The Jim Henson Hour
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|The Jim Henson Hour|
|Created by||Jim Henson|
|Starring||Jim Henson as Himself
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||12 (1 unaired in U.S.)|
|Executive producer(s)||Jim Henson|
|Original run||April 14, 1989 – July 30, 1989|
The Jim Henson Hour is a short-lived television series that aired on NBC in 1989. It was developed as a showcase for The Jim Henson Company's various puppet creations, including the popular Muppet characters. Only nine of the twelve episodes produced managed to air on NBC before the low-rated program was cancelled. Two later aired on Nickelodeon in 1992 and 1993, and the final episode never aired in the US, but it did air in the UK in 1990.
The Jim Henson Hour was modeled after the old Walt Disney Presents specials, in which every week Disney would show off the latest innovations and creations of his production company. At the beginning of each episode, Jim Henson would enter an oddly-decorated set (alongside the Thought Lion puppet from his series The Storyteller) and introduce the evening's show. Beyond that, the series never had a set structure. The room where Jim and the Thought Lion performed their introduction was computer animated.
Three of the thirteen installments were hour-long mini-movies:
- The faux film noir "Dog City", narrated by Muppet Rowlf the Dog
- "Monster Maker", in which an alienated teenager begins secretly working at a special-effects company
- "Living with Dinosaurs", in which a young boy's stuffed Dinosaur comes to life and helps him deal with a troubled family life.
Other shows like "Secrets of the Muppets" went behind the scenes at Henson studios, showing how the Muppets are built and operated.
Ordinarily, however, the hour was split into two thirty-minute segments. These shows would always start with a modernized variation of The Muppet Show, titled MuppeTelevision (see below). That would often lead into more serious and sometimes darker content, such as a rerun of The Storyteller. Occasionally, a light-hearted story or more Muppet antics would close out the hour in the second half.
The first episode produced -- Sesame Street... 20 Years & Still Counting—was aired as a lone special. Henson's series officially premiered a week later.
- Episode 1: 7.7/14 
- Episode 2: 6.2/13 
- Episode 3: 5.8/11 
- Episode 4: 5.6/10 
- Episode 5: 5.2/11 
- Episode 6: 4.6/10 
- Episode 7: 3.9/8 
- Episode 8: 4.0/9 
- Episode 9: 4.6/10 
The show on average brought in a mere 5.3 rating. The show ranked 100th out of 105 programs to air that season, and was the lowest-rated program to air on the Big Three networks that season.
MuppeTelevision regularly occupied the first half of The Jim Henson Hour. It was an updated version of the classic series The Muppet Show, the new twist being that the Muppets were now running an entire cable television network rather than a single variety show. The Muppets broadcast their network's programming from a unique control room called "Muppet Central". Regulars included past favorites Kermit the Frog, The Great Gonzo and Link Hogthrob in addition to new characters Digit, Leon the Lizard, Lindbergh the Kiwi, Vicki, Clifford, Waldo C. Graphic, and Jacques Roach. Also appearing as a series regular was Bean Bunny, who had previously starred in the HBO TV special The Tale of the Bunny Picnic.
Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy appeared only intermittently, as their performer Frank Oz was busy with a directorial career. Miss Piggy did get her own thirty-minute special in one show, called Miss Piggy's Hollywood, in which she and Gonzo tried to interview unwilling celebrities.
The house band for MuppeTelevision was called Solid Foam, taking the place of the psychedelic Electric Mayhem band that had appeared in most previous Muppet projects. The band included:
- Digit on keyboard
- Flash on saxophone and vocals
- Clifford on bass guitar and vocals
- Beard on guitar and vocals
- The unnamed Female Drummer of the Solid Foam on drums
Electric Mayhem regulars Zoot and Animal did eventually creep into Solid Foam in the episode "Food." Only Clifford would sustain any existence outside of MuppeTelevision. Dr. Teeth also appeared in the background of a few of Solid Foam's music videos.
MuppeTelevision also tends to get interrupted on some occasions by an illegal TV station called Gorilla Television run by Ubu the Gorilla, Chip, and Zondra.
