TV/Media critic
Published June 4, 2007

He only worked for the St. Petersburg Times for a few months in 1984, the beginning of an eight-year journalism career that ended when he got a job writing for Bill Nye the Science Guy.

But TV producer Kit Boss has made the most of his connections to the Tampa Bay area.

First, he featured the names of two former Times co-workers in an episode of Fox’s King of the Hill, where he worked as a writer for seven years. Now his new series for CBS, Creature Comforts, features the voices of seven Tampa Bay area residents, including our deputy editor of editorials Tim Nickens and his wife, Bridget. They are among dozens whose conversations were recorded and then used as the sound track for cheeky animated vignettes.

“There’s something about Florida, ” said Boss, 45, calling from his office in Los Angeles. “People who grew up there are unusual and people who are drawn there are unusual.”

Boss’ Creature Comforts is an Americanized version of a British TV series based on the work of Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park. The creators recorded interviews across the country and drew animated animals to fit the audio. Most vignettes last about 15 seconds, poignant snippets that are funny, sentimental or striking in a flash, amplified by the stop-motion visuals.

In different scenes: A reclining pig extols the virtues of her children while a pack of piglets nurses at her belly; two birds discuss whether animals can smell the fear caused by predators, as a cat walks up behind them, unnoticed; and a nervous porcupine talks about the fight-or-flight response.

Nickens, who met Boss when the producer was an intern at the Times’ Clearwater bureau, voices one of a pair of birds sitting on a statue. “Bird flu!” he exclaims, his southern Indiana-bred vocal twang lending a distinctive impact. “Nobody’s going to get bird flu . . . It’s all a scam. It’ll kill off all the Europeans first, anyway.”

“I believe I was quoted out of context, ” said a bemused Nickens, laughing after viewing a clip of the appearance with his wife in my office. “But they captured Bridget’s trademark eye roll perfectly.”

Nickens, like most of the other voices appearing on the show, recorded his conversations more than a year ago with interviewers hired from across the country to scout for interesting voices. (Some of the bay area voices were actually recorded by a former Times correspondent, Bob Andelman.)