Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “Manny’s Land of Carpets”

Published: April 12, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Synopsis: The Fraggles find a radio and believe the advertisements are messages from god.

Original air date: April 9, 1984

This is the episode of Fraggle Rock where the Fraggles start a cult.

This might be the strangest, yet most true-to-life episode of Fraggle Rock. And not strange in a “Secret Society of Poobahs” sort of way, which leans heavily into the “how weird can we get?” category. (More on that when we get to that review in 2025.) But strange in a “Fraggles listen to the radio and then immediately move to uproot their lives for no reason” sort of way. Plus, this episode has that killer title, which really cements how weird it can be.

The episode begins as Doc brings home a new radio, which he claims can receive broadcasts from around the world (not how radio waves work, but okay Doc). It doesn’t work because it’s only picking up signals from the local radio stations (which is how radio waves work), and as Doc leaves the workshop in a huff, Sprocket stows the radio away inside the Fraggle hole. Gobo finds it and brings the strange box back home.

Throughout the episode, we hear three advertisements come over the radio. “Manny’s Land of Carpets,” which guarantees happiness; “Bubba’s Burger Barn,” which promises all-you-can-eat food; and “Sally Spotless Cleaners,” with laundry fit for a king. The Fraggles unquestionably assume that the voices are from a wish-granting creature (alluded to by Traveling Matt’s postcard, in which he meets a mall Santa), and immediately break into sects and shouting matches.

The speed at which the Fraggles throw caution to the wind and join up with the screaming choruses is impressive. They don’t know who Manny is, what a carpet is, where the voice is coming from, or what’s actually being promised. But Gobo seems convinced, and that’s enough for everyone else to follow him blindly. I mean, wouldn’t you if guaranteed happiness was on the line?

Large Marvin has lower ambitions, forgoing Manny’s guaranteed happiness for unlimited food at Bubba’s Burger Barn. Boober even less so, predictably following the promises of Sally Spotless’s laundry service. Again, it’s not even clear where they have to go to find Manny or Bubba or Sally, but they’re all ready to leave the Rock behind at the drop of Gobo’s hat-of-the-day.

Historically, the Fraggles are usually pretty certain about their beliefs. They’re intimately familiar with their own history, the strange caves around them, and the magical properties of their world. They rarely need to question any of it, because it’s all rooted in fact, not belief. Sure, they’ve been led astray before by Matt’s unfocused postcards or scoundrels like the Wizard or Wander McMooch (who’ll make his debut in next week’s episode!), but they rarely just make something up and then run with it. Seeing them do so at such a speed is less fun and more scary than anything.

I think we’ve all seen this exact thing happen in our lives. People listen to the news and pick out the information they want to hear. They believe the voices that make the best promises, despite the misleading nature. The use of buzzwords and unrealistic promises cater to the gullible, causing them to make dangerous or destructive decisions. I don’t think I need to spell it out for you on who I’m talking about, but I’ll say this: It’s a good thing the Fraggles came to their senses before election day.

In the end, Gobo does find clarity surrounding his situation by going into a cave and listening to his echo, essentially choosing to listen to himself over the strange voices in the radio. So, the lesson here is to always listen to an echo chamber, despite what that Back to the Rock episode was trying to teach us.

Strongest Moment: This whole episode is pretty strong, thanks to the scary-yet-not-death-defying consequences of the plot. But for a singular moment, I enjoyed the part at the end when Gobo and Boober return the radio to the Fraggle hole. Gobo tells Boober not to panic, until Sprocket reaches his paw through and grabs Gobo who says, “Okay, NOW panic.” It’s an old joke, but it’s effective.

Weakest Moment: I’m gonna split this between two moments, both of which felt super uncharacteristic of each of its characters. First, Doc seems outraged to the point of mania over his malfunctioning radio, causing Sprocket to seem fearful for his safety. Second, Wembley seems awfully quick to choose a side in the Manny/Bubba/Sally debate. Naturally one of these is a little more dire than the other, but they each raised an eyebrow from me.

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): Boober! He’s the only one unswayed by the promises of the radio… until he isn’t. Great character work from Dave Goelz here, especially when he suggests they throw the radio “into a crevasse.”

First Appearance Of…: First – and only – appearances of the radio announcers, both performed by the unmistakable voice of Jerry Nelson. Also Kathy Mullen as Sally Spotless and Tammy Shrub, who we hear sing the final notes of her hit song, “The Happiest Place in the World.”

Most Classic Moment: The back-and-forth chant of “Manny’s Land of Carpets” vs “Bubba’s Burger Barn” will live in your head rent-free.

Musical Highlight: Both songs in this episode are terrific: “Follow the Road” and “Good-bye, Good-bye (Just a Rainbow in the Sky).” I prefer the latter by a smidge, and I’m pleased to learn it was also featured in an episode of The Animal Show, played over a montage of endangered animals. Wow.

Coolest Puppetry Effect: Such an incredibly minor thing, but there’s a moment when Boober points his finger around a cave wall, and for the briefest of moments you forget he’s a puppet.

Darkest Moment: Oh you know, probably all that cult stuff.

One More Thing…: When we first see Boober and Wembley, they’re “laundry watching,” which consists of staring at the laundry as it dries. They see faces in the folds of the sheets, note what parts of a shirt dry fastest, and how wet socks change colors. And honestly, they made it sound like so much fun.

Okay, One More Thing…: The radio somehow made it from Doc’s workshop into Emily Bear’s farmhouse. You can spot it in the background of Muppet Family Christmas, and I’m just going to assume it went on its own Brave Little Toaster adventure that we’ll never get to see.

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by Joe Hennes –

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