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 show.
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.
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.
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 disc..
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.