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CBS Gets Cozy with "Creature Comforts"

I'm not sure how American audiences will take to the new docu-comedy series Creature Comforts, which launches tonight on CBS.

Based on an Academy Award-winning film by Nick Park, creator of Wallace & Gromit, Creature Comforts is in fact a series of man-on-the-street interviews with members of the general populace. The audio tracks are then set to the humorous visual juxtaposition of claymation-based animals, ranging from dogs and cats to bees and giraffes. The UK version of the series aired on ITV and, as a huge Wallace & Gromit fan, I couldn't help but be enchanted with its home-spun wisdoms about the behaviors of (human) animals.

Everyone has a place within Creature Comforts, from old married couples to slacker dudes to little children, and each gets their chance to stand on the (animated) soapbox, talking about topics ranging from relationships and sex, to doctors, lying, and vacations. The premiere episode alone features a virtual menagerie of no less than horses, dogs, porcupines, hippopotami, giraffes, lions, slugs, and crayfish. The selection is meant to be slightly more US-centric, I believe, given the lack of "sheep, stoats, and rabbits."

Which brings us to the US version, which attempts to be just as winsomely charming as the original UK Creature Comforts, though I do feel as though there was something slightly just... missing. Maybe it was the far-too-familiar accents or the pedestrian vocal sounds of the slacker/stoner dog (talking about getting hit in the head with frisbees), but I sort of, you know, missed those varying English accents.

The concept of transforming raw, unscripted interviews on mundane topics into comedy is an interesting one. The trick, of course, is those Aardman-animated claymation animals. Watching a woman talk about how annoying it is to get weighed at the doctor's office would be cloying at best; watching a hippo talk about the indignity of being forced to weigh in by an Ally McBeal-thin nurse is hysterical. It's those very juxtapositions--a porcupine acknowledges that she's definitely not afraid of needles--that provide a glint of comedic gold.

However, all that glitters, as they say. Unfortunately, in watching Creature Comforts, I couldn't help but be struck how much better this snippets of conversation worked in Park's original short film rather than in a weekly half-hour series. A little bit goes a long way and, after a while, these conversations/sketches tend to drag on, especially without the help of the UK version's snappy score and some truly memorable "characters." (I'm thinking specifically of that married couple, portrayed by a saucy dog and cat in the UK Comforts.)

Here, however, the interviewees simply blend into one another, even with the adorable claymation animals serving to remind us that we are, at heart, animals one and all. In the final analysis, Creature Comforts is worth a peek for the curious, but I'd be hard-pressed to see this catching on with the public on an ongoing basis.

"Creature Comforts" airs Monday nights at 8 pm on CBS.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Creature Comforts/The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS); Everybody Hates Chris/All of Us (CW); Wife Swap (ABC); House (FOX)

9 pm: Two and a Half Men/How I Met Your Mother (CBS); Dateline (NBC; 9-11 pm); Girlfriends/The Game (CW); Ex-Wives Club (ABC); Hell's Kitchen (FOX)

10 pm: CSI: Miami (CBS); Supernanny (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Creature Comforts.

On the premiere installment of the US adaptation ("Animal Magnetism, Secrets & Lies, Pets at the Vet"), animals talk about what they think attracts members of the opposite sex.

9 pm: Hell's Kitchen.

It's the third season premiere of culinary competition series Hell's Kitchen. Watch as tyrranical chef Gordon Ramsay attempts to whip twelve more wannabes into shape, with the promise of a head chef position at a Las Vegas restaurant dangled before their eyes like a perfectly shaped carrot.

10 pm: The Riches on FX.

On tonight's season finale of The Riches ("Waiting for Dogot"), it might just be exposure time for the Molloys as their Eden Falls neighbors continue to pry into their lives and Dale makes a move.

Comments

Unknown said…
If you'd like to know more about "Creature Comforts," please check out my audio interview with executive producer Kit Boss. He was previously a writer and producer for seven seasons on "King of the Hill."
The US version is really cute but I think you're right about the lack of true characters. There are some fun bits but and I would definitely tune in but it does lack some of the wry charm of the British version.

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