Saturday, December 22, 2012

[SPOILERS!!!] A Muppet Family Christmas and its MAJOR Fraggle Rock continuity paradox...

This Christmas television special (featuring not only "the" Muppets of The Muppet Show and pretty much anything else ever branded "Muppet", but the Muppet cast of Sesame Street...and the Fraggle Muppets of Fraggle Rock, which is where I and my looming rant come in...) first aired -- according to Wikipedia -- on December 16th, 1987. It's pertinent to note that this was several months after the very last episode of Fraggle Rock, "Change of Address", was first broadcast (specifically, on March 30th, 1987); that allows enough lead time where it seems a safe bet (though not a given fact) that this Christmas special was conceived subsequent to, after five season, Gobo, Wembley, and the others' acclaimed TV series had been called a wrap. (The relevance of this timing should become apparent soon...)


Note Doc's line at 5:01: "Tell me, Sprocket -- are these anything like these 'Fraggles' you keep telling me about?"

Now, what's inferred? That Doc's only ever heard of Fraggles by word of mouth from his dog, yes? Sure! ...after all, that'd be absolutely, 100% consistent with the first 94 (of 96 total) episodes of Fraggle Rock: at the end of episode 95 "The Honk of Honks", Doc finally set eyes upon a Fraggle -- specifically, Gobo -- for the first time...setting the stage for "Change of Address", at the outset of which, Doc and Gobo had their first face-to-face conversation...only shortly thereafter, heartbreakingly, Doc and Sprocket found themselves obligated to move out of the workshop and part ways with the Fraggles.

But, anwyay, in light of Doc's "these 'Fraggles' you keep telling me about" aside to Sprocket, we can simply write off A Muppet Family Christmas as taking place prior "Honk of Honks" big deal, right? (...especially considering that virtually no Muppet production has ever been particularly continuity heavy! In fact, "Change of Address" -- the series' last episode -- was the first to directly follow up on the events of the one that'd preceded it...and may have been the only episode to directly allude to another!)

But here's the kicker: at 40:31in Family Christmas, Gobo and the other four "main" Fraggles" emerge from the depths of Fraggle Rock into Fozzie Bear's mothers' living room. Such a scenario could only conceivably occur after "Change of Address"; in every last one of the first 95 episodes, Gobo is the only member of "the Fraggle Five" to ever (and regularly, to retrieve Uncle Matt's postcards from Doc's wastebasket) breach the border between Fraggle Rock and what Fraggles refer to as "Outer Space" (essentially, Earth's surface; "our" world)...until the series finale, "Change of Address", in which Wembley, Red, and Mokey explicitly for the first time, muster up the nerve to accompany Gobo into Doc's workshop. (A trembling, terrified Boober remains just within the "doorframe" of the opening in Doc's [now former] workshop's wall, just at the point where he'd step out of Fraggle Rock and into the wild unknown that is "Outer Space"...)

So, in short: just a few minutes into Muppet Family Christmas, Doc says a thing necessitating that we're witnessing a pre-"Change of Address" Doc and Sprocket...but then, just a few minutes from the end, Wembley, Red, Mokey, and Boober do something that they'd never done prior to "Change of Address".

I first saw Muppet Family Christmas at some point in the early `90's...thus, this discrepancy has been bugging me for an entire two decades. In a few decades, I'll probably even bring it up and gripe about it on my death bed.

...but in all seriousness, this TV special is a gem. The inclusion of the pop culturally-ubiquitous Sesame Street cast is fun, but in 1987, a Muppets [of the Kermit and Co. variety] crossover with Sesame Street wasn't by any means unprecedented. The inlcusion of the Fraggles was far more unlikely, and you can be assured that when I was first exposed to the special via that aforementioned early `90's rerun, I absolutely relished witnessing their meeting Kermit and Robin. (In fact, now that I think of it, at some point within the two or three years or so years preceding said personal first viewing, another boy who lived on my street told me of the special and said momentous Kermit-meets-the-Fraggles scene, and I reacted with awed disbelief and jealousy, heheh.)

But even the Fraggle cameos (that's what they boil down to, more or less) are conventional, in comparison to how prominently featured are Doc and Sprocket. My being a lifelong Fraggle Rock fan has always entailed a soft spot for Gerry Parkes' Doc and Dave Goelz and Karen Prell's Sprocket, and I've always very much appreciated the due this unlikely venue gave them.

One last comment: the Christmas carol medley that serves as the special's grand finale is delightful. I've repeatedly said that Jerry Nelson's singing is my favorite of that of any of the Muppeteers, and his rendition -- as the Count -- of "I Saw Three Ships" gets me every time.

-- Ryan


  1. Although this special was available on DVD, it's not as easy to find as some of the more recent specials - which are terrible. I would rank this special, the "Christmas on Sesame Street" (the only time I remember seeing THE Mr. Hooper!) and special with John Denver as the 3 best.

  2. Joseph,

    I've actually never seen the John Denver one, as legendary as it may be in Muppet lore; and may have seen the Sesame Street one that you mentioned when I was very young, but it's blurred in with the whole of my very generalized memories of watching Sesame regularly for the first few years of my existence.

    The last Muppet television production that I bothered with was 2002's It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. I was blown away -- not until after watched the entire thing -- to learn that Fozzie and Miss Piggy had not been performed by Frank Oz. (After all, I've never once mistaken Steve Whitmire's Kermit for Jim's, or Goelz and Nelson's Statler and Waldorf for Jim's and Hunt's.)

    But otherwise, I was underwhelmed by the forced plot and strained attempts at pathos. After that, I pretty much didn't bother with any further Muppet productions...especially having already embittered by Muppets From Space (Gonzo is not an alien, and if he was feeling so sullen and existential, why ddidn't he just go cheer himself up by sealing hismelf inside a racecar rigged to exploded momentarily and driving it into an explosives factory, escaping -- while already burnt to a crisp -- by riding a firecracker launched skyward during the massive blast?)

    Thus, I went to see The Muppets upon its release day with reservations. I still found myself marvelling no less than I had nine years earlier at Eric Jacobson's uncanny performances of Oz's character...but thsi time, I was pleasantly surprised -- delighted, even -- with the production as a whole. Ever since, I haven't been able to help but more or less thnk of Jason Segel as a saint. ;)

    -- Ryan