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The Chimp Channel aired on TBS for 13 episodes beginning in June of 1999.
The Chimp Channel resembled Saturday Night Live played by Chimps. It was set at a cable network called TCC ( The Chimp Channel), where everyone from the executives behind the scenes to the stars were costumed chattering chimps. Ford Carter ( voiced by Richard Doyle), was the Tycoon owner, Harry ( Maurice LaMarche), his cultered network President ( complete with a British accent), and Timmy ( Richard Steven Horvitz), an intern. In front of the cameras were studley superstar Brock ( Daran norris), talk-Show host Murray ( Eugene Roche), stately anchorman George , and screaming diva Marina( Jennifer Hale), among others. Their shows depicted in skits, included such favorites as NYPD Zoo, Touched By An Anvil, Treewatch, Ally Mcsqueal, Buffy ( she killed everyone), and America's Most Uncomfortable Videos.
This mercifully short-lived sitcom was spun off from the short " Monkey-ed Movies" parodies previously seen within and between regular TBS films.
A Review from The Post Gazette
TV monkeys around with 'The Chimp Channel'
Sunday, June 06, 1999
By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor
PASADENA, CALIF. - First there was J. Fred Muggs on the "Today" show.
Then came "Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp" on Saturday mornings, followed by the "Bear" of "B.J. and the Bear" in prime time and even the short-lived "Mr. Smith."
But for the past decade, monkey TV stars have been limited to guest spots by Marcel on "Friends," nature specials and Animal Planet. That changed with TBS's "Monkey-ed Movies," a 1998 series of shorts starring an all-simian cast in pop culture parodies.
Their popularity led TBS to create a regular series, "The Chimp Channel," premiering at 10:05 p.m. Thursday. The show is set behind-the-scenes at a television network run by monkeys. Yes, this could be a true story, but it's fiction since TCC doesn't exist - yet.
"The show is basically half behind-the-scenes like 'Larry Sanders,' half TV sketch comedy," said creator Tom Stern in a January meeting with TV critics. The sketches are clips from TCC shows, including "Treewatch," a city park spoof of "Baywatch" that stars the network's No. 1 bombshell, Marina.
"She's a cross between a Madonna and a Pamela Lee," said co-executive producer Tim Burns. "Marina is sort of like consummate sex, if your idea of sex is a chimp with long blond hair and clingy gowns."
Other media figures parodied include Ted Turner rival Rupert Murdoch (TCC's owner is an Australian media tycoon) and CNN's Larry King (he's aped by Murray Price, TCC's celebrity interviewer).
"[Murray] is a consummate ladies' man, in his mind, which is probably the reason he's been married eight or 12 times," said producer Skot Bright.
"If you get close to him, you can actually smell the Viagra," Stern said.
While "Monkey-ed Movies" spoofed big-screen films, "The Chimp Channel" will go after movies and TV and sundry other aspects of pop culture.
"We like to create our own concepts and combine things," Stern said. "Like, 'Armageddon: The Series,' where there's always a comet every week."
"Every week it's the size of a different state," Burns added.
Stern said the slight difference in human and simian DNA gives humans a primordial connection to the hairier species.
"When you get with a chimp in a room, there's an intense connection that everybody gets that's not like a dog or a cat or anything else," he said. "They're just barely on the edge of consciousness, and it's fascinating."
For the purpose of creating laughs, Stern said chimps are a comedy writer's best friend. "Something that sounds lame coming out of an actor's mouth, can often be quite funny coming out of a chimp's mouth."
It's not all fun times making "The Chimp Channel." The American Humane Association is on the set at all times and animal trainer Denise Sanders monitors the monkeys.
"We know when they're tired, we know when they're getting bored," Sanders said. "So we'll say, we need to move on and do something different."
Sanders said the animals are trained to open and close their mouths to approximate the human speaking voices that are dubbed in later.
"We'll break everything down into little steps," Sanders said. "We put it in terms they can understand and then we add it all together."
