It’s about time for all of us to prepare seeing cat entertainment infiltrating our TVs after recently conquering the Internet. If cats were able to be truly independent, most of the unique ones would be on the Forbes list by now thanks to possessing a particular physical characteristic or ability to do a unique trick. Instead, the owners of these cats have been raking in the cash as the overcrowded bevy of online cat entertainment continues at a fever pitch. And there isn’t any bigger feline star than Grumpy Cat who also happens to be one of the rare cats who’s successful based on doing absolutely nothing but having a look.
Now that Grumpy Cat will have a Christmas special next December on Lifetime of all places, you have to wonder how envious it makes other felines who happen to be much more physically active. From all indications, Grumpy Cat will just sit and be grumpy while a voice actor gets paid to recite lines. In this instance, it’s through thought communication with a 12-year-old girl who befriends Grumpy, now playing a neglected feline residing in a pet store around the holidays.
If that droll appearance and voice actor idea sounds familiar, then you’re probably old enough to remember when the comic strip feline Garfield happened to translate well into animated form on TV. One of the best efforts, ironically, was in a Christmas special that also turned into a semi-classic. In fact, with several generations having memories of “A Garfield Christmas”, the comparisons between that and “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever” are going to be inevitable.
Garfield as the First Cat Entertainment on TV
Back in the 1980s, the thought of turning a live-action cat into a star hadn’t crossed anyone’s mind. Other than cats used in commercials steadily to sell cat food, any thought to turn a cat into a star of a TV special was thought impossible due to the risk of the cat not cooperating and not capturing a sizable enough audience. Before the Internet, though, it was a challenge to know what anybody truly wanted, even if most people watched what was given to them because they had no other options due to a more limited cable universe.
When Garfield from the comic strips was brought to TV in a series of specials starting in 1982, it was instantly successful based on one thing: The voice actor helped make his sarcastic dialogue from the newspaper page come to life. It was voice actor Lorenzo Music who provided that dry voice of Garfield in numerous TV specials (and even a Saturday morning series) for 18 years. When Music died, Bill Murray became the next best thing in the inferior movie adaptations. A similar dry voice was found in legendary voice actor Frank Welker who did it recently in a French-American produced Garfield animated series.
It was Garfield’s 1987 Christmas special, however, that you can say was the highpoint of the Garfield TV era. Anyone who remembers seeing it remembers that it managed to capture the sarcasm in the comic strip better than nearly any of the other TV specials. It also had a certain magic to it that made it worth rerunning. Even if it ultimately didn’t have the legs of “Charlie Brown Christmas”, it managed numerous reruns for a couple of decades after its initial airing.
Will Grumpy Cat end up becoming the new Garfield on TV and somehow manage to create a Christmas special classic? It’s going to depend considerably on the writing, the voice actor, and whether Grumpy (actually named Tardar Sauce) is more mobile than sitting in place.
The Makings of a Classic
Considering Grumpy Cat’s Christmas special takes place in a pet store, limitations already exist, unless they can expand beyond there. Grumpy Cat can reportedly walk in a bit of a unique way, and she’ll have to move if they want to sustain viewer interest. As sedentary as Garfield was on the comics page, he moved around considerably in all his TV specials. Having a cat sitting in place and doing sardonic one-liners isn’t going to work on TV as it might online.
Those skeptical, though, will likely be surprised since you know a top creative team has likely been working on this. No matter if Lifetime isn’t a network everybody loves, they frequently make seeming disasters somehow work. As long as they can find a voice actor who can successfully translate a droll wit and place Grumpy Cat in various locations, it could be something good.
As anyone who knows the mechanics of comedy, a sarcastic voice combined with a face that already makes you laugh is already a formula for success. For some people, just looking at Grumpy Cat (at her own expense) would possibly be enough to create a memorable comedy Christmas special, regardless of any voice work.