A Muppet Retrospective

Back in December of 2020 I watched and reviewed The Muppet Christmas Carol. That one lone act sent me down a path that has taken me 2 years to complete. Last month I wrapped up my Muppet Journey of Discovery with Muppets Haunted Mansion. Now I want to talk about the journey as a whole instead of piecemeal like I did for each movie or television season.

Overall, this was some of the best entertainment that I have had in decades. While not every movie or episode landed, the good so far outweighed the mediocre or bad that I think of the journey as Bookstooge’s Totally Excellent Journey. Jim Henson had an idea, ran with it until he felt he had reached the top and then stopped. People should be left wanting more, AND NOT GET IT. Learning to control your desires and to put up limits on them is good for us. It is what we have not done and look at the mess our entertainment is in today. Hollywood can’t (or won’t) even tell a good story nowadays because of excess and mental gluttony. I think the Muppets were a counter to that and each try to revive the show proved that Henson was correct. Not that some of the stuff that came later was total garbage, some of it was quite good, but we as viewers would have been better people without it.

I don’t want to wax too philosophical here, OR anti-cinema/movie, because either of those issues is an easy rut for me to slide into and I tend to repeat my main points over and over again as comments in various places, so no need to repeat it here. But when the aliens come and abduct all the cinemas, you won’t see me mounting a rescue mission to get them back, jus’ sayin’. But I will sit back and debate with you if the aliens had the moral right to take the cinemas or not. So grab that rocking chair, because we’ll be sitting on that porch a long time! (and bring your megaphone, I’m tired of those kids ignoring me when I yell at them to get off of my lawn)

Out of everything I watched, I suspect that the original Muppet Show itself (all 5 seasons) will be the only thing I try to rewatch every 5-10 years. I’m running out of words very quickly for this but some of that is because these are movie and tv related instead of a series of books. I have a very hard time explaining what goes on inside me for that aspect of entertainment. I don’t even know why, as you’d think that it would be almost the same as talking about how a book affects me. But nope. I actually thought about scrapping this post half way through but figured it would be easier to finish it up than to try to start something new and stumble all over that. And I haven’t even hit the 500 word mark yet. Aye yi yi.

If you want some good entertainment, watch the original Muppet tv show. If you’re hooked, then check everything else out.

Muppets Now (2020 TV)

After ABC tried to revive the Muppets with the one season show of The Muppets, in 2015, the franchise lay fallow for another 5 years. Once Disney+ got its feet under itself and established itself as a bona fida streaming option. Then they started streaming various Muppet franchise IP’s and tried to re-start the franchise with brand new stuff.

There were only 6 episodes and since they didn’t make a billion dollars within 24hrs Disney decided to drop this show after 1 season as well. Which was too bad, because this show had potential. I had some issues with how the episodes were structured but that was something you expect from a first season.

Once again Miss Piggy is front and center and honestly, it works. She’s dynamic and just the right amount of “diva” to be funny and yet tough and no non-sense. She had a bit every episode where she and Taye Diggs did a lifestyle segment and then another bit where she and Linda Cardellini. do a group zoom chat. Both segments were brilliant.

The next biggest and regular bit was a cook-off between the Swedish Chef and some guest cook. Sadly, the opening to this bit was really long for such a short show (20min show and the opening to the skit is close to a minute) and detracted from the overall humor. They really leaned into the Swedish Chef and his bad attitude when he lost the cook off (every time).

Scooter is the MC and has to upload the show to stream and we see him having troubles every episode. We get little one-off bits throughout and I enjoyed them as well. If more seasons were created, I would definitely watch them. But this being a failure, I suspect the Muppets will go on another hiatus. There is one more movie for me to watch that came out in 2021 and then I’ll be done my Muppet Journey.

The Muppets (2015 TV)

After the 2011 and 2014 movies, ABC, which was owned by Disney, decided to relaunch the Muppet franchise as a tv show, getting back to their roots. What they also did was to update the times (Miss Piggy has her own late night talk show and Kermit is the producer) and make this a completely adult show. There is no way I’d ever let any kids watch this. There was a lot of adult humor. It was funny and yet uncomfortable.

Along with updating the times, the show also takes an Office’esque approach and has the various muppets talking to the camera about “Up Late with Miss Piggy”. However, it ends up becoming a joke for the muppets to ignore Kermit as he talks to them and claim they thought he was talking to the camera.

Other changes include Kermit and Miss Piggy having broken up and Kermit is now dating another pig. The show revolves around the question of whether Kermit and Miss Piggy will get back together or not.

Overall I enjoyed this but I can see why it was cancelled after the first season. It was not family friendly and I felt that the Muppets were changed for the worst. They weren’t horrible scumbags, but they had become characters that I wouldn’t want to spend time with.

