Fraggle Rock Season 4 (TV 1986)

Technically, there was a Season Four AND a Season Five to Fraggle Rock, if you watched it on tv. They did some number shuffling for a variety of reasons. Reading Henson’s bio talked about this a little. It had to do with what studios would accept, etc, So they stretched out the final season into 2 seasons. As I’m watching dvd rips, I’m getting it the way it was originally produced.

When they made the choice to split the final season, they cut 2 episodes from Season Three, added them to the final season and then cut that in half for 2 shorter seasons of 13 episodes each. Yeah, it makes a real hash of trying to figure out stuff. I guess that was why I included the episode list in my last review so I could keep straight what episodes were going where. So here’s this sets episode list:

  • Disc 1
  • Sidebottom Blues
  • Uncle Matt’s Discovery
  • Junior Faces the Music
  • The Perfect Blue Rollie
  • A Tune for Two
  • A Brush with Jealousy
  • Disc 2
  • Wembley’s Flight
  • Wonder Mountain
  • Red’s Blue Dragon
  • Space Frog Follies
  • Boober Gorg
  • Mirror, Mirror
  • Disc 3
  • The Riddle of Rhyming Rock
  • The Voice Inside
  • The Trial of Cotterpin Doozer
  • The River of Life
  • Beyond the Pond
  • Gone, But Not Forgotten
  • Disc 4
  • Mokey, Then and Now
  • Ring Around the Rock
  • Inspector Red
  • The Gorg Who Would Be King
  • The Honk of Honks
  • Change of Address

After reading Henson’s bio, watching this season made so much sense. Henson was adamant about only producing top quality stuff and at the same time was all about letting the artistic side of himself dictate stuff. So when he got bored with something, he would drop it. But unlike a certain jackass author *coughgrrmartincough* Henson made sure to finish things up. Which meant his shows usually ended on a high point.

We’re so unused to that here in the States now (where producers, executives, studios milk anything until they destroy it) that it is extremely refreshing but also gives me pause, as I did find myself saying “Awwww come on, I want some more”. But more wouldn’t have been better. Doc and Sprockett move away and the Fraggles find that they can make entries into our world using the power of magic so the adventures don’t have to end. It was the perfect ending to this light, (extremely) loud and frenetic series.

While I enjoyed the Muppet Show more, this was still very engaging and fun and I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at Fraggle Rock. I can also see myself coming back and just listening to this in the background as I do other things. If you enjoy the Muppets, I would unreservedly recommend this series as well.

Jim Henson: The Biography ★☆☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Jim Henson: The Biography
Series: ———-
Authors: Brian Jones
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 591
Words: 215K



Synopsis:

From the Publisher

For the first time ever—a comprehensive biography of one of the twentieth century’s most innovative creative artists: the incomparable, irreplaceable Jim Henson

He was a gentle dreamer whose genial bearded visage was recognized around the world, but most people got to know him only through the iconic characters born of his fertile imagination: Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Miss Piggy, Big Bird. The Muppets made Jim Henson a household name, but they were just part of his remarkable story.

This extraordinary biography—written with the generous cooperation of the Henson family—covers the full arc of Henson’s all-too-brief life: from his childhood in Leland, Mississippi, through the years of burgeoning fame in America, to the decade of international celebrity that preceded his untimely death at age fifty-three. Drawing on hundreds of hours of new interviews with Henson’s family, friends, and closest collaborators, as well as unprecedented access to private family and company archives, Brian Jay Jones explores the creation of the Muppets, Henson’s contributions to Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, and his nearly ten-year campaign to bring The Muppet Show to television. Jones provides the imaginative context for Henson’s non-Muppet projects, including the richly imagined worlds of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth—as well as fascinating misfires like Henson’s dream of opening an inflatable psychedelic nightclub.

An uncommonly intimate portrait, Jim Henson captures all the facets of this American original: the master craftsman who revolutionized the presentation of puppets on television, the savvy businessman whose dealmaking prowess won him a reputation as “the new Walt Disney,” and the creative team leader whose collaborative ethos earned him the undying loyalty of everyone who worked for him. Here also is insight into Henson’s intensely private personal life: his Christian Science upbringing, his love of fast cars and expensive art, and his weakness for women. Though an optimist by nature, Henson was haunted by the notion that he would not have time to do all the things he wanted to do in life—a fear that his heartbreaking final hours would prove all too well founded.

