Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “I Want to Be You”

Published: February 24, 2023
Categories: Feature, Reviews

This week’s review was written by Tough Pigs pal and Fraggle enthusiast Katilyn Miller. Thanks, Katilyn!

Original air date: February 21, 1983

Ask any Fraggle Rock fan which of the Fraggle Five they are most like and they have an instant answer. Sure, we all have times when we’re feeling more anxious or adventurous, but deep down, when no one’s looking, when we’re sitting at home curled up with a copy of The Book of Diseases we know which Fraggle we are.

Unless we don’t. Growing up, I wanted to be Mokey. I wanted to write poetry and float through the world, communing with the creatures and appreciating the beauty of vegetables. But instead, I more often blundered into situations, demanded attention when I had something to say, and competed with everyone at everything. I was Red. And just like Red in this episode, I put a lot of misplaced effort into being someone I wasn’t.

Red is trying to get Gobo to perform a new (and probably dangerous) slide into the Fraggle pond and when Gobo takes a greater interest in hearing Mokey’s poem than contorting his body in strange directions, Red feels ignored. It doesn’t help that all of her other friends also gather around to hear the poem. Red seeks the Trash Heap’s wisdom about what to do but Marjory breaks into poetry too. And so Red throws herself head first into being Mokey, which is a very Red thing to do. If she actually knew how to be Mokey, she would have written down her thoughts and contemplated the meaning of this desire of hers.

But that doesn’t make for good comedy. Instead, Red lets down her hair, dresses in a lavender cardigan, scares some Doozers off, destroys Mokey’s paintings, sends Boober into a fit of pandemic anxiety and goes toe-to-toe with Mokey in a tongue twister battle. She then heads off to gather radishes in the Gorg’s garden while we watch the other four Fraggles exemplifying their own personalities.

Mokey is concerned for others, Boober is worried about the severity of the possible disease, Wembley is repeating everyone because he’s unsure of what he can contribute, and Gobo is offering solutions. In that short minute, we see what makes each of these Fraggles special. And it makes us, the viewers, miss Red’s unique contribution to this group of characters.

But Red can’t deny her nature for long. When her friends are in trouble, she leaps into action, not having a plan and not feeling confident about it, but putting all of her efforts towards what needs to be done: impersonating a bush. And her friends validate her for it. She was herself and they love her just that way; teaching the children watching this show that they should embrace who they are and what makes them special.

Not everyone makes poetry with words. Some people are poetry in motion. In Red’s case, she is Master of the Slide. And in my case, I like to think that I’ve learned to balance my over-eagerness with contemplation and appreciation, even if I still roll my eyes when someone threatens to read me a postcard.

Strongest Moment: Everyone loves a running gag and in this episode we have three occurrences of a joke with one character telling another to close their eyes. When they do, the first character says, “Dark, isn’t it?” First Gobo to Red, then Philo and Gunge to Marjory and finally, in the pivotal moment of the episode, when Junior Gorg has trapped Mokey and Gobo, Red impersonates a bush and distracts Junior Gorg with the joke giving her friends time to escape. But unlike Red and Marjory, Junior doesn’t get it, which leads to his ultimate downfall.

Weakest Moment: Mokey and Gobo just so happen to overhear The Trash Heap, Philo and Gunge repeating the exact reason for Red’s sudden change in personality which is kind of a lazy way of getting that information to them. It was probably just an excuse for the writers to compose another bit of trashy poetry.

Although that scene does give us this exchange:

Gunge: We never knew you had it in you.

Marjory: Boy’s, I’ve got everything in me.”

Philo and Gunge together [look to camera]: No comment.

Which, if we had an “Adultiest Content” category for these reviews, this would definitely go there.

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): Red. Both she and her performer, Karen Prell, go through a lot of learning in this episode. Karen Prell had wanted to puppeteer Mokey originally and this episode helped her solidify her characterization of Red, putting any doubt behind her, and giving us some of the greatest character moments in Muppet history.

First Appearance Of…: Red’s hair out of braids. It’s hard to believe she’s got that much hair tied up in those pigtails. Also, surprisingly, Merggles! Not in puppet form which won’t come until the season five episode Beyond the Pond, but Mokey is writing a poem and needs a word that rhymes with gurgles. Among the other options she mumbles to herself are jurgles, durgles, and burbles. (Interesting choice they made to change that last to burbles instead of leaving it burgles…) The closed captioning spells it “murgles” to mirror gurgles so the writers had likely no idea of their own foreshadowing.

Most Classic Moment: Uncle Traveling Matt visits a farm and, after disguising himself as a pig, is ushered around and fed like a pig. Knowing that Uncle Traveling Matt has this experience in his past, I like to think he remembered it fondly when he uttered these words.

Musical Highlight: “The Beetle Song.” Mokey and Red sing over the aforementioned Thimble beetle. This is a ditty that can rival “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” as a duet. Especially with lyrics like “See the little simple, silly, dimpled, pimpled daughters as they flirt with dirty otters while they flit ‘n flatten spatulas and smack a wizened brat, that sat and flattered maddened hatters on a schizy kidney stone.” Balsam and Lee had quite the vocabulary.

Coolest Puppetry Effect: Doc and Sprocket are going to a costume party and Sprocket rummages through a chest filled with costume accessories. He somehow not only manages to toss items out of the chest, but he also wraps a feather boa around his neck and throws a hat that lands directly on Gobo’s head. The hat falls on Gobo’s head in a different shot than the throwing, so it’s likely dropped on Gobo from out of frame, but the angle is so perfect, you never question it.

Darkest Moment: At the end, Boober and Wembley lie in a heap lamenting that they’re “too young to die” of bacterial sufferosis, the disease Boober diagnosed Red with when her hair and voice changed.

Fraggle Lore: Not Fraggle Lore, but the Gorg’s are celebrating the Festival of Gorg’s Eve that apparently involves pink decorations and the performance of a special bow. Taking into consideration the festival, the poetry throughout and that Philo and Gunge appear to be eating from a box of chocolates, this was almost certainly meant as a Valentine’s Day-type episode which I’m not sure has ever been recognized before.

Obscure Character Watch: Pink flute-playing Fraggle will appear again in a couple of episodes in “The Lost Treasure of the Fraggles,” though with a different hairstyle.

One More Thing…:  Doc and Sprocket have never looked snazzier.

Okay, One More Thing…: Cover your eyes…

Click here to wear a lavender cardigan on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Katilyn Miller

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