Drop What You’re Doing and Watch DefunctTV’s Jim Henson Special

We have just under three weeks left until The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance hits Netflix, and what better way to prepare for the long-awaited sequel than a six-part ode to its creator? On Sunday, DefunctTV uploaded the last episode of their miniseries on Jim Henson’s “life and works,” and we’re not hyperbolizing when we say you should drop whatever it is you’re doing and go watch the whole thing right now.

Stitched together from archival photos, animations, retro footage of Henson’s puppets in their many different incarnations, and TONS of research, the series is an incredibly nerdy deep-dive that’s necessary viewing for any Jim Henson fan. Over the course of three hours, broken down into ~30-minute chunks, DefunctTV takes viewers through the legendary puppeteer’s first Muppet show, Sam and Friends, to Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle RockMuppet Babies, and finally, the ill-fated The Jim Henson Hour and Henson’s untimely passing.

If, for some reason, you haven’t started watching already and are still reading this post (…why?), then allow us to persuade you with some REASONS.

  • The Squarespace ads: Weird sell, we know, but every single episode starts off with an unexpectedly charming Squarespace commercial featuring two Muppets that somehow reinvents the (notoriously awkward) form.
  • Baby(-faced) Jim Henson: Episode 1 is all about how Henson got his start in puppetry, and it’s chock-full of young Jim Henson pics, his first puppets (hello, Pierre the Rat), anecdotes about his college life (where he recruited puppeteer Jane Nebel, who later became his wife), his rarely seen early skits and commercials, and the birth of his iconic beard. Ah, nostalgia.
  • Muppet evolution: Throughout the series, but especially in the first two episodes, we get to see how iconic Muppets came to be, from Kermit’s transformation from monster to contemplative, fourth-wall-breaking frog, to the Swedish Chef’s innovative design, to the karate-chop that made Miss Piggy a three-dimensional character.
  • The critiques: Although the series’ love and respect for Jim Henson is clear, DefunctTV isn’t afraid to cast a critical eye on some of the puppeteer’s less successful projects, candidly pointing out issues with pacing, chemistry, and unfunny jokes.
  • Jim Henson’s adult content: One of the recurring arcs of the series (and indeed, Henson’s life) is his repeated attempts to prevent Sesame Street’s runaway success from pigeon-holing the Muppets as being for kids, and the series spends quite some time exploring his work for adults like the early pilots, The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence and The Muppets Valentines Show. 
  • Weird facts: Did you know that the “manna manna” song was originally written for an Italian documentary about sex culture in Sweden? You do now.
  • Jim Henson’s collaborators: Although he’s obviously the star of the show, the series also gives credit to where it’s due, delving into the personalities of his collaborators like Jane Henson, Frank Oz, Caroll Spinney, Brian Froud, and many others.
  • Behind-the-scenes Dark Crystal footage: For the Dark Crystal fandom, episode 4 (which centers on Fraggle Rock) contains storyboards, concept art, on-set footage, cut scenes, and behind-the-scenes tales about the making of The Dark Crystal. 
  • The feels: You WILL cry if you watch this. It’s not just Henson’s inspiring quotes, or the snippets about his family and personal life, or the tribute paid to him in the final episode by his many collaborators in the final episode, it’s all of that and more, filtered through a series that indisputably adores its subject and his legacy.

Well, what are you still waiting for?

 

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