BEST BETS: "Jessica Jones," "Big Trouble/Escape from New York" & More October 2016 Highlights
Editor’s Note: One-time Robot 6 guest blogger Sam Humphries, who has a story in tomorrow’s Mouse Guard/Fraggle Rock Special Edition Flip-Book, pays us a visit today to share some of his thoughts on Fraggle Rock. And if you’re in the L.A. area, be sure to stop by Meltdown Comics tomorrow to meet Sam.
I know what you’re thinking. Who is this guy to tell me which Fraggle Rock episodes will blow my mind? I mean, how presumptuous, right?
Dude, I know. I did not even grow up with Fraggle Rock. The Rock was on HBO and there was no HBO in the house. HBO showed boobies and Mama Humphries did not play like that. I am not that person who has held Fraggles in their hearts since their formative years.
But I did write a story for Archaia’s new Fraggle Rock comic anthology, illustrated by Jeremy “Eisner nominated for Bayou” Love. You can find our Fraggle tale in the Mouse Guard/Fraggle Rock Special Edition Flip-Book, available at comic book stores everywhere, for FREE, on May 1st — otherwise known as Free Comic Book Day! Ah, the nice price.
If you’re near Los Angeles, come on down to Meltdown in Hollywood, where Jeremy and I will be signing copies of the free Fraggle book. Astoundingly, Red Fraggle herself will also be in attendance. Karen Prell, the OG puppeteer of Red on the Fraggle Rock show, will be there with the original Muppet, meeting fans, singing songs, and taking pictures as Red Fraggle.
So, watching Fraggle Rock for the first time as someone old enough to attend rated R films alone, I got to enjoy the series with eyes unclouded by nostalgia. And I realized: for a “kids” show, Fraggle Rock is a mind freak.
Emboldened by the success of the previous Muppet franchises, Jim Henson and company didn’t flinch from daring themselves to new heights of spectacular puppet feats. And when it came to the themes of the series, they didn’t hesitate to go deep — way deep. Compared to the groovy sunshine sessions of Sesame Street and the upbeat let’s-put-on-a-show enthusiasm of the Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock is the slightly moody teenage cousin of the bunch.
The result? A multi-layered head trip for all ages. Sure, there’s plenty of exuberant songs, bright colors, and cute foam creatures, but Gobo, Red, Wembly, Mokey, and Boober Fraggle spent most episodes exploring dark, complicated passageways of existence. It’s no surprise that Fraggle Rock has the most “cult” fanbase of the three series.
Whether you are new to the Rock or a big fan from way back, there’s plenty of crazy on this list to rock your world. Here, for your lid-flipping pleasure, are are Six Fraggle Rock Episodes That Will Blow Your Mind.
(And this is only from Season One! Maybe I’ll be back with more — if you can handle it.)
1. The Preachification of Convincing John
Convincing John is one of my favorite Fraggles. He’s Jerry Lee Lewis as a revivalist minister with the voice of Jim Henson. Yet he has been banished to the fringes of Fraggle society because of a bizarre ability: his singing can compel any Fraggle to do anything says. Oh kay, not creepy at all…
This episode is straight out of the Rod Serling playbook with a rapidly deteriorating chain of unexpected consequences. But most disturbing is Convincing John, the Muppet with the power of musical mind control. Is he good? Evil? Secretly controlling all Fraggles without their knowledge? IS IT ALL A DREAM?
2. The Thirty-Minute Work Week
Uncle Traveling Matt is a Fraggle who left the Rock to explore “outer space,” aka the mysterious world of humans. Each episode shows him exploring different facets of our wonderful civilization, such as ice, shopping malls, and litter.
The Uncle Matt adventure in this episode is on some next level business. The Fraggle pioneer rides on a roller coaster! But they don’t just strap some Uncle Traveling Matt dummy to the seat and film him from the ground.
No way. This is JIM HENSON’S FRAGGLE ROCK, not Lamb Chop. The camera gets right up in Matt’s screamin’ and hollerin’ face as the coaster roars along the track. An impressive feat, especially when you consider two factors. 1) This was the first Fraggle Rock episode ever filmed. 2) I can’t even recite my own birth date while riding a roller coaster, much less convincingly operate a Muppet while staying out of camera frame.
Oh, you know, just another kid’s show devoting a whole episode to two characters trapped by a cave in, contemplating the effervescence of life as the seconds tick down to their inevitable death.
Day care stuff.
4. The Minstrels
As leader of a troubadour troupe, Cantus visits the Rock with his magic flute and tells the Fraggles they must look within to find their own song. He’s a clever, riddle-weaving guru who challenges the Fraggles to dig deep within themselves for the keys to reality…the closest thing Grant Morrison may ever have to a Muppety fiction suit. Red is so befuddled she eventually steals Cantus’ flute, but that’s ok, because the kind of things The Invisibles drove me to do you can’t portray on a family show.
Cantus and Convincing John are the only two Fraggles voiced by Jim Henson himself, and they make for a fascinating contrast. One thing Cantus and Convincing John do have in common with their human alter ego: a love of music. Kick out the jams, Jim.
5. Mokey’s Funeral
You know that old dream sequence where a character gets to witness their own funeral and hear all the inspiring things their loved ones say during the ceremony? And the testimony is so effusive and sincere that the protagonist comes away with a new love of life?
Well, perpetual hippie Mokey gets the same in this episode. Only, instead of a parade of affection, her funeral consists of a Brechtian dirge performed by Junior Gorg with all the grace of a pound of wet liver. Even more heartbreaking are Gobo and Red’s screams of anguish and their “no Fraggle left behind” courage.
So grim I updated my last will and testament to specifically prevent this from happening when I die.
6. The Lost Treasure of the Fraggles
This is another great showcase of how Fraggle Rock pushed the technical envelope of puppetry. The regular crew of Fraggles search for the lost fortune of their species through the Rock, out in the Gorg’s garden and into their home. The difference in scale is impressive: Doozers are knee high to a Fraggle, who are knee high to a Gorg.
Henson and his ingenious crew utilized then-new technologies of blue screen, animatronics, and a variety of puppet techniques to move their main characters through a progression of relative size without losing their humanity. Er, Fragglality. Whatever.
Oh, and the end is quite beautiful, and I’m not going to say it changed film history forever, but…