Puppets Who Kill
|Puppets Who Kill|
|Country of origin||Canada|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||53 aired (as of June 22, 2006)|
|Running time||30 Mins|
|Original channel||The Comedy Network|
|Original release||October 4, 2002 – June 22, 2006|
Puppets Who Kill is a Canadian television comedy programme produced by PWK Productions and originally broadcast on The Comedy Network. It premiered in Canada in 2002, and in Australia on The Comedy Channel in 2004. It has also been broadcast in India, South Korea and Germany. The series is on the digital network Hulu in the United States as of December, 2013.
"PWK" began as a one-man live theatre show written and performed by comedian/puppeteer John Pattison at the Toronto Fringe Festival. It later morphed into the series, using the same dark topics and featuring some of the same puppet characters.
In Puppets Who Kill, Rocko the Dog, Cuddles the Comfort Doll, Buttons the Bear, and Bill the Ventriloquist's Dummy are four live, anthropomorphic puppets with a history of delinquency and recidivism. Canadian courts sent each of them to a halfway house for puppets, operated by a hapless and somewhat incompetent social worker named Dan Barlow (played by Dan Redican).
Rocko the Dog
Rocko is a dog puppet puppeteered by Bruce Hunter. He is a hard-cursing, chain-smoking misanthrope who formerly worked on a children's television programme. The job required him to modify his language and behaviour, but eventually a berserk outburst on set ended his career. He takes medication to temper his violent mood swings.
Cuddles the Comfort Doll
Cuddles is a comfort doll puppeteered by Bob Martin. However, he is a clear example of a passive-aggressive personality. Cuddles was designed to provide comfort to people in times of stress and help them with their problems, but now he's the problem. His subordination of his own needs for those of others eventually led him to grab a rifle and start sniping at people on the ground from a high perch. Cuddles is generally the best behaved of the group, but his naivete often gets him and his compatriots into trouble. It is also apparent that he can't handle pressure well.
Buttons the Bear
Buttons is a teddy bear with eyes made of two different buttons. He is puppeteered by James Rankin. Despite his innocent appearance, Buttons is a promiscuous womanizer with no sense of sexual propriety. He lives by the motto "if it feels good, do it". He once had a lucrative corporate sponsorship deal with the fictional Happy Elf Peanut Butter Company (ironic, considering that Buttons is actually a bear), but the sponsor exercised the "moral turpitude" clause in his contract once his behaviour leaked to the press.
Bill the Dummy
Bill is a ventriloquist's dummy with a menacing smile. He is puppeteered by Gord Robertson. Fifty-eight of his partners have died in "accidents". He is in fact a psychopath, whose misbehaviour includes cutting off men's testicles to collect them, cannibalism, cold blood killing and placing explosives in toilets. His nemesis is the Rasputin-like Curious Bob (John Hemphill) a former partner who has survived four murder attempts. In an episode showing Bill's trial, we learn some of Bill's past, and his apparent insecurities. His adopted mother told the court of his past. We learn that Bill had some bowel problems as a child and would often defecate in his pants, thus earning him the nickname "poopy pants" from his peers. It was also revealed that Bill has a small penis and oddly shaped gonads which his creator gave him in order to make him humble but which had the opposite effect. He also is currently a eunuch.
Dan Barlow is a social worker who runs the half-way house where the puppets live. Dan is not well suited to be a social worker. Although he often cares about his charges, his primary concern is usually for himself and the preservation of his job. He also has difficulty with his own moral compass and finds himself easily swept up in events. His poor decision making is legendary. Dan's primary concern is keeping the halfway house open - this is his only gig, and he doesn't want to lose it.
The series is shot on location and in-studio in and around Toronto, and the show makes great use of Canadian talent, using several guest actors per episode - Many well-known Canadian actors have taken part in PWK in an array of odd roles. Newsreader Bill Cameron appeared (as himself) semi-regularly, often foreshadowing the show's plot by reporting on bizarre crimes that could only have been committed by Dan's charges. Among the many actors who have appeared in the series are Gordon Pinsent, Kristin Lehman, Emily Hampshire, Peter Outerbridge, Anna Silk and Helene Joy, just to name a few.
Most of the Puppets Who Kill episodes were written by founding creator/producer John Pattison, with Dan Redican also writing a number of episodes and providing story editing advice. More than half of the series episodes were directed by producer Shawn Alex Thompson. One of the elements that made the series unique was use of film people in some of the key positions. The participation of Daniel Pellerin in the sound design and Caroline Christie in editing along with the music of Carlos Lopes [among others] gave the show a unique look for a television series.
