DefunctTV: The History of the First Muppet Show, Sam and Friends

Codey, what are you doing? Well, Boss. You told me to catch potential customers, using the net, so I am! Codey! What should you have done? *sigh* I should have used SquareSpace. In 1955, an 18-year-old boy named James Maury
Henson was hard at work in his parent’s living room. He hovered over a small table,
on which he had placed an assortment of materials. There were sewing tools, glue, an old felt coat that had once belonged
to his mother, and one Ping-Pong ball. He took the tattered coat, now in a pile of separate
pieces, and stitched together a long tube, just big enough for an arm. On this, he placed
two smaller pieces of cloth, to act as two arms on a body. Next, he created a triangular
head and jaw, big enough for his large hand to operate. Finally, he cut the Ping-Pong
ball in half, glueing the pieces to either side of the head and marking both with large,
black slashed circles. He then put his hand through the bottom of the puppet, turning it to face him. What was moments ago just felt and strin Jim Henson had given character. Kermit was
alive. Hello there. My name is Jim Henson and I’m a puppeteer. I’m called a puppeteer becuase I work with puppets. *Sesame Street fanfare plays* Ok, you’re gonna love this story, greatest story in the world! *Muppet Show fanfare plays* Thank you! Thank you! And welcome again to another Muppet Show! *Fraggle Rock fanfare plays* Hip! Hip! Hooray! *Muppet Show theme closing plays* Jim Henson was born on September 24, 1936
in Greenville, Mississippi. He was the youngest son of Paul and Betty Henson. His father’s work
for the US Department of Agriculture forced Jim, his mother, and his older brother, Paul
Jr., to move back and forth between Mississippi and Maryland, eventually moving for the final
time in 1948, landing just outside of the University of Maryland in a home in University
Park. Jim loved music, and he would often sing with his brother as his mother played
an old organ. The family owned various song books with which Jim would become familiar,
such as A.A. Milne’s songbook featuring a few personal favorites of Jim, Halfway Down
the Stairs and Cottleston Pie. Jim’s creativty was always encouraged by his grandmother Dear,
who clearly saw something special in the young boy.
Throughout their childhood, Jim and Paul Jr. would spend the majority of their time together,
often tinkering and building things such as model airplanes and radios. Jim loved to listen
to the radios with which he worked, especially tuning into radio dramas. However, his love
for radio would be overshadowed by the rise of a new invention. A device that would change
his life, and a machine that he would use to change the world. At the age of 13, Jim
Henson heard of television. He begged his parents to buy him a set, and they would a
year later in 1950. Jim was enamored with TV, consuming as much as he could throughout
his teenage years. He was exposed to some of the most innovative comedy performances
of the day, with stars such as Ernie Kovacs and Milton Berle making a strong impression
on the young boy. In high school, Jim joined his school’s
drama club, where he took time performing and building sets, although he heavily favored
the latter. As his high school career progressed, his love for television grew, and his yearning
to be a part of it intensified. He planned to attend the University of Maryland in the
Fall of 1954, hoping to study set design, and throughout his senior year, he began looking
for ways to break into the television industry. When his local CBS station WTOP posted positions
for their new program the Junior Morning Show, specifically asking for young puppeteers,
Jim was thrilled. There was only one problem. He knew nothing about puppetry. Despite this,
Jim jumped on the opportunity, checking out two books on the performance medium from his
local library. These books taught him not only how to operate a puppet, but how to properly
build one as well. Jim’s first creation was a hand puppet named Pierre the Rat, which
he used in his audition for the Junior Morning Show. Jim’s work paid off, and he was offered
a position at WTOP, with a starting pay of $5.00 per episode, or about $70 today when
adjusted for inflation. The show, hosted by local television personality
Roy Meachum, only aired for three weeks. It was quickly cancelled for violating child
labor laws by employing children under the age of fourteen. Despite the
Junior Morning Show airing for such a short time, a local newspaper writer praised the
puppet segments. In Jim’s short stint on the show, Meachum grew a fondness for the
young man, and he invited Jim to appear on his other WTOP show, Saturday, where Jim would
create short skits in which puppets lip-synced to music. Saturday would only last until August
of 1954, just as Jim began his first semester of college, but he wouldn’t be absent from
TV for long. James Kovach, a program director for the local NBC channel, WRC-TV, spotted
Jim’s talent through his work with Meachum. Kovach would put Jim to work, asking him to
perform his puppets on various programs on the station. It was around this time that
Jim would first use the term Muppets to describe his creations. For years it was believed to
be a combination of marionette and puppets, but he would later admit that it was just
something he made up. Early in his college career, Jim decided to
switch his major from production design to Home Economics, which taught similar skills
with a less rigorous course load, perfect for Jim considering he spent much of his free
time performing. Serendipitously, the University of Maryland had decided to add a puppetry
class as part of the Home Economics curriculum. The class was taught by a professor with no
experience in puppetry, meaning that Jim, now somewhat known for his stints on local
television, had the most experience in the class. This, combined with his abundant confidence
and tall stature, is what first caught the eye of 20-year-old Jane Nebel. After Jane
proved to be a proficient puppeteer in the class, Jim took notice of her as well. The
soft-spoken yet commanding freshman approached her, asking if she would be willing to perform
with him on some of his programs. She agreed. With the help of an additional talented hand,
the two would continue to develop and improve the style of the Muppets, with more elaborate
lip-syncing routines and skits. In early 1955, Jim and Jane began performing puppet skits
on WRC-TV’s new variety program, Afternoon. Despite his success on local TV and healthy
compensation for his work, Jim was not content. It might have been self-doubt of his own talents,
or it could have been a general disinterest in puppetry as a future career. Either way,
Jim shyly begged a reporter at WRC-TV to talk to Kovach for him and convince him to give
him a job as a crew member instead of as a performer. The reporter laughed Jim off and
encouraged him to stick with puppetry. It might just make him rich. Jim and Jane’s segments on Afternoon were
so entertaining that it was no surprise that WRC-TV wanted more. However, the offer they
were extended was more lucrative than they could have realistically hoped. WRC-TV wanted
to place Jim and Jane in a five-minute slot between the evening news and the Tonight Show
where they would exclusively write and perform their Muppet segments. The new duo would not
hesitate to accept the offer, and they were excited to play around in their new creative
sandbox. [Sam and Friends Intro] Jim and Jane’s new show, Sam and Friends,
made its debut on May 9, 1955 on WRC-TV. The show starred a full cast of Muppets, many
of which Jim had built for the variety shows that he had been working on over the past
year. The show’s titular star, a puppet named Sam, found his uniqueness in his inflexibility.