Bright said animal trainers read scripts for "The Chimp Channel" in advance to determine whether scenes that are proposed are achievable.
"Specific training for the chimps or the orangutans is they understand what we're saying because it's all through repetition," Sanders said. "Usually they like to work because it's very stimulating for them. However, they do have short attention spans, so if they've done it for 10 takes and they're just burnt out on it, we move on to something different."
Even when the chimps get tired, there's one sure-fire movement they can make, Stern said as he slapped the palm of his hand on his forehead.
"If nothing else, we end the skit that way."
A Review from The Sun Sentinel
A New Prim(ate)-time Series: The Chimp Channel
June 06, 1999|By TOM JICHA Sun-Sentinel TV/Radio Writer
Steve Allen alienated himself from Johnny Carson for years with a flip remark that a chimpanzee could host The Tonight Show. Allen, the original host of Tonight, was merely making sport of how tightly structured the program had become. Carson, Allen's successor once removed, took it personally. He never invited Allen back on the program.
Nor did a chimp ever host Tonight. But The Chimp Channel, an off-the-wall new program on cable superstation TBS, offers an irreverent hint at what might happen if a chimp not only hosted a late-night show but every program on a network. Imagine the old SCTV with an all-simian cast.
The executives are monkeys. The head man ... uh, monkey, Ford Carter, might have the names of two past presidents but he shares a lot of traits with Rupert Murdoch, who just happens to be the mortal enemy of TBS founder Ted Turner. His first lieutenant, Harry Waller, is a veteran show business glad-hander.
The stars are monkeys. There's selfdescribed superstar hunk Brock Hammond; Marina, the star-tripping, slinky blond diva, whose self-image is the woman who puts the "X" in Spandex but who is known to others as the silicone witch; and unctuous talk host Murray Price, who has Larry King's personality but asks tougher questions.
The progams are by and for monkeys. Treewatch features a bunch of swinging, buff heroic apes. NYPD Zoo is self explanatory. So is America's Most Uncomfortable Videos.
The TV movie roster includes the likes of The Delta Burke Story: Big Jeans, Big Dreams. There's also a shot at Dionne Warwick's psychic abilities.
Even the commercials are monkey business.
The only non-monkey is sharp-tongued Bernard, the token cockatoo.
The idea is an offshoot of the TBS feature Monkey-ed Movies, which put imaginatively costumed chimps into the lead roles of hits such as Titanic, Good Will Hunting and As Good As It Gets. (The American Humane Association Film and Television Unit supervises production of the animal actors.)
The Chimp Channel sounds a lot funnier than it turns out to be on the air. As an occasional brief skit on a show like Saturday Night Live or Mad TV, The Chimp Channel might be entertaining. It would be hard to imagine any viewer whose knuckles don't scrape the ground going ape over it as a weekly half-hour. Then again, TBS has scheduled it to follow the network's regular Thursday wrestling extravaganza, so its obvious the target audience isn't people getting home from the weekly Mensa meeting.
Actually, TBS seems to have it's days and nights confused. Cleaned up of its occasional randy references - there's even a snarky shot at Monica Lewinsky - The Chimp Channel might work for the audience at 10 in the morning on Saturday. At 10 at night on Thursdays its a King Kong-sized loser.
A Review from Variety
June 7, 1999 12:00AM PT
The Chimp Channel
By Ray Richmond
As if human beings telling lame Monica Lewinsky jokes were not painful enough , now we have chimpanzees doing it. Imagine: there are now TV writers earning a living peddling multi-mammal humor. What a clever species we are. Too bad that chimps themselves would be hard-pressed to find this one-joke premise anything close to amusing. Even the laughtrack backing “The Chimp Channel” sounds halfhearted. But say this for the opening half-hour of this original summertime series: It has teeth. Lots and lots of ’em. As an advertisement hyping the simian dental hygiene industry, in fact, it proves flawless. As comedy, it plays somewhat closer to a hot poker to the gut.