Continuing in The Muppet Show tradition, every episode had a celebrity guest star. Louie Anderson, Ted Danson, Smokey Robinson, Buster Poindexter, and k.d. lang were among those who got a chance to appear in the show's brief run.
|Prod. No.||Title||Original airdate||Summary|
|1||"Outer Space/The Heartless Giant"||April 14, 1989||
Note: First appearances of Waldo C. Grahpic, Vicki, Leon the Lizard, Clifford, Lindbergh, Brad and Bootsie, and the Extremes.
|2||"Oceans/Lighthouse Island"||April 21, 1989||
Note: First appearance of Jacques Roach.
|3||"Power/The Soldier and Death"||April 28, 1989||
Note: This is one of the few episodes to feature Frank Oz. First appearance of the Solid Foam band.
|4||"Dog City"||May 5, 1989||
|5||"First Show/Miss Piggy's Hollywood"||May 14, 1989||
Note #1: The first episode in the series to be produced.
Note #2: First appearance of Anthony, Fern, Zondra, Ubu, and Chip.
Note #3: Airing on Mother's Day, this was the first episode of the Hour to air in a new Sunday night timeslot. According to the May 17, 1989 issue of Star-News, this episode was the lowest rated TV program among the three major networks the week it aired.
Note #4: The is one of the few episodes that Frank Oz performed in.
|6||"Monster Maker"||July 9, 1989||
|7||"Fitness/The Song of the Cloud Forest"||July 16, 1989||
Note #1: According to the July 18, 1989 issue of the Kentucky New Era, this episode was the lowest rated program among all four networks.
Note #2: One of the few episodes to feature Richard Hunt.
|8||"Videotape/The True Bride"||July 23, 1989||
Note: One of the few episodes to feature Frank Oz.
|9||"Garbage/Sapsorrow"||July 30, 1989||
Note: This was the last episode to air on NBC.
|10||"Secrets of the Muppets"||1992||Accompanied by a Cairn Terrier named Jojo, Jim Henson gives us a behind the scenes look at the Muppets and other projects. Upon learning this from Kermit, the other Muppets at MuppeTelevision try to deal with the fact that Jim is revealing all of their 'secrets'. He starts off by telling Jojo that she was built by Ed Christie with her mechanical riggings created by Tom Newby. Jim also tells Jojo that she was modeled after a real-life dog named Bamboo (who was also used in exterior shots). Jim then tells about the room that he is in which is actually a blue screen. Jim then gives Jojo a tour of The Muppet Workshop (with the puppets of Chip and Dip from Sesame Street, Codzilla from episode 1, P.J. and Kai-Lee from the Play-Along Video series, Pink Frackle, Poison Cackler from Fraggle Rock, an Orange Extreme, and Jacques Roach on display) as Jim demonstrates the operation of the Disagreeable Sandwich from the "Cliff's Nightmare" episode of The Cosby Show. Jim and Jojo meet Jane Gootnik who is preparing to reconstruct Gonzo since the principal Muppets tend to get a lot of use. Then he gives Jojo a tour of the Creature Shop in London where he sees the displays of Sir Didymus from Labyrinth, the Heartless Giant, and the Devils from The Storyteller, and the Ultragorgon's head from Monster Maker with an appearance by Dog the Dinosaur. Before leaving the Creature Shop, Jojo is invited into the OMD (short for Organization for Muppet Dogs) by the Storyteller's Dog and meets the other members consisting of Rowlf the Dog (the OMD's president), Sprocket the Dog from Fraggle Rock, Ace Yu, Bugsy Them, and Colleen Barker from Dog City, Foo-Foo, Ambrosius from Labyrinth, and the Farmer's Dog from The Tale of the Bunny Picnic before being called away by Jim. Back on the set, Jim shows a behind the scene footage of The Song of the Cloud Forest, how the Doozers and Gorgs from Fraggle Rock are operated, and how the Muppets ride bikes. The Muppets then start to get worried when it comes to the puppeteers as Jim starts out by showing Jojo that she is operated by Camille Bonora. Then he demonstrates to Jojo on how Waldo C. Graphic is operated. When it comes to the puppeteers for the Muppets of MuppeTelevision, Kermit states that the one under him is Jim Henson (which everyone already knows), the puppeteer for Beard is Jerry Nelson, the puppeteer for Gonzo is Dave Goelz, the puppeteer for Vicki is Fran Brill, the puppeteer for Bean Bunny is Steve Whitmire, and the puppeteer for Leon is Kevin Clash (who stated that he finally got Leon's tail in the shot). In the final scene, Jojo asks about how the Thought Lion works and goes near it. The Thought Lion roars scaring Jojo as Jim calms Jojo down.
