Ron White – Ace Hart
Elizabeth Hanna- Chief Rosie O’Gravy, Misty Whiskers
Stuart Stone – Eddie
John Stocker – Bugsy Vile, Styles Silverbark, Spunky the Flunky (season 2-3)
James Rankin – Frisky, Screwie Louie
Stephen Ouimette – Mad Dog, Thirsty Howll III, Mayor Kickbark (season 2-3)
Howard Jerome – Bruiser
Tabitha St. Germain (as Paulina Gillis) – Kitty, Eliot’s mother
Dan Hennessey – Baron von Rottweiler
Tara Strong (as Charendoff) – Dot (season 3)
George Buza – Steven (season 3)
Rino Romano – Yves (season 3)
Kevin Clash & Don Reardon (right hand) – Eliot Shag
Fran Brill – Colleen Barker (season 1), Terri Springer (season 2-3)
Joey Mazzarino - Artie Springer
Brian Muehl – Bruno
David Rudman – Bowser, Colonel Claghound, Bram, Pomeroy
Kathryn Mullen (season 1) & Lisa Buckley (season 2-3) – Ms. Fluffé
In 1989, Jim Henson hosted a short-lived anthology series on NBC called The Jim Henson Hour. The show was modeled after the classic Walt Disney Presents series, having Henson come out and introduce the night’s episode with the Thought Lion (controlled by David Greenaway, Rob Tygner and Mark Wilson, voiced by Michael Kilgarriff) from The StoryTeller segments of the show. The first half of the show would be an updated version of The Muppet Show called MuppeTelevision. The second half featured a variety of content, including the dark-toned The StoryTeller and Lighthouse Island, light-hearted Muppet skits, or mini-movies.
One of those mini-movies was Dog City. Dog City was a film noir parody set in a world entirely populated by anthropomorphic dogs, inspired by the series of paintings by C.M. Coolidge. Ace Yu (Kevin Clash) traveled to the city to take over a bar following the murder of his uncle by mob boss Bugsy Them (Henson), whose goons harassed Ace for protection money. The MuppeTelevision portion of the episode served as a set-up for the mini-movie, complete with an introduction and guest-appearance by Rowlf the Dog (Henson). Ace and Kermit the Frog (also Henson) even made a promo for the episode together. It would be only one of three segments of the Hour directed by Henson.
Hour scored three award nominations, but its ratings were abysmal. It was cancelled by NBC before its only season even finished. Henson decided he wanted to get out of the business side of things and entered negotiations to sell his company to Disney. The deal fell through when he died suddenly the following year (Disney would later acquire the Muppets in 2004). The Henson family took over management of the company, with his son, Brian, being named president, chairman and CEO at the start of 1991. The younger Henson set out to make the Henson catalogue of characters work for the company, which included a deal with FOX Kids to bring the popular Dog City segment to their network.
|Eliot Shag at his drawing table.|
Although it retained the name and its spoof on the film noir genre, Dog City underwent some heavy revisions from its original concept. The anthropomorphic dog motif remained, but the show was basically two-in-one; with Henson Productions producing puppet segments and Nelvana producing animated segments that would air together and play off each other. The puppet segments followed German Shepherd Eliot Shag (primarily Clash, retained from the special, with assistance from Don Reardon), an animator who drew the adventures of private eye Ace Hart (Ron White) in the tough streets of Dog City. Eliot would often translate his own dilemmas (typically interruptions when he was trying to work) into the stories and characters surrounding Ace, with the two tales often running parallel. The two of them would also break the fourth wall and interact with each other, with Ace giving input over his own story.
|Bruno, Colleen, Bowser and Artie all interrupting Eliot.|
The puppet segments also featured collie Colleen Barker (Fran Brill, also from the special), Eliot’s on-and-off girlfriend; bulldog Bruno (Brian Muehl, who was instructed to emulate Henson in his performance), the building’s surly and incompetent superintendent; St. Bernard Bowser (David Rudman), Bruno’s dim-witted assistant; English Springer Spaniel Artie Springer (Joey Mazzarino), Eliot’s young neighbor and his biggest admirer; and feline Ms. Fluffé (Kathryn Mullen & Lisa Buckley), Eliot’s aloof landlady. All of the puppets were recycled from the special and given some cosmetic makeovers, with Colleen even retaining her name.
|Ace, Eddie and Rosie on the case.|
Over in Ace’s world, there was Rosie O’Gravy (Elizabeth Hanna), the beautiful, by-the-book chief of detectives who also served as Ace’s love-interest. The two exchanged witty barbs and the affection was often mutual, but Rosie’s first love was the law and would never hesitate to lock up Ace if the law required it. She was also the most competent cop on the force, with the rest of the police department being akin to the Keystone Kops. Eddie (Stuart Stone) was a young and enthusiastic news-pup that often followed Ace on his cases. Eddie was hungry for knowledge, and always preempted a barrage of facts with “It’s a well-known fact…”
|The cast (from top): Frisky, Bruiser, Rosie, Ace, Barron, Kitty, Leon, Dot, Eddie and Bugsy.|
Ace’s chief opponent was Bugsy Vile (John Stocker), the “Dogfather of Crime”, and his henchmen, including the excitable chihuahua Frisky (James Rankin); psychotic mongrel Mad Dog (Stephen Ouimette), who could only communicate through snarling and mauling until a bump on the head (at least once per episode) turned him articulate; his muscle-bound, though ultimately kind-hearted, nephew Bruiser (Howard Jerome); and his cat moll Kitty (Tabitha St. Germain), who actually was the brains behind Bugsy’s plans. Kitty owned the Kitty Kat Club, which served as the gang’s hideout.
