music was clear. An average sounding disc.
As with the audio, the video quality was okay, but not superb.
The colors were bright and the image was fairly clear but there was some
grain in the picture and mild aliasing in the background. Not a bad
image by any means, but not superior either.
Writer John Pattison and director Shawn Thompson, provide a commentary
track to the episode The Payback. They discuss the origins
of the episode, a parody of the Film Noir movies of the 50's, and how they
shot the program to get the Noir feel. This was one of the best episodes
in the first season.
There is also an 8½ minute out-take reel with cast screwups,
and a 14 minute featurette "A Day in the Life of Puppets Who Kill."
This was a series on interviews on the set with the cast, intercut with
scenes from the show. It was interesting to see how they filmed some
of the actions in the show.
Text biographies of the cast and crew are also included on the second
While there were some very funny moments in this first season of the
show, but they were not as frequent as I would have liked. Most of
the shows fall into the 'amusing' category, not bad, but not outrageously
funny. Still well worth watching, especially if you find puppets
a little creepy like I do. Recommended.