Sam and Friends
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|Sam and Friends|
"The Art of Visual Thinking" sketch of Sam and Friends in which Kermit and Harry the Hipster make their thoughts appear above their heads. "Watch!"
|Created by||Jim Henson
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||86|
|Running time||5 minutes per sketch (and episode)|
|Original network||WRC-TV (NBC's owned-and-operated station in Washington, D.C.)|
|Original release||May 9, 1955– December 15, 1961|
Sam and Friends was an early live-action/puppet television show created by puppeteer Jim Henson and his eventual wife Jane Nebel. It was taped and aired twice daily as a local series in Washington, D.C., on WRC-TV in black-and-white, and later color, on weeknights from May 9, 1955, to December 15, 1961. Most of the original episodes were wiped after airing. The few surviving episodes can be viewed at the Paley Center for Media.
Sam was a bald human puppet with wide eyes, large ears, and a big nose. His friends included Yorick, Harry the Hipster, Professor Madcliffe, Chicken Liver, and a saurian character named Kermit (who later evolved into Kermit the Frog).
Early in its run, the show mostly featured the puppets lip-synching to popular songs of the day (if the song was by a female performer, the puppet would wear a wig while singing). Later, formal sketches were drawn up, many spoofing well-known television shows at the time, including the series which followed Sam and Friends in the Washington market, The Huntley-Brinkley Report.
A popular early sketch that would be used often in subsequent Henson productions was "Inchworm", in which a character, often Kermit, would nibble on what looked like a worm, but would ultimately turn out to be the tongue or nose of the monster Big V, who would devour him.
Bob Payne once substituted for Jim Henson while he was in Europe. Jerry Juhl also worked on the show toward the end of its run where he substituted for Jane Henson. Also around 1959, advertisements for Esskay Meats would appear at the end of the show, as well as Wilkins Coffee (the latter featured two Muppets created exclusively for the spots, "Wilkins" and "Wontkins").
While Payne, Juhl, and Jane Henson all puppeteered in the series alongside Jim Henson, Jim provided all of the voices himself (unless the voices were taken from a record).
- Sam (performed by Jim Henson) – A humanoid-like character who is the main character of the series. Sam never spoke, but would lip-sync to any song. His puppet was made of papier-mâché.
- Kermit (performed by Jim Henson) – Before he became a frog, Kermit had a saurian-like appearance here.
- Harry the Hipster (performed by Jim Henson) – A beatnik. He resembled a black sock puppet with shades and spoke in a hip slang. Harry was one of the first Muppets designed and built by Jim Henson.
- Yorick (performed by Jim Henson) – A voracious puppet that resembled a rock head. Yorick has been known for appearing with Kermit in a segment where Kermit sang "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face" where Yorick tried to eat Kermit's foot. His puppet was made of papier-mâché with a tube in his mouth that allowed him to swallow things.
- Professor Madcliffe (performed by Jim Henson) – A tall-headed professor with big eyes and a mustache. He had a loud and energetic personality.
- Chicken Liver – A humanoid character with a tall head and a big nose. He is also called Theodore. He is one of Jane Henson's favorite characters.
- Hank and Frank – Two bald men. They took on the roles of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley in a spoof interview with Kermit.
- Mushmellon – A yellow teddy bear like creature.
- Icky Gunk – A snake with arms.
- Henrietta (performed by Jane Henson) – A pink female creature of indeterminable species.
- Moldy Hay – A humanoid character with orange-red skin, a big nose, and hair over his eyes.
- Omar – A beaked humanoid with a papier-mâché face.
- Pierre the French Rat (performed by Jim Henson) – He was one of Jim Henson's first puppets. Pierre was embodied as a puppet made from plastic wood.
Harry the Hipster
Kermit the Frog
Pierre the French Rat
Sam & Friends is mentioned in chapter 2 of Kermit The Frog's book Before You Leap, under the heading of "My First Big Splash".
Sam, Harry the Hipster, and Yorick appeared in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years.
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