John Carrafa

In the spirit of the U.K.'s "Spitting Image," E! takes celebrity foibles that fill up column after column on Defamer and reenacts them using clay animation, with saucer-eyed, puppet-like characters resembling those featured in "Team America: World Police."

In the spirit of the U.K.’s “Spitting Image,” E! takes celebrity foibles that fill up column after column on Defamer and reenacts them using clay animation, with saucer-eyed, puppet-like characters resembling those featured in “Team America: World Police.” The gags fly by so rapidly in each half-hour that whenever one doesn’t work, they’re pretty quickly on to something else, and the jokes are sly if only occasionally flat-out funny. All told, it’s the kind of lighter-than-air distraction that dovetails nicely with the cable net’s aspired-to niche as a haven for showbiz snarkiness.

Created by Eric Fogel (whose credits include MTV’s “Daria” and “Celebrity Deathmatch”), “Starveillance’s” minimal conceit is that a pair of dude guides usher us through unseen “video” of celebrities in private moments, whether it’s Tom Cruise in the maternity ward (“I love this baby! Woo-hoo!”) or Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie auditioning African countries to host their childbirth.

“You’re at ‘Cocktail,’ ” Katie Holmes (voiced by Julie A. Klausner) sighs at Cruise. “Take it down to ‘Rain Man.’ ”

Most of the jokes operate in this celebrity-fluent space, such as the Olsen twins searching for a Manhattan apartment and experiencing fainting spells when the Realtor mentions the kitchen. The only disappointing aspect is that the targets are so obvious, from Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown appearing surprisingly normal during the down time on their reality show to (in the second installment) Mel Gibson’s pitch for “The Passion of the Christ,” leaving a pair of stereotypical, religion-challenged studio execs scratching their heads.

It is, in other words, pretty standard stuff, though still in sharp and welcome contrast to much of the toe-sucking that passes for celebrity news, whether it’s the “Inside-Extra-Access-Entertainment-Hollywood-Tonight” cluster or, for that matter, a fair amount of what’s available on E! most of the time.

“Starveillance” isn’t the kind of concept likely to have significant staying power, but it feels like a logical step for E! as the channel seeks to branch out beyond its limited reality-TV profile into somewhat more ambitious fare — the kind of show whose best moments are tailor-made to be sliced, diced and repurposed on YouTube.

In that respect, consider this an ideal template for the modern age of short-attention-span comedy — a half-hour program really meant to be viewed in three-minute increments.

Starveillance

E! Entertainment; Fri. Jan. 5, 10:30 p.m.

Production

Produced by Cuppa Coffee Prods. Executive producers, Eric Fogel, Jennifer Daly; co-executive producer, Adam Shaheen; producer, Marika Kocaba; director, Andrew Horne.

Crew

Running time: 30 MIN.

Cast

Voices: Gil Ozeri, Ben Schwartz, Alison Becker, Jackie Clarke, Paul Sheer, Matthew Piazzi, Julie A. Klausner, Amy Erwin-Miles, Dina Pearlman, Bryan T. Fenkart, Tia D. Hodge, Baron E. Vaughn, Matthew F. Oberg.
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