Judge Adam Arseneau watched this DVD while spending the entire weekend in wine country...which is what he calls the room above his garage.
Our reviews of Greg The Bunny: Best Of The Film Parodies (published October 18th, 2006) and The Passion Of Greg The Bunny: Best Of The Film Parodies, Volume 2 (published June 25th, 2008) are also available.
"It's great seeing people stick it to authority."
Full of puppets, celebrity guest stars, and a disproportionate amount of sexual innuendos, Greg The Bunny is like the inbred son of Married…With Children and Sesame Street run amuck, tearing about the town drunk on a bender…brought to you by the letter B and from donations from viewers like you.
The DVD tagline on the cover of Greg The Bunny: The Complete Series reads: "TV wasn't ready for him. Are you?" This is especially ironic considering that Fox cancelled the series after less than a dozen episodes. But now the show finally gets its day in court, splendidly packaged for your capitalistic consuming pleasure.
Facts of the Case
There are currently 3.2 million puppets living in the United States (or, as they prefer to be called, "Fabricated Americans"). They have jobs and go to work, living side-by-side with their fleshy comrades, trying to squeak out a living in pursuit of the American dream just like everyone else. Unfortunately, racial barriers still separate puppets from people, and a down-and-out puppet can have a hard time finding stable employment (outside of Easter, at least).
Greg the Bunny is such an individual. His roommate Jimmy is a mid-twenties layabout, and they both spend a lot of time drinking and playing video games. Greg's true ambition is to work on a children's show, the one job where puppets and people stand on equal footing in the pursuit of wholesome children's edutainment. In particular, he has his sights set on "Sweetknuckle Junction," a low-rated kid's show that Jimmy's father just happens to be the producer/director of! Greg finally convinces Jimmy to call in a favor to get him an interview for a delivery boy, or an office gopher position…anything just to be on the set!
When Greg arrives, he inadvertently wanders into the audition's casting call for a new star. Jimmy's father Gil (Eugene Levy) and network representative Alison (Sarah Silverman) both are taken by Greg's infectious energy and likeability, and offer him a job. Of course, when Jimmy shows up on the set and announces himself as Greg's "agent," things get a bit sticky. When Gil discovers that his new casting choice is a rank amateur, he tries to send them both packing, but in order to cover his mistake from Alison and the network, he gives Greg a shot on-camera…and the new star of "Sweetknuckle Junction" is born!
This DVD contains all thirteen episodes from the show's decisively short run on network television (including two that never made it to air.) The episodes are presented in production order, not by airing date:
• "Welcome to Sweetknuckle Junction"
• "Sock Like Me"
• "Dottie Heat"
• "SK-2.0" (AKA "How the Count Got His 'Blah'
• "Piddler on the Roof"
• "Rabbit Redux" (AKA "Rochester Returns")
• "Father & Son Reunion"
• "Jimmy Drives Gil Crazy"
• "Greg Gets Puppish"
• "The Jewel Heist"
• "The Singing Mailman"
• "Blah Bawls"
Even when considering the typical basement-level sophistication and maturity of a typical Fox television show, Greg The Bunny definitely pushes the debauchery envelope with amusing sexual innuendos and playful subtlety masquerading as filth…err, which is to say, puppet filth. Now, puppet filth is hilarious filth, no doubt about it—you haven't seen funny until you see a tiny cute angel teddy bear go into a washroom stall, make horrible digestive bowel noises and scream out for mercy—but puppet filth is definitely still filth. Yes, the humor is lowbrow, but when puppets are making dick-and-fart jokes, the jokes become ironic and avant-garde and…err, transcend into sophisticated dick-and-fart jokes. Yeah, that's it. After all, only a show with sophisticated humor would have a sequence where a dog gets castrated and his testicles get replaced with Sammy Davis Jr. commemorative eyeballs that play an electronic version of "Mr. Bojangles." I mean, sophisticated goes without saying!
