|The Jim Henson Hour
|No. of seasons
|No. of episodes
|12 (1 unaired)
|Martin G. Baker
|Jim Henson Productions
|April 14, 1989 –
August 7, 1993
The Jim Henson Hour is a 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 Muppet characters.
Nine of the twelve episodes produced aired on NBC before the program was canceled due to low ratings. Two episodes later aired on Nickelodeon in 1992 and 1993, and the final episode "Food" never aired. The show was never broadcast in the UK. After The Jim Henson Hour, the Muppets did not have another prime-time TV show until Muppets Tonight (1996–1998), six years after Jim Henson's death.
The Jim Henson Hour was modeled after the 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 abstractly-decorated set (alongside the Thought Lion from his series The StoryTeller) and introduce the evening's show. Beyond that, the series never had a set structure. The room where Henson and the Thought Lion performed their introduction was a computer-generated environment.
Three of the twelve installments were hour-long mini-movies:
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. 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 situations would close out the hour in the second half.
The first episode produced —Sesame Street… 20 Years & Still Counting— was aired as a stand-alone special. Henson's series officially premiered a week later.
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 previous characters Kermit the Frog, Gonzo and Link Hogthrob in addition to new characters Digit, Leon the Lizard, Lindbergh the Kiwi, Vicki, Clifford, Jacques Roach, and a computer-generated Muppet named Waldo C. Graphic. Also appearing as a series regular was Bean Bunny, who had previously starred in the television special The Tale of the Bunny Picnic (1986). After The Jim Henson Hour ended, Waldo would go on to have a main role in the theme park film Muppet*Vision 3D (1991), and Clifford and Bean Bunny would continue to make appearances in various Muppet productions.
Muppet performer Frank Oz's characters Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy made appearances the show. Their appearances were intermittent, however, due to scheduling conflicts with Oz's directing career. Miss Piggy received 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 Electric Mayhem band that had appeared in most previous Muppet projects. The band members included, Digit on keyboard, Flash on saxophone and vocals, Clifford on bass guitar and vocals, Beard on guitar and vocals and an unnamed female drummer.
Electric Mayhem regulars Zoot and Animal eventually made appearances with Solid Foam in the episode "Food." Dr. Teeth also appeared in the background of a few of Solid Foam's music videos.
MuppeTelevision would get interrupted on some occasions by an illegal TV station called Gorilla Television run by new characters Ubu, Chip, and Zondra. After The Jim Henson Hour ended, Chip would go on to make minor appearances in various Muppet productions.
As with The Muppet Show, every episode had a celebrity guest star. Louie Anderson, Ted Danson, Smokey Robinson, Buster Poindexter, and k.d. lang were among those who appeared on the show.
|Original air date
|"Outer Space/The Heartless Giant"
|April 14, 1989
Note: These are the first appearances of Waldo C. Graphic, Vicki, Leon the Lizard, Clifford, Lindbergh, Brad and Bootsie, and the Extremes.
|April 21, 1989
Note: This is the first appearance of Jacques Roach.
|"Power/The Soldier and Death"
|April 28, 1989
Note: This is one of the first of the few episodes to feature Frank Oz. First appearance of the Solid Foam band.
|May 5, 1989
Note: Henson won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Variety Music Program for this episode.
|"First Show/Miss Piggy's Hollywood"
|May 14, 1989
|July 9, 1989
|"Fitness/The Song of the Cloud Forest"
|July 16, 1989
Note: According to the July 18, 1989 issue of the Kentucky New Era, this episode was the lowest rated program among all four networks.
|"Videotape/The True Bride"
|July 23, 1989
|July 30, 1989
Note: This was the last episode to air on NBC.
|"Secrets of the Muppets"
|November 29, 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 Henson 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. Henson also tells Jojo that she was modeled after a real dog named Bamboo (who is also used for full body shots of Jojo). Henson then talks about the room that he is in which is actually a blue screen set.
He then gives Jojo a tour of The Muppet Workshop as he demonstrates the operation of a puppet sandwich. Henson and Jojo meet Jane Gootnik who is preparing to reconstruct Gonzo since the principal Muppets tend to get a lot of use.
Back on the set, he 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 bicycles. The Muppets then start to get worried when it comes to the puppeteers as Henson starts out by showing Jojo that she is performed by Camille Bonora.
Then he goes to Pacific Data Images and demonstrates to Jojo how Waldo C. Graphic is operated and turned into a computer graphic.
When it comes to the puppeteers for the Muppets of MuppeTelevision, Kermit states that the one under him is Henson, 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.
In the final scene, Jojo asks about how the Thought Lion works and goes near it. The Thought Lion roars scaring Jojo as Henson calms her down.Note: This was originally aired as a stand-alone special on Nickelodeon in 1992.
|"Living with Dinosaurs"
|December 30, 1989 (UK)
August 7, 1993 (US)
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 canceled the series before the reformatted version could air. The stand-alone version debuted in the US on Nickelodeon in 1993.
|"Food/The Three Ravens"
Note: this episode's MuppeTelevision segment is the only one 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 unnamed Female Drummer.
Main article: List of Muppets
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 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 the previously unaired Living with Dinosaurs segment, as a standalone special in 1993. The Jim Henson and Muppets segments in that episode have never aired. The final hour, consisting of the MuppeTelevision installment "Food" and The StoryTeller episode "The Three Ravens", has never aired, though "The Three Ravens" segment has aired in the UK as part of The StoryTeller series.
In Canada, the MuppeTelevision segments have run as a separate series called The Jim Henson Show. All of the feature drama segments, except for "Miss Piggy's Hollywood", have been run as standalone specials in the US and other countries, and have been released on home video. The StoryTeller segments have run with that series.
In addition to the abandoned hour-long episodes of The StoryTeller, Lead-Free TV and picture-book specials, Jim 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 Henson involving enchanted bowling balls, extraterrestrial mailmen, outer-space adventures, and a detective story with Kermit and the other Muppets. 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".
Following the sale of The Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House 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.