Today is the anniversary of Jim Henson’s death in 1990.
I don’t remember exactly when I first saw The Muppet Show, but it started on ITV in the same year I was born. As that was July 1976 and it started in September, then there’s a good chance I was around when the first episode was on.
OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but if everyone who claims to have watched the first episode of Doctor Who in 1963 had actually done so then the ratings should have broken all records for the time.
The show was loud and colourful, the characters all had unique personalities, the audience seemed to love it (though Statler and Waldorf weren’t too happy about it all) and Pigs in Space was…well, in space, so therefore brilliant. Some of the jokes went over my head, but it was half an hour of insanity and made everyone laugh.
Somewhere around the same time I watched Sesame Street, which, though aimed at a younger audience than me (and I was about 4 at the time so obviously gaining great critical faculties) was still worth it for Oscar the Grouch.
A few years later came Fraggle Rock. With a glorious theme tune, great songs and another bonkers cast of characters alongside the late, great Fulton Mackay, this was another weekly fix of Muppet madness that I never missed after school.
The last great Henson series I remember was The Storyteller. Visually stunning, this combined mystery and magic like few other series had done, with ‘The Soldier and Death’ a particular favourite.
Jim Henson’s vision and ideas saw me right through my childhood and set sky-high standards for everything I’ve watched since. Henson’s characters never seemed to take themselves too seriously while, at the same time, their own universe was as real to them as ours is to us.
Whether the messages of understanding, friendship and talking vegetables had a major impact on my psyche is difficult to tell, though if I ever see a cauliflower I still have to check to make sure it’s not about to launch into song with that tomato next to it… cheers Jim.