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Sean Cullen of Rocket Monkeys says today’s cartoons can’t simply “ape” the past

- January 8th, 2013

rocket monkeys - inside 2

You can’t have a cartoonish attitude toward cartoons any more.

They still can be funny. For example, that’s the point of Rocket Monkeys, a new Canadian animated series that debuts Thursday, Jan. 10 on Teletoon.

But as was pointed out by well-known Canadian comedian Sean Cullen, who is the voice of Gus on Rocket Monkeys, cartoons have come a long way since he was a kid, both creatively and technologically.

“When they used to make Scooby-Doo in the ’70s, kids would see it once and then they’d never see it again,” Cullen recalled. “Now you get it on DVD and watch it 100 times in a row, so it has to be better quality.

“It can’t just be, ‘Oh, it’ll go by so quickly that no one will know that Scooby’s foot disappeared.’ I used to watch Rocket Robin Hood. Every once in a while, someone’s arm moves. It was very basic.

“I watched a lot of cartoons when I was a kid, but they were quite stilted, and stiff, and the stories were quite predictable. These days some of the best writing for comedy and for speculative fiction is in animation. Some of the people we work with on Rocket Monkeys are some of the most talented writers in Canada.”

Besides Cullen’s Gus, Rocket Monkeys also features voice work from Mark Edwards (Wally) and Mark McKinney (Lord Peel). The series follows the cosmic exploits of primate siblings Gus and Wally, who inexplicably have been charged with carrying out important missions in space.

Cullen’s real-life face can be seen regularly these days on Match Game, which airs on the Comedy Network. On that show, Cullen is one of six panelists. But Cullen’s character on Rocket Monkeys is the one in charge. Just ask him.

“Gus is kind of the boss, if there is a boss of either of them,” Cullen said. “He’s the more bossy, pushy one.

“He’s the hero, or he sees himself as the hero, telling everybody how to behave. I kind of model his voice on Charlton Heston. Everything is so dramatic.”

Of course, Charlton Heston had a love-hate relationship with apes. But that’s a much darker tale (not a much darker tail).

Rocket Monkeys is all about fun, and sometimes the best fun can be had by taking something seriously.

“I think humour has taken leaps and bounds in the last 20 years, and animation has benefited from that,” Cullen said. “You realize how much more sophisticated humour has become. For example, The Flintstones (which first aired in primetime in the early 1960s) was aimed at the same kind of audience that in recent years has watched The Simpsons.

“The fact is, when adults take an interest in animation, it becomes better. It’s not just something for your kids to watch and to take up their time.

“And also, people finally have clued in that there’s a lot of money to be made with programming for kids.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Match Game? A Darrin Rose by any other name is Jason Sudeikis

- October 13th, 2012

Darrin Rosejs2

The first match that struck me on the new Canadian version of Match Game was how much host Darrin Rose looks like Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis. Check out the above photos, Rose followed by Sudeikis. I mean, seriously.

Moving past that, this 21st-century Match Game – which airs Monday-to-Friday on the Comedy Network, starting Monday, Oct. 15 – brought to mind a line I heard recently on the season premiere of the Fox/Citytv sitcom Raising Hope.

Sabrina (Shannon Woodward) was pointing out to her mom (Melanie Griffith) what a bad parent she was. Sabrina relayed the story of being left alone at age 12 for a weekend while mom flew to Las Vegas with her boyfriend.

That caused mom to bellow, “Hey, you don’t know Richard Dawson because he’s dead now, but he used to be a BIG DEAL.”

Dawson was, in fact, a big deal on the original version of Match Game in the early 1970s. Arguably, that was TV’s second golden age of game shows, the first having occurred in the 1950s.

The evidence all around us suggests we currently are not in a golden age of game shows. That means this new Match Game is different and exposed, which can be good or not so good.

Having seen an episode, I just hope that moving forward, everyone calms down a little bit. There are people here with great senses of humour, but you can’t force wacky.

Also, the panelists – the permanent ones being Debra DiGiovanni and Sean Cullen, with a rotating cast of four others per show – always should remember that you consistently have to try, really try, to come up with matches, rather than just going for laughs. The humour comes naturally when both contestants and panelists are giving it their best effort.

That’s something the late great Richard Dawson knew.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Match Batch: Panelists announced for The Comedy Network’s Match Game

- September 13th, 2012

richard dawson

It probably would take less time to list all the people in the world who AREN’T on the Comedy Network’s new version of Match Game, than to list the people who are.

Then again, Match Game is airing Monday to Friday each week, starting Oct. 15. That’s a lot of matching to be done, and we don’t mean wardrobes.

Darrin Rose is the host, we knew that. But the Comedy Network announced on Thursday that comedians Sean Cullen and Debra DiGiovanni will be full-time panelists. You know, the Richard Dawson and Brett Somers of their generation (Dawson and Somers are pictured above and below, respectively).

As for the other panelists dipping in and out on a day-to-day basis, the lengthy list includes Janeane Garofalo, Scott Thompson, Tom Green, Kevin McDonald, Keshia Chante, Caroline Rhea, Amanda Tapping, Greg Grunberg, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jonny Harris and, of course, Colin Mochrie.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

brett somers

Canadian Match Game coming this fall

- June 28th, 2012

match game

If only Gene Rayburn, Richard Dawson, Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly still were alive to see this.

A new Canadian version of the classic game show Match Game is coming to the Comedy Network in the fall.

Bell Media, which owns the Comedy Network, announced on Thursday that shooting on the series will begin this summer in Montreal, with 60 half-hour episodes having been commissioned.

The Canadian Match Game will be produced in association with Montreal’s Zone3, which already produces a French-language version of the series.

Bell Media also confirmed on Thursday it has placed pilot orders for two half-hour scripted comedies, titled Satisfaction and Spun Out. Together they’d make a good Rolling Stones biography, right?

Anyway, both Satisfaction and Spun Out are set to shoot this fall in Toronto.

Satisfaction is an ensemble comedy about a couple in their 20s named Peter and Claire, who invite Peter’s newly single best friend Mark to move in to help pay the rent.

Spun Out is a multi-camera workplace comedy about a disgraced writer named Beckett Ryan who joins a public relations agency staffed with people who can spin everyone’s problems but their own.

CTV’s Corner Gas proved that a home-grown sitcom can be a hit in Canada, but it doesn’t happen very often, even though Canada stocks the world with comedians. You almost can hear the late Match Game host Rayburn saying, “Canadian sitcoms are usually … BLANK.”

But hey, you won’t succeed unless you try. Every Match Game contestant or comedy writer knows that.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv