“Beyond the Pond” is an underrated episode of Fraggle Rock that had the misfortune to fall between two exceptionally memorable episodes: “River of Life” and “Gone, But Not Forgotten.” Having a similar theme to “River of Life,” but a considerably lighter touch, I think it tends to get lost in the shuffle.
Slightly off-topic, but I was thinking about this one today because Lin-Manuel Miranda has shingles.
And while I of course feel sorry for him–because by all accounts, shingles is a miserable illness–I’m also shocked and disturbed because I didn’t know it was possible to get shingles in your 30s. Lin is the same age I am; that means I’m susceptible too. Crap.
(Unless, of course, it only attacks obscenely talented and successful thirty-somethings, in which case I’m off the hook.)
I’ve observed in the past that there seems to be at least one Fraggle Rock song that fits every situation and event. That continues to hold true, even in the wake of the senseless and horrific:
“But I had a dream it was time to begin, and every creature… / We were sister and brother we were part of each other and it made us one / And it made us win. “
“It can make you ache for the sake of another / And it takes your life, and it stakes it too / And it makes you make the world come new.”
“We’re all part of everything, and everything is part of us.”–Gobo Fraggle
When I got my first medical transcription job over seven years ago, I supposed that that was going to be how I earned my living for the rest of my life. I figured that writing was just going to be a hobby, something I did for my own amusement and that of my friends.
But as is so often the case, things in my life haven’t worked out exactly the way I supposed they would, and I’m forced to find other means of paying the bills. And with a Hamilton-esque word count of 66,089 words on this blog over the course of five months, writing seems like a skill that I could perhaps parlay into something more rewarding in actual money in addition to mere personal satisfaction.
Is it just me, or was the conflict in this episode really avoidable?
I agree with every sentence Joe Hennes has written here, with the possible exception of the last one.
However, I also think that it is important to recognize that evil is not confined to national government, nor to the world of politics and government at large. For all its vile, despotic tendencies, the Trump administration and its obsequious enablers in Congress do not yet have the monopoly on greed, corruption, and wanton acts of injustice in this country.
As much as I love this episode of Fraggle Rock–and I do–I nevertheless have some questions about it:
Why did Gobo assume that the “Great Bell” was something that he’d be able to carry back home? Doesn’t “Great Bell” kind of imply something that’s large and heavy?
When Gobo and Wembley saw that the cave was bell-shaped on the map, why did it never occur to them that perhaps the cave is the Great Bell rather than simply containing the Great Bell? That’s immediately where my mind went.
Whatever happened to the Weebabeast, anyway? They introduce this whole implied mythos about the Weebabeast, and then we never hear about it again. I feel cheated.
Why does everyone think that Cantus is so cryptic? He makes perfect sense to me.
“The Gorgs might be the bullies at school, but they might also be a mean boss, or an abusive boyfriend, or the Taliban. It’s a good thing we have Fraggle Rock, to help us figure it out. For all we know, there might be Gorgs everywhere.”
–Danny Horn, “My Week with Fraggle Rock, Part 2: Big Shots,” ToughPigs.com, November 4, 2004.
I’ve wanted to write about this episode of Fraggle Rock for four years now, long before I had a Muppet blog, and long before the Schism. I hope I can do it justice.
Let’s start things off with a song. Take it, Wembley:
This song plays a relatively minor role in the episode, but I wanted to highlight it because it is one of my very favorite Wembley songs. Steve’s voice here is like a soft, cozy blanket–warm and fuzzy and friendly. Which, come to think about it, is a good description of Wembley’s character in a nutshell.
Now, instead of looking at the episode chronologically, let’s jump around and look at it thematically. To that end, let’s get started at the end of this episode, in which Wembley makes a very profound statement: “I guess some slavery feels like freedom.”
In my opinion, this beautiful song from Mokey is one of Fraggle Rock‘s most underrated.
This song is from the episode “The Preachification of Convincing John,” which I always think is something of a misnomer. I mean, obviously Convincing John is in it, and he does preachify (or whatever the verb form would be), but it’s really a story about Mokey, and Convincing John is pretty incidental it.
This may well be the most discussed Fraggle Rock episode of them all. I don’t think that I necessarily have anything new to add to the discussion. But it’s October, and I always get to feeling morbid in October, and this episode suits my current mood, so I’m just going to go with it.
“‘Manny’s Land of Carpets’–I love that show. It was really a show about television; a show about the kind of delusional system that’s projected by people’s belief in, you know, the world that seems to be inside that box in the corner of the room, and that’s the way I saw it in the beginning, anyway. And then it just got crazier and crazier as time went on, and it’s sort of one of those one-sentence ideas that you can crack it open and start to uncrack it a little bit, and it starts to really suggest there’s an entire universe in here–Manny’s Land of Carpets.”
