Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 9. Creature Comforts

I still can't get over how they made it. The concept alone is perfect. The crew behind ITV's Creature Comforts, based on a short film and a series of advertisements created by Nick Park of Wallace and Gromit fame, went around Great Britain, interviewing the local folk. They amassed hours and hours of recordings, nothing but seemingly mundane answers to everyday questions. Then they weeded the garden, assigned animals to represent fixed people (Every time you see the two dogs in the dumpsters, no matter the episode, the same two people, who were interviewed together, provide the voices), and let it play.

The humour is very dry. One of my favourite moments comes in the second episode, when a women in the guise of a bright yellow budgie comments on why she doesn't like doctors; "Doctors have always scared me because when I was born I nearly died. I had a 50-50 percent chance of living when I was born and I was in a little incubator and my eyes were all covered over and I was yellow. Which was awful." The extemporized, genuine nature of the dialogue prevents any opportunity for cheap puns or groan-inducing lines.

One of the master-strokes of the show is the exclusion of the questions. We never hear the interviewer, an ever-present hand holding a microphone in the corner of the screen, and we're left to try and work out where these often bizarre answers could possibly have come from. That's a great deal of the laughter, right there. A lesser show would have included the questions, in an attempt to provide the setup to prepare us for the punchline. Creature Comforts simply gives the results, and it's all the better for trusting us to keep up.

A large portion of animated t.v. shows get by with half-assed animation. For every Simpsons, there's a Family Guy (We can debate the merits of the writing all day, but it's not a shining beacon of what's possible with pencil and paper. Or pen and tablet. Or whatever.). My last reason for loving Creature Comforts is the quality of the animation. Every aspect is impeccable. The character designs are flawless; every animal's personality is established from the moment they appear on screen. There are details everywhere, both in the movements of the characters, and in the designs of the backgrounds. A great running gag to look out for is how the interviewer handles the lioness. While you watch, remember you're looking at a medium that requires 24 frames per second, and a day where two seconds of footage are shot is considered a blisteringly successful one. Those little touches throughout are responsible for incredible amounts of extra work. And it's all worth it for the best unscripted fiction show in the history of television.

1 comment:

Johnny said...

When you mentioned this the other night, the title didn't remind me but now I completely agree- this show is amazing. I watched a few clips of it just now. At first I thought the shaking of the microphone with the lioness was enough but adjusting the chair looks amazing for the medium. I still think my favorites are the dogs in the dumpster or the two crows on the side of the highway. I feel like I'd get along with them pretty well...