TELEVISION Funny figures help make 'Robot Chicken' tasty

Cartoon Network series uses action figures for parody.
Did you ever play with action figures as a child? Did you ever think about turning a video camera on your playtime to make a show? That's sort of what Cartoon Network has done for its latest Adult Swim series, "Robot Chicken" (11:30 p.m. Sunday).
The show, created by actor Seth Green ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Austin Powers") and writer Matthew Senreich, uses stop-motion animation of action figures to parody all aspects of pop culture.
Whether it's a screen test to replace David Duchovny on "The X-Files" (Keanu Reeves' "Matrix" action figure and Mr. T from "The A-Team" audition opposite an Agent Scully doll) or bloopers from "The Dukes of Hazzard" (Bo Duke slides across the hood of the General Lee and falls off the other side), "Robot Chicken" uses sophomoric humor in attempts to amuse in each 15-minute, attention-deficit-disorder-friendly segment.
Many of the sketches last just a few seconds -- like a Teletubby smoking something -- while others go on for a bit, like "World's Most One-Sided Fistfights Caught on Film," in which a man takes candy from a baby and punches it in the face. Nope, nothing subtle about "Robot Chicken."
"It's 'Saturday Night Live' with action figures," Senreich said. He used to write for ToyFare, a magazine devoted to action figures, a subject near and dear to Green. The pair first worked together on a short for "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and wound up creating "Robot Chicken."
Help from his friends
Cartoon Network has ordered 20 episodes of "Robot Chicken," and Green has called on some fellow celebrities to contribute their voices, including Burt Reynolds, Mark Hamill, Ming Na, Ryan Seacrest, Scarlett Johannson, Rachel Leigh Cook and Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Because of the amount of time it takes to prepare each episode -- about a month from writing to the completion of animation -- "Robot Chicken" can't be as timely as "SNL," but with so many older action figures, Senreich said, the show aims to be "a nice balance between nostalgia and what's happening in current pop culture. Something you'll remember in six months is something that's game to us."

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