Amy Banks – Have you seen The Furchester Hotel? A manic-pixie-dream vision of Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends crossed with Sesame Street and a little bit of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel thrown in for funzies, the show features Street alum Elmo and his family as well as a lovely, kooky Cookie Monster, straight off the vegetables and hyped up on sugar like the good old days. This gem is fresh from the BBC (CBeebies) and is billed as a British spin-off of Sesame Street. Though the show has been in production since 2014, I recently became a fan while cruising late-night tv and stopping by Sprout, my go-to channel for sleepy-time stories and swirling colors of infinite relaxation when I have insomnia. I was immediately hooked. You will be too.
Though the show is intended for a pre-school audience, if you love Muppet monsters, you will be as enthralled as I am. The hotel is owned and operated by the Furchester-Fuzz Family, the mother and father (Funella and Furgus) of which are Elmo’s aunt and uncle. They have a 7-year-old daughter Phoebe, who is a lovely shade of violet and is the brains of the operation. Other regulars include bell-monster Isabel (a tiny, fuzzy pink Tribble-like monster with a service bell attached to hear head) and The Tea Timer Monsters, a group of five wacky monsters that appear when a gong is struck. These monsters appear to live at the hotel indefinitely and they do like their tea – they manically move through anything in their path on their way to sustenance. The group is comprised of Colonel Mustard, Sorbet, Ethel Bay-Mertz, Berry and Lulu Lemon. The hotel’s chef, Gonger, is responsible for calling the nutty quintet to tea. Big Bird and Count Von Count make special appearances, and I once spotted Sherlock Hemlock in a scene as well.
Phoebe, with the help of her cousin Elmo, is most often the one to solve the show’s catastrophe – and each show has a catastrophe – there is even a song about it in every episode. She seems to be the most level-headed of the staff and the best problem solver. She is multi-lingual – she can speak sheep and mouse and dog! – and has a calming effect on her mother, Funella, who tends to freak out, and is a guiding force to her father, Furgus, who often appears a bit befuddled. When an idea strikes her, Phoebe generally exclaims, “Fuzzawubba!” Elmo follows her lead and is generally a part of determining a solution. Together Phoebe and Elmo are a well-oiled and complimentary team.
The premise of the show seems to involve solving the problems of the myriad of strange, wonderful and awful guests that check in to the hotel. Funella often sweetly greets guests with a hug saying, “We welcome you with furry arms,” (surely a nod to the hotel The Furry Arms on the original Sesame Street) and after that shenanigans ensue. In one episode, a very pleasant porcupine named Pierce comes to stay; unfortunately, all the other guests are terrified of him and he inadvertently becomes a walking shish kebob as restaurant server Cookie Monster becomes startled and throws a heaping platter of veg onto him. Pierce is a pro at pretending everything is copacetic, but eventually breaks down – he is, in reality, quite lonely. After a few failed attempts at playing with Pierce (he gets stuck in the ceiling after a pogo stick malfunctions), Elmo and Phoebe put their noodles together and decide to basically build armor to protect themselves from Pierce’s prickles. They play a rollicking game of Ring-Around-The-Rosy with the whole Furchester-Fuzz family, and Pierce has found friends. Funella finally gets to give Pierce a welcome hug, and everybody is happy as we fade out – but not before a cactus enters the lobby and decides the place is amenable enough for him to stay.
Possibly my favorite episode is titled, “Cookie Monster, Don’t Eat The Guest.” In which Mr. Crumb, a cookie so ginormous it makes you stop and ponder what oven could’ve possibly baked him (perhaps the oven of the Muffin Man from Shrek 2 who baked Mongo? But not quite that big), checks into the hotel just as Cookie Monster is going into crisis mode over a delayed shipment of – you guessed it – cookies. CM is jonesing heavily, like a true addict going through withdrawl, and the hoteliers are terrified he’ll eat Mr. Crumb in his addled haze. Their initial solution is to send Mr. Crumb straight to his room, but the nummy nom nom seems to have a palpable case of FOMO and insists instead on wandering the hotel in search of activities. He unwittingly (and fortunately) sneaks past Cookie Monster on the way to have a nice dunk in a glass of milk at the restaurant. The management then tricks him into believing it’s disguise day and outfit him with a giant white mustache. Mr. Crumb even manages to evade Cookie Monster with his facetious facial hair. But when he comes back to the front desk in search of a bowling alley, he sneezes and blows off the mustache – and his cover. Cookie has to be held back by the other employees so he doesn’t eat the guest. Un-phased, Mr. Crumb enjoys his visit so much he decides to go and get his entire family to join him at the hotel. Just as Cookie is about to completely lose it, a package arrives – the delayed cookie shipment. Crisis averted! WooHoo!
This show is pure and simple joy and fun from beginning to end. If you watch it, be prepared to hum the regular tunes all day every day for at least a week – this show is majorly loaded with ohrwurm material – you’ve been warned! So if The Furchester Hotel seems as up your alley as it is mine, you can check it out on Youtube, Netflix and Sprout (in the U.S.). It’s silly, adorable and totally furry.