There’s a new Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock holiday special! It’s premiering on Apple TV+ on Friday, November 18! That’s right — there are only two more shopping days until “Night of the Lights!” You can watch the trailer here and watch my conversation with Uncle Travelling Matt here.
If you watched and enjoyed the first season of Back to the Rock, you may be wondering: Is “Night of the Lights” like a regular episode of the show? Or is it something different? The answer is: Yes!
The Back to the Rock crew makes a lot of smart choices to ensure “Night of the Lights” stands on its own as a self-contained special not beholden to the continuity of the rest of the show. There’s really not even a main character of this special. Rather than focusing on one Fraggle having some kind of holiday-related crisis, the special gives all the Fraggles their own little storylines, and they’re all focused on the titular holiday.
And yet, in just half an hour, “Night of the Lights” packs in appearances by most of our favorite old and new supporting characters, two songs, and a postcard from Uncle Travelling Matt. It’s the perfect coda to season one. Or — dare we hope? — it’s the perfect bridge between season one and a potential future season two.
The whole thing is driven by the celebration of a jolly Fraggle holiday, which is also called Night of the Lights. That’s when the Fraggles mark the darkest night of the year by lighting everything up with glow grapes. Glow grapes are luminous fruits that just happen to look a lot like Christmas lights, and come in a variety of colors.
When Jamdolin returns to the Great Hall, the Fraggles are really ready to get the party started, and that means exchanging gifts and making wishes. Wembley wishes for an exceptionally bright and magical light, which causes the World’s Oldest Fraggle to announce that he knows the location of the brightest and most magical light there is, and the rest of the episode is mostly concerned with the journey to that light.
I won’t tell you any more about the “plot,” such as it is, because everyone should watch the special when it hits Apple TV+. But I will tell you this: This is a delightful special! It goes by quickly, it has plenty of silly jokes and a few heartwarming moments, and did I mention the World’s Oldest Fraggle is in it a lot?
It’s true, the prevailing themes and lessons learned about the true meaning of the season and all that are pretty typical for a holiday special. But there’s a reason those themes and lessons are so popular: They make holiday productions pleasant to watch, and that’s what this one is!
If you’re something of an original series loyalist and you’re wondering how this compares to the classic episode “The Bells of Fraggle Rock”… Well, it doesn’t really try to. It’s considerably lighter — and fortunately, the existence of Night of the Lights in this incarnation of Fraggle Rock doesn’t necessarily mean these Fraggles don’t also celebrate the previously established Festival of the Bells. As Uncle Travelling Matt learns, you can celebrate lots of different things in the winter!
“Night of the Lights” is a lovely holiday special, a solid installment of Back to the Rock, and a sweet, entertaining half-hour of Fraggles. In fact, I think “Night of the Lights” would work just as well as the pilot episode as an introduction for new viewers. If you’re hanging out with family or friends this Thanksgiving, I highly recommend gathering everyone around the device of your choice to watch it.
(Note: If your family or friends is watching football, steal the remote when nobody is looking and change the input to Apple TV. “Night of the Lights” is WAY better than football.)
MVF Most Valuable Fraggle: I gotta give it to the World’s Oldest Fraggle for setting everything in motion.
Classic Musical Moment: The special ends with a song that we first heard during a very special moment in the original series. It fits the occasion quite well!
New Musical Moment: The opening song sets the tone nicely, and its up-tempo quality and chimes bring to mind the Christmas pop hits of the 1960s. Or a retro Christmas pop hit from the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s…
Coolest Puppetry Effect: One word: Stilts. (I’m pretty sure we’ve seen Muppets do this before, but it still looks cool!)
Fraggle Lore: Night of the Lights is a pretty significant piece of Fraggle lore, Back to the Rock edition! We also gain some insights into what the World’s Oldest Fraggle’s life was like when he wasn’t quite so old.
One More Thing…: I continue to be struck by the way Back to the Rock updates the tone of Fraggle Rock for the 2020s. A lot of the jokes sound like they’re from a modern sitcom (yes, almost always in a good way!).
Okay, One More Thing…: Happy Night of the Lights, everyone!
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by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com