An up-close look at the charmed life of a legend, Jim Henson gives the full measure to a man whose joyful genius transcended age, language, geography, and culture—and continues to beguile audiences worldwide.

My Thoughts:

This is getting a 1star instead of the dreaded 1/2star & the tag “worst book of the year” simply because I learned a LOT about Jim Henson. Having seen what I have of Muppets, Fraggle Rock, etc, I can clearly see Henson’s fingerprints now that I know what to look for. That part was quite interesting and I think it will make my viewing of future movies and shows that much richer.

However, my main problem with this book wasn’t about or with Jim Henson, per se, but more with the author, Brian Jones. This was technically a biography but more than that, it was a puff piece, a love letter, a psalm of worship from an acolyte to his god. When somebody tells the life story of someone else, they have a duty to tell ALL of that life story, not just the good parts.

Any bad parts of Henson’s life was mentioned in one sentence when it occurred and then glossed over or ignored for the rest of the book. When interviewing people about Henson, only the most positive things were included, even from his wife, who he had separated from and was sleeping with other women. Every statement about Henson was positive and every statement by other people was positive. While I could have accepted that Henson led a charmed life and was charismatic and talented enough to draw everyone into his wake, people are people and have bad things to say. I’m not saying Jones should have been a muckraker or that I was looking for a smear campaign, but what I read wasn’t real in the sense that it simply didn’t present reality as we know it. Henson’s brother died. It got maybe 2 sentences then and maybe 4 out of the entire book and Jones never showed it affecting Henson.

Jones was given access to the Henson life in terms of private journals, etc and I suspect part of the deal was that he would only write good things. It was like reading cotton candy by the end of the book. Even Henson’s swift death by a virulent strain of pneumonia shows him as a giant teddy bear having his back rubbed by his ex-wife (technically not ex as they never divorced) and his death being some big “oopsie”. The tone of the entire book is fluff. While I learned a lot about Henson, and like I said before I think it will make my watching of his works that much more informed, I did not like being “handled” by the author as I was.

To end, if you want to learn about Henson, you can read this book and you’ll learn a lot. If you don’t mind literary cotton candy, this will work perfectly for you. If you want a full picture of Henson, try some other book because this author point blank refuses to give you that picture. I am very disappointed with how this turned out.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Fraggle Rock Season Three (TV 1985)

Another great season for Fraggle Rock. I’ve decided to include an episode list this time just to show some of the, ummm, “creative” genius of the show.

  • Red-Handed and the Invisible Thief
  • Boober and the Glob
  • The Grapes of Generosity
  • Blanket of Snow, Blanket of Woe
  • Pebble Pox Blues
  • Home Is Where the Trash Is
  • Believe It or Not
  • Wembley and the Mean Genie
  • The Secret Society of Poobahs
  • The Beanbarrow, the Burden and the Bright Bouquet
  • Gobo’s School for Explorers
  • Scared Silly
  • The Great Radish Caper
  • Born to Wander
  • The Battle of Leaking Roof
  • Playing Till It Hurts
  • Bored Stiff
  • The Cavern of Lost Dreams
  • The Incredible Shrinking Mokey
  • A Dark and Stormy Night
  • Gunge the Great and Glorious
  • The Bells of Fraggle Rock
  • Sprocket’s Big Adventure
  • Wembley’s Wonderful Whoopie Water

Reading the Jim Henson Bio has certainly opened my eyes while watching this season. Henson’s love of television as an artform, his creative genius, it all explains so MUCH about these shows (I’m including the Muppets too). His underlying new age philosophy also plays a much bigger part than I initially realized. It is rather amazing how much those kind of things influence a show and we the watchers would never full grasp it.

I still don’t like the wraparound scenes with Doc and Sprocket. I don’t like Doc and he hasn’t grown on me at all. Part of it is that he is a potterer and I can’t stand people who just potter around doing one thing one minute and another thing the next minute. He’s also a monomaniac when it comes to his inventions. There is one episode where Sprocket ends up going into Fraggle Land but his efforts to convince Doc that they exist come to naught. Sprocket can be extremely expressive for a muppet dog while Doc has got to be about the thickest human I’ve ever seen.

