Sheep in the Big City is an American animated television series which ran on Cartoon Network for two seasons, from November 2000 to April 2002. Created by Mo Willems, the bulk of the show follows a runaway sheep, Sheep, in its new life in "the Big City." It also features several unrelated sketches and shorts, similar to The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show. With an emphasis on more "sophisticated" (in particular, literal) humor, using multiple forms of rhetoric from the characters to the plots, it was more popular with older audiences. It was also unusual in featuring many comic references to film-making and television broadcasting, although this is often overlooked. At the time, the premiere of Sheep in the Big City was the highest-rated premiere for a Cartoon Network original series.
The first season was available on iTunes (except the pilot episode, which is only available as a bonus cartoon on the Powerpuff Girls DVD "Dream Scheme", despite what the cover of the video says). However, it was taken off of iTunes for unknown reasons. There is no other DVD release, but bootleg DVDs of the show have spread around the internet. It has also been taken off of the "Shows" section on Cartoonnetwork.com.
Fed up with living on Farmer John's farm, Sheep moves to the Big City. Unfortunately, the Secret Military Organization, commanded by General Specific, wants to use Sheep in its new Sheep-Powered Ray Gun (with a sheep-shaped hole in it). Now Sheep is on the lam(b) from General Specific, who is assisted by sidekick Private Public, the Angry Scientist (who in the show, the characters sometimes wrongly refer to as the Mad Scientist), a bunch of other military types, and, last but not least, by the Plot Device. In addition, Sheep has to come to grips with the Big City and trying to romance his love, Swanky the poodle. All the while, he has to avoid the attentions of a host of unwelcome characters - Farmer John, Lisa Rental, and Swanky's owner, the sheep-hating Lady Richington, wielding a stainless-steel wig. The episodes are also divided into chapters which is unusual for an animated show (although it may be a reference to the barnyard film Babe
The show usually begins with a completely unrelated clip, which turns out to be a show that Sheep is watching. Sheep presses a button on his remote to change the channel, which segues into the theme song.
Each episode is divided into three chapters; each one's title, as the Narrator once quipped, is "some pun on the word 'sheep' or something." Fake advertisements are in between the chapters, and sometimes short skits are there as well, such as the Sombrero Brothers. The fake advertisements are usually of products from Oxymoron with the Oxymoron Spokesperson promoting it. Each product is usually of low quality, contrary to what one may think, or painful.
The show's most unusual characteristic is its frequent breaking of the fourth wall. For instance, the vast majority of the characters make references to the show's structure, script, and, occasionally, its premise. For example, in the episode "Agony of De-Bleat" when General Specific finally captures Sheep, the Angry Scientist states that he didn't actually have the Ray Gun ready, thinking that they would never capture Sheep due to it "being so contrary to the purpose of the show". The Narrator is also a pivotal character, frequently interacting with the characters via voice-over (and sometimes directly, when other characters unexpectedly show up in his studio). He also frequently criticizes the television medium (such as the fact that two-thirds of the final episode of the first season was actually composed of dream sequences) and the script, occasionally ad-libbing when he doesn't quite get the script. He also tells the viewer to "just go with it" when the script seems to make no sense.
Literal humor is also important to the show's style. Phrases and expressions such as "Hold the phone!" or "Wild goose chase" are usually followed by literal interpretations of the phrase mentioned. A running gag in the show, for example, is that whenever a character exclaims, "Great Scot!" a Scotsman appears out of nowhere, saying, "Yes?"
- Sheep: Sheep is a sheep, who has a hard time with life -- between getting chased by the military and trying to see Swanky, the poodle he loves, without getting bonked on the head by Lady Richington with her stainless steel wig. Yet he still makes time to act in dish-washing commercials, travel through time, get a job at a hip club, and also makes a living jumping over fences for insomniacs. Sheep bleats and does not speak in any intelligible human language. As he is a normal sheep, aside from possibly higher intelligence, he has trouble resisting his animal urges, such as eating grass, even when he is being chased by General Specific.
- Farmer John: Sheep's original owner, also seeking to recapture him - although in a more mild-mannered way than General Specific. In one episode, it is revealed that 'Far' and 'Mer' are actually Farmer John's first and middle name, not his job description. His personality is best described that, in order not to kill any of his farm animals, he prepares water soup for the re-union. He is constantly using pseudo-psychological talk, which is, in fact, extremely boring and instead of "helping" it forces the characters not to pay attention to him. Another example of his annoyance is his "thanks" speech at the re-union, where he thanks for everything, including "air" and "silly shoes".