On June 22, 2006, the show completed its fourth and, it turned out, final season. The first and second seasons have been released on DVD in full. Season 3 and 4 appeared in a 'Best of' collection in 2010 with audio commentaries by key cast and crew, and contains some of the show's greatest hits including such popular episodes as "The Joyride" and "The Rival House".
Puppets Who Kill won many awards in its four-year run. In Canada, it won 3 Gemini Awards, including Best Writing in a Comedy for founding creator/writer/producer John Pattison and Best Directing in a Comedy for producer/director Shawn Alex Thompson. PWK went on to receive a total of 15 Gemini nominations in various categories, from writing, directing, and acting to sound design and photography. The series also won the prestigious Bronze Rose for Comedy at the Montreux Television Festival in Switzerland in 2003, coming in second to The Office.
As confirmed by the PWK website, a Puppets Who Kill movie is in the works.
John Pattison has occasionally been performing his live puppet show Beyond Puppets Who Kill in various cities in Canada.
List of Episodes
- "Pilot" - Dan meets with four puppet clients and finds that each of them have deeply rooted psychological problems. Rocko decides to help a children's show host get a kidney for a lucrative amount of money but is frustrated at how difficult it is to achieve his goal. Buttons, at Dan's behest, seduces the woman that could make or break the halfway house. (October 2, 2002)
- "Buttons, The City Councillor And The City Councillor's Wife" (October 11, 2002)
- "Cuddles Goes To Jail" (October 18, 2002)
- "Buttons Goes To Court" (October 25, 2002)
- "Bill's Brain" (October 31, 2002)
- "The Island Of Skip-Along Pete" (November 8, 2002)
- "Rocko's Telethon" (November 15, 2002)
- "Cuddles The Safety Mascot" (November 22, 2002)
- "Dan's Crush" (November 29, 2002)
- "Dash The Greeter" (December 6, 2002)
- "Cuddles Gets Laid" (December 13, 2002)
- "Dan's Umbrella" (December 20, 2002)
- "Mr. Quigley, The Asshole Next Door" (December 27, 2002)
- "The Payback" (January 3, 2003)
- "Bill Sues" (January 30, 2004)
- "Portrait Of Buttons" (February 6, 2004)
- "Prostitutes For Jesus" (February 13, 2004)
- "Cuddles The Demon" (February 20, 2004)
- "Buttons And The Geriatric" (February 27, 2004)
- "Dead Ted" (March 5, 2004)
- "Cuddles The Religious Icon" (March 12, 2004)
- "Bill's Got The Blues" (March 19, 2004)
- "Pizza Boys Are Missing" (March 26, 2004)
- "Rocko Gets A Lung" (April 2, 2004)
- "Dan And The Necrophiliac" (April 9, 2004)
- "Rocko And The Twins" (April 16, 2004)
- "The Twilight Place" (April 23, 2004)
- "Buttons On A Hot Tin Roof" (February 11, 2005)
- "Cuddles The Manchurian Candidate" (February 18, 2005)
- "Buttons The Dresser" (February 25, 2005)
- "Gus The Arsonist" (March 4, 2005)
- "Rocko's Politician" (March 11, 2005)
- "Buttons And The Paternity Suit" (March 18, 2005)
- "Dan And The Bird Flu" (March 25, 2005)
- "The CBC Is Killing Again" (April 1, 2005)
- "The Lovely Fred" (April 8, 2005)
- "The Amazing Bill" (April 15, 2005)
- "Button's Big Fat Greek Wedding" (April 22, 2005)
- "Cuddles The Artist" (April 29, 2005)
- "Dan And The New Neighbour" (May 6, 2005)
- "The Joyride" (March 2, 2006)
- "Dan And The Garden Shears" (March 9, 2006)
- "Mr. Big" (March 16, 2006)
- "Dan Is Dead" (March 23, 2006)
- "Bill And The Berkowitz's" (March 30, 2006)
- "Oedipus Dan" (April 6, 2006)
- "Buttons And The Dying Wish Foundation" (April 13, 2006)
- "Bill's Wedding" (April 20, 2006)
- "The Rival House" (April 27, 2006)
- "The Hostage" (May 4, 2006)
- "A Few Feuds" (May 11, 2006)
- "Dan's Ideal Woman" (May 18, 2006)
- "Buttons The Ghost" (June 22, 2006)
DVD releases include Puppets Who Kill: The Complete First Season, Puppets Who Kill: The Complete Second Season, and Puppets Who Kill: Best of Season 3 & 4.