The puppets trump the people in Fox’s “Greg the Bunny,” a bizarre-o comedy that probably will need more time than it’s likely to get to become a Nielsen darling. Silly, dopey and demented, net’s midseason entry is an odd spectacle that certainly will become a cult fave in dorms around the country and on latenight TV down the road. For now, however, this Muppet mockery will take some getting used to.
Show’s title character is a slacker doll, a lazy rabbit who lives with his pool man buddy Jimmy Bender (Seth Green) and has no particular aspirations beyond taking baths in the sink.
Jimmy’s father, Gil (Eugene Levy), is a hotshot TV director responsible for the long-running success of “Sweetknuckle Junction,” an archetypal kiddie series that teaches lessons, contains happy music and ends on cute-and-cuddly notes doled out by acting flunkies.
Jim (Bob Gunton) is Junction Jack, the star who behaves like an angel onscreen but turns into a chain-smoking jerk when the red light is off. There’s also Dottie Sunshine (Dina Waters), the idiotic floozy modeled after Barbie and the butt of dumb-blond jokes from just about everybody.
Pilot introduces Greg to a nationwide audience by accident: After he goes down to the studio to interview for an internship with Gil, he’s thrown into an audition situation — old, saggy Rochester Rabbit is being replaced — and actually wins the job. That’s good news for Gil, especially since he’s being pressured by network exec Alison Kaiser (Sarah Silverman) for better ratings and a different direction for the show.
Disregarding how completely silly all of this is, it’s quite unique to see such a goofball take on PBS, primetime sitcoms, the TV industry and L.A.; after cameras stop rolling, the “Sweetknuckle” cast is a collection of burnt-out, jaded thesps who hate their colleagues.
How creators Steve Levitan, Spencer Chinoy and Dan Milano got away with aping Jim Henson’s offspring — there’s even a Count who gets ticked off when fans compare him to “Sesame Street’s” number-loving vampire — is the real question. Looking like ragged junk, the puppet population here is a wacked-out collection of unattractive and downtrodden creatures looking to be loved.
While the premise works, the dialogue is a bit clunky. Strangely enough, Mike Mitchell’s direction and the spotty screenplay are at their best when they involve the beasts, but they stall when just humans are present; jokes fall flat, conversations are basic and forced and everybody is wound up much too tightly for something that’s supposed to be as much commentary as it is populist entertainment.
Tech credits often are low-grade on purpose, with the studio portions looking and feeling like an early-afternoon access show; the “real world” shots are a bit more sophisticated.