IN THE KNOW Review: Puppets Rule the World

Zach Woods, J. Smith-Cameron and Mike Judge lead the ensemble for a funny new series on Peacock TV.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
IN THE KNOW Review: Puppets Rule the World

Imagine an NPR version of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, updated to the modern day and filtered through the comic voices of Zach Woods, Brandon Gardner, and Mike Judge.

In the Know
All six episodes premiere Thursday, January 25, exclusively on Peacock TV. I've seen all six episodes.

In 1994, Space Ghost Coast to Coast debuted on Cartoon Network, a cracked talk show featuring animated characters from the 1960s interacting with live-action "guests" from the present in outer space. It was a perfect sort of late-night show to watch on the weekends, and I enjoyed every one I watched.

In the Know, created by Zach Woods, Brandon Gardner, and Mike Judge, imagines a talk show on NPR (National Public Radio in the U.S) that is brought to life with stop-motion cartoons (animated by ShadowMachine), who occasionally interact with live-action guests. Fundamentally, it's a different kind of show, because it's mostly behind-the-scenes interactions between the characters on the NPR show, led by the host Lauren Caspian (Zach Woods), who represents modern Political Correctness run amuck, an individual who twists himself into a pretzel to avoid saying anything that might cause offense, and goes to great extremes to prove how Politically Correct he is, to very funny effect.

A reliable supporting comic player for years on series such as Veep, The Office, and Avenue 5, his handles his role as the leader of an ensemble with aplomb, mostly because he has mastered the nervous yet smooth, sing-songy vibes of public radio announcers and news readers the world over. He's well-intentioned, but his earnestness drives guests and staffers over the wall; it's all they can do to refrain from yelling at him -- not that he would notice anyway, since he's incredibly self-focused.

Of the other members of the ensemble, Mike Judge is most notable as culture critic Sandy, who seems to have taken a left turn during the 60s and never come back, along with J. Smith-Cameron, who lightens her voice from her usual dastardly actions on shows like Succession to play a sweet-hearted, generous producer named Barb. Caitlin Reilly does exceptional work as the often-excited, protest-minded researcher Fabian, while Carl Tart provides reasonable balance as the calm sound engineer Carl and Charlie Bushnell rounds out the cast as the often out-of-it intern Chase.

It's a good cast that supplies a lot of vocal variety to the show, making it easy to identify who's talking and when, and contributes to the clever, relaxed and witty vibe of the radio show and the series, which is further enlivened by guest stars; I especially enjoyed Ken Burns, Finn Wolfhard, Norah Jones, Tegan and Sara, Mike Tyson and Hugh Laurie.

The show is easy to binge, but even if you only watch one or two episodes, the genial silliness will beckon you back to watch one or two more. Then you'll wish there were more episodes to watch.

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J. Smith-CameronMike JudgePeacock TVZach Woods

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