1 The Muppet Mindset: The Jim Henson Hour
Showing posts with label The Jim Henson Hour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Jim Henson Hour. Show all posts

Aug 4, 2014

5 Good and Bad Things About MuppeTelevision

Michael Wermuth - Well, it’s been awhile since my last “5 good and bad things about…” article, so here’s one about the MuppeTelevision segments of The Jim Henson Hour. I really like The Jim Henson Hour, and feel like the MuppeTelevision segments are the best parts, but there’s still some things that I don’t like much, so I’ll list five good things and then five bad things.

5 Good Things:

1.   The new characters
For the most part, the various new characters on this show are great. Digit and Leon are the best of the new characters, and I most strongly wish they would have returned for later productions. Vicki, Waldo, and Lindbergh are also great characters, though I can live without them returning (technically I can also live without Digit and Leon returning). Zhondra, Ubu, and Chip all have great designs and it’s a shame that they were limited to just two episodes (though at least Zhondra and Chip did continue to make background appearances after the show ended). Flash and Beard have great designs as well and it’s a shame the show didn’t last long enough for their personalities to be developed much. And of course, there’s Bean Bunny (who technically debuted in Tale of the Bunny Picnic) and Clifford, the two who would continue to be main characters after the show ended. While they are great characters, I do like them less than most of the characters mentioned above. Many of the characters have really cool designs, but a lot of them also seem like they’d look out of place at the Muppet theater setting.

2.   The “Fitness” episode
One of the best MuppeTelevision episodes, and the only one I’m singling out as one of five good things. This one has the best balance of new and old characters, with a heavy use of characters from The Muppet Show (it helps that this is one of only two episodes Richard Hunt performed in). Smokey Robinson’s two numbers are great, it’s interesting to see Link Hogthrob have his own control room plot, and there’s just so much to like about this one. I feel the shows ratings might have been better if this was the first episode.

3.   The Muppet Central set
The computer animated set for Muppet Central was awesome. I just like seeing all those monitors, with video footage of the Muppets (most of which were shot just to be used on monitors in the background). Yeah, some fans may say that the set was a distraction, or that these scenes were limited due to a non-physical set, but I like it.

4.   The Closing numbers
Almost all of the closing numbers are among the shows best numbers. From “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” to “Sweet Vacation” to “Jump (For My Love)”, the closing numbers are exciting ways to end each episode. Many of these numbers feature the majority of the main cast and often cut away to characters and sets from earlier in the episodes, something that had kind of become a tradition in Muppet productions since The Muppets Go to the Movies.

5.   Fozzie’s few appearances
Fozzie only made two appearances in MuppeTelevision (and one in the second half-hour special Miss Piggy’s Hollywood), but they are both among the shows highlights. Fozzie was hilarious taking over for Willard Scott on Today and starring in a ghost story.

5 Bad Things:

1.   The first two episodes are weak
I feel like the first two broadcast episodes–“Outer Space” and “Oceans”–were poor choices for episodes to start with. “Outer Space” is still a good episode (“Oceans” is my least-favorite of the series), but the first two episodes mainly focus on Kermit, Digit, and to a lesser extent Lindbergh and Waldo, with the rest of the cast limited to one-scene appearances (in addition to coming back for the first closing number). In fact, the first episode barely even has any sketches starring any of the intended main characters (Bean Bunny starred in one, and the whole cast did the closing number, if that counts). The other episodes showcase more of the main cast better. Interestingly, the first two broadcast episodes are among the last ones in production order.

2.   Hardly any of Jerry Nelson’s characters were there
While it’s understandable that Frank Oz and Richard Hunt’s characters had limited screen time on this show due to Frank Oz’s directing career and Richard Hunt working on Ghost of Faffner Hall, it’s a wonder that hardly any of Jerry Nelson’s classic characters were there (I think Lew Zealand and Camilla were the only ones to show up outside of being on video monitors). And Jerry Nelson only had one new recurring character, Beard, who wasn’t really used that much. Pretty much all of Jerry Nelson’s other roles were as one-shot characters, so it’s not like he couldn’t have performed Floyd, Robin, and other classic characters.

3.   Nothing goes wrong (is that a bad thing?)
On The Muppet Show and Muppets Tonight (and other productions where the Muppets put on a show), something often goes wrong in sketches and production numbers. But on this show, all the acts go as planned (as far as the viewer knows). I guess the closest to something going wrong is when Fozzie accidentally locks Willard Scott in a vault and takes over as the Today show weather man. Now, this “bad thing” isn’t really that bad, but it is a little odd that Kermit has suddenly found so many acts that don’t go wrong on-camera.

4.   Segments with humans who are not guest stars
Unlike The Muppet Show, nearly every episode features sketches with live actors who are not the guest star And many of these segments are not very good. While there are a handful of segments with humans that are great (like the storytime segment from “Power”,  the ghost story with Fozzie in “Videotape”, and the Gorilla Television segments), most segments that prominently feature humans not played by guest stars (including the Bootsy and Brad segments, the farmer segment from “Fitness”, and the segment from “Food” where a stock boy explains where food comes from) are very weak and in some cases too weird. Would they have been better if they just used guest stars or Muppet characters in their places? The world may never know.

5.   The guest stars don’t appear in the studio
The guest stars never appear in the control room with the Muppets. Any “backstage” interaction between the Muppets and guest stars required the guests to appear on monitors when they interacted. In most cases it’s rather awkward (there are exceptions, like with Smokey Robinson and Buster Poindexter). I don’t really understand why the guests couldn’t have been inside the control rooms... Other shows had the guest stars on raised platforms. Couldn’t they have just used a high platform with the blue screen sets?

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

Feb 26, 2014

Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Vicki

Written by Abigail Maughan.


Performed by...
Fran Brill

First appearance...
The Jim Henson Hour Episode 101: Outer Space (1989)

Most recent appearance...
The Jim Henson Hour Episode 112: Food (1990)

Best known role...
Stage manager at Muppet Central

Vicki is a resourceful young film school student who works as the director’s assistant at Muppet Central on the 1989 TV series The Jim Henson Hour. She gives Kermit the Frog much-needed help in running the show, as well as engaging in a number of backstage shenanigans.

Throughout the course of The Jim Henson Hour, Vicki figured out how to fix the defective Digit, made Kermit feel old, monitored the show’s ratings, sang a few lines of “La Bamba,” got annoyed by Bean Bunny, found the missing Dog City film reel, threw a book at Link Hogthrob, sang and danced with guest star Smokey Robinson, and attempted to do Kermit’s job when he went on vacation, among other things.

Sadly, Vicki disappeared forever after the show and is no longer used in current productions, along with the majority of her Jim Henson Hour costars. However, the puppet for Vicki was recycled in two "Muppet Time" segments in 1994, as a character named Scary Mary.

It’s always exciting when new female Muppet characters emerge, and Vicki had the potential to really shine, had the show been more successful. She fills an important Scooter-esque role without being a female carbon copy of Scooter. The two would actually make a very efficient team. Vicki is reliable, intelligent, pleasant, and most importantly, funny. Given all those factors, Vicki could very well fit in with the Muppets today.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

Dec 7, 2013

Muppetology 101: Muppet Music Appreciation, Part 1

Michael Wermuth, Jr. - Music is an important part of the Muppet world. Almost every Muppet sings and/or plays an instrument. With the Muppets being so musical, it makes sense that there are Muppet bands and music groups, and today we're going to learn about them. First, here's some of the more notable bands from the "Muppet Show" family of productions.

Unless you've been living under a rock (or your Muppet knowledge is primarily limited to productions from the 1990s), you should know that Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem are the most prominent Muppet band of all time. You probably know that the members consist of Dr. Teeth on keyboard, Floyd Pepper on bass guitar, Animal on drums, Janice on lead guitar, Zoot on saxophone, and sometimes Lips on trumpet. And you probably know that The Electric Mayhem is responsible for such hits as "Can You Picture That?" and "You Can't Take No for an Answer," and that they have performed alongside such artists as Elton John, Lou Rawls, and Paul Simon.

This country band consists of hillbilly caricatures of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Jerry Nelson. (You know who they are, right?) Jim plays banjo, Jerry plays guitar, and Frank plays cello. They performed in a number of guest appearances on talk shows before The Muppet Show debuted, and only appeared on The Muppet Show a few times, performing such unforgettable numbers as "To Morrow" and "Summertime." There were a number of hillbilly bands that were used more often, however...

This first Muppet jugband (before Emmet Otter's Jug-Band and the second Muppet Show Jugband) consisted of a banjo player, a guitar player, a jug blower, an old man on fiddle, and a girl singer. Unfortunately, very few of them were named, but they performed such great songs as "You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd" and "I'm My Own Grampa," and have backed up such guest stars as Jim Nabors and Twiggy. The Gogolala Jugband has rarely appeared outside of their own numbers, and for unknown reasons were replaced by...

The second jugband on The Muppet Show, consisting of Slim Wilson on guitar and vocals, Lubbock Lou on mouth harp, Zeke on banjo, Bubba on jug, Gramps on fiddle, and Lou also on vocals. It is unknown why the jugband needed to be replaced, and keeping the first wouldn't have had any consequences, though the members of this jugband were frequently seen outside of the jugband numbers (though none of them became real characters). They have performed such great songs as "Henrietta's Wedding" and "Borneo," and have backed up guest stars including Loretta Lynn and Roy Clark.

A band consisting of musical babies, managed and conducted by the rather suspicious character Bobby Benson. None of these babies are known to have names, but are musically talented despite their young ages. They have impressed with such great tunes as "Pennsylvania 6-5000" and "Baby Driver," and once provided back-up for Victor Borge.

Perhaps meant to contrast the baby band, Geri and the Atrics is a rock band consisting of old ladies. Geri plays the cello, but very few of the other members names are known. Some of their hip hits include "Hound Dog" and "Who Put the Bomp in the Bomp-Sha-Bomp-Sha-Bomp." Oddly enough, Geri is the one seen the least, being replaced with a tambourine player after the band's second appearance (though the band kept Geri's name in the title).

The house band for The Jim Henson Hour, Solid Foam consisted of Clifford on bass, Beard on guitar, Digit on keyboard, Flash on saxophone, and a female drummer whose name is unknown. It is unclear which member is the leader, but they have performed such great hits as "The Music Just Keeps on Rolling Along" and have provided back-up for such guests as Smokey Robinson and kd Lang. Unfortunately, as good as they are, all of their music (as well as vocals) are synthesized.

A singing group of aliens who performed two numbers on The Jim Henson Hour, "Neutron Dance" and "Uh-Oh Here She Comes." If the show hadn't been cancelled, this group could have become more prominent mainstays in the cast.

Unfortunately, none of the fans know the official name of this band, nor do we know the names of many of the members. This zydeco band was probably meant to replace The Electric Mayhem, but they didn't do anything that the Electric Mayhem likely wouldn't have done in the 90s. This band was only used in musical numbers providing back-up, never having their own songs. There were two episodes that began with Clifford talking to the band.

Well, that's it for The Muppet Show world of Muppet bands. Join us next class period for the Muppet bands and singing groups from Sesame Street.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

Jul 24, 2013

Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Zondra

Today's article was written by Michael Wermuth, Jr. Photoshop work was once again done by the phenomenal Chris Stulz.


Performed by...

Fran Brill (1989)
Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (1997-1998)

First appearance...
The Jim Henson Hour Episode 105: "First Show" (1989)

Most recent appearance...
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005)

Also known as...

Best known role...
Gorilla Television pirate station worker; Housemate on "The Real World Muppets"

Zondra is among the crew of Gorilla Television, a station that despises popular television. Joined by a gorilla named Ubu and a nerdy technician named Chip, Zondra seems to be the leader of the group. In two episodes of The Jim Henson Hour, they interrupt the MuppeTelevision signals to showcase what they want broadcast, which includes a puppet act by Marc Weiner and forcing a TV consumer into watching commercials. Unfortunately for them, their taking over of the airwaves only lasts a few minutes, allowing the Muppets to continue with their show.

After The Jim Henson Hour was cancelled, Zondra wasn't seen again until the second season of Muppets Tonight, where she was part of the cast of the recurring segment "The Real World Muppets." In these segments, she was renamed Darci and was an aspiring songwriter and poet. Her terrible songs focused on her hatred of men, bears, and rats--offending her roommates Clifford, Bobo, and Rizzo. As Rizzo once said, "We had to tell her that her songwriting was good. She threatened to read us her poetry." All but one of "The Real World Muppets" segment were not featured in the original United States broadcasts, limiting her exposure on the show to US audiences.

After Muppets Tonight, Zondra made silent background cameos in Muppets From Space and The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, and hasn't been seen since.

Why Do The Muppets Need Zondra?
Well, there aren't many female Muppets, and she is a fairly tough female character. Her goth attire may very well appeal to today's goth audiences. Although she was never exactly portrayed as a villain, she and her Gorilla Television crew could very well pass off as villains or anti-Muppets in the same way the Moopets do.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

Apr 16, 2013

Muppet Retro Reviews: The Jim Henson Hour, Part 1

The Jim Henson Hour: An Introduction

Caitlyn Childress – Sunday was a special moment in Muppet History that is sadly greatly overlooked. On April 14th, 1989, a grand total of 24 years ago, NBC aired the first episode of The Jim Henson Hour. For those of you who either aren't familiar with it, have no idea what it actually is, or are a bit too young to have seen it when it first came out, The Jim Henson Hour was basically an hour-long prime-time anthology series that showcased a variety of work that Jim Henson and his team were doing at the time. The series was even Emmy-nominated a few times, the "Dog City" episode being the one that actually won the Emmy in its category.

However, despite all of that, the show itself suffered from poor time-slots and low ratings. A total of twelve episodes were produced in total, but only nine were aired during its original three and a half month run on NBC. Two of the other episodes later aired as specials on Nickelodeon, while the other episode never even aired in the United States. Plus, judging by the designs of some of the Muppets created for the show, the general populous might not have known what to think about it.

Perhaps it was for these reasons that The Jim Henson Hour has long been a bit of an under-appreciated series in the Muppet continuity. It's a shame, though: Including the aforementioned Emmy winning and nominations, there were parts of the show that I personally found to be greatly enjoyable. The characters from the show each had their own little quirks, and it might surprise you to find out that some of them have been used in other Muppet productions even after the show's cancellation. Clifford, for instance, later appeared in a number of specials and hosted Muppets Tonight, while Waldo C. Graphic continues to entertain people at the Disney Parks in Muppet*Vision 3-D.

None of this would have been possible, though, without two main things... Well, okay, besides the obvious (Jim Henson himself, the Muppets in general, all the Muppet performers, The StoryTeller series, etc.), the two key things that were important to the show's development and production were the "Inner Tube" TV pilot and The Jim Henson Hour pitch tape.

Inner Tube TV was basically the original pilot for The Jim Henson Hour. Made in 1987, it featured two mechanics named Jake and Henry, a futuristic rock band, tons of channels, and cameo appearances by Kermit and Miss Piggy. Words cannot begin to describe this pilot. It must be seen to believe.

An interesting thing to note is that, except for one character (more on him later), basically all the new characters developed for the "Inner Tube" pilot were never seen again. Some of the puppets were reused, sure, but the distinct characters were gone.

