Tales from the Far Side

Voices: Kathleen Barr, Lee Tokar, Doug Parker, Dale Wilson.

Voices: Kathleen Barr, Lee Tokar, Doug Parker, Dale Wilson.

Filmed in Vancouver by Intl. Rocketship Prods. for FarWorks Inc. Exec producer, Toni A. Carmichael; producer- Fans of “Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson’s sadistic side will get a kick out of his first TV special, but it’s not a program for either children or the faint of stomach.

While it’s one thing to see Larson’s rather gruesome sense of humor at work on a newspaper page that shows a single static frame of some macabre gag, it’s a whole new experience to watch the grim jokes slowly play themselves out in vivid color and full motion — wringing probably more laughs for those who relish Larson’s dark side and more shudders for those who cringe at his excesses.

This nominally Halloween-themed special showcases plenty of the clever “Far Side” wit, bringing to life Larson’s trademark bugs, monsters, redneck hunters and zombies as they get eaten, lose body parts, get squashed and otherwise meet their nutty fates.

But the program could have done with a bit more of that wit; surprisingly, some of the gags run out of steam before they lumber on to their punch lines.

Still, there are flashes of brilliance, particularly in a vignette about a couple of wolf companions that, in its twisted way, tugs at the heart strings.

And the only bit with significant dialogue, a demonstration of how alien cowboy-impersonators were ferreted out, delivers a Texas-sized laugh.

A few familiar gags from the “Far Side” comic strip show up here, but to Larson’s credit, he keeps much of the material original. And though his cunning style remains somewhat primitive, Larson’s work is brought to life with top-notch animation.

The visuals are inventively complemented with ominous Bill Frisell music and deft Irving Mulch sound design.

If CBS goes for future “Far Side” spex, the net might push for faster pacing and a more even mix of the lighter and darker shades of the Larson sense of humor.

Either that, or reschedule “Far Side” for a later hour, after nightmare-prone toddlers are safely off to bed.

Tales from the Far Side

Production: CBS, Wed., Oct. 26, 8:30 p.m.

Crew: Editor, Michael van den Bos, Dennis Heaton; director, Marv Newland; creator-writer, Gary Larson; camera, Lynka Belanger, Tom Brydon, Alvin Chong; sound, Irving Mulch; music, Bill Frisell. 30 MIN.

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