Home > My Influences > My Influences: How The Muppets Helped Define My Style

My Influences: How The Muppets Helped Define My Style

This is the first instalment in a series I’ve wanted to start for a while. The series will discuss some of the figures and people that have influenced my style as a filmmaker. Over the course of the series, we’ll cover everything from writer’s and directors, to cinematographers and poets. All of these icons have had a large influence on my career. Today’s episode: The Muppets. I want to focus on The Muppets as a group, instead of focusing on individuals like Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Those two deserve blogs of their own, and when I began experiencing The Muppets I couldn’t have told you who either of these two were.

When I was growing up at home in the suburb community of Aldergrove in Edmonton, Alberta, my parents had a TV in their bedroom. As a kid without a TV in my room, this was obviously a magical device. Sure, I had the TV downstairs to watch, but the TV in my parents room was the one that I didn’t have easy access to. Once a week, I believe it was Sunday nights in a pre-Simpsons era, my dad and I would hang out up there and watch The Muppet Show (1976-1981). We would frequently watch shows together, and Saturday morning cartoons were a favorite past time. My dad introduced me to Mighty Mouse and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse in those days, but there was always something special about sitting up in that room watching The Muppets.

The show was, and still is, incredibly dynamic. As a child I laughed at the same times my dad laughed, and not necessarily for the same reasons. The Muppets have always had that ability to bring out the inner child in everyone. I like to attribute it to what I call unbridled creativity. I often wonder how the initial pitch meetings for this show went.

“Okay Mr. Henson, so it’s a show about puppets?”

“Well, there’s also people in it. And they’re not really puppets.”

“If they’re not puppets, what are they?”

“Well they’re kind of puppets, but they’re kind of marionette’s. I call them Muppets.”

“And what do these ‘Muppets’ do?”

“They host their own variety show.”

 

The show is inexplicable, and completely open minded. There was no concept too absurd or too down to earth for The Muppets to try. The Muppet Show was also my gateway drug to Sesame Street (1969-Present), introducing me to a love of Grover (especially in Super Grover form), but I always came back to the original crew. I could not, and still can not, get enough Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, or any other Muppet from The Muppet Show.

Later in life, I was 8 at the time, I lived in Japan with my family for a year. Among the many highlights from living there was the fact that my family seemed to be as nostalgic as I was for culture from back home. Not watered down Japanese approximations of North American culture, but the real thing. Thankfully, we had a TV station that would broadcast popular children’s programs during the day, and the latest dramas at night. On this station I experienced Lonesome Dove (1989) in its entirety, while also discovering the classic Muppet children’s show Fraggle Rock (1983-1987).

 

All of these shows came together for me in what might be the greatest Christmas special of all-time: A Muppet Family Christmas (1987). Every year I get a great amount of joy putting in my old VHS copy of this special and watching it start to finish with whoever will sit through it with me.

 

 

Needless to say, I can’t wait for the Jason Segel / Amy Adams reboot of this franchise in The Muppets (2011). I’m hoping that the team putting this one together can capture some of the magic that I try to incorporate in all my work.

 

Zac Hogle is a writer/director who has worked on several nationally broadcast series and documentaries. You can follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/zhogle.

All images and videos are the copyright and property of their respective holders. No infringement is intended.

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Categories: My Influences
  1. December 29, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Zach! I loved your post, and I agree, Henson’s influence was critical on my career as a writer. Have you seen my book at all? Make Art Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career. You might get something out of it? Hope you have a happy new year. – Liz

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