Yet perhaps the timing is serendipitous. It speaks volumes that as the millennium winds down to its final few months, one of the most advanced cultures on earth hopes to entertain its masses by reducing mankind’s evolutionary cousins to the equivalent of special-effects puppets. What seems cute in small doses feels awfully humiliating in this expanded format, sucking out any novelty and leaving in its wake only the uncomfortable entrails.
“Chimp Channel” evolved, so to speak, out of TBS’ “Monkey-ed Movies” series of two-minute and three-minute shorts that served as interstitial sked filler. They satirized movies via costumed chimps and orangutans, who acted out (via exaggerated movements, effects and voiceovers) scenes from blockbuster features including “Titanic,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Jerry Maguire” and “As Good as It Gets.”
“Monkey-ed Movies” proved to be clever stuff, in large part because it was short and sweet. It was just an irreverent little diversion made terrific by some dedicated training and impressive mimicry.
But with “Chimp Channel,” TBS monkeys with an undeniably thin concept and stretches it past the limit.
The conceit here is that apes are running a cable network called the Chimp Channel — TCC for short — that’s all chimps and orangutans, all the time. All of the movies, series, newscasts, commercials and promos star, and are produced by, apes. The laughs, unlike bananas, do not come in bunches. The few that emerge trickle out noisily, as if from a leaky faucet.
The opening teleplay lists five scribe credits: Tim Burns, (also co-executive producer), Tom Stern, Dan Redican (also one of the voices), Bernie Keating and Neil Alsip. The quintet laces the pilot with a Lewinsky fellatio joke, a Boy George closeted-gay reference (how naughty!) and a shameless piece of Time Warner synergy that finds them inexplicably inserting a mention of the HBO series “Sex and the City.”
As for the full-on parodies, the debut seg tosses out a “Touched by an Angel” takeoff (“Touched by an Anvil”), a “Baywatch” send-up that’s set in, uh, a tree (“Treewatch”), a truly cloying “Larry King Live” lampoon (“The Murray Price Show”) and such mocking moments as “America’s Most Uncomfortable Videos” and unmemorable comic takes on “Braveheart,” “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
You would figure some legitimate wit might emerge in “The Chimp Channel” just by accident. Alas, it pretty much never does in spite of some sharp, well-organized direction from Mitchell Walker and the uncannily effective animal work from head trainer Bob Dunn, coordinator Mike Morris and their team.
Maybe TBS should have allowed the monkeys to run things for real. They couldn’t have done a whole lot worse. Tech credits are infinitely better than the material deserves.
The Chimp Channel
(COMEDY SERIES; TBS SUPERSTATION, THURS. JUNE 10, 7:05 P.M. PT)
Production: Filmed in Burbank by Telescopic Pictures in association with Warner Bros. Domestic Pay TV, Cable and Network Features. Executive producer, Tony Shiff; co-executive producer, Tim Burns; producer, Scot Bright; director, Mitchell Walker; writers, Burns, Tom Stern, Dan Redican, Bernie Keating, Neil Alsip.
Crew: Camera, Alex Poppas; production designer, Daniel Butts; costume designer, Terri Valazza; head trainer, Bob Dunn; animal coordinator, Mike Morris; editor, Brad Morrison; music, James Venable; sound, Eileen Horta; casting, Joey Paul. 30 MIN.
An Article from The Desert News
The Chimp Channel' just monkeys around
And this is definitely not a show for kids
By Scott D. Pierce Deseret News television editor
Published: June 10, 1999 12:00 am
Imagine, for a moment, that a bunch of rather tasteless chimpanzees could not only dress themselves and talk but run their own cable television network. The end result might look a lot like TBS's first original comedy series, "The Chimp Channel," which debuts tonight at 8:05.
Think "The Muppet Show" or "SCTV" with chimps. With sort of a Jim Carrey/Adam Sandler outlook on comedy."(Creator/writer/co-executive producer) Tim (Burns) and I have worked together for years as comedy writers, and basically we learned along the way that chimps are a comedy writer's best friend," said creator/writer Tom Stern. "Something that sounds lame coming out of an actor's mouth can often be quite funny coming out of a chimp's mouth."
