One of the things that just made the icing on the cake for me watching all 13 of these episodes over the weekend, is that I went into this show spoiler free. I had no idea who to expect or what to expect, other than the trailer, I had seen nothing. And that is exactly how you should see it, if you haven’t watched it yet, trust me it adds to the fun of the ride and it’s so worth it. I’m going to start by giving a spoiler-free review of the show in general and give examples of why I feel this is the perfect example of how to revive a show. One which keeps old fan’s happy and invested in the illusion of this world, they are welcomed along for the ride and cherished for their over thirty-five- year investment in the original. Whilst at the same time bringing in new characters, modern concepts and updated ideas that work because they make sense within this world. There’s an inner child within all of us, which most of us think we’ve outgrown but the truth is it’s always there, as we grow up, it’s just harder to keep in contact with. That’s what fans want to find when our childhood memories are brought back to us as adults in an updated modern revival. We don’t just want to have fun, we want to revisit our childhoods and escape into that world and if the world doesn’t feel the same, we don’t get that feeling we crave as lifelong fans, adult escapism back into childhood.
MuppetsHenson will post my spoiler review sometime soon, where I’ll be able to properly highlight and give examples of how reboots should be done. How to help past properties keep growing for future seasons whilst always reaching new fans along the way and never losing old ones using spoilers to show examples. This show not only deserves a Season 2, 3, 4 etc… it also deserves to win so many awards, the way it handles deep subjects with profound messages told so entertainingly with clever, fun, creative storytelling, just as valuable as the original. This show is doing exactly the job it’s supposed to do throughout the whole 13 episodes, brilliant storytelling, all just so clever, this feels so much like Fraggle Rock, it’s been there this whole time.
Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock — Official Trailer | Apple TV+ - YouTube I also want to review this show through the eyes of an old fan (adult) and young fan (child), what is good for old fans, means this is what the children watching the original grew up wanting, that means the show went in the right direction, the direction it taught them. If the old fans are happy, this means you have drawn them back into this world, if you can draw back the old fans, by making them feel like their childhood world with their old friends is back, then you can definitely make new fans feel like this is a world they can actually be part of. As adults we consider it fan service, but as children we consider it real, I was twenty-five years old when I finally realized the possibility of finding a Fraggle hole in someone’s house wasn’t something that could actually happen. That’s why I also want to focus on fan service in my review, it can also be seen as the key to making this world seem like a world that could actually exist within our reality, at least in the minds of children. I think I was six, maybe even seven when I finally realized The Muppets weren’t really walking around Hollywood, as much as I learned to play guitar, I could never really join The Electric Mayhem. Star Wars comes to mind, until this day, that scenario could exist in space somewhere in a galaxy far, far away. But since I grew up with Muppets not Star Wars, the world of Fraggle Rock is the one my childhood mind is most connected too, the one I’m most passionate about. If Gobo came back as a grumpy Fraggle who had lived a bad life all these years, if Boober, Wembley and Red never shared the screen together, if Mokey went to outerspace with Uncle Travelling Matt and started to fly, I would have been disappointed.
But no I was a lucky devoted fan, I got exactly what I wanted as a lifelong fan, what I had waited for all these years, The Jim Henson Company delivered, I’m so proud of them. Not just because of what they delivered, they went against what somehow seems to be considered “unpopular” these days in some places. Some would call it catering to the fans, that’s not it at all, it’s continuing the expansion and return to this world in a way that makes sense, so the illusion that this is all real can continue, the escapism we crave as adults can be delivered, only if we can lose ourselves in the illusion. The Jim Henson Company accomplished the right things by doing what might be considered the unpopular thing by others, they did the right thing over the wrong thing, even if the majority aren’t doing it. I love that, because that is the Jim Henson spirit, this is how you continue his legacy, not just with his creations but by his teaching and the companies’ actions, this series succeeds at so many things, on so many levels, a real masterpiece.
For example, a strong female lead character or two is very important, but needs to be done right, if not you just frustrate the viewer with that concept. They fear the quality of storytelling it is attached too; they fear the belittling of other beloved characters to raise up the strong female character. They might begin to hope for a male character, not because they don’t want a strong female character, but rather because they are scared it will not be portrayed well/realistically and will spoil their escapism within the story. When can I buy Mokey and Red figures? When can I buy Gobo, Boober and Wembley figures? I respect all five, none were dumbed down to make others smarter, everyone was just smart and good in their own unique ways.
