In 15 Minutes Or Less, The A.V. Club looks at the best in web series and short-form TV, recommending entry points that will take up no more than a quarter-hour of your time.
Located at the intersection of three objects of geek affection—puppets, Neil Patrick Harris, and Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist website—Neil’s Puppet Dreams purports to present the felt-and-fur fantasies of the actor behind Barney Stinson and Dr. Horrible. The series is the latest extension of the “parental discretion advised” work The Jim Henson Company does through its Henson Alternative! brand, which means the puppets (and don’t call them “Muppets,” because that term is now The Walt Disney Company’s intellectual property) in Harris’ head are free to let loose with sexual innuendo and mild swears. Harris, who’s been ably playing “Neil Patrick Harris” since the first Harold And Kumar movie, makes for a game straight man to his co-stars’ hard-PG-13 antics, treating bad puns with an incredulous eye—and supplying a few of his own via a “trouser weasel” in “Doctor’s Office.”
Keywords: wordplay; Land Of Gorch; Jim Henson’s Mamet Babies; Doogie Howser’s Sleep-Along Vlog; seriously—trouser weasel
Where to start: Harris sums up the series’ premise at the top of every episode, but the first installment, “The Lullabye,” makes for the best introduction to Neil’s Puppet Dreams. Not that “Doctor’s Office” or the third episode, “The Restaurant,” are any less funny—it’s just that they both fall into the trap of believing in the innate, unimpeachable humor of innocent-looking characters saying not-so-innocent things. (It’s a post-Avenue Q problem that plagues a lot of Henson Alternative! projects.) “The Lullabye” takes no such shortcuts to its uncomfortable chuckles, instead relying on good, old fashioned sketch-comedy rhythms to bring a vision of a plummeting Harris from frightening to calming, then back to frightening again. At the very least, the episode’s titular song deserves a spot on your iPod between the Dr. Horrible soundtrack and “The Rainbow Connection.”
Where to watch: New episodes debut every Tuesday on the Nerdist YouTube channel.