Ellen Gray | Not many howls in 'Creature Comforts'

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CREATURE COMFORTS. 8 tonight, Channel 3.

WHAT DOG OWNER hasn't wondered just what it is dogs learn from their extensive sniffing of one another's rears?

"It smells pretty ripe. I'm getting medium to dark notes. I'm getting a little bit of a kind of cassis kind of smell? Also, like kind of a dry fruit character to it, as well. I wouldn't say raisin, but more of a dried cranberry kind of thing going there," reports one bottom-smelling canine tonight in the premiere of the U.S. version of "Creature Comforts" (8 p.m., Channel 3).

Good to know. Or it would be if the opinions expressed actually belonged to the creature delivering them.

But no.

The dog's monologue, like all of the speeches in this oddly flat animated series, was culled from hundreds of interviews with "ordinary Americans" on a variety of subjects, including lies, sex and - I'm crawling out on a limb here - wine. The answers were then rerouted through the mouths of stop-motion animation critters created by the people behind the brilliant "Wallace & Gromit" films, who first made "Creature Comforts" for British TV. (Both shows are based on Nick Parks' Oscar-winning short film of the same name.)

There's one belly laugh in the bunch - check out the python - but no more than a few chuckles otherwise.

Maybe it was funnier with "ordinary" Britons?

With the notable exceptions of NBC's "The Office," which overcame the curse of the brilliant Ricky Gervais original, and, of course, "American Idol," British imports tend to break down on this side of the pond.

BBC America's running six episodes of the British version from 3-6 a.m. June 11 (set your DVRs accordingly), so you can judge for yourself if that's true of "Creature Comforts."

Or whether, as I suspect, talking-animal comedies only work when the talking animals have something really funny to say.

 

Will 'The Riches' pay?

Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, two British imports I hope we can hang on to for a while, wrap up the first season of FX's "The Riches" at 10 tonight in a finale titled "Waiting for Dogot."

Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, two British imports I hope we can hang on to for a while, wrap up the first season of FX's "The Riches" at 10 tonight in a finale titled "Waiting for Dogot."

And no, it's not about dogs.

If there's been a concern about "The Riches," one of the best new shows of the season, it's been that Izzard and Driver's characters, Wayne and Dahlia Malloy, have made the enormous identity theft at the show's heart look a bit too easy.

Sidestepping one looming disaster after another, the former "travelers" and their three kids have pulled off a con that's had Wayne masquerading successfully as corporate lawyer Doug Rich and Dahlia as the personal assistant to her husband's boss.

Even less believably, they succeeded in getting their three kids into private school. In the middle of the year.

And you thought Jack Bauer was ingenious.

But while "The Riches" may live in a wacky, wacky world, it's not quite as wacky as the one Jack runs around in on "24."

The Malloys' neighbors in the gated community of Edenfalls may be stupid, but they're not that stupid.

The late Doug Rich may have been a creep, but he turns out to have had at least one friend who won't take no for an answer.

And Dahlia, trapped between the only world she ever knew and the one Wayne thought he longed to join, has problems that run much deeper than not knowing how to throw a dinner party.

It's reckoning time on "The Riches."

And no one wins who's not also prepared to lose something. *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.