Season four of Big City Greens arrives on Disney Channel Saturday, September 23, and brings a bevy of guest stars. Brothers Chris and Shane Houghton created the show, about ten-year-old Cricket Green, who moves from the country to the big city, where his family, including sister Tilly and Gramma Alice, don’t quite fit in.
The guest stars this season include Michael Bolton, Amy Sedaris and Margo Martindale. The “Jingled” episode sees Tilly find work as a jingle writer, and Bolton plays her mentor, Rick Razzle.
The Houghtons are fans of the comedy trio The Lonely Island, and knew of their “Jack Sparrow” song that features Bolton. They also were fans of Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special on Netflix. “That is so funny,” said Shane. “Michael Bolton is singing in it, acting, and telling jokes. And he’s so funny.”
The brothers reached out to Bolton to see if he was up for voicing Rick Razzle. Typically, voice actors come in, make small talk, record their parts, and depart, they said. Bolton, on the other hand, had “a bunch of ideas” for the role, said Shane. “We redesigned the look of the character and rewrote the story” based on Bolton’s suggestions, Shane said. “It’s so much funnier and so much better because of Michael Bolton’s contributions. We were in the lucky position to be able to receive that feedback and have the time to implement it, and then Michael Bolton came in and knocked it out of the park.”
As the show enters season four, the Houghton brothers said they’ve gotten better at running with ideas that don’t come from the two of them. Chris shared how he and Shane, at the beginning, “did everything together, every step of the way.” These days, story and character ideas come from all corners of the writers room.
“As you go along, it would be foolish to continue to have such a stronghold, because you have this crew of brilliant minds you hired,” Chris said. “There is this slow transition that needs to happen, from total directorial control at the very beginning of the show to integrating more and more of the crew’s ideas. It’s been really exciting to watch that collaboration happen.”
The brothers constantly butt heads on story ideas, they said, but “the best idea always wins,” according to Shane.
Big City Greens has built a considerable following over the years. Chris mentioned taking his dog for a walk one morning, and chatting with an older woman he ran into. The topic of voice acting came up, and he mentioned his involvement in Big City Greens. She started screaming, he said, and grabbed his hand, then led him into her house to meet her grandchildren, who are huge fans.
The grandchildren’s mother was very confused, he said, “but the kids were elated.”
Shane mentioned a young girl who hoped to meet the show’s braintrust as part of the Make-A-Wish initiative. She created a character, a pug with a unicorn horn. “It was such an amazing idea,” Shane said.
The pug character pops up in season three, the episode entitled “The Delivernator.”
“It was so special to meet her and be a part of that, and be able to make her wish come true,” said Shane.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.