Your Thoughts: "Jim Henson: The Biography" by Brian Jay Jones

fozzieisfunny

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2014
Messages
1,304
Reaction score
316
I remember seeing the first episode, actually. Back in The Old Days When We Had Only Five Channels, I used to go through the TV Guide each week and circle anything I wanted to be sure I watched. And there were always these breakout boxes that took up about half a page called "Close Up," I think it was, where they would give you a short write up on any shows of note. I must've read the write up on the first episode of The Muppet Show a billion times. And I also remember watching that first episode and going, "Where are Ernie and Bert?" because at 9, I had no concept of the Muppets beyond those I knew on Sesame Street. And neither did anyone else, yet, either--but I DO remember being slightly confused and thinking, "I'm NEVER going to get used to ANY of these characters!"

I also remember being really, REALLY amped up when I found out the STAR WARS cast was going to be on. For me, that was the perfect storm.
Speaking of Star Wars, I think that there has to be about a page or two about the cast of Star Wars on The Muppet Show in your book about George Lucas. And, hopefully, we find some pages about Jim and George's collobaration on Labyrinth.
 

WalterLinz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 12, 2014
Messages
474
Reaction score
445
I just finished reading this book a few months ago, and I absolutely adored it.

It beautifully dug down deep into the depths of Jim's childhood to the beginning of his career to how successful he became and to his tragic death.:sympathy:

I got to give a big thanks to you, @brianjayjones, for creating such an insightful biography on one of my favorite people and something that many fans of his would cherish from generation to generation.:smile:
 

minor muppetz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 19, 2005
Messages
14,891
Reaction score
2,292
So did you learn anything interesting about Jim Henson's Lead-Free TV concept that didn't make it into the book? I'm guessing that it would have had the control room setting from Inner Tube and The Jim Henson Hour, but I wonder if it would have had a bigger presence of established Muppets than Inner Tube (or even The Jim Henson Hour), if anybody from Inner Tube were intended to have roles (I'm guessing Digit would have), or if this one was also going to primarily be a cast of original characters. Somehow I doubt there were any full scripts for Lead Free TV.
 

minor muppetz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 19, 2005
Messages
14,891
Reaction score
2,292
One thing I've always thought was odd was a quote from Joan Ganz Cooney in the book, saying that when Jim was negotiating with Disney, he wanted his contract to allow for him to spend two weeks a year on Sesame Street when he never spent two weeks a year.

Seems like a surprise to me. I would have thought he spent at least two if not more weeks working on the first season, since there were so many inserts that year and he tended to perform whoever was starring in each insert (being one of only three main performers that season). Sure, most of the ones from the first season used either Ernie and Bert's apartment or that beige-colored background and they could have easily shot several in a day with those sets, and in the early years it was common for scenes to be shot in one take (to save on tape/film), but it still seems like the first season had an awful lot of segments for him to have just worked on it for two weeks. I wouldn't be surprised if he worked on the show for less than two weeks a year during the 1980s, though.

But still, maybe Jim did manage to do so many segments in less than two weeks (after all, there were only a few months between the test shows and the first broadcast episode), or maybe Joan was misremembering/not counting the first season, or maybe she meant he never worked on the show for two weeks in a row (but then again, I'm pretty sure that that part of the contract allowed for two weeks a year, not neccessarily two weeks in a row). And I would like to think that the "two weeks on Sesame Street" clause would also include working on additional Sesame Street projects (specials, albums, talking toys, Sesame Street Live, etc.).
 

Oscarfan

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 2, 2008
Messages
6,826
Reaction score
3,008
I think obviously in the first few seasons, Jim worked a lot more on the show. When TMM and such started up, he had less time. I know I either read it or heard it somewhere that Jim would come in for a week or do for inserts and that was it.
 

D'Snowth

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2003
Messages
36,351
Reaction score
10,292
Yep, it's in the book: because so much of his time was devoted over in England with TMS, and eventually the Creature Shop and such, Jim (as well as Frank, Jerry, and Richard) devoted one week a year to tape new inserts for SST.