While the show certainly embodies all things holy on Fox (gratuitous sexual references, innuendoes and entendres, cursing, general filth and debauchery, et cetera), the show struck a peculiar balance between downright seediness and wholesome sweetness that worked incredibly well. Part of the charm in Greg The Bunny is viewing a puppet-filled world, full of things like foot-high doors with knobs built into regular doors to allow puppets to enter, "NO PUPPETS" signs hanging outside of restaurants, and so on. Sure, puppets farting makes for great laughs, but Crank Yankers is still on the air. What Greg The Bunny did was integrate the puppets into the real world, playing it totally straight; which is hard to do, clearly, because you can see the cracks of laughter on the corners of every human cast member's face throughout the show, all the time. This was a show that cracked the creators up on a daily basis, and it shines through on every take.
As it turns out, Greg The Bunny had intended to be a very different kind of show than it ultimately became. The creators had envisioned the show to be almost entirely "improv-style," a free-for-all puppet fest with the puppets staying in character and the actors simply improvising dialogue with them, a la The Larry Sanders Show (minus Garry Shandling of course…though he does look animatronic and puppet-ish from time to time). As the cast and crew repeatedly emphasize through the supplementary features, the "real show" took place between takes, where they cracked one another up on a regular basis. Alas, the realities of network television soon reared their ugly head, and what had intended to be a wonderfully spontaneous show full of excellent ad-libbing actors (Eugene Levy and Sarah Silverman for example) rapidly descended into structure, script, and rehearsals. The show is still funny the way it is, but to hear the cast and crew lament, one gets the impression that we missed out on something truly hilarious and wonderful.
And how could you not crack up with these characters around all day? My personal favorite: Professor Ape (AKA Warren Demontague), the Vicodan-popping, womanizing, vodka-swilling Shakespearian monkey stuck in a dead-end job, and quite possibly the jerkiest puppet ever constructed. Of course, there's the Bela Lugosi-knockoff Count Blah (blah), who ended up having his routine ripped off by a PBS puppet with a fake accent, and Tardy the Turtle, whose name I fear has nothing to do with punctuality. Plus, Gary Oldman and Corey Feldman are in it. That alone almost guarantees a certain level of awesomeness.
However, like so many ill-fated Fox shows, Greg The Bunny was hauled off the air after eleven episodes, never to be seen again. I have a feeling that there exists a group of people inside Fox's television department possessing fat wallets and particularly sadistic senses of humor who gain pleasure by developing eclectic, edgy, and unexpected television properties simply for the pleasure of unceremoniously canceling them for a new mid-season reality show with the pick-and-choose title formula of "My Big Fat ____."
Well, either that, or the network is run by monkeys…actual monkeys. I assume Fox's television selection process involves the monkeys hurling darts at the program timeslot board, and whichever program gets struck the most gets cancelled, regardless of ratings, popularity, or critical acclaim. Doubtful, you say? Take a look at some of the shows Fox has cancelled over the last few years, and then come up with a more plausible explanation. I dare you.
Fox may know how to cancel good shows, but luckily, they also know how to put out fantastic DVDs. Greg The Bunny: The Complete Series looks and sounds great, and has enough supplementary features to keep even the most bitter and jaded fan satisfied. The show simply looks excellent on DVD with decent black levels, contrast and detail, and with no visible defects or major problems detectable. Colors and black levels are naturally balanced, neither too vivid nor washed out. Some grain is occasionally noticeable, but this is from the source material (the show was shot on high-definition digital cameras) and not a fault of the transfer itself. The audio comes in English Dolby Surround 2.0, and though the mix makes sparing use of the rear channels for its music and environmental sound effects, the track sounds functional, being neither particularly outstanding nor disappointing in any fashion. Overall, Greg The Bunny has a very solid technical presentation with few complaints.
