Puppet acts have been a staple on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, including ventriloquists Terry Fator, who won Season 2 and has gone on to be a very successful headliner in Las Vegas, and Season 10 winner Paul Zerdin. The network now is putting puppets in the spotlight, teaming with The Voice producer Talpa Media, Muppet creators The Jim Henson Company, comedian and Celebrity Name Game host Craig Ferguson and Universal Television Alternative Studios for Top Puppet, a new competition special set out to discover the next great puppet act. Casting is underway for the special, which will premiere next summer. It is designed as a one-off, but success could lead to more. Ferguson is executive producing and not expected to host.
In Top Puppet, competitors will battle it out in front of a live studio audience and three judges who will seek originality. The goal is to feature the full spectrum of puppeteering on the show — from hand puppets to giant walkers, marionettes to humanettes, ventriloquists to singing hand puppets — with acts as grand as the spectacle of The Lion King or realistic as War Horse or simple as sock puppets.
Puppeteers and ventriloquists have had a long and illustrious history on television, beginning with Edgar Bergen and his puppet, Charlie McCarthy, in the 1950s. More recently, popular puppeteer and comedian Jeff Dunham has had a slew of highly rated TV specials and performed worldwide.
Jay Bienstock, Charles Boyd, Phil Cottone, John de Mol, Ferguson, Brian Henson and Vince Raisa will executive produce. Top Puppet will be produced by Universal Television Alternative Studio in association with Talpa Media and The Jim Henson Company.