Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “Junior Sells the Farm”

Published: April 19, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Synopsis: When Pa and Ma Gorg are away, Junior is approached by the slimy Wander McMooch. McMooch tricks Junior into selling the Gorgs’ castle to turn into a housing development. Red and Mokey help Junior trick McMooch and win the farm back for the Gorgs.

“Junior Sells the Farm” is not a good episode of Fraggle Rock. The plot is very simplistic, the resolution is largely nonsensical, and the music is a little forgettable.

But in a weird way, this is maybe the most interesting episode of the show so far. If this episode is remembered for anything, it’s for introducing Wander McMooch, that giant frog-like creature who’ll appear only one more time on Fraggle Rock. The puppet would eventually resurface with a speaking role in Muppet Christmas Carol and a cameo in Muppet Treasure Island, as you’ve doubtlessly heard me talk about a few times already.

McMooch is important, though, because he’s the start of the Fraggle team trying something new and realizing what a bad decision they’ve made. But that bad decision is important because it reveals how many good decisions the show is making overall.

Y’see, as I wrote in my review of “Sir Hubris and the Gorgs,” Season 2 of Fraggle Rock has begun working hard to make the Doozers and Gorgs into sympathetic characters. After all, as I said then, if you’re going to make a show about world peace, no one can be just a simple one-note being. A show about the ways cultures interact needs to be nuanced and thoughtful. Disagreements need to be organic, not based on “whether a character is always mean.”

So “Junior Sells the Farm” is particularly notable because it’s the first episode where you can conclusively say Junior is the protagonist. He’s the one who learns and grows, the one who makes a mistake and fixes it, even if he needs Mokey and Red’s help. Our usual heroes are just along for the ride, literally, as Junior bumbles and clowns his way through the narrative. It’s a far cry from the Gorg dynamics of the first season, where there was a genuine risk that Junior was going to crush our friends every week. Yes, he’s captured them, but he’s just having fun. 

And most of all, the audience wants to root for Junior. How can you not? I mean, he’s my favorite character for a reason. He’s a bouncy roly-poly fuzzball who’s earnestly foolish. He’s the clown, and you want to smile and laugh when the clown is around. Plus, he’s Richard Hunt. Richard has never played a character we didn’t want to hug.

So the question is, if Junior is one of your protagonists, then who’s the antagonist? We know the writers and Michael Frith added McMooch for this exact reason. He was designed to be a Fraggle Rock villain. Personally, I love his look. He’s a slimy monster with some great detail; I mean, that’s what Frith was the master of designing. In a way, he kind of makes sense as a villain: he’s the embodiment of greed, and greed is definitely the biggest threat to global cooperation.

But he’s not likable. Like I said, Fraggle Rock just worked hard to make every character likable, and they’re close to succeeding. McMooch is not likable. He’s mean, he’s selfish, he doesn’t want to learn to be a better person. He doesn’t sing. He doesn’t have any jokes. And my gosh, he makes this terrible noise whenever he moves, like the horror movie version of the Gonzo “whoosh” that all the Muppet podcasts use for transitions.

Does Fraggle Rock even need a character like Wander McMooch? Frankly, the show has grown past the sort of Saturday-morning-cartoon hijinks he presents. Wander just confirms that Fraggle Rock has become too special of a show to need these kind of “save-the-community-center” antics. “Oh no, Wander McMooch wants to buy the castle and turn it into condominiums?” What are we, Ma? Jem and the Holograms?

Over time, the show will figure out more natural plotlines. We’ll start to see a lot more natural misunderstandings, strange biological creatures, and environmental hazards. Characters will learn and grow. But that means Wander McMooch needed to be left behind. Because in Fraggle Rock, everyone deserves a chance to be your friend, even Junior Gorg. And if there’s a character who doesn’t deserve that, then they shouldn’t be around.

But also, geez, it really is interesting how he makes us wonder about the world beyond the Gorgs’ garden. There’s enough giant creatures that there’s a market for houses? He’s bought other Gorg castles? Maybe they shouldn’t have abandoned this all so quickly…

Strongest Moment: There’s some great dialogue between Mokey and Red in this episode, as the two fight over how upset they should be. Karen Prell and Kathryn Mullen have such a great dynamic, which we’ll see even more of in a few episodes.

Weakest Moment: If I hear that Wander McMooch sound effect one more time, I swear to frog…

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): It’s Red by default, since only two Fraggles appear at all in this episode. But if we say MVF means “Most Valuable Farm-Seller,” it’s Junior.

First Appearance Of…: Wander McMooch!

Musical Highlight: The Gorgs sing both songs in this episode, since again, they’re the protagonists. Junior’s love ballad “Dream Girl Lover” is very strange, and that’s a highlight. If you want to hear a Gorg sing a Bobby Darin parody to himself in drag, then this is the episode for you.

One More Thing: The word “dunderhead” gets a lot of use in this episode. Now listen, I don’t like insulting people’s intelligence, but I also kinda think we should bring back the word “dunderhead.”

…Okay, One More Thing: What are you still doing here, dunderhead? Click on the Discord link already to discuss this with us!

Click here to call Wander McMooch a dunderhead on the ToughPigs Discord!

by Becca Petunia

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