Plenty of terrible television programs have been conceived in a marriage of “Character-A is able to talk to non-human Character-B.” I recall one such show a while back that featured a middle-aged man who talked with a stuffed dog with the voice of Bobcat Goldthwait. It was called Unhappily Ever After, ran for 100 episodes on The WB, and looked dreadful.
How was someone convinced that such a premise could beget a program worth watching? Well, perhaps that someone was some kind of Larry Ellison-type visionary who had a brilliant idea that just couldn’t be executed because the appropriate technology didn’t exist. Or, more likely, that someone was some kind of well-connected stoner who had a zany idea and and a favor to cash in from network television. It’s too bad that someone didn’t cast Patrick Duffy nor his crustachioed friend.
Clearly it’s not easy to execute the “human talks to non-human” thing. Unhappily and Poochinski are prime examples. However, there’s something uncanny about watching Patrick Duffy calmly converse with a crab with the voice of David Leisure. Celebrities: They’re just like us! The dad from Step by Step can discuss mundane things with a crab and it’s incredibly humorous! That sentence reads heavy on the sarcasm, but I’m completely serious. Patrick Duffy talking to a crab is very funny.
What sort of charisma or appeal does Mr. Duffy possess that grants him the ability to shoot the breeze with a soft-shelled muppet and not make viewers want to disfigure themselves via the crab’s plush claws? I’m still trying to determine this. It’s a preternatural gift, as if Duffy’s stints on Dallas or The Bold and the Beautiful were all definitively leading towards the day he was to be the co-star of 90-second sketches wherein he and a crab puppet chat about modern technology or their sexual proclivities. “Surreal” would be a cliché and easy way to describe this show. The dialogue is subtle and the topics so everyday that the crab’s presence is beside the point. It would be absurd to attempt to intellectualize these videobites, as they exist on a non-rational plane.
Perhaps I’m building Patrick Duffy and the Crab up to be some epic cultural phenomenon. It isn’t. It’s just a great web series comprised of goofy vignettes shot by his son and daughter-in-law (Conor Duffy and Emily Cutler) that the guy does in his spare time when he’s not filming a soap opera. And maybe that’s part of the real reason this works.
Duffy interacts with the stuffed crab in a way that’s far more “real” than any of his interactions on daytime TV. But there I go trying to intellectualize this and sounding absurd. Just watch it. It’s good.