The Comedy Network/Radical Sheep/PWK Productions, 2004/2005: Video Service Corp., 2010
16:9, approx. 290 minutes, English
Seeing a new Puppets Who Kill DVD set in 2010 is almost like stepping into the past, as far as I’m concerned. Puppets Who Kill hasn’t aired new episodes on The Comedy Network since 2006. The last DVD set was in 2005.
I’m not sure who will actually buy Puppets Who Kill: The Best of Season 3 and 4. This PWK set would have sold better in the period when the show was still on the air. Given how fractured the Canadian TV-on-DVD market is, one can’t afford to be picky.
Each episode of Puppets Who Kill focuses on Dan Barlow (Dan Redican), a social worker who takes care of the four residents of a halfway house. Cuddles the comfort doll (Bob Martin) will do anything to help others, even if it means gunning at people from a high perch.
Buttons (James Rankin) is a teddy bear with an insatiable sexual appetite. Rocko (Bruce Hunter) is a misanthropic dog puppet/ex-children’s entertainer. Bill (Gord Robertson) is the psychotic ventriloquist’s dummy/serial killer, who has lost fifty-six of his partners in “accidents.”
Watching Puppets Who Kill‘s third and fourth seasons, I get the sense that PWK was actively improving itself with each season. Not every show on The Comedy Network makes references to Shakespeare, The Manchurian Candidate, The Maltese Falcon and the Lee Harvey Oswald assassination. Hell, most TCN shows don’t even try.
Puppets Who Kill contains surprisingly understated writing, even for a show where Buttons dry-humps any broad he can. Given the show’s subject matter and overall premise, PWK is much more interested in film and style parodies, as well as jabs at Canadian sacred cows.
“The CBC is Killing Again,” for instance, is the episode with the Oswald assassination reference. Don’t ask me how said reference works in the context of a CBC-centric episode. It shouldn’t, but it does.
The guest casting is decent, especially for Canadian television. Familiar Canadian actors – Colin Fox, Gordon Pinsent, Fabrizio Filippo, Tom McCamus, Stephen McHattie and Peter Outerbridge, to name a few – appear on the show from time to time. More obscure names are the norm for PWK, including an excellent turn in “Joyride” by football-player-turned-actor Gene Mack.
There are six commentary tracks total, one on the Season 3 disc and five on the Season 4 disc. On the Season 4 disc, “Dan and the Garden Shears” has two commentaries, while “Joyride” has three. All feature show creator/puppeteer John Pattison with a PWK employee, most often director/producer Shawn Alex Thompson.
Judging from the commentaries, Puppets Who Kill employees were serious about making the show a success. They describe in detail how the shows were made, which is exactly what I want from a commentary track.
Picture quality is a bit soft and grainy, but nothing out of the ordinary for Canadian television. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is legible and well-mixed. All episodes are shown in anamorphic 16:9 ratio. Puppets Who Kill: The Best of Season 3 and 4 lacks closed captioning and subtitles, which will piss off the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Puppets Who Kill is underrated, and my opinion hasn’t changed with this set. While I would have liked to see more extras, I’m surprised PWK is still on VSC’s radar after a five-year absence. The alternative business plans would be to abandon the set, or have PWK Productions license future sets to a “budget” outfit like Mill Creek Entertainment.
Even now, Puppets Who Kill: The Best of Season 3 and 4 is less than $20 at amazon.ca. The set isn’t perfect, but it’s a good deal for the moderate price. I hope there are still fans of the show, considering how long PWK has been out of public consciousness. In Canada, that’s almost tantamount to being dead.
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