Michael Wermuth Jnr – Episode 102 of The Jim Henson Hour features the MuppeTelevision episode “Oceans” with guest star Ted Danson, and the half-hour specialLighthouse Island, which was produced in 1987 as a pilot for an unsold series, making it a natural choice for The Jim Henson Hour. With it being the summer, what better time to review a show themed around oceans?
“Oceans” is themed around oceans, with many of the segments taking place underwater. In fact in this episode, Muppet Central appears to be underwater, as water splashes out when the floor gets a hole. There are times throughout this episode where the monitors show underwater creatures in their underwater habitats, making it look more like an aquarium than a TV control room. There’s all kinds of water gags here, such as when water leaks from a monitor (and when Digit plugs up the leak, water comes out of his ear), Lindberg fixing and mixing up the water and electricity (we see water come out of Link’s hair dryer, but we don’t see the dangers of anyone using anything involving water), and Kermit dances on some water to the tune of “The Blue Danube”.
The best sketches in this one take place underwater, with a fish singing “Splish Splash”, The Extremes singing “Uh-Oh , Here She Comes “, and a promo for a fictional movie called “Karate Squid”. However, the rest of the first half-hour is quite boring. I mentioned in my “Top Five Good and Five Bad Things About MuppeTelevision” article that the first two episodes were poor choices for the first two episode, but the first one has more I like than this one. One fault that both of these episodes have is the fact that most of the intended primary cast only gets one scene each, with Kermit, Digit, and Lindbergh (and Waldo in the first episode) getting most of the focus. But beyond that, most of this episode is rather boring. There’s the debut of Jacques Roach, which I have trouble paying attention to, and both of Ted Danson’s pieces are slightly better.
Ted Danson’s first bit has him on a cruise ship fighting off pirates, including Gonzo and Leon. It’s action-packed, but also unmemorable. And then there’s the finale, which isn’t entirely bad, but goes on a little too long. It has Clifford reading a story about evolution and Ted playing a human who evolved from a fish only to carelessly pollute the water. While Ted does this, he also gets disappointed when Clifford just ends the story without a happy ending, with Clifford telling us that what happens next is up to us. It cuts to Kermit in the control room, telling us goodnight in a somewhat worried tone. The way Kermit ends it feels a little grim, but I actually like the grimness of it. While it is a good open-ended environmental message, I feel this one needed a rousing closing number. It’s pretty much the only episode of MuppeTelevision (unless you count the 15-minute episode featured within Dog City) to not have a closing number.
This is one of the few episodes where the second half actually follows the theme of the first half (the other episode being episode 109, “Garbage/Sapsorrow”). Lighthouse Island involves a boy who’s come to the titular island to pick up a present for his fiancée, who he hadn’t actually met, knowing her through pen pal letters and having only seen a picture of her. When a shopkeeper sees her photo, she reveals that she knows her and has the perfect gift for her, a pair of shoes that the boy can’t afford. The shopkeeper offers to let him have the shoes for free if he helps her get a magical stone from her ex-husband, played by Jerry Nelson. The stone has a special transformation power for whoever uses it, and there’s a nice twist ending.
This one feels like one of Jim Henson’s more different works. There’s hardly any puppets in it. In fact not counting Jerry Nelson’s transformations, the only puppet in this is a polar bear who’s only seen in the background. There’s really no reason for the polar bear to be a puppet, as it doesn’t do anything significant, and I wouldn’t even know that the bear was a puppet if the credits didn’t state that Gord Robertson performed it. But despite its lack of puppets, I feel like it’s a great special. I like its style, and it gives Jerry Nelson a non-puppet acting opportunity (actually, Nelson got a lot of on-camera acting experience on this show).
So in final, this is one of the few episodes of The Jim Henson Hour where I like the second half-hour better than the MuppeTelevision first half hour, and I really like MuppeTelevision. It’s one of my least-favorite MuppeTelevision episodes (along with “Garbage”, and that’s another where I like the second half better). I do recommend this one if you want to see every episode of The Jim Henson Hour (or at least everyMuppeTelevision), but I would recommend watching this one last.