However, that wasn't the last of "Inner Tube" just yet. Clips were re-used in the NBC pitch tape for The Jim Henson Hour. Re-named "Lead-Free TV," Jim himself described it as "The Muppet Show of the future." He presented it as part of the second week of the series. Yes, the second week: Jim had originally intended to be an hour showcase, the program airing rotating based on what week of the month it was. The first week was to be an hour-long version of The StoryTeller; the second week "Lead-Free TV"; the third week was for what Jim called "picture book specials"; and the fourth week was sort of an "Anything Can Happen" week. Check it our for yourself:

Obviously, between the time the pitch tape was made and the actual show first aired, several changes were made. The StoryTeller was featured, but usually in the second half-hour. Other specials such as "Dog City" and "Song of the Cloud Forest" also occupied the second half-hour (in the case of "Dog City," it took up most of the episode!), and some specials even had entire episodes devoted to them!

However, most of the first half of the show was MuppeTelevision, basically a late-eighties version of the old Muppet Show. Kermit presided over a place called Muppet Central, and yes, this is where the famous fan-site got its name. The Muppet Central of The Jim Henson Hour was a control room that had just about any video feed in the universe available for viewing. It was up to Kermit and the rest of the Muppet Central staff to pick and choose the best to show, usually while also dealing with the problems in running the station itself.

To fully cover the extent of everything The Jim Henson Hour has to offer would most likely have to expand over more than one article. Even though this series was short-lived and only had a total of 12 episodes produced, it had a lot going into it that was sadly under-realized due to these factors. Join me next time to delve deeper into this under-appreciated series. Until then, don't touch that dial!

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

Jan 25, 2012

Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Bean Bunny

Written by Ryan Dosier.


Performed by...
Steve Whitmire

First appearance...
The Tale of the Bunny Picnic (1986)

Most recent appearance...
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005)

Best known role...
Sickeningly cute rabbit

Bean Bunny is a tiny rabbit known for being adorable and cute and sweet, much to the disdain of the other Muppets. As Gonzo the Great once said of Bean, "He's so cute... he's evil!!" Bean first appeared as the star of the little-known 1986 television special The Tale of the Bunny Picnic. In the special, Bean learns that he does have something to contribute and he isn't useless just because he's small. In a take on the classic "Boy Who Cried Wolf" tale, Bean saves the bunnies in the warren from a dog.

After this, Bean's star rose high as he became a regularly featured member of the Muppets cast with a supporting role in the Muppet Central segments of The Jim Henson Hour (1989). Bean was seen in all but one episode of the show's 12 episode run. During the show, Bean appeared in segments and sketches such as "Space Guy," "Bean Bunny and the Cuteness Thief," and, my personal favorite, "Beanbo," took the satellite dish off the roof of the studio, sang "La Bamba" with the cast, made his own work out video, and scolds people for saying the "P" word (puppet).

Once the The Jim Henson Hour came to an end, Bean Bunny continued to appear in Muppet television specials. In The Muppets at Walt Disney World (1990), Bean was paired with Scooter for the first time as the duo explored Epcot. It was here that Scooter sighed, "Cute is [Bean's] middle name." to which Bean responded, "Actually, it's Norman." in his usual plucky demeanor. In The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson (1990), Bean is seen running the projector that plays Jim Henson's biography until he somehow gets tangled in film and ruins the film. It is also in this special that Clifford calls Bean a "yo-yo."

Perhaps Bean Bunny's biggest role came in 1991 with Muppet*Vision 3-D, the 3D show at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios. In the movie, Bean messes up Miss Piggy's big song by blowing bubbles, aggravating her with a butterfly and a bumblebee, and forcing her onto water-skis. Sam the Eagle then tells Bean that he is "ruining this movie" and so Bean joins up with Waldo C. Graphic, the spirit of 3D, and runs away. It takes Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie, and Sweetums to find Bean and convince him to come back for the finale--with fireworks! In the end, Bean sets off the fireworks and the show is an explosive success.

Bean Bunny's most well known role came with The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), where he played a Dickensian poor boy, caroling for Mister Scrooge in hopes of a shilling or shelter from the cold. Instead he got a wreath to the head and was forced to seek warmth in a pile of garbage. It wasn't until the end of the movie that Bean's luck turned when Scooge asked him what day it was--which was apparently enough for Scooge to throw down a bag of gold and ask Bean to go buy a turkey twice his size.

