Exclusive Interview: Housebroken’s Jennifer Crittenden, Clea DuVall, and Gabrielle Allan Talk Up First Season

On May 1, 2005, FOX debuted a branded block of original animated programming that has now become iconic…Animation Domination. Legendary series like American Dad, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and King of the Hill featured animation programming created by three of the four heads hailing from the Mt. Rushmore of primetime animation in the form of Matt Groening, Seth MacFarlane, and Mike Judge (I imagine the fourth head would be a two-face split of Matt Stone and Trey Parker). Nowadays networks go through animation lineup brandings like a normal person does with Kleenex on a cold day, but Animation Domination went eleven years and even spun-off an additional block known as Animation Domination-Hi-Def that would run for an additional three years and spanned multiple networks on both linear (FOX then FXX) and Youtube before FOX ultimately ended the brand in Fall of 2014. 

It’s not to say that FOX hasn’t fooled around with additional nights of the week in which to feature animated programming. Series like The PJ’s and Futurama debuted on Sunday Nights before moving to Tuesdays, and even most recently Let’s Be Real made it’s run on Thursday Nights back in April. But, there’s just something about the Animation Domination branding that makes a night on FOX mandatory viewing for MILLIONS of viewers across the country. Hell, that’s why they brought it back in the Fall of 2019!

Networks and streamers alike have viewed adult animation as a great way to launch, FOX is no different having done so with The Simpsons. However, Fall of 2019 could very well be looked at as a”re-launch” of sorts for FOX Entertainment being that the network had just closed a sale of it’s 20th Century FOX to Disney making the revival of Animation Domination and the network’s re-commitment to adult animation. Following Emmy successes by way of Bob’s Burgers, FOX Entertainment would purchase one of the busier animation studios in Los Angeles, Bento Box Entertainment, and would begin it’s slew of pickups. In December of 2019, FOX would announce a full-season order for Housebroken, that same month, Wuhan, China would announce its first case of the coronavirus aka COVID-19 

In the months to follow, Zoom would become the new writers rooms. Closets would be the new recording studios. And every network and streamer would order a wave of animation thereby dawning the rise of adult animation as a viable industry. FOX would follow suit, and on May 31st, the launch of Animation Domination…Continuation. Coming with the new block of animation is the second season of Duncanville and the debut of a series that is by far the most unique the network has ordered since Greg the Bunny. HouseBroken follows an anthropomorphic therapy dog named Honey(voiced by Lisa Kudrow), who explores human dysfunctions and neurosis by applying her knowledge of psychiatry through leading a group of other anthropomorphic neighborhood animals in group therapy sessions. The series comes from creators Jennifer Crittenden, Clea DuVall, and Gabrielle Allan, fresh off their stellar success from multiple-Emmy winning Veep, but this isn’t Crittenden’s first brush with animation. 

Crittenden is a former writer for The Simpsons and has been credited with some of the biggest episodes of the show’s history including “22 Short Films About Springfield”, “And Maggie Makes Three”, and “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield”, the latter of which is noted as being the very first episode of The Simpsons to have a both woman director (Susie Dietter) and a credited woman writer in Crittenden. She now makes her long-awaited return to FOX after an amazing career that saw stops at Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, Veep, and others, but it’s at Veep where the initial idea for Housebroken had come about when show cast member Clea DuVall had broached Crittenden and Allan about collaborating on her new idea, “ It was really an idea that came from one of my cats who’s very complicated.  I feel I’m constantly failing her, there are many needs she has that are going unmet. And I really wished that I could go to counseling with her to just find out, you know, what am I doing wrong? What can I do better? What do you need? And then I just started thinking about how funny it would be to see an animated show with animals talking about their owners talking about their problems. And then I pitched this idea to Gabby and Jen, when we were all working on Veep together and they had a much better idea, which was to make it a group of animals in group therapy together, rather than just doing one animal at a time. So we, you know, we kind of went from there and sort of started brainstorming and created the world of Housebroken together.” Crittenden adds that because of DuVall’s first-hand experience in being a roommate to cats, that being one of the cat characters would probably have been par for the course, however, Clea kept pitching all of the best jokes and bits for “Elsa” so they cast their co-creator as the show’s resident corgi. 

