Monday, June 08, 2015

Muppet Monday

This is a real treat: the 1962 pilot Tales of the Tinkerdee, which didn't sell and never aired on television, but which has thankfully survived the years.

After Sam and Friends ended, Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl wrote this pilot for a series of cracked fairy tales, hosted by Kermit. (Kermit still wasn't technically a frog yet, although he gained his collar here; it's not a neck frill, but actually part of his minstrel costume.) No one was buying, unfortunately, but you can really look at this thing both as the culmination of everything Jim learned doing Sam and Friends as well as the beginning of the style Jim and Jerry would later use in their Muppet fairy tale specials like Hey, Cinderella! In a lot of ways, this is like a shorter version of that special and The Frog Prince.

Two great Muppet characters make their first appearances here: King Goshposh, the thick-headed king, performed by Jim Henson, and the witch Taminella Grinderfall, played by Jerry Juhl as something of a Muppet version of Zero Mostel. This special is wonderful, but Taminella's the best reason to watch: to this point in history, 1962, Taminella is the best Muppet character and the best Muppet performance, and Jim Henson felt the same way. It's also incredibly fun to watch Jerry as Taminella play off of Jim as Charlie the Ogre, appearing on camera (though his face is never visible). They're a sensational double act; Jim is only 26, Jerry is 24, and this is only their second year working together, but they already know what kind of comedy they want and are more than capable of getting it. And they make the most of some pretty good-looking puppets and a very low budget.

I hope you get a chance to watch this.

A couple of other things of note: the Palace Guard is actually Yorick from Sam and Friends in a suit of armor; and the Prime Minister (making his only appearance) has the same color scheme Scooter would later have.

After this, Jerry Juhl would write Rowlf's segments on The Jimmy Dean Show, and become one of the main Muppet writers through 1999. Jerry Juhl passed away in 2005.

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