There was a good mix of the original cast and the characters from Muppets Tonight so it really felt like “the whole gang” was included. Because this was Disney, they did have to go and sensitive everything. The Swedish Chef still babbles nonsense but now he’s got subtitles that show he’s discussing the existential meaning of life. It wasn’t “woke” by any stretch but it did show the issues that Disney was having with the Muppets.

This just didn’t have the spirit of the Muppets. While I might have complained about the 2011 Movie, it and the Most Wanted sequel, they still felt like they were true to what the Muppets were about. This was like the Muppets had gotten a tummy tuck, a boob job, had a butt implant and gotten their lips botoxed. It felt like Aubrey Hepburn, the idealization of femininity, had suddenly been Kardashianized.

I won’t be watching this show again. Despite my complaints, I did enjoy this one watch through but it was not good enough to ever revisit. I wouldn’t recommend it to just a casual viewer looking for something to binge on.

The Great Game (Sherlock TV 2010)

This was a fantastic episode. This is where Moriarty is officially introduced and my goodness, does he make an entrance. He finally confronts Sherlock by forcing Sherlock to solve one mystery after another without a letup and the hook is that if Sherlock fails, an innocent will be blown to smithereens by a bomb vest. It is tense, fast and non-stop.

Unfortunately, the gay innuendo is non-stop as well. From Moriarty’s little “love” letters to Sherlock, to Moriarty pretending to BE gay to the continued two guys can’t be friends schtick. I had not remembered it being so blatant or so non-stop. It just felt unrelenting.

Dave asked me some questions, so without further ado:

  • What do you think of Moriarty’s portrayal during this episode? Does he come of as clever as he thinks he is? Do you consider him a threat with all that pomp and show and tell tactics?

He’s definitely a show-off but his little game makes me feel that he IS as clever as he thinks he is. He’s just a crazy psycho too.

That being said, Moriarty was the absolutely PERFECT villain. When that light hearted charming facade switches off and you see the evil monstrous man, oh boy, watch out. His little tantrum while talking to Sherlock while Watson is wearing a bomb vest was like a light turning off and darkness just spreading through the whole room. The cliffhanger ending would have been annoying back in the day but with the series finished, anyone now can simply pop in the next disc (or stream it if they’re extravagantly and filthy rich) and voila, the journey continues.

  • What did you feel about the overall episode.

While I enjoyed watching this, as a nice little break from the Muppet related stuff, overall it was not worth the energy to review. Movies are a whole different beast from books and it takes a different mentality to review them. I haven’t had a lot of practice and so the strain on my moral fibre is incredible. If I watch any more of the series I won’t be blogging about it.

  • Do you think the cat and mouse game between good and bad was well done? If so what stood out, if not, what did you find annoying?

The rivalry between Moriarty and Sherlock was definitely changed for a tv show. Like I mentioned above, it was almost too frenetic for me. And Sherlock thriving on it and losing sight of the goal of bringing a criminal to justice wasn’t very likeable or heroic in my opinion.

  • Do you also keep severed heads in your kitchen fridge?😆

Hahahahahaa! That was just so ridiculous that I actually laughed at it.

Dave has his own review up HERE.

The Blind Banker (Sherlock TV 2010)

This second episode of the modern remake of Sherlock Holmes introduces us to Watson’s future wife. It also gives us a view of the international sense of crime that Sherlock is fighting against. We also get some hints about a mysterious Master of Crime.

I thought how Sherlock kept interfering between John and Sarah, whether consciously or not, really showed that he did value John’s friendship and was so unaccustomed to friendship that he didn’t know how to share.

Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. The chemistry between Freeman and Cumberbatch is so perfect that you would think they WERE Watson and Holmes. John and Sarah had pretty good screen chemistry too. They were believable as an odd and uncomfortable couple. The stereotypical English couple.

And I’m still struggling for words. I don’t know why this is going so hard but I feel like I am grasping for every single word I type. Sorry folks, this is all you get.

Here’s to hoping Dave has more to say than me!

A Study in Pink (Sherlock TV 2010)

This is the first episode of the Sherlock tv series that premiered in 2010 starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. It’s a modern retelling that was a rather large success. I am doing a watch-a-long with Dave and we watched this and had a couple of questions for the other. Here are Dave’s questions to me that I’ll answer. A link to his post is at the end below.

1) Did you like the over all feel of the opening episode?

Yes I did. I really enjoyed this modern retelling. The updated forensics and technology was handled well and as far as tv goes, didn’t offend any sense of reality that I had.

2) What do you feel about the portrayal of The Holmes brothers?

The portrayal was fantastic. I really enjoyed how the producers made it look like Mycroft was actually Holmes’ “nemesis”, getting our expectations all set for some Moriarty action. Making Mycroft a government stooge, albeit an extremely smart and powerful one, seemed much more in tune with today’s culture than him hanging out in a gentlemens club like in Doyle’s stories.

