Another project we hadn’t heard much about since we screened the trailer at the April Web TV Meetup, but today the first episode (above) of The Jim Henson Company’s S.U.D.S. (Simian Undercover Detective Squad) was released on YouTube. The series was produced by Henson Alternative along with Warner Bros. Studio 2.0 arm, which has turned out series like Viralcom and most of the WB.com original series including Childrens’ Hospital and Sorority Forever.
The 15-episode series is the first original web series involving Henson’s signature style of puppets to come of of the famed Muppets studio. Even though the company sold the rights to the Muppets characters to Disney back in 2004, there’s still a fair amount of original puppeteering coming out of the company. For S.U.D.S., two new characters, Yeager and Skreet, are introduced as a pair of less-than stellar detectives, who also happen to be monkeys.
I caught up with Henson’s VP of New Media, Allyson Smith, who produced the series, to find out more about the project and the company’s jump in scripted web series.
“One of the mission statements we have always held is that we create characters,” said Smith. “We look at the web and mobile as an extension of a third platform from film and TV.”
The series is slated for a fall release exclusively on Film.com as part of a distribution deal with the site set up back in 2008. Following the online run there are possibilities for additional syndication of the show depending on how it performs.
Smith noted that the audience for the series is more in the PG-13 realm tending to be older than the company’s storied children’s audience. Under the adult-focused Henson Alternative brand, they have developed a following of more mature puppet humor fans, due in large part to Brian Henson’s live uncensored improv puppet show, Puppet Up, that toured worldwide back in 2006.
“Out of that emerged an adult comedy brand,” Smith noted. “People really embraced the idea of us getting in touch with things that aren’t designed just for kids.” The success of the live shows prompted a shift in focus to edgier comedy projects for all platforms. “The repsonse to them being a little naughty was overwhelming,” added Smith.
Created by Deb Loftis and SNL writer Perry Sachs, the project has one of those right-place-right-time kind of origins so familiar in Hollywood, even on the digital side. The pair happened to connect with Smith the day before she had a pitch meeting with Studio 2.0, who, as it turns out was looking for an adult-comedy project just like S.U.D.S. at the time.
Sachs is also working on a new web series with Henson Alternative called Alt.Reality, which will be a series of parodies on popular TV reality shows, all done with puppets of course. Some of the shows to be roasted? The Hills and Antiques Roadshow. It too will be released on Film.com.