Chris and Shane Houghton are proof that not only can brothers get along they can also find great success working together. The St. Johns, MI, natives have seen their Emmy-winning Disney Channel series “Big City Greens” reach a fourth season. The new episodes that debut at 8 p.m. Sept. 23 on Disney Channel.
This season will include the 100th episode and the brothers agree that when they think about that milestone, they remember all the hard work needed to get this far. There are also moments when they wonder how they made it without doing bodily harm to each other.
“It is a tremendous amount of work especially to look back. We have been running the show since 2016 and that means over seven years of being showrunners and pounding through stories with the writers and storyboard artist,” Shane says. “It is a massive amount of work, and we are very grateful to reach 100 episodes because not many shows these days reach 100 episodes.
“We are kind of in a rare club.”
Chris points out that technically, the series will reach the 200 mark as each episode features two different 11-minute animated tales. He adds that either milestone is a testament to the amount of hard work everyone has put into the series.
A major reason the show has reached that mark is that “Big City Greens” ranks as the top-rated Disney animated comedy of 2023 with viewers between the ages of 6-11. The quirky animation and offbeat humor also has attracted a following with the parents.
The production that got the brothers into that exclusive club is the story of Cricket Green (voiced by Chris) whose family is forced to move from the country to the big city where they are wildly out of place. “Big City Greens” is influenced by the Houghtons’ childhood in the small rural town of St. Johns. Many of the locations and characters have been inspired by their real-life family members and townsfolk and their experiences upon departing rural farmland for college in big cities.
The characters include Cricket’s quirky older sister Tilly (voiced by Marieve Herington), their hard-working father Bill (Bob Joles) and Gramma Alice (Artemis Pebdani) who can be nice or naughty. In the fourth season, the Green family establishes a new normal with Nancy (Wendi McLendon-Covey) staying on the country farm while the rest of the Greens return to Big City.
There is one downside to making 100 (or 200) episodes. Ideas will often be pitched, and someone will point out that was something they had done before.
“We are terrified of repeating ourselves,” Shane says.
Chris immediately says, “We are terrified of repeating ourselves.”
Turning away an idea that has been done before is not a major problem. The brothers being aware of the past keeps them on their toes and what is suggested as a more original alternative ends up being a better idea.
There is a secret to how the brothers have been able to work together for so long. Shane reveals that each brother is allowed to punch the other in the face once a day.
On a more serious note, Shane says, “I think we are just lucky that our tastes align. We never had to argue about what show we wanted to watch because we watched the same show.
“We split off to go to different colleges [Chris attended the College for Creative Studies in Detroit while Shane attended the Florida State University Film School] and we specialized in different areas but the taste-making skills required of a showrunner were embedded in us from an early age.”
There have been moments where they have butted heads. What it comes down to is that both brothers will make their arguments. Then they will decide which way to go, and both support that decision.
Because Chris also handles the voice work for the title character, that could have created some awkward situations. The way they handle it is that when Chris is in the recording he is there only as a voice actor. He slips back on his producer hat once the voice work is done.
“For many years, Shane was voice directing me and I would lean on him to direct me,” Chris says. “We would have creative debates but that is good.
“I will stand up for something, but I depend on the director who has the fresh eyes and the fresh ears.”
Voice talent is another place where the brothers have found making it to 100 (or 200) episodes has been a bonus. They now are often approached by those who want to be a part of the voice cast.
Guest stars for season four include: Michael Bolton, June Diane Raphael, Tom Green, Brad Marchand, Margo Martindale, Tim Meadows, Dean Norris, Ms. Pat, Amy Sedaris and Trevor Wallace. The series that is produced by Disney Television Animation also will be available on Disney+ beginning Oct 25. The first three seasons are currently available on the streaming service.