The energy of this show is incredible. Just thinking about it makes me tired but while I’m watching I’m as jazzed up as anything. Considering this was aimed at prepubescent children, either I’m a big baby or Henson hits his notes for the show perfectly. Let’s go with the Creative Genius interpretation.

Only one more season to go and then it’s back to tracking down Muppet movies and shows again.

ps,
I am trying this without the Jackass picture. I hope that the scumbag who forced me to use it last time will leave this poor little post alone.

Currently Reading: Jim Henson – The Biography

With my Muppet Experiment still in full swing (Fraggles are muppets, even if not going by that particular name) and going so well, I at some point wanted to read about Henson, the man behind it all.

Well, at almost 800 pages I’m getting it all. I’ll be doing an actual review next week. For now, I’m enjoying this but realizing (again!! for about the umpteenth time) that non-fiction just doesn’t engage me, no matter how interested I am in the subject.

Muppet Treasure Island (1996 Movie)

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Muppet Treasure Island is the fifth Muppet Movie (Muppets from Space wasn’t made until 1999) and I must say, I think it edges out even A Muppet Christmas Carol. So far, only the original Muppet Movie has been better. Which is to say, this is one fantastic movie..

Loosely based, and I mean LOOSELY, on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island, this version takes the story’s outline and completely makes it its own. Which works surprisingly well. Part of it is because it is so silly and everyone leans into that silliness. It also helps that Tim Curry as Long John Silver just throws himself into the role and drags you along with him. He makes you think “Well, if Tim Curry can act like this then the least I can do is enjoy the silliness”. It takes chops for that.

While not a huge hit financially, it helped revive interest in the Muppets and I suspect propelled the Muppets Tonight show onto the silver screen (which failed. Without Jim Henson or Frank Oz, the Muppets are missing their soul). What this movie did correctly was show that the current Muppet creators need a good, already existing story for the Muppets to hang their frame on. Could you imagine Muppets 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, or Muppets Don Quixote? Of course, I am well read. I’m not sure if the average American would have any interest or even know what the stories were based on. But come on, can’t you see Kermit as Don Quixote and Fozzie Bear as Sancho and Miss Piggy as Dulcinea? I tell you, it’s just money waiting to happen!

But that is getting off track.

I had a lot of fun watching this and even Mrs B enjoyed it because of the many musical interludes. Some were stupid and sappy, like soprano Jim Hawkins (ugh) singing about adventure but then you have Cabin Fever, probably the song I remember most from any Muppet adventure, movie or tv. Below is the youtube embed of the song and about a minute and a half of the movie after it. This is the tone of the movie and if you don’t find it hilarious, you probably won’t enjoy the movie as a whole either.

Since this movie was so good, I want to keep the good times rolling. I’m going to be starting in on the Fraggle Rock tv series for next month. I’ve heard good things about that and since it was done by Jim Henson in the early 80’s I’m pretty sure it WILL be good.

Onward!

Muppets Tonight Season Two (TV 1996)

This post is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. If you copy this link without at least asking, you are a jackass and I hope you choke to death.

This Season Two was originally just the rest of Season One that was cancelled part way through.

Here’s the episode list:

  • Prince
  • Rick Moranis
  • Heather Locklear
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Coolio & Don Rickles
  • Paula Abdul
  • Dennis Quaid
  • Cameo Show
  • Best of Muppets Tonight
  • Gary Cahuenga
  • Andie MacDowell
  • Johnny Fiama Leaves Home

This was going really well until the last couple of episodes. then it all fell apart. I suspect that was because the higher ups knew the axe was coming.

Objectively speaking, I don’t know why this failed. I laughed quite a bit and was amused. I think part of the failure was that there wasn’t that same family bonbomie from the Muppet Show. I think audience expectations had changed as had studio expectations.

But while I laughed and enjoyed the skits, each time an episode was done I wasn’t ready for the next episode to play like I was with the Muppet Show. Something that I can’t describe was missing from this tv show. Whatever that missing ingredient was, that’s what doomed this show. Personally, I think it had something to do with Jim Henson not being involved, as he was dead by this time.

