Over on my pop culture blog UnitedMonkee, I’ve talked a bit about my history with Jim Henson and The Muppets. I only realized after watching The Muppets film that most of my knowledge of that franchise actually came from Muppet Babies instead of the classic Muppet Show. I was just too young to really get into it and my world didn’t involve reruns of that show. And yet, it’s fairly impossible to be my age and not have at least a tangential relationship with the man’s work. I might have missed out on Dark Crystal and Labarynth as a kid, but like I said Muppet Babies was super influential, I was a big Sesame Street fan and also dug Fraggle Rock.
So, when the fine folks at Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment sent out a mass email asking if any recipients would be interested in reviewing Fraggle Rock: Meet The Fraggles or Fraggle Rock: 30th Anniversary Collection. Even though it had been ages since I saw the show, I jumped at the chance and was delighted to get a copy of Meet The Fraggles in the mail. I wanted to get this review up earlier, but my incredibly picky two-year-old refused to watching anything past the first episode for want of most established favorites like Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and the umpteenth viewing of Brave and Cinderella.
So, I took some time out today while she napped to finally sit down and really get into this six episode collection — “Beginnings,” “We Love You, Wembley,” “Boober’s Dream,” “Red’s Club,” “Mokey And The Minstrels” and “Gobo’s Discovery” — which spans the show’s first few seasons. “Beginnings” launched the series, but also spawned about a million memories in my brain starting with that iconic opening theme song. All of a sudden, I was sitting in front of the gigantic, ridiculously heavy TV set my parents had in the living room until it died years later watching Jim Henson’s latest world come to life.
The beauty of this show is how complex and full it feels. This world is so gigantic and multi-scaled that it’s a wonder in both story and scale. Of course you’ve got your Fraggles, but there’s also the human world right outside Fraggle Rock as well as the giant Gorgs, tiny Doozers and whatever the Trash Heep is. There’s so much going on that you’re always moving from one scale size to another which varies the dramatic impact of the episode and scene. But, there’s also all kinds of technically wizardry going on behind the scenes. There’s a huge musical number in the first episode and I found myself just sitting back in awe at the Busby Berkeley-like production. So many Fraggles were up and doing their thing, plus a whole legion of Doozers. This DVD doesn’t have any extra features, but I would absolutely love to see a documentary or featurette about how this show was put together.
I also appreciated how the show’s writers tackled issues. Kids deal with a lot of wild feeling as they grow up, not all of which are covered as well on Disney or Nickelodeon these does. In the episode “Red’s Club” Red wants to start a club to help people, but the other Fraggles vote Gobo as the club’s president. This leads her on an ill-advised jaunt as she first starts her own club and then teams up with a Doozer who she keeps endangering just so she can help her. So, the episode doesn’t just deal with jealousy, but jealousy that comes from a very positive place and the ways it can get morphed.
I really enjoyed this six episode jaunt down memory lane and will continue to try and get my daughter to watch it. I think there’s not only a lot of entertainment to be seen in there, but also a lot of artistic greatness that will somehow ooze its way into her brain.