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This 'Bunny' is funny and for adults

Sunday, March 24, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Let's get one thing straight: "Greg the Bunny" is NOT a children's show.

Granted, its puppet star is a cute wittle wabbit, but this Fox series is decidedly for adults.

In Wednesday's pilot when Greg replaces the long-time star of children's show "Sweetknuckle Junction," aging Rochester Rabbit menacingly holds scissors to Greg's felt. Co-star Warren Demontague, an ape puppet, tries to talk him down.

"Time to face facts, you're not the performer you used to be," Warren says.

"That's not what your ex-wife said," Rochester retorts.

"The Muppet Show" was never like this.

"Greg the Bunny" started out as a public access show in New York, became a series of interstitial skits on the Independent Film Channel and has now mutated into its own Fox series.

"Greg" pokes fun at actors with its look behind the scenes of the kids' show and occasionally comments on minorities in America in the guise of Greg and his 3.2 million fellow "fabricated Americans." It also likes to shock by having the puppets say outrageous things.

"What do humans see in these things anyway?" Warren says of dogs in an upcoming episode. "If I wanted someone to lick my face and poop on my lawn, I'd get back together with Farrah Fawcett."


"Greg the Bunny"

When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on Fox.

Starring: Seth Green, Eugene Levy.


That one had me howling, and there are other outrageous bits of dialogue in the three "Greg" episodes Fox made available for review, but these parts don't add up to a cohesive whole. After the shock value of puppets saying scandalous things wears off, what's left?

The characters - human and puppet - aren't well enough developed in early episodes to form a lasting bond with viewers. The writing doesn't evidence any particular point of view other than crudeness + puppets = hilarity. So far, at least, the show's concept is better than its execution.

Wednesday's pilot - another episode airs Easter Sunday at 8:30 p.m. - introduces the players, most notably Greg (voice of series creator Dan Milano), who is roommate with human Jimmy Bender (Seth Green). Greg, tired of only working one day a year on Easter, begs Jimmy to call his dad, Gil (Eugene Levy), the director of "Sweetknuckle Junction."

The timing couldn't be better. Rochester Rabbit keeps flubbing his lines and the network wants a change. Network executive Alison (Sarah Silverman) complains that Rochester's fur is thinning and his ears are drooping. To reach a younger audience, she demands Gil come up with the next Elmo.

"We already reach 3-year-olds, how young do you want to go?" Gil asks.

Greg ultimately gets the job, going to work alongside puppets Count Blah and Tardy, a slow-witted creature that may be a turtle. His human co-stars include Junction Jack (Bob Gunton) and sweet, na´ve Dottie Sunshine (Dina Waters).

The first episode of "Greg the Bunny" is actually lighter on laughs than two that will air later in the show's run.

In one, Greg becomes the, uh, puppet of the leader of a puppet minority rights group. The leader looks like Don King and talks like Jackie Chiles and insists that Greg speak in his native "puppish" and wear traditional puppet garb (lots of felt).

The episode offers sly commentary on how minority groups are sometimes viewed.

"I have the utmost respect for such an adorable little culture," Dottie innocently and condescendingly proclaims.

Anyone who watches this week's episode and any that follow will notice a distinct difference in Greg's look. He has button eyes in the pilot and eyeballs and lids in every other episode, an effort to give the character more life-like qualities. The change isn't remarked upon, a missed opportunity. The alteration could have made for a wry episode about the network requiring Greg to get an eye job.

"Greg the Bunny" was created for public access by Milano and Spencer Chinoy and shepherded to Fox by "Just Shoot Me" creator Steve Levitan. They've got the germ of a good idea, but the show is scattershot, at best, and probably too weird for mainstream American television regardless of the cult following it's likely to inspire.

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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