Still, this was a fun little show to watch. I do wish I had watched this BEFORE Muppets from Space, as that movie used this set of muppets. It also introduces muppets that we see in Treasure Island, most notably Clueless the goat and Pepe the prawn. Knowing they’re not just random characters made up for the movies makes their characters even better.

I think for my next choice I’ll be watching Muppet Treasure Island which was done in 1996 as well.

Muppets Tonight Season One (TV 1996)

This new Muppet Show was re-tooled for the 90’s and the talkshow circuit that was the backbone of late night tv.

Here’s the guestlist for this short season.

  • Michelle Pfeiffer
  • Garth Brooks
  • Billy Crystal
  • John Goodman
  • Cindy Crawford
  • Tony Bennett
  • Sandra Bullock
  • Jason Alexander
  • Whoopi Goldberg

So, the quick run down is this. Kermit decides to do a tv show but doesn’t want to host it himself. So he suckers in a new Muppet, named Clifford, into being the host. With a whole new set of muppets mixed in with the old crew. The stars were pretty big, as you can see. They also had a lot more involvement in the show than in the previous Muppet Show.

I enjoyed this. The skits were funny and the jokes made me laugh. Even the new muppets had their charm.

Which leads into the issues and the shows eventual quick cancellation. 22 episodes were made and it was turned into 2 seasons. First, while things ARE funny, at times they are just trying too hard and it shows. Second, many of the guests get a bit more angry than I’m comfortable with. Other people getting angry, even in fun, gets me angry too. It’s not a good feedback loop. Finally, while some of the old Muppets were around, they weren’t around enough and I didn’t gel with some of the new ones. Clifford the new host didn’t work for me like Kermit had. They had a new bear! And Fozzy only made an appearance twice. The new bear was a security guard and was interesting but he just wasn’t Fozzie.

I guess I’m conflicted. I enjoyed this but saw some serious flaws that didn’t occur with the original Muppet Show. If I could find these on dvd, I would probably buy them, just like Seasons 4 and 5 of the Muppet Show. Sadly, no such thing exists, as far as I know.

I am looking forward to Season Two but really am hoping Clifford stops annoying me so much.

Muppets from Space (1999 Movie)

After the success that the Muppet Show was, I decided to take a chance on one of the “later” movies, that way even if it was bad I was sure to have some good stuff left over. This wasn’t so much bad as childish and mediocre.

The movie starts out with Gonzo having a dream that he couldn’t get on Noah’s ark because there was only 1 of him and he didn’t even know his species. All the muppets are living in some sort of house that they share and Miss Piggy is trying to be a news anchor. Gonzo’s cereal tells him that they are looking for him and he leaves a message cut in the lawn in return. At the same time, a US Government Agency is picking up the signals and kidnap Gonzo to use him as a bargaining chip with the aliens. Who are all gonzos, noses and all. They play a great rock concert, agree to take the Government Agency Man as their new ambassador and Gonzo decides to stay on Earth with his friends.

Despite the bold statement on the dvd cover that “the magic is back”, it most definitely was not. This was much more of a sequel to the short lived “Muppets Tonight” show that lasted for 22 episodes than anything else. I should have watched that before this to ease me into the changed circumstances of the Muppets. Kermit is done by a different voice actor, Fozzie barely appears, Miss Piggy got a new hairstyle and Animal can almost control himself. It was just too much of a change from the Muppet Show or even the Muppet Movies for me to easily take in.

I can imagine a 7 year old loving this, maybe even a 10 year old. But after that? It’s just too stupid and simple, things that the Muppets didn’t use to be. There is a difference between Zany, Silly, Insane & Stupid. Plus as shallow as it sounds, I really didn’t like Miss Piggy’s hair.