He had a solid face, unlike many of the other felt puppets on the show, he would only be
seen lip syncing to records, and he was the only human in the show’s cast. His friends
were much more abstract. There was Yorick, a purple skull with a large appetite, Professor
Madcliffe, a rambunctious character that often found himself promoting products in the show’s
commercials, Chicken Liver, a grumpy character that was disgusted by the immaturity of the
rest of the cast, Harry the Hipster, a cool, jazz loving character that wouldn’t be caught
without his signature shades, and Kermit, an abstract, lizard-like, turquoise monster
that seemed to find himself in front of the camera more often than the others. The main
members would often wear wigs or outfits, almost as if the characters themselves were
performing as another character. In the early days of the show, the skits consisted
almost exclusively of the puppets lip syncing to records. The climax of the formula Jim
had developed was the explosive finale. Most of the skits ended with a character getting
swallowed alive or blown up. Some viewers were shocked or confused by these endings,
but Jim loved them. Over time, the show would add bits of witty humor, painful puns, and
genuine sentimentality. The show was supposed to revolve around Sam coping with the struggles
of everyday life, often finding solace, if not distraction, in his energetic and wild
friends. In the show’s world, Sam was the only character that existed in reality, and
Kermit, Yorick, and all of his other friends were either figments of his imagination or
exaggerated parts of his own inner self. This would be one of the first attempts Jim made
to instill a deeper meaning to the Muppet Mayhem. Sam and Friends cast grew as Jim continued
to build more muppets, with other creatures such as Icky Gunk, Omar, and Mushmellon being
added. It is difficult to tell just how large the cast became, or just how many episode
Jim and Jane produced. One shortcoming of the young creator was his lack of foresight
in recording his first original series. To be fair, Sam and Friends aired during the
age of the kinescope, a device in which a film camera recorded the live television feed
in order to play it back. This was necessary without the existence of video tapes. Jim
and WRC-TV recorded very few episodes of Sam and Friends, and many of those that were recorded
have been lost. Ironically, there is only one publicly available Sam and Friends episode
featuring Sam himself, although photos of him appearing in other skits exist and other
episodes could be various archives. More episodes than are viewable have been documented in
either TV listings, script form, or picture form. A myriad of episodes have been described
from the memories of fans, but even if these skits existed in the way in which they are
remembered, it is nearly impossible to tell if the skit in question was shown on Sam and
Friends, Afternoon, or the countless other DC-area shows that Jim and Jane appeared.
Luckily, the most popular skits from Sam and Friends have either been found or have been
re-performed by Jim and Jane elsewhere. Audiences were mesmerized by the Muppets.
At this point in time, puppets were thought to be exclusive to bouncing marionettes or
wooden dolls where only the mouth was able to be manipulated. Jim and Jane subverted
this expectation completely. The Muppets could show a wide range of emotions thanks to their
malleable shape. Kermit could display his inner feelings clearly for the audience just
by Jim adjusting the placement of his fingers. This purposeful design was necessary for television,
which, due the placement of the camera, tended to be much more intimate than stage puppetry.
