A Birthday Promise

Happy Birthday, Steve!

I didn’t really know what to do this year because, although it’s your birthday, I feel like we’re the ones who have gotten the gifts: Cave-in and the community that’s grown up around it, the talks you’ve given, and your engagement with the fans.

Ultimately, I decided that what I wanted to give you for your birthday this year is a three-fold promise:

  1. I will always support you as far as I am able.
  2. I will always respect your point of view, even if I disagree with it.
  3. If I do criticize you, it is always with the intention of being constructive.
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Cave-In 2nd Annversary Show

This month marks the 2nd anniversary of Cave-In. Ordinarily, this month’s episode would be on this Friday. However, I have it on good authority from Trollbot 9000 that this month’s episode will actually be on the exact anniversary, which is Tuesday, August 31st.

If you notice, Steve has done something very clever in this Instagram post: It says, “Cave-In This Week.” Technically true, but misleading. It’s not happening this calendar week, but it is happening within seven days.

So, to reiterate, no Cave-in on Friday, but tune in next Tuesday for a special anniversary show. That’s all I know about it.

Muppets Now and Earth to Ned

Assuming that nothing has changed since I cancelled my subscription last month, there are two Henson-related series original to Disney+ currently streaming. Muppets Now was originally meant to be a series of shorts but was instead expanded into a series of full-length episodes for some inexplicable reason. Earth to Ned is a Creature Shop production made in association with the Walt Disney Company. Each sounded at least vaguely interesting to begin with. Having seen them both, the former is worse than I expected, and the latter is far better.

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Muppet Show Viewing Guide: Season 4

Muppet Show episodes run the whole gamut, from the delightful to the disturbing. If you’re new to Seasons 4 and 5 like I am, you may wonder where each episode falls. The Disney+ content warnings help a little but don’t give you any specifics and are sometimes esoteric.

Back in the days before there were streaming services, or even video recorders, there wasn’t a way to skip over the parts of The Muppet Show that were less than stellar. You just had to sit through them and wait for the good stuff to come back.

Now, however, between DVDs, YouTube, and streaming, it’s easier to skip over the bad parts and enjoy the good parts. It’s just a matter of knowing what to expect and where to look. Well, I “took a chance on the crap” so you don’t have to, and I can tell you the highlights and the lowlights.

I’m organizing the episodes into four categories:

  • Delightful: Sit back and relax; you shouldn’t see anything offensive or objectionable in these episodes at all
  • Mostly Harmless: There are a few uncomfortable moments, but these episodes are enjoyable for the most part
  • Cringeworthy: There are a few bright spots, but these episodes are mostly dull or upsetting.
  • Horrific: These episodes are almost completely demoralizing. Even the few good numbers aren’t enough to save them. Skip the episodes altogether and look up the few good parts on YouTube instead.

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We Need To Talk About Piggy (Part Two)

Thank you for waiting for the culmination of this analysis. It’s tempting to say that it’s long overdue after I published the first part nearly two years ago. At the same time, however, I believe that things tend to happen when they are supposed to happen, and now seems like an opportune moment to revisit this important issue. 

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Muppet Show Content Warnings

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am not a fan of the Walt Disney Company, and I do not hesitate to call out its greedy or amoral behavior, especially when it has the potential to ruin individual lives or undermine our already fragile system of government. However, calling out bad behavior is only one side of the accountability coin. The other side is praising individuals or corporations when they do something good. 

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My 5 Favorite Dinosaurs Episodes

At first, when I heard that Dinosaurs was coming to Disney+, I wasn’t that excited because I didn’t intend to still be subscribed to it that that point. But now it appears that the only way to watch the last two seasons of The Muppet Show may be on Disney+, so I’m going to hold out on cancelling my subscription until I’ve watched all the episodes I haven’t seen. 

With the purported Muppet Show release still being several weeks away, I’ve been revisiting Dinosaurs. It’s been a real treat, first, to remember how much I loved it in the first place and, second, to get all the jokes that went over my head when I watched it as a kid during its original run. 

I recently found a YouTube video about the “Top 10 Dinosaurs Episodesand was surprised to find that only one of them was one that I find particularly memorable and enjoyable (and one is an episode that I actively dislike after watching it again with the benefit of an adult perspective). So I decided to write my own post about my favorite Dinosaurs episodes. Between the time that the original run ended and the series’ streaming release, I haven’t seen much of it since. Therefore, my list is limited to five favorites. These are not all the episodes that I find memorable, but the memories I have of these episodes give me the most enjoyment.

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Muppet Babies: “A Tale of Two Twins”

At first, I never intended to subscribe to Disney+, but I decided otherwise when I thought it might be the only way that I would ever get to watch Hamilton. So I finally gave in, and that allowed me to watch new Muppet content, including the first two seasons of Muppet Babies 2018, which I really love. Not only is the humor more Muppety than anything the main Muppet troupe has done in the last four or five years (despite the performers’ best efforts), but it does a really good job of talking about important life lessons in a way that’s accessible to toddlers without being too heavy-handed or condescending.