3) Do you think or remember Watson having a brother or a sister in the books?

I don’t. It was one of those “liberties” that the producers took that didn’t really bother me. It really felt more of a setup to give Holmes and Watson a bonding moment, to cement their friendship. Considering that Watson’s family wasn’t again outside of that specific moment made it feel as shallow as it was. Of course, I could be wrong and Watson has a HUGE family that we’re introduced to in later books :-/

4) What do you think about the chemistry between holmes and watson? You can list good and bad traits if you feel like it.

I thought Cumberbatch and Freeman worked excellently off of each other. They exhibited characteristics of Holmes and Watson that MADE them those characters. Now that I’ve seen them, I can not imagine anyone else playing them. I am not familiar with older incarnations of TV Sherlock, so I have no attachments to other actors. That helps a lot. I did find Watson a bit too “polite” for me. He’s not spineless, as how he handled the mad cabbie shows that. Holmes’ disdain for the police smacked of modern elitism, unlike the books by Doyle. I did find the joking about male friendship as nothing more than hidden homo-eroticism got stale and tired very quickly. It made me wonder if the producers had ever had any close male friends or if they were just pathetic lonely men?

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this watch. I am VERY glad that Dave had these questions because I was really struggling to write something about this tv show. I expected to write something up as easily as I did for the Muppet Show or Fragglerock but nope, I tried about 6 times to get started and it wasn’t until I had these questions that the writing seemed to happen. Made me wonder how some people can write up movie reviews every day?

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.

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.

Fraggle Rock Season Two (TV 1984)

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.

Season 2 tended to focus a bit more on the Fraggles themselves and as such there weren’t as many Uncle Traveling Matt skits or even skits with the Trash Heap or the Gorgs. However, we did get more episodes featuring the Doozers as characters.

As I mentioned in Season One, this was not the Muppets. Doc and Sprocket are as annoying as any absent minded inventor whose best friend is a dog, as you could imagine. In the US version Doc is played by Gerry Parker and my goodness, he really throws himself into the role. Why Sprocket hasn’t turned on him and eaten him is beyond me. Whatever lesson the Fraggles are learning that episode is always mirrored with Doc and Sprocket. I suspect Henson wanted to keep one foot in the real world to make kids watching realize that what was happening to the Fraggles also applied to them.

The episodic nature of the show lends itself to binge watching, as I did while having covid. The only downside is that the Fraggles are loud and rambunctious all the time and I usually took a break after 10 episodes or so just to give my ears a break. I cannot imagine children quietly watching this. I can see them jumping around and screaming and hollering right along with the Fraggles though.

Fraggle Rock Season One (TV 1983)

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.

Fraggle Rock follows the adventures of a core cast of 5 fraggles, little creatures that live in the wall of a shed of an inventor named Doc and his pet dog Sprocket. Gobo, Mokey, Red, Wembley and Boober each have a 30min work week and this show is all about their adventures.

They live in a place called Fraggle Rock, which is also inhabited by Doozers, even smaller creatures that live to build, and Gorgs, humongous creatures whose gardens the Fraggles raid for radishes.

The biggest difference between this and the muppets is that this was aimed directly at children. Lots of easy to repeat songs, fraggles screaming and hollering at the drop of a hat and simplistic and silly morality lessons.

Gobo is the main lead and his job is collect a postcard each week that his intrepid uncle, Explorer Matt, sends him. Uncle Matt has headed out into Outer Space (our world) to explore and each postcard tells of a different experience he has. Gobo has to overcome great danger each time, as the postcards are delivered to the shed where Doc and Sprocket tinker around.

The interactions between the Fraggles and the Gorgs play a big part of the show too. The Gorg King and Queen (who are the rulers of the universe) have a rather dumb son named Junior. Junior’s highest ambition in life is to catch Fraggles and thump them. In the gorg garden lives Marjory the Trash Heap, the All Knowing and All Seeing. She’s pretty much an oracle to the Fraggles and half the adventures revolve around the Fraggles avoiding the gorgs to talk to the Trash Heap.

What’s more, it all works. It works REALLY well. It did take me a couple of episodes to adjust my expectations but I was watching this while dealing with our covid adventures, so it was perfect to watch as I lay on the couch without much of a brain. It was bright, colorful, funny and easy to follow. Everything the doctor ordered in fact.

“Fraggle Rock is Great” The Almighty Trash Heap HAS SPOKEN!

I am pretty happy with this first season of Fraggle Rock and am already looking forward to watching more.

Sorry about having to use the jackass picture again, but the jackass who made me use it in the first place is back. I suspect it will be a regular thing for all movie related posts from now on. My apologies for someone else being a complete jackass.