The Muppets (2011) and Muppets Haunted Mansion come extremely close to this for me, though with Steve Whitmire’s absence, The Muppets can never give me the feeling Fraggle Rock has given me this weekend, even with Steve Whitmire’s absence from the Rock, I’ll tackle that part in the spoiler review. I really like It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, The Muppets (2015), Muppets Most Wanted, I can watch these on repeat, like I do with the classic Muppets that came before it but that feeling, the one I look for in a Jim Henson production, that’s rare to come across without Jim Henson and most of his original team not there. Although I have to stress, had it not been for Steve Whitmire’s absence, Muppets Haunted Mansion would have succeeded in giving me that feeling that this new Fraggle show has given me. It’s one thing to get certain things right at different times, it’s another to get them all right at the same time and so perfectly, that is what gives fans the Jim Henson magic from their childhood that they’re after, at least in my case.
I was thirteen when Muppets From Space premiered in movie theatres, the years after I just assumed I had grown out of that feeling, that feeling where I was lost in Jim Henson’s Muppet worlds. That feeling where you just want to buy merchandise based on what you’ve watched, watch the episodes over and over again. I hadn’t grown out of that, because now at thirty-five I’ve experienced that exact Jim Henson magic I’ve been craving all these years. Lots of productions throughout the years have come close, but this show, for me personally, this takes the radish cake. The Muppet Show, Muppet specials from the 50-90’s, The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets From Space, Muppets Tonight, Follow That Bird, Fraggle Rock (original) and Dinosaurs. When it comes to Jim Henson property productions, those are my holy grails. Fraggle Rock: Back To The Rock is the first time, I’ve ever felt I could add something to that list in my adult life. I feel as if I have watched something that Jim Henson himself specifically helped to produce, it has the Jim Henson magic, as a fan that is what I’m looking for.
In my opinion the hardest thing for a reboot to accomplish, is not just being perfect, it’s getting not just old fans, but new fans too, to want to invest into watching the original either again or for the first time. Double, triple, Doozer bonus points, if the reboot is able to add a new experience, when watching the original that came out many years earlier. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is the best example of that for me, I love that show, but was so eager to watch the original movie again, now having this new understanding to the story. And after over thirty years, my viewing experience of something I already loved was improved and I didn’t even think that was possible. That is a perfect example of a reason why a reboot should be merited on going forward or not, excitement for the future, greater appreciation for the past, that’s its main goal. Fraggle Rock: Back To The Rock, makes me want to watch it again, followed by the original series, A Muppets Family Christmas, The Fraggles Look For Jobs, The Dark Crystal, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Fraggle Rock: Back To The Rock again and again, that’s actually what I’m going to do.
A good reboot should also want to make you buy merchandise, I want it all, I want more than what I can spend! I want Glowing Tail Fraggle Plush Toys, Gorg Funkos, Doozer Construction Sets with lights, a real dog called Sprocket, Trash-Heap pyjamas, I want all the characters. Honestly, I just feel like buying Fraggle Rock merchandise, all of it, growing up I just wanted Fraggle Rock merchandise and it was so hard to come by and I still want it. I want action figures of all the characters, not just the main ones, all of them, the secondary characters, the new characters, that speaks volumes for this show. One thing is to get fans excited with the old cast but introducing new characters, getting the balance right, getting each new character so perfect and likable right from the get go. To the point that they are part of an old fan’s merchandise list too, that’s when the show has accomplished all it’s goals. If like me you want new Fraggle Rock merchandise, don’t forget, sometime around March new Fraggle plush toys are being released: Fraggle Rock Funko POP!, Plush Toys & Collectibles (toywiz.com)
You know something that is interesting to think about, for those fans like me who remember watching the original when they were little, has your favourite Fraggle changed from then until now? When your little, your favourite Fraggle is the one you most relate to, mine was Wembley, now I relate to Mokey the most. How has your personality developed from yesteryear up until today, using two Fraggle’s to explain the difference?
by Nicholas Napoli