In Muppet Treasure Island (1996) Bean appeared silently and very briefly in the Benbow Inn. Muppets Tonight (1996-1997) saw Bean appear three times, twice in the background and once trying to sell Johnny Fiama chocolate so Bean's school can buy books. Sal Minella will have none of this, however, so he drop kicks Bean out a window. In Muppets From Space (1999) Bean was crushed by a door when Miss Piggy made her grand entrance. Bean also appeared in the background of It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002) and The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005), marking Bean's most recent on-screen appearance.

An animated version of Bean Bunny appeared on Muppet Babies in twelve episodes throughout the sixth and seventh seasons of the show (1989/1990). In 2009, Bean played the part of Michael Darling in the Muppet Peter Pan comic book. Merchandise of Bean has been entirely exclusive to Walt Disney World with plush dolls, plastic toys, and a Vinylmation figure being released throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

Although Bean Bunny did not appear in The Muppets (2011), he is still a fan favorite, semi-popular character thanks to his continuing role in Muppet*Vision 3-D and the wide popularity of The Muppet Christmas Carol. The other Muppets have an odd relationship with Bean... most of them find him too cute for them, bringing down their image. However, Bean is how most people see the Muppets: cute to an almost annoying point. Think of the fun the Muppets could have trying to stoop Bean from ruining their image. Also... might I propose a Bean Bunny/Animal pairing? Think about this, friends.

But the Muppets need Bean because he's sickeningly cute. You pair Bean alongside Gonzo or Floyd or Pepe and you can easily show that the Muppets aren't just cute and sweet and nice. They're crazy and sarcastic and adult. It could really shape the Muppets in a different light for a lot of casual fans and viewers.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, ryguy102390@gmail.com

Sep 22, 2009

Where's Waldo?

News and Such
A brand new, all-inclusive book all about Sesame Street will be released on November 10, 2009. Coinciding with the premier of the 40th season and arriving on the exact day the show premiered 40 years ago, Sesame Street: A Celebration of 40 Years of Life on the Street will do just what the title implies, celebrate 40 years of Sesame Street. The book's publisher, Workman Publishing, posted a preview/commercial for the book on YouTube. It states that there will be over 1,500 pictures in the book. That's more pictures than I've ever seen! (Probably.)
Tough Pigs has posted a review of the new "Bert and Ernie: Good Night!" musical stage show. Who knew it was legal to have pigeons dancing onstage?

The Muppet Mindset now has over 100 followers on Twitter and over 80 followers on Facebook! A huge shout out to all of our great, supportive fans! You guys make this website worthwhile!

Today on The Muppet Mindset, our friend RedPiggy talks to us about the failed 1989 television show, The Jim Henson Hour, the brainchild of, who would've thunk it, Jim Henson.
Where’s Waldo?  A Pondering of The Jim Henson Hour

Kelly Masters -Yeah, yeah, I know:  Waldo’s right there at Disney World, in some three-dimensional movie.  So is Bean. But aside from Waldo C. Graphic, Bean Bunny, and Clifford, do you know anyone from The Jim Henson Hour?  And I don’t mean taking the puppet and reusing it as a stage-manager in Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony. I mean the character. A character with a name and a voice—someone recognizable.

I’ll be honest, I was a kid when this show aired and only remembered bits and pieces of it, namely the “Secrets of the Muppets” episode, which was really neat as it was the only time my father, the technological go-to guy in my family, showed an interest, if only to comment on appreciating the skill of creating the Gorgs from Fraggle Rock.

If it hadn’t been for a friend of mine on Muppet Central Forums, I may never have bothered to wonder about it again.  I had seen Muppet*Vision 3D in Orlando and I remembered Waldo (barely) and remembered bits and pieces of Muppets Tonight, where we see Clifford in a more prominent (if just as thankless as Kermit’s) role.