Note: Originally aired as a stand-alone special on Nickelodeon in 1992.
|11||"Living with Dinosaurs"||December 30, 1990 (UK)/1993(US)||A young, socially awkward boy named Dom (played by Gregory Chisholm) tries to deal with a new school, an unemployed stepfather, a pregnant mother, and asthma. The boy finds comfort in his favorite stuffed toy, a dinosaur named Dog (performed by Sue Dacre and David Greenaway and voiced by Brian Henson).
Note: Originally aired in the UK as a stand-alone special, Living with Dinosaurs was later reformatted as an episode of The Jim Henson Hour. However, NBC cancelled the Hour before the reformatted version could air. The stand-alone version debuted in the US on Nickelodeon in 1993.
|12||"Food/The Three Ravens"||1990 (UK)||
Note #1: The last produced episode, and the only MuppeTelevision segment to not feature a guest star. In this episode, the Solid Foam band has Electric Mayhem members Zoot and Animal in place of Solid Foam's usual members Flash and the Female Drummer.
Note #2: Never aired in the US.
Episode 4 included Dog City, which was released on DVD in 2010.
Episode 7 included The Song of the Cloud Forest, which was released on DVD in 2010.
- Jim Henson - Himself
- John Hurt - Storyteller
- Erica Lancaster - Amanda
- Jennifer Lee - Bootsie
- Andrew Wilson - Brad
- Jim Henson - Kermit the Frog, Dr. Teeth, Rowlf the Dog, Link Hogthrob, Waldorf, The Muppet Newsman, the Swedish Chef, Waldo C. Graphic (demonstration only), Whatnot (demonstration only), Timecaster, Timrek the Gorf, Doglion, Bugsy Them
- Camille Bonora - Fern, Jojo
- Rickey Boyd - Laughing Boy
- Fran Brill - Vicki, Merlin's Assistant, Alfonso D'Bruzzo, Maxine, Colleen
- Kevin Clash - Clifford, Leon the Lizard, Codzilla, Doglion, Timmy Monster (voice), Zoot, Ace Yu, Blue Extreme, Green-Furred Frackle
- Dave Goelz - Gonzo, Digit, Cabbage, Doglion, Timmy Monster, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Frisky, Jade Green Frackle
- Brian Henson - Storyteller's Dog, Dog the Dinosaur
- Richard Hunt - Beaker, Statler
- Brian Knatchbull
- Trish Leeper
- Rob Mills - Sweetums, Gramps, Solid Foam Drummer, Ubu the Gorilla (2nd Time), Animal
- Jerry Nelson - Lobster, Narrator, Jo Beth Garfdoohoo, Sheep, Shark, Fish, Beard, Wolf, Luncheon Counter Monster, Cow, a guy with a sword through his head, Garbage, Raccoon, Slim, Orange Extreme
- Frank Oz - Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear
- Dan Redican - Beautiful Day Monster, Rhonda, Anthony, Zondra
- Gord Robertson - Lindbergh the Kiwi, Chip, Luncheon Counter Monster, Timmy Monster, Rat, Scruffy
- Sandra Shamas
- Bob Stutt - Ubu the Gorilla (1st Time)
- Karen Valleau
- Steve Whitmire - Waldo C. Graphic, Bean Bunny, Foo-Foo, Yellow Extreme, Jacques Roach, Flash, Garbage, Billy the Bear, Doozer, Mad Dog
- Sharon Lee Williams - Purple Extreme [voice only]
Special Guest Stars
- Louie Anderson - Himself
- Justine Bateman - Herself
- Ted Danson - Himself
- Michael Gambon - Ultragorgon (voice)
- Bob Hope - Himself
- David Johansen - Himself
- K.d. lang - Herself
- Bobby McFerrin - Himself
- Dudley Moore - Himself
- The Nylons - Themselves
- Jane Pauley - Herself
- Smokey Robinson - Himself
- Karl Rumberg - Himself
- Willard Scott - Himself
- Harry Dean Stanton - Chancey Bellows
- Marc Weiner - Himself
- George Wendt - Himself
- Kathleen Wirt - Herself
Cancellation and "lost" episodes
The show frequently acknowledged its own low ratings, with segments offering satirical takes on what viewers would rather watch—violent movies, ridiculous stunts, etc. In the end, the show produced just twelve episodes, three of which did not make it to air before cancellation.
