Back in the spring, the Henson Company released the clunkily titled short-form series “Fraggle Rock: Rock On!” I reviewed the first episode and didn’t expect to watch any more, but someone kept posting bootleg copies on the Cave-In Discord server. Curiosity got the best of me, and since each episode is less than 10 minutes long, I thought, “What the hey?” and watched them all.
Well, folks … here we go again.
I don’t think Disney purposely timed its promotion of the new streaming Muppet series on Disney+ to coincide with the anniversary of the kerfuffle over the Schism three years ago. Nevertheless, a lot of casual fans are somehow still confused over the recast, and so the story is getting rehashed again in the press, sometimes fairly accurately and other times considerably less so.
I don’t particularly know why the anniversaries that end in 0 and 5 take on extra significance. I know that I like them because I’m bad at math and they make calculations a little easier for me. But Jim Henson’s death coincided with a moment when I was starting to make the gradual transition from childhood to adulthood, and this anniversary comes at a moment that I’m about to enter a new decade and a new phase in my adult life, so that gives it personal significance for me.
My sister has three kids, and from the time each of them were in their cradles, I’ve been giving them Muppet-themed gifts.
About a year and a half ago, I gave them a Muppet-related Christmas trifle. My niece, who’s nine years old today, got very excited when she saw it. “I LOVE the Muppets!” she gushed.
It was one of the proudest moments of my life. I just sat back and said to myself, “I’ve done my job.”
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that this Saturday, May 16th, marks the 30th anniversary of Jim Henson’s death. To commemorate the occasion, the four surviving performers involved in Muppet Guys Talking are holding a livestreaming event at 4:00 p.m. ET that afternoon.
You can register for free by clicking the following link:
Once you register, you will also have the opportunity to submit questions, which I presume they will make an effort to answer during the conversation.
According to the confirmation email, those who register will receive a special viewing link via email the day before. It also says that it will be available for replay to those who register, regardless of whether or not you view the original livestream.
Registration is free, but the registration page also says that the livestream will be a COVID-19 fundraiser. Not sure how that’s supposed to work, but I guess we’ll find out on Saturday.
About a month ago now, I guess, a new short-form series featuring the Fraggle Rock characters was announced. Redundantly titled Fraggle Rock: Rock On!, it premiered its first five-minute episode three weeks ago. Premise: the Fraggle Five use new radish-based technology in the form of “Doozer tubes” to communicate with each other, and with Traveling Matt, remotely.
Before the series premiered, I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, Fraggle Rock is precisely the right content for this peculiar moment in history because it’s all about meeting adversity with courage, compassion, and yes, even joy. On the other hand, one of the most wonderful things about the original Fraggle Rock is that it’s almost completely timeless. If they make a new, obliquely topical Fraggle Rock series, I wondered to myself, isn’t it going to lose that timeless quality?
Obviously, from a practical, Doylist perspective, I completely understand the need for the puppeteers to work distantly from one another. But from a Watsonian view, why would the Fraggles have to be in isolation? Wouldn’t you think that living underground would be an effective quarantine?
Then, of course, there was the big question: What of Wembley?
I watched the first episode online, and it answered a lot of my questions and alleviated some of my misgivings. But only some.
The “Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo” premieres May 27th on HBO’s streaming service. There’s a lot about it I don’t understand. Why is a 3-year-old hosting a talk show? Is this really happening, or is it supposed to be in Elmo’s imagination? What are the other Sesame Street characters going to get to do? Is there an educational objective of some sort, or is this just for fun?
It looks entertaining from the trailer, but then, so did “Elmo’s Play Date,” and we all remember how THAT turned out. It seems like it would be a lot more efficient just to make the main Sesame Street series fun and entertaining for all ages again, but that’s none of my business.
A few days ago, I expressed my disappointment about the recent Sesame Street special, but then I thought about it and wondered if I was being unfair. After all, I’m about ten times older than the targeted age demographic. I started thinking that maybe a better criterion by which to judge would be what I would have thought of the special if I’d watched it as a four-year-old instead of an almost 40-year-old.
Obviously, I lost that perspective a long time ago, but the idea was so intriguing to me that I’m trying to re-approximate it.
Well, I watched “Elmo’s Play Date” last night and immediately regretted spreading the word about it. It turned out to be a gigantic disappointment.