Later, after spending some quality time on YouTube, I gained a new found appreciation of this largely forgotten show.  According to Muppet Wiki’s article on the show, it suffered from a bad time slot, bad ratings, and eventually the station (and Jim Henson) pulled it off the air. It was canceled quickly, and watching the episodes back, I can kind of see why.  This show began the bridge from Classic Henson to Modern Henson.  People were expecting The Muppet Show, but you can tell, particularly in some of the show-within-a-show spots and the “Ratings” episode in particular, that we were heading to the kind of humor one might see on Dinosaurs—a much more successful Disney/Henson outing in the 90s.  I think the latter show’s DTV segments are basically the Henson Hour segments, but with dinosaurs instead of monsters and bears and chickens and things.

The Jim Henson Hour’s primary problem, if it has one, is that it struggles to rise above being the experiment that it is.  I think a lot of where Jim Henson went “wrong” (if he did) in the latter years was this obsession with experimentation—fancy, new, modern doo-dads taking the place of character and humor (*cough*Lucas*cough*).  Characterization in the Jim Henson Hour is almost one-note, particularly with the new characters which hadn’t been on The Muppet Show previously.  You can tell Jim Henson liked fussing with props and equipment and it shows.

Still, we can have a good moan about what went wrong and why (could even invest in some hot cocoa and laxatives and go have a chat about it with Statler and Waldorf for a few hours) but ultimately, this show just wasn’t fair to the Henson Hour characters themselves.  Yes, Waldo, Bean, and Clifford all got second (and third) chances, but there were many more that deserved another glorious few moments in the spotlight, too.

Take Digit and his fellow members of the Solid Foam band, for example.  I best remember their song “The Music Just Keeps On Rolling Along” where Dr. Teeth can be seen in the background, in the recording booth.  Does he manage them?  What’s the story there?  No surprise, we never get one. Unfortunately instead of having meaning, it comes across as someone in marketing sending round a memo to remind them to give the popular Electric Mayhem members cameos because they’d be easily recognized, and keep the viewers. However, it was easy for the viewers (that’s us, guys) to see through this Emperor’s Suit of Multi-Colored Satin and it felt as though Solid Foam were never allowed to be their own thing. And for this reason, we never got anywhere. Heck, the female drummer doesn’t even become important enough to be named.  (Thank you, Muppet chauvinism.)

What about Leon?  He was a chameleon (apparently) but so stylized by this point that he just doesn’t scream “chameleon”. (Not like Kermit’s googly-eyes, it’s obvious he’s a frog! Or Fozzie’s hat... He’s obviously a bear!) No color changes (that I recall), no nothing.  Just a derivative name.  He was a major scam artist, so he should at least be able to join the modern team up of Rizzo the Rat and Pepe the King Prawn in that regard.

I realize that the whole “being canceled” thing means you don’t get a lot of time to bring out characters.  However, had they been more than one-note jokes in the first place, maybe it wouldn’t have been canceled and then we would have had time to bring out the characters that weren’t brought out because there wasn’t time to bring them out because it was canceled because the characters were never brought out (Phew...That was quite a sentence, but you get the idea...) Perhaps if the show had not seemed like a showcase of “Hey, look what we can do now!”... it would still be on the air.  Muppets Tonight may not have even been necessary. (Sorry Pepe!)

It is a pity. There was so much scope for the imagination, and it just never reached its full potential.

However...That is where we come in, both as fans and also fan-fiction writers. It’s our job (and sworn duty) to point out some overlooked opportunities—and to make some effort to correct them. Want to know why Dr. Teeth was there in the background of the Solid Foam? We can create our own reasons. Want to know why Leon couldn’t change his colors?  There must have been a reason! Go back to his childhood, oh ye fans, and get it sorted out! Discuss! Create! Produce! Go forth and multiply! (The…er…Multiply the amount of suggestions…and character breakdowns…that is…) What is more, popular demand and making the names of these characters popular buzz words on blogs, websites, forums, and Twitters can also have a direct effect on the popularity of those characters, and united fan demand could bring them back to life in future projects.

The truth is, The Jim Henson Hour did have an unfortunate finish, and truthfully, we may never see Waldo on our cinema screens again…but remember (and this is important) life’s like a movie, we can write our own ending!