Season 5 is probably the best The Muppet Show has to offer. If the DVD releases had been based on merit rather than chronology, it should have been the first. Then everyone could enjoy it without having to offer up a pound of flesh to Disney per month in perpetuity.
It makes me a little sad that Henson and Co. stopped making The Muppet Show just as they got really good at it. Nevertheless, this season has its uncomfortable moments just as the other ones do. Furthermore, ceasing production on the Muppet Show freed them up to do Fraggle Rock. And as good as The Muppet Show can be at times, (the original) Fraggle Rock is infinitely better. Yeah, I said it, and I’ll stand by it.
I’m classifying The Muppet Show Season 5 episodes according to the same system that I used in mySeason 4 Viewing Guide:
However, because there are a couple of episodes not readily available for viewing, I’ve had to add a couple of special categories.
“Rainbow Connection” is the greatest song from one of the greatest Muppet productions ever made. Because of its popularity, there are a lot of different versions of it, and this is a good thing because it means that everyone can pick the version that best suits their preference.
However, many members of the Muppet fan conglomerate think it gets played too often, and it makes them mad as hell. If they had their way, “Rainbow Connection” would get locked in a vault and only taken out every 15 years or so, like a lot of other Disney content.
And although I take verbal jabs at them for what I consider to be their misplaced vehemence over something that is relatively inconsequential, I have to admit that I sort of understand where they’re coming from. “Rainbow Connection” is a beautiful song, but there are other absolutely lovely Muppet songs, and it might be nice if some of them had more exposure.
And while I don’t get tired of “Rainbow Connection” itself, there are some versions of it that I like much better than others. For example, while I have listened to Matt Vogel sing it a few times, I am convinced that I could live out the rest of my life quite happily without hearing it him sing it again because I know now that he will never be Kermit to me. That sounds like a critique of his performance, and to some extent it is, but to a greater extent, it is a deliberate decision on my part. But that’s a topic for another time.
But I don’t get tired of the song itself. Ever. At least, I haven’t yet, and it’s been decades since I first heard it, so if it was going to happen, you’d think it would have occurred by now. Nevertheless, there are songs, including Muppet songs, that I DO get tired of hearing. In my opinion, the following Muppet songs are much more deserving of the fandom’s contempt due to overexposure than “Rainbow Connection.”
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.
Back in the spring, the Henson Company released the clunkily titled short-form series “Fraggle Rock: Rock On!” Ireviewed the first episodeand 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.
I just realized that I haven’t posted anything here since the last Cave-In, at least not on the main page. Where did this month go? Straight to hell, if there’s any justice. Although one could say that this month WAS hell, and that’s a valid argument, too. It’s just a good thing that Weldon taught us all coping strategies last month, because boy, do we need them.
Fortunately, this was a really fun episode that provided a welcome respite. The premise sounds vaguelyfamiliar to us Muppet Pundit veterans. Coincidence? I think not. (I don’t KNOW, but I THINK not.)
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.
Now I can tell you what Steve told me back in November about these mid-episode pieces without spoiling anything. He told me that Weldon was going to do a “Mickey Mouse Club” parody recruiting members for the Troll Mob, and then Bret Iwan was going to come in and talk to him.
I told you last week that I didn’t know exactly what to expect, and that’s true, because, as I recall, Steve didn’t go into much more detail than that. (I sort of had the mistaken idea that Bret was going to talk to Weldon as Mickey; not sure how that happened.) So I didn’t know what to expect, and I was not prepared.
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.
Merry Christmas, all! By the time I post this, it will technically be Christmas Day, but in my mind, at least, it is still Christmas Eve. This evening I watched Christmas Eve on Sesame Street and “The Bells of Fraggle Rock” back to back. I decided to do that merely because I hadn’t watched either of them yet this season, but in the process I found that they are more closely related thematically than I ever realized, and probably more so than anyone involved intended.
