A Fink among Muppets

December 17, 2008
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On Wednesday, "A Muppet Christmas--Letters to Santa" made its holiday debut on NBC.

Why am I mentioning that here?

Two reasons.

1. It was co-written by Indianapolis native Hugh Fink, a former SNL scribe and very funny man. (Check out some funny business featuring Fink and his violin here--including Indiana references.)

2. I'm a Muppet fan going way back. I even included in my recent book "Kid Culture" a chapter titled "12 Moments Where the Muppets are as Great as Anything Ever Created by Mankind." But, like many Muppet lovers, I know that they've lost their way in recent years. I'm curious to see if this special points toward the cloth characters finding their way again.

So do you have any favorite Muppet moments? Kermit on the bicycle in "The Muppet Movie"? Ernie singing "Dancing Myself to Sleep" and annoying Bert? Any one of the outstanding Grover books?

And have any of you seen Hugh Fink on stage? Or have any thoughts on the special?

Your thoughts?
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  • A few days ago, our family watched one of the other Muppet Christmas shows (can't remember the name, but it attempetd to be an It's A Wonderful Life for Muppets), and I was terribly disappointed. It wasn't terrible, but it certainly didn't have that Muppet magic. Remarkably, even Joan Cusack failed to shine. In fact, none of the human actors came anywhere near the humans in the original muppet movie (Steve Martin was hilarious serving wine). As a result, I had pretty much decided to ignore tonight's show; however, knowing Hugh Fink was invovled gives me hope. Maybe I'll give it a shot ...
  • It's funny that you mention the Muppets just before the holidays. I, too, am a Muppet lover who grew up in the 80s. Watching their movies takes me back to times spent with my aunt who died severeal years ago after losing her battle with breast cancer. I can remember curling up together on the couch and watching Muppet movies while eating tons of buttery popcorn. I also remember she took me to the drive-in to see one of them, which was a lot of fun.

    I miss the Muppets, but most of all I miss my aunt, especially during the holidays. Thanks for reminding me of the power of movies and the beauty of memories.

    Also, the best Grover book, as far as I'm concerned, is The Monster at the End of This Book. I must have read that story to my younger sister at least 100 times!
  • For us, its Muppet Christmas Carol - its a Christmas tradition to watch it on Christmas Eve before bed. Kermit sings a song whose chorus goes there's only one more sleep 'til Christmas. Overall, most of the movie is laugh out loud funny, so double bonus.
  • What about Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas? That's one of my fave Muppets/Christmas shows. I looked it up on YouTube not too long ago when I saw a news story about otters (and I just saw it's for sale on Amazon.com--might need to get it as a present for myself. :))
  • RB,

    You'll be happy to hear that Emmet Otter is now the subject of a stage musical.

    http://www.playbill.com/news/article/124389.html

    I have to confess, I never saw the show.

    Lou
  • Lou,

    Awesome. I wonder how the stage show would be without the cute otter puppets? It is kind of sappy but I remember really liking it as a kid when it was on TV and we also watched the tape of it. Worth checking out for any Muppets fan. Amazon has it for about $10 so I'm getting it from there--new version was just released last month it looks like and not available in local stores without ordering it.

    -RB
  • I don't think the Muppets have lost their way. I work in Kindergarten and they are every bit as excited about Sesame Street as I was when I was their age...and older. Although, Elmo seems to have taken Kermit's place in the hearts of many children...the muppet family is still revered! Unfortunately, rather than being enjoyed by the family during prime time (as The Muppet Show was when I was a young girl), it seems to be more of a show (that parents don't have to feel guilty about) that the kiddos watch solo while mom and/or dad do what they'd rather do without help.
  • I believe The Disney Co. is attempting to revive interest in the Muppets franchise.

    In addition to this new special (Funny, NBC is airing this new Christmas special, not Disney's ABC property.), the Mouse has recently aired two half-hour shows featuring the Kermit, Miss Piggy, etc. alongside tween stars like Miley Cyrus and Ashley Tisdale. I also read that some humorous videos of some sort will be served as bonus features on DVD products such as a season set of Desperate Housewives.

    Regarding Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas, this was a book adaptation that aired on HBO during The Muppet Show years. This Henson movie is quite a gem. An interview included on the 2005 DVD release reveals many warm reflections from the cast and crew. You might consider this edition over the 2008 release: one Amazon reviewer notes this new product has been edited....
  • My favorite Christmas special will always be Muppet Family Christmas from the 80s... All the favorite Muppet, Sesame Street and Fraggle (even doc) characters gathered in one house for Christmas...brilliant. Truley brings about the meaning of being with old friends and new friends at the Holidays.

    Growing up I watched the taped version off tv over and over again. Now I have the DVD...which regrettably has some classic scenes deleted off.
    However, there is a special cameo with Jim Henson himself in a rather striking suite.
  • Muppet family Christmas is my all-time favorite! I found a VHS of it on ebay a few years ago, and I watch it with my niece now.- Watch out for the icy patch!!! :) Yes, I was very disappointed that they took out a few songs- for my entire life, I've always thought the lyrics to a Christmas song were There's a Christmas party at the home of.... FOZZY BEAR! It'll be a perfect evening with my friends all there. I still don't know the correct lyrics.


