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Exhuming The Television Graveyard

November 9th, 2004

The FOX television network made its mark by offering offbeat and often edgy takes on traditional fare. Although you wouldn’t know it from this year’s schedule–which dredges the murkiest passages of the “reality show” river–FOX has a superb track record of developing interesting, unusual, quality shows…which it then egregiously mishandles and quickly cancels.

For FOX, it appears that their scheduling strategy is as follows:

  • 1) Create a promising new series.
  • 2) Premiere it well after the other networks begin their own fall lineups. (After all, they spent a lot for that baseball post-season contract.)
  • 3) Ideally, schedule it on Friday, which is second only to Saturday in terms of low viewership.
  • 4) Run the episodes in a randomly selected order, destroying any attempt at continuity. (If possible, run the pilot last.)
  • 5) Pre-empt it every third week.
  • 6) Move it to a different night, paired with an incompatible lead-in.
  • 7) If all else fails, move it to Sundays opposite 60 Minutes.

The television graveyard has a special plot for FOX series that never had a chance: Firefly, The Tick, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Harsh Realm, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and Futurama among them. (Yes, I know that the latter ran for several years, but it’s clear that FOX never liked or supported it. Initially scheduled in the highly logical position between The Simpsons and The X-Files, it was quickly dumped into the first hour of Sunday, where it was frequently upstaged for football.)

Another show on that list is Greg the Bunny, which was recently released on DVD. I picked up the two-disc set last weekend, and have watched about half of its 13 episodes.

Greg is set in a world somewhat reminiscent of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, with puppets (aka “Fabricated Americans”) instead of “toons.” No explanation is given for the existence of living puppets, which on one hand appear to be made of fleece and stuffing, yet also exhibit many biological bodily functions.

The show is a behind-the-scenes look at the production of “Sweetknuckle Junction,” an oddly-retro kiddie show which has a PBS sensibility, yet apparently airs on a fictional commercial network. The puppets (including Warren the Ape and Count Blah) may look like Sesame Street characters, yet they drink, gamble, swear, pee and boast about shtupping their buxom human costar. Although that sounds like it might be fodder for a raunchy, South Park-style exercise, the series actually has many sweet moments, most of them provided by the title character, a small, cute and largely innocent rabbit.

There’s also a strong cast of human actors, including Seth Green, Eugene Levy and Sarah Silverman, who I think is pretty hot, though that may be due to her short-skirted business attire.

It’s a funny satire on the TV industry and on race relations, as when Greg attempts to get in touch with his “Puppish” nature. If you never saw it, and chances are good that you didn’t, it’s worth a spin.

One of the wonderful things about the recent flood of TV-on-DVD releases is that a lot of shows which didn’t last long enough for syndication have gained a second life. Furthermore, one can catch up with episodes which were pre-empted for sports or never aired at all.

One could fill an entire shelf with DVDs from cancelled-too-soon FOX shows alone…and I very nearly have!

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