‘Puppets Who Kill’ still alive south of the border

Dave Bartlett
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Hulu streaming Canada’s Comedy Network original in the U.S.

A few months back, I was browsing the bargain bin at a local record store and found a rare treasure. For about $10 I picked up the second season of the irreverent Canadian comedy “Puppets Who Kill.”I brought the two-disc collection home and basically forgot about it.

Dan Redican played Dan Barlow during the four-season run of The Comedy Network’s “Puppets Who Kill.” The show has finally reached an American audience, years after it was cancelled, through Hulu. — Submitted image

It was, admittedly, an impulse buy, even though I remember many a late night channel-surfing expedition ending with the ridiculous show about a half-way house for, well, puppets who have committed the most heinous crimes.

Over the weekend, I found the DVDs and threw the first disc into my player to see if the show was as funny as I remembered from the period of insomnia I suffered a decade ago. While it was worth the bargain price, “Puppets Who Kill” was only a decent, and largely forgettable, show. It has hilarious moments but it’s not wall-to-wall funny — at least during its sophomore year.

The show was an original series from The Comedy Network that lasted for four seasons starting in 2002 and won three Gemini Awards. I did a bit of research and discovered it went on to air in countries like Germany and Australia before the American online streaming company, Hulu, added the series to its library late last year. So the show hasn’t done too badly for itself.

But it is not for the easily offended. It’s crass, scatological satire and freely uses language not appropriate in this column. It also uses puppets in the most kid-unfriendly ways possible.

The cast consists of four criminal puppets and their live-in social worker played by Canadian comedy legend Dan Redican — one of the members of The Frantics, who used to have a sketch comedy show on CBC in the 1980s called “Four on the Floor.”

Redican plays Dan Barlow, the show’s directionless moral compass, and his advice to the puppets leads to more trouble than before. Dan is often not smart enough to bail himself out and the puppets take advantage of Dan’s bad luck and worse decision making to get what they want.

Bill is a ventriloquist dummy — and by default the creepiest of the puppets — who has had 58 partners die in “unlikely accidents.” The second season opens with Bill suing a victim’s family for pain and suffering because the crime has given him nightmares.

Cuddles the Comfort Doll is also creepy with its high-pitched sigh of a voice. If Bill is the cold-blooded killer of the group, Cuddles is the heretic and spends one episode possessed by a demon, and another claiming to be a faith healer when a neighbour believes he has stigmata.

Rocko the Dog was a children’s entertainer before he snapped. Now he’s a chain-smoking, pot-growing, scheme-hatching troublemaker who tends to wind up his fellow puppets to help him carry out whatever immoral fancy preoccupies him at the moment.

Finally, there is Buttons the Bear, a teddy with a voracious sexual appetite and Dracula-like charm. Buttons gets the most screen time with the female guest stars. I hope the writers sought professional help after the show ended, and with it, an outlet for their collective perversions.

If you are still curious, keep reading, but if you already know this show is not for you, I’d stop now, as I’m going to delicately discuss a few plots that are twisted and contain adult situations.

While the show is fun, it’s too bad it didn’t take itself just a little more seriously. The biggest problem I had with the show is its complete lack of continuity between episodes. In one episode, Bill is castrated, yet in the next he’s going with Rocko to the Canadian Blood and Sperm Bank to do his civic duty. In another case, Dan is a virgin — though we know he’s not from previous episodes — because a possessed Cuddles needs someone pure for a sacrifice.

In a farcical show like this, you may be saying “what odds?” But if its writers worked together, and spent a minimal amount of time on character development, just a little bit, the show would have been much stronger. Instead, each episode is an extended sketch cloistered from the others in the series.

I enjoyed watching the few hours of “Puppets Who Kill,” getting through the first disc’s seven episodes. But I’m no rush to pop in Disc 2. It’s good to know when the mood strikes, though, that I’ve still got a few more hours to waste with Dan and these potty-mouthed puppet delinquents. However, I think the funniest thing about the show is its basic concept.

Dave Bartlett muses about watching habits, TV shows — new and old —and anything related to whatever he may be watching at the moment. You can get in touch with him at talkingtelevsion@gmail.com.

Organizations: The Comedy Network, CBC, Canadian Blood and Sperm Bank

Geographic location: Canada, U.S., Germany Australia

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