Extras? Oh, we got extras. First up, we get six commentary tracks spread across thirteen episodes, each containing a different combination of cast, crew, puppeteers, and puppets (yes, some of the puppets even contribute their own commentary tracks, a la Spinal Tap). The various personalities contributing at one time or another to the audio tracks are (deep breath): co-creator Dan Milano; director/editor Brent Carpenter; writer Bill Freiberger; production designer Jim Dultz; music supervisor Howard Paar; prop master Brad Elliot; actors Seth Green, Dina Waters, Sarah Silverman, and Bob Gunton; puppeteers Drew Massey, Victor Yerrid, and James Murray; and puppets Greg the Bunny, Warren Demontague, Count Blah, Tardy the Turtle, Rochester Rabbit, Susan the Monster, and more. Whew. Not only are the commentary tracks chock full of juicy technical details and puppeteer tricks, but the commentary tracks are almost as funny as the show itself…especially the track with the puppets. Oh, mercy me.
Second, we get episode-specific deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by show creator Dan Milano. If you added each episode's deleted material for the entire DVD together, you would get maybe twenty minutes worth of additional material, which is not too shabby. A nine-minute short film called "Tardy Delivery," filmed on the set of Sweetknucle Junction and featuring Tardy the Turtle attempting to deliver an express post letter is also included, and this was simply made for fun. And it is fun. Getting tired yet? Wait…we get behind-the-scene stills, conceptual art, puppet auditions, publicity galleries, storyboards for "Jimmy Drives Gil Crazy," a wrap reel, an episode of Greg The Bunny's old Independent Film Channel (IFC) show called "Reality," and at least one Easter egg that I discovered featuring Tardy the Turtle putting actress Dina Waters into absolute hysterics. And then to wrap it up, a thirty-minute mock/documentary called "The Humans Behind the Fabricated Americans," featuring behind-the-scene interviews with cast, crew, and puppeteers discussing the public-access television roots of Greg The Bunny and its transition to national television. If that isn't a fan-freaking-tastic offering of extra features for a DVD, I have no idea what is.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I genuinely liked Greg The Bunny, but in all fairness, it did have its weak points. It had great gags, incredibly dirty and suggestive double entendres aplenty, and a wonderfully dysfunctional sense of humor…but so did my crazy uncle, and I sure didn't hang out with him every day. For every hilarious joke the show lands on target comes a joke that misses its mark by a wide berth; worse, some of the gags simply get tired over long repetition. The puppets being all dirty and sexual was cute at first, but soon became almost a cliché upon itself near the end.
But more importantly, watching the series again for the first time since its original airing, I noticed the exact same problem that I did back then: The show simply takes too long to get really funny. Oh sure, the first episodes are not without their charm, very witty and occasionally crude, all very enjoyable. But ironically, the show really hit its stride right around the point where Fox execs unceremoniously yanked it off the airwaves, which must be a secret agreement made between all Fox executives and their creative consultants for all of their fledgling television productions. Kind of like how you need to kill every single one of your enemy's children, because they will grow up, become strong, and come back to seek revenge. They've all seen The Godfather. Don't kid yourself.
Also, I don't like Eugene Levy. Never have, never will, in any role. But Greg The Bunny is hardly to blame for this intense hatred, for the terrible bile rising in my throat like boiling stagnant water, the dislike burning like a hemorrhoid on my brain, like a plague on my very desire to keep liv…
Ahem. Sorry. It's my problem, and I'm getting counseling for it.
Greg The Bunny may be awkward, dirty, and crude, but it is definitely a hysterically funny show that gets better with each viewing, a fact obvious to anybody that gave it a chance and stuck through the first few clumsy episodes…which clearly not enough people did (including the "wise" people at Fox). A shame, really.
But, as a wise man once said: cancelled Fox television shows never really die…they just come out on DVD eighteen months later. Serious thumbs down on Fox for canning yet another show with immeasurable potential, but by putting out such a kick-ass DVD, they partially make up for this grievous blunder.
The DVD practically pays for itself if only to see dozens of police officers beating Cory Feldman with nightsticks whilst the Goonies theme song plays in the background.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary on Six Episodes by Creators, Cast, Crew, and Puppets
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