"When we pitch an idea and it bombs, we just add, 'And it's monkeys,' and that always sells it," added Burns.
Which works occasionally -- but only occasionally.
"TCC" comes from the people behind the "Monkey'ed Movie" shorts TBS has been airing for the past year. And those grew out of a failed attempt to place a show on MTV a few years ago.
"We pitched a show a while back called 'Space Chimps' that was chimps in space -- the idea that orbiting chimps came from a higher, advanced civilization, and it was going to be kind of a 'Star Trek' parody with chimps," Burns said. "And we actually shot like a five-minute pilot for MTV years ago. And I think they got freaked out about some of the difficulties of trying to do a show with chimps."
"Namely, the money," Stern said.
The failed five-minute pilot did attract the attention of the folks at TBS, who suggested the duo work on the movie parodies.
"And I think they were such a hit that they said, 'Hey, what else can we do?' " Burns said.
Those "Monkey'ed Movies" are often very funny, parodying everything from "Planet of the Apes" to "When Harry Met Sally . . . " The transition to "The Chimp Channel" isn't particularly smooth, however. There are occasional moments of humor in the first couple of episodes, but most of the moments fall flat.
And then there's the sheer tastelessness of so much of the alleged humor. If the idea of lightning shooting out of a monkey's butt makes you laugh, this is the show for you.
The concept is dangerously close to "The Muppet Show" and even closer to "Muppets Tonight" -- the only real difference is that, instead of a bunch of puppets putting on a show and running a TV station, it's a bunch of chimps.
The recurring characters include:
Ford Carter, the Australian media tycoon who owns TCC.
Harry Waller, the president of TCC.
Brock Hammond, the hunky (and obnoxious) star of most of the shows.
Marina, the diva. "Marina is sort of like consummate sex, if your idea of sex is a chimp with long blond hair and clingy gowns," Burns said. "She's sort of a cross between, say, a Madonna and a Pamela Lee. She's sort of a one-woman industry. She has her own videos, her own erotic pop-up book, her own Web site, her own pay-per-view specials."
(Essentially, a more adult version of Miss Piggy.)
Murray Price, the much-married celebrity interviewer who's modeled on Larry King.
Timmy Briar, the young intern who joins TCC in the pilot episode.
The backbone of the show is parodies of movies and other TV shows. The first episode includes take-offs on "Touched by an Angel," "Larry King Live," "Baywatch" (which becomes "Treewatch"), "America's Funniest Home Videos," "Braveheart," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Xena: Warrior Princess." And the comedy misses far more than it hits.
(Subjects of upcoming parodies include "ER," "Siskel & Ebert," "The X Files," "The Full Monty," Gap ads, "Drew Carey," Martha Stewart, "Armageddon," "Friends," "Ally McBeal" and "NYPD Blue.")
There are some good ideas here, but most of them don't pan out. And, while this seems like the sort of show that would appeal to children, it's definitely not aimed in their direction, what with the high sexual content of the jokes.
The apes themselves sometimes seem more classy than the show.
An Article from Time Magazine
The Chimp Channel
Monday, Jul. 05, 1999
By JOEL STEIN
Sure, you love talking chimps. But do you love the creatures enough to watch a full half-hour of them? More than once? Sober? The idea and execution here are adequate: chimps run a network on which they parody current TV shows and make fun of Hollywood. Just in case Ted Turner could resist talking chimps, the creators have the fake network run by a mean, stupid Australian mogul to mock Turner's rival, Rupert Murdoch. The real fear is that TBS's Turner might turn this show into an actual channel. Chimps all day may sound appealing, but you probably need some midgets and bikinied women to round out even 30 minutes of entertainment.
To watch some clips from The Chimp Channel go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=chimp+channel&aq=0
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