Mike Larsen has spent much of the past 20 years toiling in
sitcom land. Writing for and/or executive producing popular programs like
"The Drew Carey Show
," "Reba," "Ellen
"Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place."
"And don't get me wrong. I am extremely proud of the
work that I've done on shows like 'Real Time with Bill Maher,' " Larsen
admitted during a recent interview. "The only problem is that a lot of the
shows that I've worked on over the years weren't exactly things that I could
comfortably show my daughters or my nieces & nephews."
Cole Jensen (R) and the felt fellow who plays Crash inDisney XD's new sitcom, "Crash & Bernstein." Photoby Craig Sjodin. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.All rights reserved
So when a friend who worked at Disney called earlier this
year and asked Mike if he perhaps might be interested in working on a new show that
Disney XD had in development, this puppet-driven program called "Crash &
Bernstein," Mike had to admit that he was intrigued.
"So I came in and saw the original pilot. And I just
fell in love with the character of Crash," Larsen recalled. "I
remember turning to Eric (Friedman, the show's creator) and saying 'Man, that
puppet could do anything.' The basic premise for this show had loads of comic possibilities. Which
when I knew that I had to take the job."
That said, given that Mike had come out of the world of
network television, he wasn't looking to compromise when it came to the subject
Crash hangs from Cleo's canopy bed during "CrashLands," the pilot episode of this new Disney XDseries. Photo by Randy Holmes. CopyrightDisney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"Eric and I have a rule. No joke leaves the writer's
room unless we both think it's funny. We've produced nine episodes of this show
so far. And we've never ever dumbed down a story or written a joke that's aimed specifically at our core audience
is," Larsen explained. "Our goal here is to produce a show that will
entertain the entire family. And I'm pretty certain we've achieved that. Based
on the episodes that we've produced so far, I genuinely believe that 'Crash
& Bernstein' could have aired on ABC back when that network was still running
its TGIF sitcom programming block on Friday nights."
And why is that exactly? "Crash & Bernstein"
creator Eric Friedman gives a lot of credit for this new Disney XD series'
success to Tim Lagasse, the veteran puppeteer who heads up the talented team
that brings Crash to life each week.
"We'll have meetings with the puppeteering team where we'll
say that we'd love see Crash do this or that. And Tim and his crew will then pitch
something that's 10 times funnier than what Mike & I originally proposed which
is even easier to shoot," Friedman said. " I mean, these guys are
real pros. They've worked on every puppet-based project from 'Sesame Street'
right through to 'Team America.' Whatever challenge we throw at these guys,
whether it's having Crash drives a full-sized car or dangle from a remote
control helicopter, Tim and his team can always able to handle it."
Wyatt (Cole Jensen) holds Crash down as the Emergency Room Doctor (Rizwan Manji)gives this puppet a shot for his allergic reaction. Photo by Ron Tom. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
And even though Friedman has had some previous experience
working on a puppet-based show (Prior to working on Disney XD's "I'm In
The Band" and the Disney Channel's "Austin & Ally," Eric was a
staff writer on MTV's "Crank Yankers"), he still enjoys watching how
the cast interacts with Crash.
"Once the Crash puppet is on Tim's arm, it's like the
actors don't even see him anymore. They all talk directly to the puppet," Friedman laughed. "And
Crash just comes to life every time we turn on the camera. It's funny because
we often rehearse without him and as soon as the character gets onstage suddenly
everything is better. The jokes that did okay at run-thru are suddenly
fantastic because Tim Lagasse is now doing them."
And it's not just Mike & Eric who think so. Disney XD
execs clearly think highly of "Crash & Bernstein." Given that --
as soon as they got to see the first four episodes of this new sitcom that
Larsen & Friedman had produced -- they immediately upped their first season
order from 13 episodes to 21 episodes.
Photo by Craig Sjodin. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"To get that sort of vote of confidence from management
before the first review of this TV show had even been written, that's
incredibly gratifying," Mike enthused. "But -- again -- for me,
anyway, the big attraction of working on 'Crash & Bernstein' is that I'm
finally doing a show that my kids could love -- and they do love it -- but that
I could also find funny."
If you'd like to catch Tim Lagasse & his crack team of
puppeteers in action, there's a brand-new episode of "Crash &
Bernstein" airing tonight on Disney XD starting at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT.
Crash & Bernstein is a really funny, wild show. I really enjoy it.