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.
Sheep lives happily on a farm with his friends. Unfortunately, a Secret Military Organization, led by General Specific, needs Sheep for its Sheep-Power Ray Gun (with a sheep-shaped hole in it).
General Specific will get Sheep at any cost, and, knowing that the farm is at stake, Sheep is forced to leave for the big city. Now Sheep is on the run from General Specific, who is assisted by his henchmen, Private Public, the Angry Scientist (who in the show is often wrongly referred to as "Mad Scientist"), a bunch of other military types, and 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 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": in the episode To Sheep, Perchance, To Dream, one of the chapters was actually named "Some Pun On The Word Sheep".
Fake advertisements are in between the chapters, and sometimes short skits, 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 set-up 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 Scott!" a Scotsman appears out of nowhere, saying, "Yes?"
Main / recurringEdit
- Sheep is a sheep, who is the main protagonist of the series. He is owned by Farmer John, who named him sheep due to the fact that "when he was born, he looked just like a sheep." Sheep has a hard time with life—between getting chased by the military and trying to see Swanky the Poodle, the poodle that Sheep 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. He is voiced by Kevin Seal.
- General Specific is the main antagonist of the series. The dim-witted leader of the Secret Military Organization, Specific does his best to capture Sheep for his Sheep-Powered Ray Gun. He is never discouraged by his constant losses. Specific always speaks through his 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) (he once did it to the subordinate who asked him why he doesn't simply catch some random sheep and make the Sheep-Powered Ray Gun compatible to it), but later, finds out that this is a problem, when neither he nor Private Public can manoeuvre the helicopter properly, because Specific dropped the helicopter pilot into the Pit. General Specific's name is an oxymoron. On his uniform, he has 3 medals that look like exclamation marks, and one that looks like a question mark. He is voiced by Kevin Seal.
- 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. According to Dirk and Sondra's reenacting of Farmer John's parents naming him, he was named "Far" after his father's desire to know how "far" he goes in life and "Mer" after a relative of Farmer John's mother. Sondra also jokingly suggested (albeit it's unclear if she said it on her own or if she was still acting as Farmer John's mother) that Farmer John could be named 'elton'. Both Dirk and Sondra laughed at the suggestion. Farmer John's 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" he sometimes call Sheep "Sheepie". He is voiced by James Edmund Godwin.
- 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. He is voiced by Ken Schatz.
- Private Public: is General Specific's right-hand man. He 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. Like Farmer John, Private Public is voiced by James Edmund Godwin.
- 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' ("ANGURY!! I am an ANGURY 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", now getting angry whenever he gets referred as "The Angry Scientist". He's mistakenly called 'Mad Scientist' so often that, in one occasion, he complained about if out of habit when he was called 'Angry Scientist'. He once opened an anger management center where he taught people to become angrier. General Specific used to be one of his clients until he said the center made him madder, making the Angry Scientist expel him, claiming it was an 'Anger Management Center' and not a 'Madness Management Center'. General Specific was so angry for being expelled The Angry Scientist considered him another satisfied customer. The Angry Scientist is voiced by show creator Mo Willems.
- The Plot Device is 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. Her name is a pun as her main role in the stories is as a plot device. She is voiced by Stephanie D'Abruzzo.
- General Lee Outrageous is General Specific's cousin, who is a stereotypical 1970s 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. Lee is also Specific's rival, and uses a goat-powered ray-gun. He has a sidekick called Private Party, who is similar to Private Public and could be his cousin. His name is a pun on "generally outrageous". He is voiced by Joey Mazzarino.
- Lady Virginia Richington is the owner of Swanky. Lady Richington, of the Filthy Richingtons, is quite rich. She owns the majority of the city and is never seen without her gaudy jewellery and lavish clothing. While she may not look very intimidating, she has a severe hatred of sheep in general, and won't hesitate to pummel them into fluffy pulps with her stainless steel wig. She is voiced by Stephanie D'Abruzzo. In the pilot, she looked different, without the ponytail on her wig, and was voiced by Ruth Buzzi.
- Lisa Rental is an annoying, evil little girl, who thinks that Sheep is a "cutesy wootsey dog" and wants him desperately. Lisa also loves to refer to Sheep as "Doggy Woggy Smoggy Foggy Loggy Toggy Doggy". Her name is a pun on the words, "lease a rental". When she and General Specific first met, she convinced him that Sheep was a dog by having Sheep obey her commands (not knowing her true colors back then, Sheep played along) and telling him Sheep was a sheep dog. She is voiced by Stephanie D'Abruzzo.
