Thursday, September 01, 2005



One of the greatest things about the internet is that it allows you to find someone, somewhere, who is a passionate fan of anything you might care to mention. I'm sure, if I cared to look, I could find those people still stinging over the cancellation of Mister Belvedere, or who think that Jabberjaw lost its focus when they changed the format in the second season. (This is all terrifically useful when I'm doing research, and I'm always a bit miffed when the fans of whatever little bit of pop culture brio I'm reresearching aren't as methodical and thorough as other fanatics.)

Sometimes, these fans can take on an almost missionary zeal, and on rare occassion they can convert one from among the great unwashed to their cause. Such was the case with me and the Muppet fanatics.

As I've mentioned previously on this journal, I was reintroduced to the work of Jim Henson through the agency of my now-eighteen-month-old daughter. Starting with Play With Me Sesame, graduating to Sesame Street, and then expanding backwards and forewords into the Muppet features and Fraggle Rock, and the post-Jim products of the Henson camp like Bear in the Big Blue House and The Wubbulous World of Doctor Seuss--we quickly became a Henson-watching household. As a compulsive researcher, as Georgia and I watched these shows, I couldn't help but do a bit of digging online. At places like Muppet Central and Tough Pigs I got a crash course in Muppetry--things like which performers were which characters in which seasons and shows, how characters evolved and changed over the years, even arcana like the poser controversy. I started boring my wife with all sorts of Muppet trivia, a natural result of my obsessive tendencies, but when she was able to quote some of the trivia back at me months later, I realized I'd reached a new plateau.

(I've come to believe this is genetic. A few weeks ago the first season DVD box set of The Muppet Show arrived from Amazon, and in the afternoon's Georgia and I have been watching a show or two a day. Now, after a few minutes of watching Baby Einstein with her afternoon cup of juice, she quickly gets bored, stands in front of the DVD player, and points at the Muppet Show box set on the shelf, agitating wildly until I eject the soothing Baby Einstein and pop in a Muppet disc. As soon as the theme song starts up, and Kermit kicks off the opening, Georgia starts laughing, waving her arms like she's trying to take off, and dancing around the room. The Muppet Show is now as much of our daily routine as Play With Me Sesame.)

All of which brings me to this, the most recent controversy. Danny Horn of Tough Pigs is more than a little concerned about Disney's plan to raise the Muppets' profile by deploying multiple performers for each of the characters, like Salvation Army Santas, to cruise lines, Disney Stores, and local TV affiliate appeareances. At the outset the idea didn't really bother me all that much, but when I read Danny's reasons for his objections, I must admit that I was swayed.

"One of the things that I like best about the Muppets is that they can appear out in the real world -- on talk shows, or awards shows -- and they're treated like they're real celebrities. That creates this amazing double-vision feeling, tickling our suspension of disbelief in a uniquely pleasurable way. Just by being there, the Muppets are poking fun at the show they're appearing on, turning the real world of show business into a parody. "

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