Empty8 p.m., Monday, June 4
It will be interesting to see how broadcast network primetime TV audiences spoon-fed a steady diet of quick-cut, story-driven comedy fare react to this brilliantly original but wise and low-key stop-motion animation series from the guru of the form, Nick Park and his U.K.-based Aardman Studios (which also gave the world "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit").
"Creature Comforts" began its life as a 1989 short that won Park his first Oscar (in 1990), featuring animals speaking documentary-style into a microphone from the confines of a zoo and reflecting on their lifestyle behind bars. It was turned into a hit 2005 series of nine 30-minute episodes that ran on BBC America and proved to be unfailingly adorable, sublimely clever stuff. And now, here it is as a summertime diversion on CBS, again from Park, whose beastly characters have been Americanized but, happily, not stripped of a single ounce of their outrageous charm.
The premise is ingenious in its simplicity. Park and his team recorded actual conversations with ordinary Americans waxing on topics including their sex lives, medical issues, hopes, fears and dreams -- and then set about inserting those phrases into the mouths of a host of elaborately crafted stop-motion critters (pigs, alligators, dogs, rabbits, wart hogs, bumblebees and countless others).
The giddy effect is rather like watching an interview show while under the influence of some hallucinogenic gas. A kid talking about being afraid of needles at the doctor becomes hilarious when placed in the mouth of a porcupine. We're treated to the giddy spectacle of lady sharks discussing guys, a fly noting that women "can smell desperation," a dog making like a wine connoisseur in discussing the fragrance of another dog's butt and a guitar-serenading horse.
"Creature Comforts" is a wonderfully entertaining way to spend a half-hour, reminding us anew that the greatest ideas typically spring not from elaboration but imagination.