At least, as a middle-aged woman with no kids, it was a giant disappointment to me. But perhaps I’m being too uncharitable. Perhaps the intended purpose of the special was to distract young children for a half an hour. If so, it sounds like it was a roaring success.
UPDATE: Apparently, the special is airing on PBS Kids in primetime on April 14th, and then the next day, April 15th, during the usual Sesame Street timeslot for your local market.
“Elmo’s Play Date” is a Sesame Street special set to air on Tuesday, April 14th at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT simultaneously on HBO, PBS Kids and a number of other channels and platforms.
There are three things I want to say about this:
I had so much fun doing 60 for 60 last year for Steve’s birthday that I’ve been toying with the idea of doing something similar in honor of Jim Henson—who was, after all, the founder of the feast. The year 2020 not only marks the 30th anniversary of Jim Henson’s death (as unbelievable as that seems), but it also would have been his 84th birthday. Now, 84 is not a milestone the way we usually think of it, but it is divisible by 12. So in theory, I could do what I did for 60 in 60, only with seven pieces a month instead of five.
Nevertheless, it’s a daunting prospect. Jim was so prolific that even with an extra two pieces a month, it would be difficult to cover everything. I could make an entire year-long tribute out of Sesame Street clips alone. Also, so much of his career happened before I was born, and there’s a lot of material that I have never even seen.
I haven’t decided yet if this is an idea I will follow through on, but it got me wondering: What are your favorite Jim Henson moments, friends? What are the songs and skits that make you laugh or cry? What would you cite to represent the best of him and his work? Why do you gravitate toward the productions that you do? What about a specific work resonates with you?
Share your ideas in the comments, and please feel free to include video clips as well!
I originally drafted this back in August but held off posting it in hopes that the OCon organizers would post video of the Q&A. They have yet to do so, but I revisited this entry and discovered that it is as complete as it can be under the circumstances, so I’m posting it now.
When I first met Steve on that Sunday morning in
Omaha Council Bluffs, one of the first things we talked about was the Q&A that he was scheduled to do at noon that day. I told him that I intended to take notes at the Q&A so I could write about it on my blog later. I also pointed out that I’d never really done anything like that before, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go.
If I’d been more savvy and better organized, I would have tried to record it rather than taking notes. That way, even if I wasn’t able to post the video online, I would still have it as a reference and memory aid to help me write it.
Nevertheless, my notes of the Q&A probably would have been sufficient if I hadn’t spent the day at Steve’s booth and then devoted most of my mental energy towards remembering everything else that happened there. I should have reviewed my notes a few times in the immediate aftermath to encode those memories properly. Alas, I did not.
All of which is just to say that even with the benefit of notes, my memory of the Q&A is woefully incomplete. There are multiple phrases included in them that I have no idea what they mean. So unfortunately, (and ironically) my account of the Q&A is going to be less detailed than those of the rest of my day. I apologize. I’ll know better next time.
My purpose in posting this is to wish my youngest nephew a happy birthday. He’s a leapling, so today he turns 12 on what is technically only his third birthday.
Nice of the Muppets to make a birthday video for him, even if they didn’t realize that’s what they were doing.
I only have one friend who ever gives me Muppet-related presents: my best friend Julie (the newlywed), who gave me my Wembley Funko Pop for my birthday last year (by which I mean 2018 because I still haven’t made the mental adjustment). For Christmas 2019, she gave me the Jim Henson Funko Pop holding Kermit.
“In times of great peril and shared suffering, all of us should set aside our differences and reach out to one another in a spirit of love and understanding.”
–-Sprocket (Steve Whitmire) as interpreted by Doc (Gerry Parkes), Fraggle Rock, “Marooned” (written by David Young)
It may not be a shocking revelation to say that I have issues with the most popular Muppet fan sites. They also seem to have issues with me, and it’s a whole thing, and I don’t want to get into it right now.
But the reason I bring it up at all is because I also believe very strongly that good deeds deserve recognition. At the moment, the two most prominent fan sites, Tough Pigs and The Muppet Mindset, are engaged in a fundraising campaign to support relief efforts in response to the devastating bush fires in Australia which, as I’m sure you already know, have killed so many animals, displaced so many people, and laid thousands of acres to waste. The fundraising effort is a worthwhile cause, and I am happy to support them in their noble endeavor.