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Sitcom veterans help turn "Crash & Bernstein" into Disney XD's next big hit

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Sitcom veterans help turn "Crash & Bernstein" into Disney XD's next big hit

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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 " and "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 in
Disney XD's new sitcom, "Crash & Bernstein." Photo
by 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 of comedy.

Crash hangs from Cleo's canopy bed during "Crash
Lands," the pilot episode of this new Disney XD
series. Photo by Randy Holmes. Copyright
Disney 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.

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  • Crash & Bernstein is a really funny, wild show. I really enjoy it.

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