- Ben Plotz: The show's narrator. He often complains about the quality of the writing on the show, but overall he has an appreciation for the cast. He, on one occasion, embellishes the storyline when he dislikes the ending.
- Plot Device: A machine that comes up with plans for General Specific such as disguising sleep potion as water soup cooks to sneak into Farmer John's house. The device's name is a pun.
- General Specific: The dimwitted leader of the Secret Military Organization, General Specific repeatedly tries to catch Sheep for his Sheep-Powered Ray Gun. He's never discouraged by his constant losses. His name is oxymoronic and he always speaks through clenched teeth. He mentions in one episode that he has a steel plate in his head. In one episode, he also developed the habit of throwing his subordinates into "the pit" (a door appearing out of nowhere under the characters feet), but later finds this a problem, when neither he nor Private Public can maneuver the helicopter properly because the general dropped the helicopter pilot into the pit.
- General Lee Outrageous: General Specific's cousin, who is a stereotypical 70's disco partier. He is nearly identical to Specific, but has sunglasses, shiny clothing, blue hair shaped into a ponytail, a gold tooth and three stars on his hat as opposed to Specific's one star. He is also Specific's rival, and uses a goat-powered raygun. He has a sidekick called Private Partay, who is similar to Private Public and could be his cousin. His name is a pun on "generally outrageous".
- Private Public: General Specific's right-hand man, Private Public is always right behind General Specific, and despite being much smarter, he would prefer to receive orders than give them. His name is also oxymoronic.
- The Angry Scientist: He often gets his hump busted for being an Angry Scientist rather than Mad, but he's the brains behind the organization, despite his extremely limited grasp of the English language (referring to it with the phrase "Why are you not my Englishness be understanding? All the timing with that."). His inventions include the Sheep-Powered Ray Gun, the Clome, and a Time-Travel Bicycle although Private Public flatly points out that if he can invent a time machine why can't he invent a ray gun that works without a sheep. He often goes into fits of rage at General Specific when he calls him a 'Mad Scientist', (ANG-GU-REE!!, I am an ANG-GU-REE scientist!!), and on one occasion he is called the 'Angry Chemist', at the end of season 1 he considers calling himself "The Scientist With Some Issues".
- Lady Richington: The owner of Swanky the Poodle, the object of Sheep's affection, Lady Richington, is quite rich. She owns the majority of the city and is never seen without her gaudy jewelry and lavish clothing. While she may not look very intimidating, she has a severe hatred of sheep in general, and will not hesitate to pummel them into fluffy pulps with her stainless steel wig.
- Ranting Swede: Ranting Swede rants about old cars, pianos, supermarkets and a variety of other topics. His rants appear at the end of every single episode, except the final one, which is done in reverse order. Once, he rants that he is tired of ranting, then realizes he's already done it by accident. He was once replaced by the Ranting Norwegian, who wasn't actually ranting. Rather, he was simply speaking nicely about things, the exact opposite of the Swede. Also unlike the Swede, the Norwegian did not speak in a Norwegian accent, but rather in a polite American accent.
- Lisa Rental: A girl who thinks Sheep is a "cutesy wootsey dog" and wants him desperately. She also loves to refer to Sheep as "Doggy Woggy Smoggy Foggy Loggy Toggy...etc." Her name is a pun on the words "lease a rental".
- X Agent: General Specific hires X Agent, a black-woolen sheep, in order to capture sheep. X Agent becomes friends with Sheep and, after feeling remorse for betraying Sheep, betrays Specific and becomes a Batman-like superhero. In another episode he becomes an overprotective guardian of Sheep. He leaves after Completely Powerful Guy reads a telegram from "The Writer" informing X Agent that he has been assigned to Toledo, Ohio and that the request is not "just a convenient way of getting you out of this show." Like Sheep he bleats and does not speak in intelligible human language.
- Oxymoron: An ox who debuted in numerous "Phony Bologna" advertisements for the Oxymoron company. He also makes cameos in some episodes. His name is a parody of oxymoron, a phrase in which an adjective that means the opposite of the noun that it describes is used (e.g. a smart idiot, a planned coincidence.)
- The Oxymoron Spokesman: An obnoxious salesman who usually hosts the Oxymoron commercials. The other people in the commercials do not usually expect him to show up, and often demand to know who he is when he does, but he never tells them. He either does not (or wishes not) to see the harmfulness and uselessness of his products (a square bouncing ball, powered by 97 batteries that he would not demonstrate, a.k.a. how it jumps, or flashlights that suck life force from their wielders in order to remain bright, while their owners are turned into aged, hideous, near-dead zombies).