During his negociations with Disney, because he was very grateful to CTW for the role they played in his career, and because he was very much still fond of SST, he was going to give them two weeks of his time per year once the deal was sealed, which they were delighted about.
 

vettech28

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2008
Messages
1,072
Reaction score
582
I finished the book a few months ago and I loved it! I was surprised how much Jim didn't want to be involved with conflict as well. Maybe that was his zen in life, in many cases, it lead to success, other times, it wasn't much help. Jim was a really good friend to his fellow performers, especially after Jerry's daughter, Christine died and after David Lazer called out Richard on bad mouthing a guest star, they were still his friends and cared about them. Jim has to be one of the best fathers I've ever read or heard about, even during his and Jane's separation, he always made sure he spent time with them. I was really sad reading the details of what happened when Jim died, it was as if you were there when it happened.

I recommend this book to any Jim Henson fan!
 

D'Snowth

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2003
Messages
36,351
Reaction score
10,292
Rereading a few passages from the book, it's still interesting to look at how Jim wasn't necessarily much of a storyteller.

Not that there weren't any stories to tell, but that in a majority of his work, it was always playing with and experimenting with the newest technology that was available at the time, or him pushing the form as far as he artistically could that was first and foremost, while whatever story there was is what took the backseat, since Jim felt the visuals and technology were enough to help carry the story along.
 

minor muppetz

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 19, 2005
Messages
14,891
Reaction score
2,292
Sure, most of the ones from the first season used either Ernie and Bert's apartment or that beige-colored background and they could have easily shot several in a day with those sets, and in the early years it was common for scenes to be shot in one take (to save on tape/film), but it still seems like the first season had an awful lot of segments for him to have just worked on it for two weeks.
And on the subject of Ernie and Bert segments from the first season, many segments seemed to have the apartment decorated differently, with a number of set pieces used only once or twice or whatever. And I'm not just talking about one-time set pieces that are related to the plot of the sketch. There have been times that year when something would be in the background only once and not even be acknowledged. The only one I can think of off-hand is a framed black and white photo of Ernie seen in the background of the two-part sketch where Ernie cleaned the apartment (I feel like I've seen it in another as well).


Rereading a few passages from the book, it's still interesting to look at how Jim wasn't necessarily much of a storyteller.

Not that there weren't any stories to tell, but that in a majority of his work, it was always playing with and experimenting with the newest technology that was available at the time, or him pushing the form as far as he artistically could that was first and foremost, while whatever story there was is what took the backseat, since Jim felt the visuals and technology were enough to help carry the story along.
Of course, Jim didn't write everything (I guess that's where Jerry Juhl came in). And during the 1980s, he was credited less often as a writer (which doesn't mean that he didn't write often). The Dark Crystal is the only one of his feature films where he got any kind of writing credit (though The Works says that he worked on the first draft of The Muppet Movie script, and I think The Biography says something about him contributing some kind of writing to Labyrinth). I'm sure he probably came up with most of the ideas that came out of the 1980s, but if he wasn't writing the scripts/actively working on the writing, then the poor writing wasn't really his fault.

But even with most of the Muppet stuff (and I sort of feel like also mentioning Sesame Street, though I also feel I shouldn't mention that because he wasn't as involved with the creative process for that), there wasn't much story. The Muppet Show and most of the related specials were variety shows with very little plot focus. And the Muppet specials with John Denver focused more on singing than a real plot. The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years focused on the best Muppet moments and footage of large Muppet crowds with no real plot. Jim's last two Muppet specials (not counting Miss Piggy's Hollywood), A Muppet Family Christmas and The Muppets at Walt Disney World, were not about the Muppets putting on a show and had slightly more plot focus, but even those didn't have much plot, with more focus on songs and running gags/subplots as opposed to a single narrative.

Of course, many of the Tales from Muppetland and similar specials did have plot focus. Can't remember off-hand if Jim was credited with writing any of those, but then again, most of them were based on existing stories, so there's something to fall back on. Though I'm not too familiar with the stories of The Frog Prince or The Town Musicians of Bremen (outside of the Muppet versions), so I don't have much frame of reference as to how different those are from other versions of the story (Fractured Fairie Tales doesn't count).
 
Top