|One of Barron's schemes almost saw Rosie marrying him.|
Also giving trouble to Ace was German Rottweiler Baron Von Rottweiler (Dan Hennessey), a stereotypical German villain with a monocle and tailored suits, and his mute dachshund valet, Leon Burger. As the owner of Rottweiler Explosives Incorporated, it was rare to not see Barron without some form of explosive device. Barron’s maniacal schemes, generally involving twisted science, painted him as more of a spoof of typical James Bond villains. His plans were often thwarted by his own valet’s love of fetch, which usually resulted in Leon retrieving some kind of dangerous item.
|Kitty feeds a scheme to Bugsy.|
Dog City, also known as Jim Henson’s Dog City, debuted on FOX on September 26, 1992. Along with spoofing various movies in the crime genre, the series’ humor came from the plethora of dog-related puns in its writing. That included names of characters and places, parodies of real-life products and people, episode titles, and even expressions. Henson veteran Clash was in charge of coordinating the puppets, while fellow veteran Mullen served as a voice coach for the Canadian animation cast during the first season. Writers for the show included J.D. Smith, Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir, Jim Lewis, Peter Sauder, David Finley, Michael Edens, Mark Saraceni, Rich Fogel, Vince Grittani, Julia Lewald, Dale Schott, Mark Seidenberg, Kirk R. Thatcher, John Ludin, Cliff MacGillivray and Craig Shemin, with Sauder and Smith serving as story editors. The music was composed by Phil Balsam.
|The second season cast, featuring Terri (bottom), Ms. Fluffé (top), and Eliot's new look.|
The show was renewed for two additional seasons, and both came with some changes. For the second season, the character of Colleen was dropped, with the in-story explanation of having moved away, and replaced by Artie’s mother, Terri (still Brill), in an attempt to have a female character whose identity wasn’t just “Eliot’s girlfriend” and give Artie some kind of family. Terri was a confident businesswoman and single mother, which explained why Artie hung out with Eliot so often. Fluffé was originally intended as a one-off character but was given a recurring role with Buckley assuming her performance. Bruno and Bowser were also given larger roles. Eliot was given a new look; his striped shirt and sweater vest replaced by a t-shirt and open Hawaiian shirt. On the animated side, O’Gravy was given a rival in the form of Mayor Kickbark (Ouimette). He was the mayor of Dog City who always undermined O’Gravy either intentionally or accidentally, hampering investigations. Kickbark was often accompanied by his flunky, Spunky (Stocker).
|The Woof Pack.|
For the third season, which was also the show’s shortest, Dog City’s format was heavily revamped. The noir spoofing and references were greatly reduced in favor of science fiction and sitcom elements. The animated segments were split to include several rotating short slapstick segments that interjected during the main story: “His Masters Choice Theater”, spoofing Masterpiece Theater, was hosted by Bugsy from his prison cell and featured sketches starring Frisky; “Rosie and Dot” had O’Gravy spending time with her niece, Dot (Tara Strong), who often only said “Why?”; “The Woof Pack” saw the return of superhero guest-character the Watch Dog now leading a team of heroes in a spoof of the genre; “The Adventures of Moogie” gave Artie’s favorite chew toy his own spotlight (narrated and “animated” by Artie in a slightly different style); and “Yves and Steven” (pronounced like “even Steven”), where literal cat burglar Yves (Rino Romano) ended up being foiled by dimwitted, overweight guard dog, Steven (George Buza). Each segment had its own title card introducing the shift in focus from the main story.
|Yves and Steven.|
In true Dog City fashion, the new segments were introduced to the audience by Eliot himself in the first episode of the season. Following the show’s cancellation, the final episode also served as a series finale; with Eliot and his characters saying farewell to each other and the audience within context of the story (Eliot was actually going away on vacation in the story and was going to miss Ace). All of the animated series regulars made cameos in the episode, and the segments interjected into the main story rather than being separated as usual. During the show’s run, it was nominated for several Gemini Awards, winning one for “Best Children’s Television Programming” for 1993-94. Following its conclusion in the United States, the show was translated into German, French, Italian, Danish and Swedish and broadcast internationally.
|Rosie and Dot camping out next to Bugsy.|
In 1993, Sony Wonder released two VHS collections of the show. The Big Squeak contained the episode of the same name and “Boss Bruiser”. Much Ado About Mad Dog also contained the titular episode, and “Old Dogs, New Tricks”. In 2006, Australia got a DVD release called Disobedience School that featured five episodes, including the titular one. The first five episodes of the German dub of the show was released to DVD in 2008 by Foreign Media Group. It was re-released by Constructive Media Service in 2009, following their release of the next five episodes the month before. 1993 also saw Western Publishing releasing a coloring book based on the show. In 1994, Golden Books released an adaptation of “The Big Squeak” as part of their Golden Look-Look Books line.
|Dog City: The Movie.|
Between 2005-2010, the original special, called Dog City: The Movie, was released to home video without the MuppeTelevision segments, since they are owned by Disney (Rowlf’s appearance in the actual film remained, however). HIT Entertainment released it in the United Kingdom and Lions Gate Entertainment in the United States. KSS Films released it in Japan on Laserdisc and was the only release to include the Muppet segments.