A Brief History of the Jim Henson Hour
The Jim Henson Hour was Henson's attempt to recapture the anything-can-happen magic of the old Walt Disney Presents series. For an hour a week, Henson would showcase whatever his creative team could come up with -- a zany Muppet variety show, an episode of The Storyteller, a fantasy drama or a children's comedy special.
They made thirteen episodes, which were broadcast from April through July, 1989. It didn't work. It got cancelled. Only ten of the episodes aired on NBC during the original run. A few episodes have been rerun on cable -- Nickelodeon was the first to air two of the unaired episodes in the US. But most of the episodes have only been aired once -- including all of the MuppetTelevision segments, the half-hour Muppet variety show.
This summer, Tough Pigs presents transcripts and photos from some of those rarely-seen Muppet treasures.
Episode #0. Sesame Street... 20 Years and Still Counting
April 7, 1989
[ Fridays, 8pm ]
Originally intended as a Henson Hour episode,
this special aired on its own the week before Henson Hour premiered.
Bill Cosby hosted this behind the scenes celebration
of Sesame's 20th anniversary.
Episode #1. Science Fiction
April 14, 1989
MuppetTelevision: Louie Anderson
Kermit cancels the boring parts of the show
when Digit discovers he can tune in
cable channels from alien worlds.
The Storyteller: The Heartless Giant
A young prince is tricked into
helping an evil giant escape from prison.
Episode #2. Aquatic Life
April 21, 1989
MuppetTelevision: Ted Danson
In an ocean-themed episode, Ted takes a pirate cruise,
Jacques Roach explores underwater with a crew of rats and sheep,
and Clifford narrates a story about evolution
and protecting the creatures of the water.
A young man travels to a magical coastal town
to find a present for his bride-to-be, who he has never met.
Episode #3. Monster Telethon
April 28, 1989
MuppetTelevision: The Today Show
Kermit decides to take a vacation from running the show,
and his overconfident assistants panic
when they realize they don't know what to do.
Meanwhile, the Muppets' video feeds are invaded
by monsters running a threatening telethon.
The Storyteller: The Soldier and Death
A soldier uses his magical sack to capture devils --
and, eventually, Death himself.
Episode #4. Dog City
May 5, 1989
Rowlf hosts a film noir parody
set in a town entirely populated by dogs.
Ace Yu travels to Dog City
to investigate the murder of his uncle,
who was killed by canine mob boss Bugsy Them.
Episode #5. The Ratings Game
May 14, 1989
[ moved to Sundays, 7pm ]
MuppetTelevision: Bobby McFerrin
Kermit worries about the ratings,
which only go up when he shows violence -- or Bean Bunny.
The show is interrupted by rebellious performance artists
who object to the Muppets' bourgeois broadcasts.
Miss Piggy's Hollywood
Miss Piggy presents a tour of Hollywood, assisted by Gonzo.
She tries to interview "the family of stars,"
but none of them want to talk to her.
Episode #6. Monster Maker
July 9, 1989
[ back on Sunday nights after a hiatus ]
A boy with an unhappy home life
gets a secret job with his idol, a special effects expert.
Episode #7. Health and Fitness
July 16, 1989
MuppetTelevision: Smokey Robinson
In an episode focusing on health and fitness,
Digit gets a cold, the chickens catch sneezing fits,
and Link worries that he has Canadian snout fever.
Song of the Cloud Forest
In the rainforest, Milton the Golden Toad worries
that he may be the last Golden Toad left alive,
and he'll never find a mate to love.
Episode #8. Musicians
July 23, 1989
MuppetTelevision: Buster Poindexter
Flash's groupies mob the studio,
but then defect to become Bean Bunny's groupies.
Meanwhile, Gonzo pre-records himself so that he can talk to Kermit
even when he's across town at another studio.
The Storyteller: The True Bride
A girl is freed from a troll's enslavement
-- but when she falls in love, she's kept apart from her beloved
by the troll's sister.
Episode #9. Garbage
July 30, 1989
MuppetTelevision: k.d. lang
The Muppet studio is overwhelmed
with animate garbage bags,
and Kermit can't find a way to get rid of them.
The Storyteller: Sapsorrow
A princess flees when she's forced to marry her father.
She poses as a ragged servant in another kingdom
-- and then falls in love with a haughty prince.
[ This was the last episode aired on NBC
during the show's original run. ]
Episode #10. Secrets of the Muppets
First seen in the US on Nickelodeon in 1992
Secrets of the Muppets
Jim Henson explains the technology behind his work,
including remote control devices, bike riding Muppets,
and... gulp... puppets.
Episode #11. Living with Dinosaurs
Aired in the UK on Channel 4: December 4, 1990
First seen in the US on Nickelodeon in 1993
Living with Dinosaurs
A young English boy deals with his fears
about his unemployed artist father, his pregnant mother,
and his asthma, with the help of his favorite doll,
a dinosaur named Dog.
Episode #12. Food
Aired in the UK in 1990
Never aired in the US
Kermit has trouble getting the show going,
because his entire staff is waiting
for their lunch to be delivered.
The Storyteller: The Three Ravens
A princess' dreams of love are threatened
by the machinations of an evil witch queen.