In 1992, children's cable network Nickelodeon aired Secrets of the Muppets, one of the lost episodes. They followed with another unaired episode, Living with Dinosaurs, in 1993. The final hour — consisting of the MuppeTelevision installment "Food" and Storyteller episode "The Three Ravens" — aired in the UK in 1990. This is the only episode of The Jim Henson Hour that has never aired in the US.
After The Jim Henson Hour, the Muppets would not have another prime-time TV show until Muppets Tonight in 1996, 6 years after Jim Henson's death.
Today, the MuppeTelevision segments are bundled with the original Muppet Show and Muppets Tonight episodes into a single syndication package.
Unused episode ideas
In addition to the abandoned hour-long Storyteller episodes, Lead-Free TV and picture-book specials, Henson had many ideas for potential episodes or features that were never produced. These ideas included: The Saga of Fraggle Rock (a Fraggle Rock origin story), Inside John (a variation on Henson's Limbo concept in which the various parts of a seventeen-year-old boy's brain try to wrest control of him throughout a typical day) and ASTRO G.N.E.W.T.S. (a special that would have blended puppets with animation, computer graphics, and video effects). Other stories were proposed by Jim Henson involving enchanted bowling balls, extraterrestrial mailmen, outer-space adventures, and even a detective story with Kermit and the Muppet gang. Jim Henson also considered adapting Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and the works of A. A. Milne. Also proposed was "an hour-long musical special featuring The Electric Mayhem in Mexico".
- Outside of Clifford making later appearances in other Muppet projects, some of the other Muppets from this show were featured in other Muppet-based projects:
- The puppet used for Lindbergh was stripped of its clothing to be used as Clive the Kiwi in Jim Henson's Animal Show. Jacques Roach was also used for Yves. St. LaRoache
- Chip made other background appearances in Muppets Tonight, Muppets from Space, Its a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, and The Muppets Wizard of Oz.
- Zondra was seen in the Muppets Tonight sketch "The Real World Muppets" with her name changed to Darci
- The puppet used for Anthony was later used as Professor Hugh Mungous in Mopatop's Shop.
- Digit, Leon, Anthony, and others appeared in an episode of The Cosby Show, entitled "Cliff's Nightmare".
- Digit hosted the "Short Circuits" mini-game in Muppets Party Cruise.
- The puppet used for Vicki was modified into Scary Mary in Muppet Time
Following the sale of The Muppets to The Walt Disney Company in 2004, the rights to various portions of the show have been split between Disney and the Jim Henson Company. The Walt Disney Company owns all of the MuppeTelevision segments (including the 15-minute episode shown with Dog City), Miss Piggy's Hollywood, and The Secrets of the Muppets, while The Jim Henson Company retains ownership of the rest of the series.
- Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones (page 413)
- "The Jim Henson Hour Pitch Reel"
- Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones, page 410.
- The Jim Henson Hour on Muppet Wiki, an external wiki
- The Jim Henson Hour at the Internet Movie Database
- The Jim Henson Hour at TV.com