With his humble beginnings on a cable access show entitled JUNKTAPE, to hosting the Saturday night movie on IFC, furry puppet sensation Greg the Bunny has certainly hit the big time. His new show, GREG THE BUNNY for FOX provides viewers with an inside look at what life on and off the set of the show within the show, SWEETKNUCKLE JUNCTION, is like.
SWEETKNUCKLE JUNCTION is home to both human and fabricated Americans (a.k.a. puppets) a la SESAME STREET. But don't confuse these characters for Muppets because that's a bit of a sore spot with them.
"A Muppet is copyrighted throughout the known universe by the Jim Henson Company," says Greg. "It was actually a real sore spot for fabricated Americans for a while, because it sort of took the identity away from puppet-kind. In the '70s, if you were a struggling puppet actor and you wanted a job on THE MUPPET SHOW, which every puppet did, you pretty much had to sign yourself over and you ceased being a puppet and started being a Muppet. So, it was a little strange, you know. It's a brand name."
Given Greg's explanation, one could make the assumption that Henson and his magical Muppets have issue with GREG and its use of puppetry. However, executive producer Steven Levitan is quick to point out the unique working relationship his show has with the Muppet giant.
"Actually, a lot of people involved in the show are either with Henson or formerly with Henson," says Levitan. "And they're reportedly, the company itself, really big fans of the show. They've been really nice and we've had a really good sort of mutual working relationship because we've used some of their people and so far it's all been really good. When we get into making fun of their characters, or anything, we'll actually call them and say, 'Hey, are you guys cool with this?' And they've so far had a really great sense of humor about it and have really been into the show."
Fans who have been with the show since its humble beginnings on public access will notice that Greg has shed his button eyes for more realistic brown eyes to complement his tawny fur. The puppet discusses his new look and defends his decision to go under the knife.
"You know,[the] buttons flew on public access [and] cable television," says Greg. "It was different. It was a little something new. And then you come to network [television] and you realize that you've got to play with the big boys. So FOX footed the bill and put me under the knife and now I have these little beauties. I always wanted to have a little work done. But I guess it was a necessary evil because I'm here to be a recognized figure and people communicate with the eyes. The eyes are the window to the soul, after all, and they didn't want to confuse me with a coat."
Confusing Greg with an actual coat seems to be the least of the show's problems when dealing with puppet actors.
"It sometimes takes puppets a bit longer to [get action sequences]," says Levitan. "If I want Seth [Green, who plays Greg's best friend Jimmy Bender] or Eugene [Levy, who plays SWEETKNUCKLE's executive producer and director Gil Bender] to pick up this coffee mug and take it across the room and empty it out, they can do that [on] the first try. Whereas, with a puppet, you have to make special allowances on the set, shall we say, to make that happen. There are definitely some restrictions involved in puppets. But I think the net result is very worth it."
Be sure to check back soon for part two of our GREG THE BUNNY profile.