Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk”

Published: March 17, 2023
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Original air date: March 14, 1983

Are you familiar with Muppet Meeting Films? They’re a series of short films that the Muppets made between the 1960s and the 1990s, specifically for the purpose of selling them to businesses as something to show to liven up their otherwise boring meetings. They all have something to do with corporate culture, or sales, marketing, customer service, and so on.

I’ve seen this episode of Fraggle Rock many times before, but on this re-watch it occurred to me that the entire episode would have made a fine Muppet Meeting Film.

Here’s what happens: Gobo ventures into Doc’s workshop to check for a postcard from Uncle Traveling Matt, and while he’s hiding there, Doc decides it’s a good time to board up that hole in the wall. You know — the one Gobo needs to get back to Fraggle Rock. This leaves Gobo stranded in “the Other World” (they don’t call it Outer Space in this episode!), and the other Fraggles are forced to respond to this development.

The Fraggles react like any team of co-workers would when faced with a challenge: They have a meeting! This meeting mostly involves everyone singing a song about how sad they are.

The song begins as a somber affair, with lyrics about buckets of woe, gushes of sorrow, and wastepaper baskets full of heartache. But because the Fraggles can’t help themselves, it soon turns into a dancin’, hand-clappin’, electric guitar solo-jammin’ rocker. The whole thing goes completely off-track. Haven’t you been in meetings like that?

Once that item of business is out of the way, Gobo’s friends finally devise some short-term strategies to accomplish the goal of rescuing Gobo. But again, it’s just like a brainstorming meeting, because they all have completely different ideas!

Mokey wanders off to sit alone until inspiration strikes. Boober’s approach is to stand by the hole to Doc’s workshop and lament his lack of a good plan. (This approach is not very effective.) Red, the most proactive member of this team, resolves to ask the Trash Heap for advice. Wembley, the most Wembley member of this team, follows Red because he doesn’t know what else to do.

After filling up many flipchart pages and taking many coffee breaks, the four colleagues end up focusing on two methods: Mokey and Boober steal the Doozers’ catapult (much like stealing office supplies from another department) so they can break the boards covering the hole, while Wembley and Red deliberately pour milk on the ground (a clear OSHA violation) and try not to cry — because the Trash Heap told them that “Don’t cry over spilt milk” is good advice. (“Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk” is quite similar to the wise phrases often found on inspirational posters in workplaces.)

One thing leads to another, and Mokey slips on the milk, knocking Boober into the catapult, which activates, sending Boober flying through the air and crashing through the boards, which gives Gobo an opportunity to escape.

Now, here’s the thing. Mokey and Boober’s idea is a genuinely good one, and always had a good chance of success on its own. On the other hand, Wembley and Red’s idea is absurd! Under normal circumstances, it would have been completely pointless. And yet, when it was combined with the other team’s concept and a little bit of luck, the result was a smashing success.

So yes, this episode should have been sold as a Muppet Meeting Film, and it should have been marketed specifically at companies where half the employees were smart and half of them were kind of dumb. They would have made a fortune on it!

Strongest Moment: The part of this episode that I haven’t talked about yet is Doc and Sprocket’s own storyline, in which Doc becomes obsessed with those little blowy, tweety party noisemakers. First he wants to give them a name (I like his suggestion of “foomaphone”), then he builds an elaborate musical instrument using dozens of them and gleefully plays it. It kind of sounds like a chorus of cartoon ducks, and it is glorious.

Weakest Moment: None that I noticed! Which is surprising, because as Muppet Wiki tells me, although this episode was aired tenth, it was taped second. They figured out how to make this show good pretty quickly!

Best Joke: Gobo, lamenting the fact that he’s stuck in the workshop because he doesn’t want to be seen by Doc: “Doesn’t he ever leave this room?”

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): Although Gobo is at the center of the story, I have to give it to Boober. I really felt for the guy during his moment of helplessness at the boarded-up hole. And as he rightly points out, in the successful catapult launch, he’s the ammunition!

Musical Highlight: Aside from Doc’s song? “Feel So Bad,” hands down. I’m going to sing the song the next time I’m feeling bad, and see if it cheers me up. Unfortunately, I won’t have a chorus of swaying Fraggles behind me. Or will I?

Coolest Puppetry Effect: Sprocket blows the noisemaker! How’d they do that?! Honorable mention goes to Gobo’s little Fraggle feet sticking out from under a box and dancing as Doc plays his musical instrument. And a technical achievement award to the shot where Boober holds out his hands to demonstrate the size of the rock they’d need to break the boards, and a rock flies through the air and lands right between his hands.

Obscure Character Watch: As always, I love all the little cave creatures occupying the frame. Mokey sings her melancholy song to a little elephant-looking critter. I like that critter.

One More Thing…: There are multiple times when characters look directly at the camera and appear to be addressing us in the audience. That’s not typical for Fraggle Rock, is it?

Okay, One More Thing…: I guess Doc gave up on trying to cover up that hole after those boards spontaneously broke.

Click here to congratulate me on coming up with the most tortured, roundabout way of saying “This episode is about teamwork” on the Tough Pigs forum! Special thanks to Shane Keating!

by Ryan Roe –

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