Muppet Show Season Five (TV 1980)

The fifth and final season of the Muppet Show is probably the best. Here’s the guest list:

Episode 501: Gene Kelly
Episode 502: Loretta Swit
Episode 503: Joan Baez
Episode 504: Shirley Bassey
Episode 505: James Coburn (includes U.K. Spot “Bird Walk”)
Episode 506: Brooke Shields
Episode 507: Glenda Jackson
Episode 508: Señor Wences
Episode 509: Debbie Harry
Episode 510: Jean-Pierre Rampal
Episode 511: Paul Simon
Episode 512: Melissa Manchester
Episode 513: Tony Randall (includes Tony’s song)
Episode 514: Mac Davis
Episode 515: Carol Burnett
Episode 516: Gladys Knight
Episode 517: Hal Linden (includes Hal and Robin’s song)
Episode 518: Marty Feldman (includes the Sesame Street Theme)
Episode 519: Chris Langham (despite the controversy)
Episode 520: Wally Boag (includes the gibberish lullaby)
Episode 521: Johnny Cash
Episode 522: Buddy Rich (includes U.K. Spot “Transport of Delight”)
Episode 523: Linda Ronstadt
Episode 524: Roger Moore

This guest list is what I found on IMDB but it is in a very different order from what I actually watched. It doesn’t matter though, as the Muppet show really didn’t make an issue of the first episode or the final episode of a season. I really feel that this was the best season to date. They had gotten the skits down to a science, only made bad jokes when it was really appropriate (instead of all the time) and the guests were really acting like they were visiting a tv show instead of being allowed to showcase themselves. My only issue was that Fozzy Bear got short shrift and had no regular act whereas to be heckled by the Old Duo. Instead he kept trying to butt in to other acts and overall had much less of a stage presence than in previous seasons.

I had to go look up why this was the last season as it just felt so strong. Turns out that the producers were running out of ideas and instead of running the show into the ground, they decided to end it on a high note. Man, I sure do wish tv today would do that. So my respect for this show got even higher.

This little Year of the Muppets thing has been a smashing success so far. Even the movie Muppets Take Manhattan, while the weakest of the bunch, was still enjoyable. Now that I’ve come to the end of the regular show, I have to decide what to do next. I am going to list out my options so it’s easy for me to think about: I’ll have to make a decision soon so as to be able to review it for next month

  • The Muppets Wizard of Oz – 2005 movie
  • Muppets Tonight – 2 season tv show from 1996
  • Muppets Now – 6 episode tv show from 2020
  • The Muppets – 2011 movie
  • Muppets Most Wanted – 2014 sequel to the above movie
  • Muppets from Space – 1999 movie
  • Fraggle Rock – 5 season tv show from 1983

As you can see, I still have a lot of mileage left in the Muppet Franchise. It wouldn’t surprise me if I try to extend this Muppet thing out into next year.

But this original Muppet Show that has run for 5 seasons is a complete smashing success with me. Loved it and highly recommend it even to cynical adults 😉

Muppet Show Season Four (TV 1979)

Oh, this was GOOOOD! While Season 3 had me worried about the infusion of cash and the “largification” of the show, this had all of that and it was done to perfection! Here’s the guest list for the season:

  • Episode 401: John Denver
  • Episode 402: Crystal Gayle
  • Episode 403: Shields & Yarnell
  • Episode 404: Dyan Cannon
  • Episode 405: Victor Borge
  • Episode 406: Linda Lavin
  • Episode 407: Dudley Moore
  • Episode 408: Arlo Guthrie
  • Episode 409: Beverly Sills
  • Episode 410: Kenny Rogers
  • Episode 411: Lola Falana
  • Episode 412: Phyllis George
  • Episode 413: Dizzy Gillespie
  • Episode 414: Liza Minnelli
  • Episode 415: Anne Murray
  • Episode 416: Jonathan Winters
  • Episode 417: Star Wars
  • Episode 418: Christopher Reeve
  • Episode 419: Lynda Carter
  • Episode 420: Alan Arkin
  • Episode 421: Doug Henning
  • Episode 422: Andy Williams
  • Episode 423: Carol Channing
  • Episode 424: Diana Ross

This was a wetdream of late 70’s, early 80’s stars. I mean, Luke Skywalker, Superman and Wonderwoman! Plus all those other people 😉

I enjoyed this season so much. One of the episodes, the one with Jonathan Winters, has the show put under a gypsy curse. By the end of the show everyone was speaking faux swedish and I was laughing so hard I had to stand up just so I could breathe. What more can you ask from a 25minute tv show?

This show continues to hit my funny bone and I am just loving it. I am looking forward to the fifth and final season. Thank goodness Disney finally came to their bloody senses and did what they should have done decades ago.