–David Young, writer of “Manny’s Land of Carpets“
So, here is David Young, a writer working for a TV show, writing an episode of said show about how television is a “delusional system.” You’ve got to admire his audacity and the unapologetic relish with which he bites the hand that feeds him.
(This is the topic about which I was going to write last week but had to postpone when I was beset by a migraine. But maybe it’s just as well, because what I’m going to write now is different than what I would have written last week.)
Well, the best-laid plans of Fraggles and frogs often go awry, I suppose. I had a whole Fraggle Friday feature all planned out…and then I developed a migraine, with its attendant photosensitivity, which means I can’t turn on a light to see my notes, at least not without feeling as though a Doozer with an ice auger is standing on my head trying to bore its way into my skull.
So instead, let’s focus on the night when the lights went out in Fraggle Rock: episode 218, “The Day the Music Died,” aka The One With the Ditzies.
What follows is an open letter to Steve Whitmire:
Although I am a child of the ’80s, Fraggle Rock was, regrettably, not a significant part of my childhood. I saw bits and pieces of it back in the day, but I never got to watch the series in its entirety until 2013–although I’ve been trying to make up for lost time ever since. In a way, though, I think I’m kind of lucky because I think that maybe I get more out of watching Fraggle Rock as an adult, bringing my education and life experience to it, than I would have as a kid–a relatively blank slate.
Be that as it may, I identify strongly with Mokey. Her abstract, fanciful, introspective approach to life, and her idealistic worldview, remind me a lot of myself. In particular, however, I relate to Mokey in this episode of Fraggle Rock, in which she attempts to discern her vocation. I’ve been trying to discern mine for 37 years, and I still haven’t quite figured it out.
Someone posted the following video in the Muppet Pundit comments. Steve has yet to talk about it, so I don’t know all of the backstory, but it appears that Steve returned to his old high school in 1988 with some of his characters (Muppet and otherwise) in tow to participate in a concert of some sort.
Take it, Wembley:
I have another confession to make: in all my years of studying literature, I’ve found that, a lot of times, I don’t think that an author’s–or, in a broader sense, an artist’s–most celebrated or well-known work is necessarily their best. I read The Red Badge of Courage in grad school and was underwhelmed by it; my favorite Stephen Crane work is called The Monster; you’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s utterly brilliant. Similarly, I love Madeleine L’Engle, and I love A Wrinkle in Time, but it was a early novel of hers, and I think her later works show a growth and a maturity that is missing in Wrinkle, as wonderful as it is and as much as I have always loved it.
My point is that “My Way” is so famous and so popular, and arguably so overexposed, that I’ve never been that impressed with it. In fact, I’m not sure if I ever really paid attention to the lyrics before. But watching Wembley sing this little duet, the lyrics suddenly smacked me in the face, particularly the last verse:
“For what is a man? What has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels.”
Those lyrics might have been written for and about Steve; that’s exactly what he’s doing on his blog, and he’s taken–and continues to take–the blows for it.
I apologize in advance because there are no good copies of the song I want to talk about on YouTube; at least, not that I can find. There are two versions that I can find, both recorded by someone pointing a camera a television set.
This one has better video, in that there are no reflections on the screen:
This one has better (or at least louder) audio:
This is not one of my favorite Fraggle Rock songs. Generally speaking, I don’t really like songs that consist of one four-word phrase repeated over and over. That’s no fun for me to listen to and/or sing along with. It makes me wonder if Dennis Lee was on vacation that week or what.
So usually, whenever I watch the episode of Fraggle Rock from which this song comes (“Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk“), I usually skip over this song and the reprise, which is basically the same thing but with the word “bad” changed to “glad”.
But last week I DID feel bad, so it felt appropriate to post a link to this song. Before I did so, I actually watched the whole song for perhaps the first time ever, and I realized that this song is really a tour de force musical performance by Wembley.
Which, at the risk of pointing out the obvious, necessarily makes it a tour de force musical performance by Steve Whitmire.
It seems to me that if you only have four lyrics at your disposal, you’ve really got to punch up your vocal performance and make each repeated phrase different from the last one. I imagine that you’d have to think about subtext and making each phrase slightly different.
The more I think about it, this may actually be one of the most challenging songs in the Fraggle Rock repertoire. You get off easy when it comes to memorizing lyrics, but everything else would be a lot harder.
Steve’s commitment to the performance is wonderful. Definitely worth a second look. I “feel so glad” that I finally decided to pay attention. 😉