    Favorite muppet moment: (in The Great Muppet Caper)
    Fozzy: (at a fancy restaurant): If you put enough sugar in this champagne, it tastes just like ginger ale!
  • Well, I wish I'd known about the Muppet special last night while we were rolling out and icing cookies. I watched my home-taped VHS of the original HBO Emmet Otter instead and loved it as much as ever. Had to change my facebook status today, even! On another note, don't you love the way The Count laughs?
  • Christmas Letters was great! My favorite part was Pepe, the King Prawn, fawning over Uma Thurman--priceless!
  • All time favorite Muppet Christmas show was John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. It's the only one I really remember because my mom taped it and watched it all year round. Mom is trying to find the DVD of it, but can only find the musical soundtrack.

    As for Emmet Otter, we quote that one to each other all the time. She bought me a DVD of it last Christmas. Can't wait for the stage show!!

    I don't think the Muppets have lost their way so much as WE have grown up. What appeals to nostalgic adults and what appeals to modern-day children is different. Sad, but true.

    And let's not forget the latest Muppet Movie. My parents just watched it on Comcast On Demand - something about Muppets from Space in which it is revealed that Gonzo is an alien. My parents also watched the new Christmas special last night, which I missed.

    I guess I've grown up and they're on their second childhood. Better go watch my Emmet Otter DVD...
  • Anyone remember Ernie (and Hoots) singing the song Put Down the Duckie on Sesame Street with cameo appearances by lots of stars like Danny Devito? Still one of the best Muppet songs ever. I think I need to break out my Muppet watch and start wearing it again.
  • Ah, muppet memories...

    On my dorm room wall my freshman year at college, I had a huge poster of Fozzie and Kermit Movin' Down the Road. It symbolized the limitless excitement of college life, or really just LIFE in general, for me then.

    The scene in The Muppet Movie where everyone is gathered around a campfire under a sky full of stars and someone (Gonzo?) sings I'm Going to Go Back There Some Day used to make me weep every time I heard it. Probably still would.

    I worked summers during college as a camp counselor, and one of the other counselors used to sing The Rainbow Connection on her guitar. It's still a good song to just sing, say, in your office after you have put in your eight hours but aren't ready to go out in the cold and de-ice your car yet.

    Sing with me if you want...

    Why are there so many songs about rainbows
    And what's on the other side?
    Rainbows are visions, but only illusions
    And rainbows have nothing to hide.
    So we've been told and some choose to believe it
    I know they're wrong wait and see
    Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
    The lovers, the dreamers, and me...

    Hope Baugh
    www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
  • RB- If you get the Emmet DVD, be sure to catch the extras. There's an amazing Behind-the-Scenes feature, and hilarious outtakes. Puppet Outtakes: what could be better?

    I'm a muppet fan all the way. In my younger years, we gathered around the TV for The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock (I still have my plush Red Fraggle). I also have nostalgic weepies for Follow That Bird and The Muppets Take Manhattan. Then there's the one, single, heartbreaking moment for me in Muppet Christmas Carol: when Bean Bunny is shivering out in the cold under a newspaper. I'm not kidding; I'm getting a lump in my throat just thinking about it.

    I'm fascinated by puppets, amazed that these moving stuffed toys can make us have deep emotional reactions. It's so odd. Yet so cool.
  • I loved my Muppet album as a kid. I still have it, though I loved it so much it's nearly impossible to get anything out of it as it skips so much. One of my faves was Kermit singing, Lydia the Tattooed Lady. I always liked the judges from the show and Gonzo. Hey Piggy! How'z about a little kiss for your Gonzy-Wonzy?! The Swedish Chef was awesome too. I don't really recall the movies or Christmas specials, but I do remember watching the show with my family - was it on Sunday night?

    I loved Grover, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, and Snuffy, not to mention the Count on Sesame Street. I find it comforting that the show yet continues for new generations of kids.
  • I watched Emmet Otter last night (my Amazon order came through when I was out of town this weekend--much faster than I anticipated). My sister who didn't remember it when I first mentioned it to her was more excited than I've seen her in a long time when she recognized the little otter family puppets on the cover. The behind the scenes documentary was also interesting to see how they got the puppets to move by themselves remotely or through the floor (and we learned this movie was done as a sort of test to try different techniques before they made the feature-length muppet movies). After watching again, definitely worth adding to the collection--and I'm happy to see I'm not the only one who remembered it. :)
  • Who'd have thought a thread on the Muppets would be so popular! But I agree, I miss the prime time Muppet Show a lot even though we used to pretend to watch it 'for the kids'. And Jennifer--The Monster at the End of the Book was an awesome story--my daughter would shreak with delight as I turned the pages. Check out the sequel another monster featuring Elmo. I loved Kermit it isn't easy being green riding his bike--high tech green screen? Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

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