Tag Archives: Frank Oz

In Memoriam: Jane Henson, Lover, Dreamer

Yesterday the Jim Henson Company announced the passing of Jane Henson, widow of Jim Henson and, perhaps more importantly, his longtime professional partner. We vividly recall as a third grader reading a biography of Jim Henson, a slim paperback with a green cover (naturally aimed at young readers, and being captivated by black-and-white photos of a fresh-faced, clean-shaven Jim Henson. At his side in many of these photos was another young puppeteer by the name of Jane Nebel, and it wasn’t long before the two began dating in addition to collaborating professionally. We still remember finding these photos particularly striking, something classic and timeless about their look, and something special in the way they turned their passion for their work into passion for each other. 

jane & Jim Henson

Jane worked with Jim on many commercials and helped him produce the local Washington, DC program Sam and Friends, which featured a very young, embryonic Kermit the Frog. Through their early work Jane assisted Jim in the creation of the Muppets, becoming a key architect in their development. Eventually Jim and Jane married and gave birth to five young Hensons, and Jane focused more on raising the brood while Jim found other professional partners like Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson, lovers and dreamers who shared the unique Henson vision. While Jane’s contribution could no longer tangibly be seen on-screen, her influence is undeniable and impact unquestionable. And even though she and Jim separated in 1986 she remained an important part of the Henson family, and continued to carry on the Henson spirit after Jim’s untimely death in 1993.

We always found it moving and significant he called her to his side when he fell ill, and she was with him in his last hours. It showed to us, even at ten-years-old, that Jane and Jim were bound by something other than romantic love for each other, perhaps something even greater than that. In that moment, and in her commitment to the Jim Henson Legacy, both literally and figuratively, she showed that whether or not they were in love she and Jim were eternally bound by a shared vision and a desire to bring good into the world. It wasn’t really Jim’s legacy that Jane had been working to preserve and promote all these years. It was their legacy.

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Filed under Brilliance, In Memoriam, Muppets

Muppet Monday: Our Long-Awaited Thoughts on the Impending Arrival of ‘The Muppets:’ Or Why We’re Dreading the Thing We Wanted More Than Anything Else

In two days The Muppets will return to theaters after more than a decade away from the big screen.  It seems like just yesterday that we were salivating over the whispers of a Muppet resurrection orchestrated by Jason Segel (yes, that Jason Segel).  After spending years on the brink of obsolescence – thanks to bad business deals, changing tastes, the boom of CGI, and general Hollywood bureaucracy – it began to seem like the Muppets would never be given the opportunity to recapture the glory they once possessed, that they would forever be relegated to an aging, evermore antiquated attraction at Disneyland, and truly exist only on DVD and in the hearts and memories of people over 25.  We yearned for their return, and while we never imagined their savior would be a geek in shining armor like Segel, we were thrilled when the rumors began to circulate that someone who grew up on the Muppets, someone who loved and cherished them as much as we did, was going to resuscitate them.  Not some out of touch, graying puppeteers, or even the Henson family, but someone with a fresh, relevant perspective whose primary hope was to honor the spirit and style of Jim Henson.  We could not have been more excited.

And now, with The Muppets about to unspool at theaters across the country, what we feel is not excitement, but trepidation.  Why? Because of this:

Kermit, Miss Piggy

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Filed under Be careful what you wish for, Bert-n-Ernie, Flashback!, Freak Out Control, Muppet Mondays, Muppets, Saturday Night Live, The Big Screen

Muppet Tuesday: Cookie, Cookie, Cookie; Rexamining Cookie Monster

A short, fun Muppet Tuesday inspired by a video referred to us by The Geoff Man and last week’s Top Chef.

As far as Sesame Street characters go, we don’t remember being particularly enamored with Cookie Monster as a child.  Certainly, we weren’t fans of that red menace Elmo, but our allegiances laid more with Ernie and that other blue monster, Grover (probably because of his aural resemblance to Yoda, his brother in Frank Oz-helmed arms).  And, of course, we appreciated and admired Kermit, not just for being the straight man who tolerated all the zany creatures on Sesame Street, but because we were thoroughly impressed that he managed to moonlight as the “Muppet News” reporter while managing the Muppets full-time.  That guy was basically the 70s and 80s version of Joel McHale  (But really, Kermit can’t count as a favorite, because he’s a given, it’s like saying the Beatles are your favorite band (which they are not).  Hall of Fame members are not options)).  But for some reason, while not disliking Cookie Monster, he never struck the same chord as the others.  Perhaps because he wasn’t as silly-mean as Grover, or childlike and mischievous as Ernie.  He seemed rather one-note, heck bent on one thing and one thing alone, and that obscured a rather winning personality.  But with his SNL audition tape, his appearance on the show with Jeff Bridges, and his guest-judging on Top Chef last week, our opinion towards the pastry pouncer began to change.  With hs newly discovered nuanced sense of humor Cookie Monster was evolving into our favorite Sesame Street Muppet .  Except that, as this vintage video shows, that sharp sensibility was there all along.  We just missed it until now.  Somehow, Cookie Monster might actually be the subtlest monster on Sesame Street.

And, as usual, we plan to recap last week’s Top Chef just before the new one airs tomorrow night, but take a look at this behind the scenes clip from featuring Cookie Monster, along with Telly and, yes, Elmo, hilariously kinda being dicks to the crew.

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And we now realize where Barbara Walters got it from…

And if just one, just one, 3 year-old decides they prefer Cookie Monster to Elmo then we’ll be happy.

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Filed under Bert-n-Ernie, George Lucas Doesn't Need More Money, Makes You Think, Muppets, Nostalgia Corner, Top Scallop

Parting Shot: Creating Life

At the production offices of The Empire Strikes Back.  Magic happens.

Ain’t It Cool

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Filed under Intersection of the venn diagram of things that I love, Muppets, Parting Shot

And Another Muppet + Someone Awesome Team-up! (Jimmy Fallon, You’ve Done It Again)

Jimmy Fallon, I like you more and more.

Ten years ago you were the object of affection of every girl in my AP European History class, and the envy of every guy (well, not every guy).  Then the constant giggling became kinda annoying, and then you went and made Taxi, and then you became sort of a joke.  And, to be completely honest, we were pretty skeptical when you were named Conan O’Brien’s Late Night successor.  Like the homecoming king who left the hometown only to flame out and return to work in his dad’s hardware store.

But damn if you haven’t gone and totally redeemed yourself.  But this isn’t really about you.  Rather, this isn’t really about your show.  We talked enough about that.  This is about you, once again, recognizing something brilliant.  In this case it’s the maze of pipes hidden inside of Studio 6B dressing room decorated by Jim Henson and his confederates 40 years ago, before an appearance on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show.  Fallon, love him or loathe him, appreciated the genius and made good on his promise to put the installation behind glass, and now the pipe-art is a new stop on the NBC Studio tour, as Fallon, along with Yoda, er, Frank Oz shows us here:

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And, just to show that the more things change the more they stay the same, and that everything is cyclical, here’s a 30 year-old video of Henson giving a tour of the pipes to Gene Shalit (!).  And look at that mop on Brokaw!

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Guess I’ll have to go on the Studio tour now.  Even though it’ll be awkward to return to network headquarters after NBC brass screwed me over and took my show away.

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Filed under Intersection of the venn diagram of things that I love, Muppets, Other people's stuff