Housebroken features a stellar list of cast and characters according to a press release from FOX. HONEY (Emmy Award winner Lisa Kudrow, “Friends,” “The Comeback”) opens her living room for the group to come and support each other through the misery, mayhem and majesty that is being a pet. Honey also struggles with her own problems, such as her arranged (by her human) marriage with CHIEF (Academy Award winner Nat Faxon, “The Descendants,” “The Way Way Back”), a sloppy St. Bernard who enjoys eating socks and licking himself.

The group includes SHEL (Emmy Award nominee Will Forte, “The Last Man on Earth,” “Nebraska”), a sex positive tortoise with intimacy issues and a knack for choosing unconventional partners; TABITHA (Emmy Award nominee Sharon Horgan, “Catastrophe”), an aging Persian cat beauty queen, trying to adjust to life off the cat show circuit; THE GRAY ONE (Jason Mantzoukas, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Good Place”), a street smart cat who lives with about 30 other cats and has his one eye on Tabitha; CHICO (Screen Actors Guild Award winner Sam Richardson, “Veep”), a chonky, co-dependent and very naive cat; and the group’s newest member, DIABLO (Emmy Award winner Tony Hale, “Veep,” “Arrested Development”), an anxious, sweater-wearing terrier whose OCD causes him to hump everything twice.

Among the group’s other members are ELSA (Screen Actors Guild Award winner Clea DuVall, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Veep”), a power hungry, know-it-all Corgi and fake service dog, who drives Honey crazy(Elsa is really nothing like, my personality, is what makes it so fun. Because it’s a character that I never get to play); NIBBLES (guest voice Bresha Webb, “The Last O.G.”), a psychopathic hamster who is mourning the loss of her mate (whose face she ate…and everyone knows it); MAX (Hale), George Clooney’s pig, a former actor and current status-obsessed a-hole; BUBBLES (guest voice Greta Lee, “Russian Doll”), a horny, teenage goldfish who lives with Honey and Chief, and heckles the animals any chance she gets; TCHOTCHKE, a silent, and possibly magical, slow loris with a mysterious past, who uses a tiny cocktail umbrella to express his emotions; and JILL (guest voice Maria Bamford, “Big Mouth,” “BoJack Horseman”), Honey and Chief’s human owner. 

Show producer Gabrielle Allan notes that casting for live-action is quite a bit more difficult than in animation due to scheduling conflicts, “we couldn’t get over how many great actors were available wanting to do animation. And it was sort of like an embarrassment of riches. So we just we couldn’t believe that we got this cast together” Despite Clea DuVall’s amazing resume having worked on the aforementioned Veep as well as The Handmaid’s Tale, Zodiac, and Argo, she’s always wanted to do voice acting, “voice work was just something that I just couldn’t figure out how to break into it…I’ve always wanted to do it, you know, I grew up on The Simpsons, and really, you know, and loved it and have always kind of did want to do something like that.” Speaking of The Simpsons, Jennifer Crittenden is very excited to be working with FOX for Housebroken which sees her mingling with other former producers of The Simpsons like Mike Scully, Rich Appel, and Mark Kirkland, the latter of whom is an animation producer with Housebroken. Kirkland worked closely with Bento Box Entertainment of whom Crittenden credits with being “resourceful” and “smart” in helping create Zoom environments that helped provide her with an escape from the doldrums of dealing with the pandemic all-the-while getting the look of the pets looking as cute as can be because how can you be grossed out or unhappy with those widdle faces…sorry. 

As for the future of Housebroken, things are looking bright. The creators tease that FOX has ordered a few more scripts for a potential second season and we previously reported that the network was looking into merchandising endeavors for the young franchise. Upcoming episodes for this season that are being teased include visits from the neighborhood raccoons, how pets deal with the hell that is the Fourth of July fireworks, and a musical number that will probably be better than that terrible Cats movie. Cats, birds, dogs, turtles, fish,and more are all accounted for this season. As for season two? I floated the idea of a mini-Friends reunion with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Lisa Kudrow to which Allan noted, “her name came up today!”. 

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity. Housebroken premieres May 31st @ 900 pm ET/PT, check your local listings. 

John Schwarz

John is the Chief Editor and Founder of Bubbleblabber.com. While at first a part-time project, Bubbleblabber quickly grew into a full-fledged operation and officially became a company in 2014. When John isn't running a business full-time, he likes to go to concerts with your mother.

John Schwarz has 15640 posts and counting. See all posts by John Schwarz