I have some deep thoughts about that, and I’d like to share them, but it’s really late right now (or early, depending on your point of view), and I am tired. So I’d just like to observe that if Cantus had been on Sesame Street while Big Bird was having his crisis of faith, he probably could have explained to Big Bird how Santa gets down the chimneys.
However, knowing Cantus, he probably would have done so in an oblique, metaphorical way that would probably just have confused and frustrated Big Bird, so he probably would have ended up on the roof anyway.
Nevertheless, that’s a scene that I wish existed, because I would love to see it.
I left a question for Weldon on Discord about his favorite song, which included a veiled Sesame Street reference. I expected that he would respond with a veiled Sesame Street reference, and we would all chuckle knowingly.
As you probably already know, what actually happened waseven more interesting. He recommended this song to me:
It’s not my taste in music, but nevertheless, I’m so glad that this is a thing that exists, and I’m glad that I now know it exists.
As I was listening to it, I felt it was appropriate to the season. If I ever hosted a haunted house, I think I would just play this song on a continuous loop.
Today, of course, is not only Steve Whitmire’s birthday, it is also Jim Henson’s birthday.
I was thinking about what I wanted to do to mark the occasion of what is apparently known on Twitter as “#JimHensonDay,” and I wasn’t sure what I could say that I haven’t already said.
Then I started to think about all the ways that Jim Henson and his characters have burrowed their way deep into my subconscious, to the point where certain words or phrases will always evoke knee-jerk Muppet references from me.
It’s a topic that I’ve mentioned occasionally but never explored at length, so it seems as good a way as any to celebrate #JimHensonDay.
(Please enjoy this photo collage. I worked on it for the better part of an hour before trying to upload it, but my initial attempt was unsuccessful because the file size was too big. Apologies to those whose photos I’ve co-opted.)
Happy 60th birthday, Steve Whitmire! And welcome, everyone, to the final installment of 60 for 60. Every month for a year I’ve been celebrating Steve and this milestone by posting five examples of his work per month (mostly in the form of videos, but not exclusively) and making commentary about it. At this point, I’d like to take a look back of the year and choose the best from each month for a “Best of the Best” feature.
Welcome to the final regular installment of 60 for 60, a year-long celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday next month. This month’s theme is live appearances by Muppet characters.
“The trick to the show [Muppets 2015], if it works, is to make it feel for the first time that you’re seeing the Muppets in our world.” –Bill Prady, SDCC Panel 2015
Of the many strange and perplexing things that happened in conjunction with the Muppets’ 2015 series, one that I found to be among the strangest and most perplexing was this bizarre statement by Bill Prady, that it would be the first time that the Muppets were in our world. How are they not in our world? Not only have six of their eight movies been set in our world, but the Muppets make live appearances in our world all the time. And when they do, it results in some of the best and most entertaining material because they’re usually a little freer to do some ad libbing and to be themselves, insofar as the Muppets have selves, which is a deep philosophical dive that I don’t think I’m ready to take at the moment and would probably require a whole other entry even if I were.
Before you begin reading, I should warn you: This is an extensive, detailed, impressionistic, lengthy, and potentially incoherent account of my trip to Omaha Comic Con to meet Steve Whitmire. I’m writing it in such great detail not because I think it will be interesting to you (although I hope it will be!) but mostly to fix my own memories of it as firmly in my mind as possible.
If you want the tl;dr version, the entire experience can basically be summed up in five emojis:
I knew that meeting Steve at OCon was going to be an emotional experience. I anticipated that, as a result, I was going to have difficulty controlling my tears, that all the feels were going to turn my brain into guacamole, and that I was going to have a hard time talking to him as a result.
I tried to prepare myself beforehand to counteract these effects. I made notes about what I wanted to say, and I tried to imagine what would happen when I met him. When it happened for real, I was successful in the former regard (controlling my tears) but had less success in the latter (communicating articulately). All things considered, I think I did pretty well, because there was NO WAY I could ever have predicted or prepared for what actually happened.