MuppetBabies-(2018)-ScooterAndSkeeter-(2020-05-13)

(Scooter and Skeeter)

There’s one episode from the second season that really touched my heart and made me wish that this show had been on when I was a kid. It’s called “A Tale of Two Twins.” The twins in question are Scooter and Skeeter who, though not main characters, were introduced in the second season and have gotten to visit the playroom a handful of times now. In this episode, they challenge gender norms and learn to be assertive in not letting others define who they are.

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Voting Coda

I want to try to avoid off-topic posts from now on, but now that the election is over and the results are known, I do want to take a moment to thank everyone who voted. I don’t know how many, if any, of you were persuaded to vote because of me and my story, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that you voted is the important thing. Thank you. 

If there are those of you who didn’t vote, for whatever reason, it’s okay. Fortunately, thanks to the outcome, I feel confident in saying that you will get another chance someday. I hope you’ll take it.

If there’s one lesson I hope all of us will take from this election, as well as the one before it, it’s that we cannot take our democracy for granted. It can’t just coast on cruise control; we need to take the wheel and steer, or it will go completely off the road and into a ditch. 

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Fraggle’s Original Sin

“I had a professor one time […] and he said, ‘You know, Fred, there’s one thing that evil cannot stand, and that is forgiveness.'” 
                   —Fred Rogers (my emphasis)

Dear John Tartaglia,

I first want to congratulate you on the recent Fraggle Rock short-form series that you and your colleagues created in response to the pandemic. Fraggle Rock is exactly the right content for this peculiar moment in history, and I appreciate you bringing it back into the public consciousness. Because re-imaginings of existing properties tend toward self-parody, I initially had some misgivings about it, but the new Fraggle content mostly seems organic and consistent with what came before.

Nevertheless, there is one aspect of the whole endeavor that rings false for me. I have heard you invoke the Trash Heap from the last episode of Fraggle Rock when she tells the Fraggles, “You cannot leave the magic.” Even if that is true, it appears that someone can be barred from the magic pre-emptively. I refer, of course, to Steve Whitmire.

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Voting Is REALLY Important!

To keep the focus of the blog consistent, I try never to post content on the main page that doesn’t relate in some way to the Muppets or the Jim Henson universe. If I can’t find a way to relate it, however obliquely, I put it under a separate tab. 

Unfortunately, however, it seems that the pages I post under a separate tab don’t go out to subscribers, so most of you didn’t see my voting story. I linked to it in a recent post that related it loosely to Sesame Street, but that didn’t get the attention that I hoped for either. 

It’s really important to me that you see this, take it to heart, and learn from my mistakes, especially if you are an American who is eligible to vote but thinking about not doing so. So I’m making an exception to my rule and posting this completely off-topic post on the main page where it will remain, pinned to the top, until after the election.

The first presidential election I was eligible to vote in occurred in the year 2000. I had taken government class in high school but ended up getting a C and didn’t glean much from it. In the year 2000, which was two years later, I was excited about the primary, but when my chosen candidate was not nominated, my enthusiasm waned following the conventions.

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Sesame Saturday: The Democratic Way

I remember this sketch from my childhood. Apparently there was a series of these sketches about the American Revolution, but this is the only one I remember seeing back then. 

Watching it as an adult, it took me a while to figure out that the point of it was not to give an accurate account of history but to illustrate the democratic process in a concrete, relatable way. 

I recently wrote a piece about why I think voting is important, about how I didn’t vote in the 2000 election and why I’ve regretted it ever since. It has nothing to do with Muppets, but I think it’s important to share.

Matt Vogel’s “Below the Frame” Podcast

Today, October 6th, is Matt Vogel’s 50th birthday. I want to wish him good health and happiness, and I want to let all of you know that I’ve been listening to his new “Below the Frame” podcast, and I enjoy it very much.

New episodes drop every Wednesday and feature usually one but sometimes two people from the Muppet/Henson universe. The conversation delves really deep not only into the interviewees’ Muppet/Henson work but their background and life in general. Then there are also puppetry tips and little short tidbits and an ongoing tribute to Jerry Nelson. 

I haven’t listened to all the episodes yet, but I have enjoyed all the ones that I’ve listened to so far. If I had to pick favorites, I would name the one with Cave-In’s own Jim Lewis and the one with Bill Barretta, who says some very nice things about Steve. 

Maybe it’s because he’s talking to his friends, but Matt has a very engaging interview style that makes me wonder what other career avenues he might have explored if he hadn’t been such a gosh-darn good puppeteer. There are a lot of Muppet and/or puppet-related podcasts out there, but this is one that I can recommend unreservedly. I sincerely hope you will check it out if you haven’t already.