20 July 2014


Children's Programme "Fake" Band Smackdown, Final Winner!!!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2 Round 3A, the Intermission, Round 3B, and Round 4)

Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem!

What a band, aye? =D I am always in awe of what Jim Henson and his colleagues were able to create on The Muppet Show and their other projects. Of all the "fake" bands in this smackdown, they are the realest because they were so from the beginning. The Monkees may have surprised everyone by becoming real after their first season, but The Electric Mayhem and all the other Muppets topped them by being real in their very first show.  

There's also the winner of the June/July Giveaway to announce. But first, the conclusion to my thoughts on Fred Rogers's belief that it is wrong to blur the lines between fantasy and reality when dealing with children, which I didn't include at the end of last week's post for reasons that I hope will be obvious in a few seconds . . .

Jim Henson was not directly responsible for the Muppet Show tribute to him, but he was definitely there in spirit--and in such a real way that it hurts me to use that cliche to describe it. But also in a wonderfully fantastic way, as you will see if you watch the entire clip to the end.

One behind-the-scenes tidbit about The Muppet Show that has always fascinated me is Henson's rule that the children who visited the studio should never be allowed to see puppets lying lifeless in their boxes. They could be shown everything else . . . every last detail of the puppetry that is supposed to be concealed from the camera . . . as long as all the puppets--who weren't just any puppets, but Muppets, which means friends--were also always alive. Henson was willing to be "truthful" (Rogers's word!) around children, but not at the expense of what had created a connection between them in the first place. He understood that showing them a "dead" Muppet would be as bad as revealing that a kind and trusted TV host was actually a jerk off camera. Now, Rogers happened to be as wonderful in real life as he was on TV, so there was no danger of that in his case. But the point is that Henson, in keeping up the fantasy, had as much integrity as Rogers. This was never "either-or."

I'm sure Caroll Spinney got this--whether he had been able to learn it from Henson or had always understood it in his own bones, having been a puppeteer himself long before they met. And I'm also sure that it was part of what he said to Rogers, when they had their disagreement over Big Bird's appearance on Mr. Rogers's Neighbourhood. But I'm surprised that Rogers, who had also created some memorable puppet characters, wanted Spinney to be so blunt about Big Bird not being "real." For crying out loud, Big Bird is real.

Speaking of crying, we see a little more of Henson's legacy in footage from his memorial, when his fellow puppeteers sang his favourite songs as themselves and in their Muppet voices.

This post is very different from what I imagined it would be when I started typing it up! LOL! I just wanted to share some of the thoughts that came to me as I was putting this smackdown together. And the last of those thoughts is that I really should have created a puppet . . . or a persona . . . and performed another song for you all. But nobody wants to hear that, right?

So let's get to what you've all been waiting for. The winner of this year's Philippine Literature giveaway . . .

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations, Sully!

I'll be tweeting you as soon as I publish this, you lucky little pig! ;-)


Sullivan McPig said...

Oh! I won. Yay!
Thank you!!!
And I so agree with Henson. Some things should stay magical.

cyurkanin said...

Congrats, Sullivan!

Brandon said...

I was thinking a while back was that one of the problems with fake bands is that they tend to be entirely about the coolness or fun of being in a band; their point is the fantasy of being in a band, not doing what a real band does. And I think that's part of the reason for the irony that the Muppets are the realest fake band -- because they weren't about the coolness or fun of being in a band, but about putting on an actual show.

Angie Tusa said...

I think Henson's methods are one of the credits of the Muppets, as there have been many times where I have been able to see the puppeteer in frame, but because the character is still being acted out and alive, I'm not even looking at the person behind them.

The documentary film Being Elmo comes to mind in particular. You can see him, but you also see Elmo talking to a small child, and Elmo still feels real.

That said, I can see what Mr. Rogers was at least trying to do and I don't necessarily fault him for it. It's just too contrary to the Henson idea for it to be done.

mrsdarwin said...

"I don't know why to thank you guys." Classic lines from classic movies. We used to have this soundtrack, which is probably the genesis of my fondness for Dr. Teeth.

Part of the genius of the Muppet Show was the backstage conceit, in which the travails of getting the thing on stage made the performances more exciting, and made the viewer feel like part of the action.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sully -- You're welcome! =) I'll get your parcel out later this week.

Christopher -- Ever the gracious entrant, I see!

Brandon -- That's a great observation! The Electric Mayhem really did put the music first, didn't they?

Angie -- The other night, I tried to create a puppet persona, to see whether I could feasibly "produce" a musical video . . . and it was much, much harder than I thought it would be. It takes a lot to make a puppet come alive and not just be you singing in a silly voice! Ironically enough, I think Mr. Rogers achieved that with Daniel Striped Tiger. I've seen clips of him bringing his puppets onto chat shows and "operateing" them in front of a live studio audience, and they were still totally believable!

Mrs. Darwin -- I nearly died laughing when Kermit said that!!! He and Fozzie had such perfect chemistry and comedic timing together. =D

DMS said...

I have always been a huge fan of The Muppets. Loved this post! I agree that they are an awesome fake band because they are also very real.

The video clip of some of the cast singing in character was so cool. Amazing to see them "in character". Awesome!

Congrats to Sullivan!

Enbrethiliel said...


When watching the second clip, I had to close my eyes in order "to see" the Muppets who had "originally" sung those songs! And now reruns of Fraggle Rock have a new dimension, because I can also imagine the puppeteers behind the lead Fraggles. LOL!