The video-streaming world has lengthy suffered from content material fragmentation, and modern-day Muppet entry is not any exception. If you wish to experience all issues Jim Henson, you may want subscriptions to at least three streamers: Disney+ (which has essentially the most Henson movies and collection), HBO Max (which has a lock on Sesame Road), and Apple TV+. In a fairer cosmos, a unified Henson+ service would let followers feast upon your entire Muppet-verse like giddy Cookie Monsters. Alas.
These streaming companies do not simply divvy up basic Muppet content material, both. They every characteristic brand-new collection from the Jim Henson Firm, both with newly invented characters or outdated favorites reliving their glory days. Maintaining with all that content material has been difficult, however we at Ars have accomplished our greatest, at all times with the hope that one of many new properties will ship a good-enough mixture of nostalgia, manufacturing values, and freshness.
This week, Fraggle Rock: Again to the Rock nails that precise mixture and breathes new life into the previously HBO-exclusive universe.
Dance and sing all day
For the uninitiated, Fraggle Rock started life in 1983 as an entirely new Muppet-filled, live-action universe with a twist few of its viewers realized: it had completely different video segments in several areas. Therefore, the “Foolish Individuals” (people) on HBO in america differed from the people on televisions in France, Germany, or the UK. (All different Muppet voices had been dubbed for various languages.)
So the oblivious human character Doc appeared completely different relying on the place you grew up. However the remainder of the colourful Muppet forged of the unique Fraggle Rock appeared the identical in all places, and the collection’ premise—about an underground world of furry, singing, radish-chomping critters—was additionally the identical in all places. The present focused a barely older viewers than Sesame Road whereas seldom veering into the rated-G-for-adults absurdity of The Muppet Present. It resembled an ’80s sitcom by way of bumbling hijinks and tidy, heartwarming resolutions—although with the usual Henson addition of at the very least two song-and-dance sequences per episode.
Again to the Rock is not the primary time Apple TV+ has resurrected the Fraggles: the streaming service introduced us a half-dozen episodes of Fraggle Rock: Rock On in 2020. Every five-minute episode revolved round acquainted characters like Gobo and Crimson videoconferencing on the Fraggle model of Zoom—and although the collection underwhelmed, it was arguably a welcome means for kids to learn to address the weirdness of a humanity-wide lockdown. This week’s new collection, conversely, is a full return to the Fraggle-verse of outdated, full with an enormous underground lair constructed by tiny, beady-eyed characters generally known as Doozers.
Every of the reboot’s 13 episodes clocks in at roughly 25 minutes with a setup that may sound acquainted to collection followers. Uncle Touring Matt sends a brand new “artifact” from the world of the Foolish Individuals to his nephew Gobo, and this object’s discovery leads him and the remainder of his acquainted Fraggle associates (Boober, Mokey, Crimson, and Wembley) to rise up to some form of caper. Again to the Rock comes out of the gate with a shock twist: Uncle Touring Matt truly exhibits up at Fraggle Rock for as soon as, and he has a particular request that shakes up the remainder of the Fraggle forged.
Whereas this results in non sequiturs and good-spirited chaos—to not point out the aforementioned song-and-dance numbers—episodes usually finish with a Fraggle having an epiphany about themselves or their fellow furry associates. (Revelations are normally set to a somber, Full Home-style piano.) It is all good-natured stuff meant for the 10-and-up set, with a mixture of adult-friendly gags and tacky music lyrics like Hip, hip, hooray / We’re gonna dance and sing all day.
5-point star of persona clashes
Whereas reviewing the collection’ first few episodes with none kids close by, I groaned at among the lyrics and dialogue meant for little children. But every episode’s most saccharine, kid-friendly content material by no means veers into fingers-on-chalkboard territory. FR:BttR nails this the identical means its forebear did—by bouncing its wacky archetypes off of one another to comedic impact. The five-point star of persona clashes amongst the lead Fraggles stays a collection spotlight: Gobo’s plucky-yet-insecure urge to journey; Crimson’s exuberant-yet-impatient want to tug off excessive methods and video games; Wembley’s type, trembling unease; Mokey’s hippie-dippie spirituality and connection to deeper forces; and Boober’s mixture of neurosis and chill.