I’m guessing you saw the big news this week that Fraggle Rock is making a triumphant return to our television screens as a short-form series on Apple TV. As excited as I am to see Gobo and Red and the gang back in action, I’m mostly impressed that the Fraggles knew the best time for their big comeback.
Over the years, we’ve been teased with the potential for new Fraggle projects. There have been several movies in the works (including one from over a decade ago where we snuck a peek at the script, and another one that was going to star Joseph Gordon-Levitt), but they never made it to fruition. Maybe the timing was never right, or maybe too many people forgot who the Fraggles were to justify the risk of a big-budget film.
In the last ten years, we’ve had teases of Fraggles here and there, as if we were in Doc’s workshop, catching the glimpse of a Fraggle poking his head out from a hole in the wall. Wembley, Red, and Traveling Matt appeared during Jim Henson’s Musical World at Carnegie Hall in 2012, Gobo popped up at the press junket when the Museum of the Moving Image announced their permanent Jim Henson exhibition in 2013, Red and Mokey attended Dragon Con, and most recently, Red made an appearance at the Jim Henson Retrospectacle in New Zealand.
For those of us who couldn’t be present for the above appearances, we saw the Fraggles in the 2012 music video for Ben Folds Five’s “Do It Anyway”…
…And in a series of promos for The Hub in 2013.
But none of these appearances led to anything bigger. They seemed like a series of tests to see if audiences were ready for a Fraggle comeback. And each time the internet exploded with nostalgia for those musical Muppets, they would go away to be forgotten once more, and the cycle would continue.
But now! The Fraggles are creating their first original content since the show went off the air in 1987. All the stuff listed above was all either improvisational, promotional, or in conjunction with the other Muppet brands or alternative rock trios, but Fraggle Rock: Rock On! is the first truly Fraggle-centric project since the original series.
A part of me is frustrated that it took this long. The Jim Henson Company certainly does love to keep the wheels oiled on their familiar properties, which often results in some really great content (including, but not limited to The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance), but Fraggle Rock is rarely held to the same regard as Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal, relegated to some (really terrific) comic books and the occasional surprise toy.
But another part of me realizes that this is the absolute perfect time for the Fraggles’ triumphant return. Our world is in bad, bad shape right now. Between this debilitating virus, a worldwide work stoppage, and the biggest political rift in American history since the Civil War, Fraggle Rock is more topical than ever.
Jim Henson claimed that he wanted Fraggle Rock to be a show that could bring peace to the world. The series’ message about unity and inter-connectivity is incredibly important today as we’re being asked to stay home, not because we might get sick, but because we might infect others. We’re being asked to help support local businesses who are losing months worth of income. We’re supporting essential workers as they risk their health by going into the world to help keep it running. Much like the Fraggles, who didn’t know how their actions directly influenced the Doozers and Gorgs, we are all connected, and we need to consciously and actively help each other.
The Fraggles also teach us how art can heal. Since we’re all quarantined at home, people everywhere are making music, playing games, filming TikToks, and creating their own personal art. We’re not just doing it to fill time, but we’ve found that we need it to keep ourselves mentally healthy and feeling accomplished. Suddenly it makes sense why the Fraggles were always playing rock hockey or painting with their tails – this is how we express ourselves when we feel stuck inside.
Fraggle Rock: Rock On! added an extra element to the Fraggle lifestyle. In the premiere episode, it seems that the Fraggle Five are socially distancing from each other, even within the Rock. They’ve set up some Doozer-built microphones (“Doozer Tubes”) so they can have their version of a Zoom call. And in doing so, they’re proving what we’ve all been forced to learn over the past month – despite not being able to be together in person, we are all still connected.
When we talk about the Fraggle Rock quote “You cannot leave the magic”, we often use it as a reference to the Fraggles themselves, who are always a part of us even when they don’t have a show on the air. But this phrase can also refer to our connection to each other. There’s something magical about being a part of a community or a makeshift family, and not even a quarantine can keep us apart. You cannot leave the magic of your loved ones who will always be there for you, even if it takes a Doozer Tube in every cave.
In these unprecedented times, Fraggle Rock is more important and pertinent than ever. We may not have gotten that Fraggle movie a decade ago, but maybe we didn’t need the Fraggles back then like we need them now. And I am extremely grateful that they’re here to shine on us when we can truly use them the most.
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com