You’ve heard the news by now: Apple TV+ has made a deal with the Jim Henson Company for a “reboot” of Fraggle Rock with “full-length episodes.” This is a very big announcement. At least as big as a Gorg. As is always the case when such a big announcement is made, I have a lot of thoughts. Six of them, anyway. Here they are:
I’m still skeptical about whether a new Fraggle series is a good idea.
Eight long years ago, we heard that Henson was working on a Fraggle Rock movie. No, not the Joseph Gordon-Levitt one, the other one. No, not the Cory Edwards one, the other one. No, not the Ahmet Zappa one, the other one. The one co-written by Jim Byrkit, who co-wrote Rango.
Anyway, back then I wrote about my inability to fully embrace the idea of a new Fraggle project without reservations, and many of the same concerns still gnaw at me like Gobo gnawing on a Doozer stick. The thing I keep coming back to is this: Fraggle Rock was made by a singular group of extremely talented people who collaborated on it for a few years, and then stopped making Fraggle Rock when Fraggle Rock was over.
Could a modern team possibly produce something that reaches the heights of the brilliant original series? Should they even try? Or would it perhaps be better if they created something new and special — maybe something inspired by Fraggle Rock? (Here’s a premise I just came up with: It’s called Waggle Clock, and it’s about some whimsical creatures called Waggles who live inside a clock.)
On the other hand…
Recent developments have made me much more optimistic.
You know what was a super-good reboot of an old property? The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Sure, the original Dark Crystal movie left more room for expansion and improvement than the original Fraggle Rock series. But with Age of Resistance, the company named after the guy who played Convincing John proved they can take an old concept and update it beautifully… as long as they have a partner with huge amounts of money. Fortunately, Apple also has huge amounts of money. Have you seen how much one of those iPhones cost?
It’s been clear from comments by the team working on the Fraggle Rock: Rock On shorts that they’re all-in on wanting the Fraggles to be the best they can be. And Rock On has been pretty darn good! In just six brief episodes, they’ve delivered something that feels very close to the spirit of the show. The puppets look terrific, the recasts are already capturing much of what makes the characters lovable, and the music and fun and positivity is all there. It’s going to be a much bigger undertaking to try to recreate the whole world of Fraggle Rock, but these creators just might be up for the task.
However the new Fraggle Rock ends up, it’s not going to be a cynical attempt to cash in on ‘80s nostalgia. It’s going to be a sincere, loving attempt to cash in on ‘80s nostalgia.
I hope they resist the temptation to make the guest stars a regular thing.
It was a blast watching the Fraggles play around with Common and Tiffany Haddish and all those other celebrity silly creatures on Rock On. Muppets (and Jim Henson Company puppets, as perhaps the lawyers would prefer we call them) work well with guest stars. But guest stars were never an element in Fraggle Rock’s chemical compound. Throughout the run of the show, the Fraggles struggle to understand humans, and it’s an overwhelming, heartwarming moment when they connect with one special human in the series finale.
I wouldn’t mind seeing a few human characters on the new show who are friends to the Fraggles and who get involved in their stories. It could be fun to see the Fraggles banter with a couple of silly creature pals. But I think it would be a mistake to bring in a parade of celebrities, as if Fraggle Rock were a subterranean Muppet Theater.
I want to see puppets.
I’m sure every true fan of Fraggle Rock feels this way, but I can’t help but imagine some Apple executive asking why some of the characters can’t just be animated. (For some reason, I’m also picturing this executive smoking a cigar, although I assume smoking is not allowed at Apple headquarters. Can anyone confirm or deny?)
They already have new puppets for the Fraggle five and Traveling Matt, so that’s taken care of. I’m sure the Henson workshop could re-build supporting characters like the Storyteller or Large Marvin fairly easily. But I hope the budget and timeline also allows for building Doozers and the Trash Heap and… dare I say it? Gorgs. Because I’d rather see no Gorgs at all than CG Gorgs.
Once again, looking to Age of Resistance gives me hope. They built a heck of a lot of elaborate, expensive puppets for that, and it worked like gangbusters, so I hope they do it again. If they want to introduce some brand-new species of characters performed with digital puppetry, that would be swell. But the old guys should remain tangible.
The producers shouldn’t be afraid to get into deep issues like the original series did, without talking down to kids.
Here are some of the topics and themes that Fraggle Rock addressed: environmentalism, dysfunctional relationships, racial discrimination, religion, war, death, and bonkleberries. There’s a lot of talk these days about how kids’ entertainment used to be more intense than the stuff that’s around today, but if the producers of the new Fraggle Rock truly want to do right by the original series, they’ll have to get into some weighty issues.
At the moment, we’re living in a pretty dark reality, so there’s a lot of room for a sensitively written show that uses funny puppets to help kids deal with all of those topics. Including bonkleberries.
It’s kind of funny that folks are complaining about the show being on a streaming service.
“Why will this be on Apple TV+?” says Mr. Internet Commenter. “I don’t have Apple TV+! How will I watch it?” The original Fraggle Rock aired on HBO – a premium pay cable channel – at a time when millions of TV viewers didn’t even have cable, much less HBO. So really, “hiding” the show behind a paywall (or in a pay-cave) is just continuing the proud tradition of the franchise. That guy Jim Henson was a savvy businessman, after all.
There are a lot of competing streaming services these days, and one wonders if they can all survive. There’s every possibility that some of them will fail and be forced to merge, and in a few years we may be watching the new Fraggle Rock on HBAppleOPeacockCrunchyrollbox+. And Fraggles will unite the world in peace and harmony and streaming video.
Thanks as always to Muppet Wiki for the very useful images! Click here to have huge amounts of money on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com