- Reading Guy: A man who, whenever Sheep or any other main character sees a sign is first heard reading it aloud and when the character turns to him, he raises his glasses and says something along the lines of: "I like to read." or "Reading is fun."
- Swanky: A poodle that is Sheep's unrequited love, who, luckily, gives Sheep some attention. She is owned by Lady Richington.
- Great Scot: A Scotsman, appearing after someone says the exclamation: "Great Scot!" Once accompanied by "Holly Molly", (holy moley). In one episode, General Specific used the expression and expected him to show up, before Private Public explained he was sick.
- News Announcers: The duo of news announcers, one a neurotic, angry man called Hank and the other a ditsy blond female called Betsy, who would proclaim everything oh-so unrelated as a "related story" (and once made an "unrelated" story by repeating her colleague's announcement).
- Irv, the Studio Accountant: Forces, in order to lower show expenses, the narrator to make the sounds himself and re-directs sheep into escaping in the time machine, because "so much time and money was put" into its building and re-construction. His catcphrase is File early!.
- The Sombrero Brothers: Two untalented performers in Mexican Attire whose act, "flying sombrero brothers" is flying on a plane. In another act of theirs, Bill, the shorter brother, lost his hat before the act. When he comes back with the hat and the lights go on he had forgotten his clothes, much to the chagrin of the Narrator.
A trio of men who appear whenever somebody uses the word buffoon
, such as "I'm surrounded by buffoons!", and act in typically buffoonerish ways, such as babbling unintelligebly and waddling around. All three of them are dressed only in shoes and underwear, two of them also wear hats.
Les Wiggles: Owner of the "Les is More Electronics Warehouse". He charges insane prices, for example, $42,000 for a single battery, but only 16¢ for a giant elephant. He claims he can charge those prices because he's "a silly looney bird."
Dirk and Sondra: The default thespians of the series. They appear in soap operas, stage productions, as models, and in various other celebrity-oriented roles.
Dr. Oh No No No: A villain who takes over the secret military organization base and plans to power the Sheep-Powered Ray Gun with an elephant, giving it "enough power to destroy the world". He is later defeated by a forced co-operation of General Specific and Sheep. His name is a pun on James Bond villain, Doctor No.
General Public: The father of Private Public, a famous general who is ashamed of his son. He later makes a fatherly bond with sheep, but then reveals it to be a trap to prove to his son the ease of catching sheep. At the end of the episode, he is seen riding away from the city on a cruise ship (in the middle of an inland, asphalted city), which even unsettles the narrator.
Ham sandwich: A talking, sentient ham sandwich, who is seen running for state dog-catcher (before being eaten by a dog) and who runs a Game Show in which he always beats his opponents because he receives easy questions such as his birthdate.
Buddy: A normal character who was ham sandwich's opponent in the election for city dog-catcher. Also appeared on "I'll Ask the Questions", and got crushed by an anvil.
The Clomes: A clome is a bear-like creature. In the clome's first appearance, the Angry Scientist creates a clome using Sheep's DNA in order to test the Sheep-Powered Ray Gun; the clome invariably causes it to explode, as well as knock its own, apparently detachable, head off. The clomes are also seen in the season 1 finale, when Sheep orders someone to "send in the dancing clomes." General Specific is also seen with Clome-themed bedsheets. The clomes do not talk or do much of anything.
The Count D'Ten: A sketch villain whose name inspires people to count to ten, much to his frustration.
Sheep's buddies: A group of four unnamed, identical men who have made friends with sheep and adore him even when he refuses them, after he becomes a "dishwashing model". They have green eyes and hair that resembles sheep wool.
Troll: An assistant of the Angry Scientist. He is a hideous green hunchback.
Major Pain: A military official under General Specific. Other Majors have similar puns for names. For instance, Major Historical Figure, Major Television Event, Major Motion Picture.
Major Minor: A child that is somehow also a Major. Like General Specific and Private Public, his name is also oxymoronic.
Completely Powerful Guy A superhero similar to Superman. He really has no powers at all and often chooses not to fight or sometimes trick the villain. His sidekick, Wonderful Boy (a parody of Robin) often complains about how useless he is. His enemies include Blast of Dynamite, Sir Punch-a-lot, Lord Kickington, The Jogger of Doom, Professor Pollen, Dr Slappy, The Ticklenator and The Count D'Ten, although he has never fought any of them. He apparently keeps his brain in his utility belt.
Lady Medusington: Lady Richington's ancestor. A Medusa-like monster, which Sheep encounters on a time travel, that can turn a man into a scone by just looking at him and has a wig made of angry bunnies.