- X Agent is a black-woollen sheep. General Specific hired X Agent in order to capture Sheep (though he initially mistakes him for an "ex-agent" and suggests he uses an 'equally mysterious' but less confusing letter like "L"). X Agent becomes best 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, X Agent 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, Hopeless Optimistic, etc.), as well as the cleaning solvent Oxyclean, whose ads are pitched in a similar style.
- Victor: An obnoxious salesman and spokesperson 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. Victor 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). Voiced, like the narrator, by Ken Schatz.
- Jay: 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 funducational." He is voiced by Ken Schatz.
- Swanky the Poodle is a poodle, that is Sheep's love interest, who, luckily, gives Sheep some attention. Swanky is owned by Lady Richington. She is voiced by Stephanie D'Abruzzo.
- Great Scott is a Scotsman, appearing after someone says the exclamation, "Great Scott!". He was once accompanied by Holly Molly. In one episode, General Specific used the expression and expected him to show up before Private Public explained that he was sick. He is voiced by Ken Schatz.
- News Announcers: The duo of news announcers, one a neurotic, angry man called Hank (Ken Schatz) and the other a ditsy blond female called Betsy (Stephanie D'Abruzzo), 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 catchphrase is Thank you and remember to file early!. Voiced by Joey Mazzarino
- The Sombrero Brothers: Two untalented performers in Mexican Attire whose act, "flying sombrero brothers" is flying on a plane. Their names are Hector (Mo Willems) and Bill (Ken Schatz). 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.
- The Ranting Swede: The Ranting Swede rants about 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. His rants always begin with an idiomatic phrase for "You know what makes me mad?" such as "I'll tell you one thing that really clips my begonias." 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. He is voiced by Kevin Seal. He is a parody of Earl Pitts (radio character).
The Buffoons: A trio of men who appear whenever somebody uses the word buffoon, such as "I'm surrounded by buffoons!", and act in typically buffoon like 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/Shopping Emproium". 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." He is voiced by Ken Schatz.
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. They are voiced by Kevin Seal and Christine Walters.
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 the 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. Voiced by Jerry Nelson.
Ham Sandwich: A talking, sentient ham sandwich, who is seen running for state dog-catcher (before being eaten by a dog) and who is a contestant on a game show in which he always beats his opponents because he receives easy questions such as his birthdate. He was once elected Mayor. His opponents were General Specific (who had Lady Richington's financial support), who agreed to run because the previous Mayor out-lawed sheep hunting; and Sheep, who wanted to be sure the ban on sheep hunting wouldn't be lifted. Ham Sandwich's first official act as Mayor was ordering General Specific to release the recently-captured Sheep and his second official act was lifting the ban so General Specific could try to capture Sheep in later episodes. He is voiced by Ken Schatz.
Buddy Somebody: 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. He is voiced by Joey Mazzarino.
The Clomes: A clome is a bear-like creature. In the clome's first appearance, the Angry Scientist creates a clome using Sheep's DMA 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 (including, ironically, himself) to count to ten, much to his frustration. He is voiced by Joey Mazarrino.
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. Voiced by Joey Mazzarino.
Major Pain, other Majors and Generals: A military official under General Specific. Other Majors have similar puns for names. For instance, Major Historical Figure, Major Television Event, Major Appliance and Major Motion Picture. There are also, at least in the pilot, other Generals, named Gen. Motors, Gen. Assembly, and Gen. Store, as well as Gen. Whatever, Gen. Electric, Gen. Hospital, and Gen. Public, Gen. Anesthesia, Gen. Interest, and Gen. Foods.
Major Minor: A child that is somehow also a Major. Like General Specific and Private Public, his name is also an oxymoron. Voiced by Stephanie D'Abruzzo.
Some Guy: A man with a very serious personality, he seems to tell about news that other News channels are too chicken to tell about. Voiced by Ken Schatz.
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. CPG is voiced by Ken Schatz, and Wonderful Boy is voiced by Christine Walters.
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. She is voiced by Stephanie D'Abruzzo. Copyright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheep_in_the_big_city