|Sam and Friends|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||only 59 confirmed|
|Running time||5 minutes per sketch (and episode)|
|Original network||WRC-TV (NBC O&O in Washington, D.C.)|
|Original release||May 9, 1955 –|
December 15, 1961
Sam and Friends is an American live-action and puppet sketch comedy television series and a lead-in to The Tonight 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. However, most of the original episodes were never recorded, while some have become lost media. A few surviving episodes can be viewed at the Paley Center for Media but many can also be found on video websites like YouTube, such as those digitally archived by The Jim Henson Company. Some have been documented by either the Henson Archives or newspaper articles published while the show was still on air.
The series focused mostly on Sam, a bald-headed, big-eared human who escaped the harshness of everyday life with the help of abstract friends that he created based on parts of his life. His friends included Yorick, Harry the Hipster, Professor Madcliffe, Chicken Liver, and a lizard-like character named Kermit (who later evolved into Kermit the Frog).
Early in its run, the show mostly featured the puppets lip-syncing 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. Starting in 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).
Main article: List of Muppets
Harry the Hipster
Pierre the French Rat
Sam and Friends is mentioned in chapter 2 of Kermit the Frog's book Before You Leap, under the heading of "My First Big Splash".
Yorick made a cameo in a Sesame Street sketch in Season 1.
Henrietta appeared in The Muppets on Puppets during Rowlf the Dog's mixed-up fairy tale sketch portraying the fairy godmother. In this appearance, Henrietta was also performed by Jerry Juhl.
Sam, Harry the Hipster, and Yorick appeared in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years.
In Spring 2010, early puppet characters were rejoined in Henson Alternative's Stuffed and Unstrung, for two musical pieces that aren't improvised and no cuss words.
In August 2010, Jane Henson donated ten puppets from the show (including the original Kermit) to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.
In July 2016, Hyattsville, Maryland, installed a memorial to Jim Henson in the city's Magruder Park, featuring a large planter embossed with images of characters from Sam and Friends and benches inscribed with quotes from Henson.
Yorick made a visual appearance in the 2021 Muppet Babies episode "Summer's Disaster-Piece", where he replaces the head on Thomas Gainsborough's painting The Blue Boy.