Early in Sam and Friends’ production, Jim would place live feed monitors on the studio
floor, in order to see what the camera was seeing. This greatly helped both his and Jane’s
performance, and it was a practice that he would keep. Jim also saw an opportunity to change the
way children’s entertainment was filmed. Up to this point, every puppet show filmed
and aired on TV was a production that existed outside of the television medium. The performers
would set up their puppet stages on a set, and the TV studio would focus the cameras
head on, framing their stages perfectly into the square boxed frame of a TV screen. Sam
& Friends would be the first puppet show created for and taking advantage of the new medium
of television. Jim didn’t need a puppet stage to frame all of the action, the television
screen was the puppet stage, and with the flexibility of the television camera, Jim
and Jane had a lot more space to perform. For the first time, the puppeteer was not
constrained to a tiny stage, Jim’s creations could roam free. Each episode of Sam and Friends would be an
average of 4 minutes, with the last sixty seconds dedicated to a sponsor, typically
Esskay Meat products. Jim and Jane would shoot a short skit to advertise the products using
the characters from the main show. Ladies and gentleman, I’ll try to remain calm as I tell you about the new Esskay flavor! It’s the new Esskay pork and bacon sausage! It combines the wonderful taste of pure pork sausage with the delicious flavor of hickory smoked quality bacon! Sam and Friends was an immediate hit. Those
tuning in on weeknights love the unique and funny show, and local newspapers praised the
addition to WRC’s line up, with the main complaint being the show’s short running
time. It was difficult to tell just how many fans Jim and Jane had, but some bad news would
give them a rough estimate. In the summer of 1955, just months after Sam and Friends’
first episode, WRC cancelled the show in order to rearrange their late night programming
block. Immediately after the announcement, angry fans contacted the station until they
had no choice but to uncancel the show. This would result in Sam and Friends only airing
three times a week instead of five, but Jim and Jane were thrilled to have the ability
to continue performing. Sam and Friends would be moved throughout WRC’s lineup as the
station saw fit, and Jim and Jane’s focus shifted toward their work on Afternoon during
late 1955 and early 1956. Jane had graduated from the University of Maryland and had began
to pursue her master’s at a school in Washington DC. She purposefully built her schedule in
a way to continue working on both Afternoon and Sam and Friends, prioritizing puppetry
and Jim. Jim was thrilled to have Jane continue her work with him, as she had proved to be
the perfect partner. Great things were happening for the young
Jim Henson, but a tragedy would distract from the success. On April 15, 1956, a car accident
took the life of Jim’s brother, Paul Henson. The event devastated both Jim and his parents.
Henson biographer Brian Jay Jones detailed the lasting impact the loss had on the young
creator, describing Jim’s repressed sadness over the loss of his brother and the way in
which the tragedy motivated Jim’s creative work in an unexpected way. Instead of using
his sorrow to create dark and gritty material, the loss of his brother only pushed Jim’s
creations toward zany, colorful, humorous, and above all, optimistic works. Jim would
later describe himself as having an unnatural amount of “ridiculous optimism,” a trait
that those close to him would cherish and that the audience of his shows would gravitate
toward. His brother’s death also gave Jim something elser, an acute awareness of his own mortality, a ticking clock. In May of 1956, Jim and Jane would bring the
Muppets to yet another WRC show, Footlight Theater, an interstitial between western films
in which the Muppets would interact with the show’s host, guitarist Paul Arnold. The
work on the show was not their favorite, and with Sam and Friend’s unpredictable timeslot,
it seemed that the duo had hit a wall. However, Jim’s creative mind was too big for just
the DC market, and he and Jane would have their chance to prove the wide appeal of their
Muppets in a big, unexpected way. I’d like to introduce a couple of people now, and I know I use the term people advisedly, but several years ago in Washington DC There were two young college students, Jim Henson and Jane Nebel, they got together with some little puppets and formed what people in Washington now know as the Muppets Little different than a puppet. And you folks in Washington know them very well they have been appearing there on WRC-TV for two and a half years and they’re very big favorites and we can see why we have them on our Tonight Show two weeks ago and they broke it up so we’re happy to have them with us today. Here are the Muppets! On October 11, 1956, Jim and Jane would make
their first appearance on the Tonight Show with Steve Allen, the show that they regularly
preceded in WRC’s lineup. Producers of Tonight had caught wind of a peculiar puppet show
that was airing before them in Washington DC, and they had asked Jim and Jane to audition
for the show. They would be brought onto perform a sketch on the Tonight Show with Steve Allen,
introducing the Muppets to the entire country for the first time. Jim decided to take “I’ve
Grown Accostomed to Your Face” a funny lip syncing sketch with Kermit and Yorrick. At
this point, Yorrick was the audience favorite of the Muppets, coming out on top of a popularity
poll. Sam and Mushmellon were second and third respectively, and Kermit was fourth. The appearance convinced WRC to give Sam and
Friends its original, lucrative time slot before the Tonight Show back, and increase
Jim’s output significantly, causing him to temporarily withdraw from his studies at
the University of Maryland. Jane would continue her schooling, leading to an even more hectic
schedule than Jim’s. They were now having to perform Sam and Friends live twice a night,
and make appearances on other shows. The hard work was paying off. Sam and Friends was getting
better, with the duo improving the puppetry, gags, effects, and scenario. Their audience
loved all of it, but WRC seemed indifferent to the show’s success. During yet another
programming change, Sam and Friend’s first evening appearance was cut, angering fans
once again, and same as before, WRC listened to their frustrated audience, returning the
6:50 timeslot to the show. The timeslot would prove even better after NBC moved its soon-to-be
popular newscast Huntley-Brinkley to 6:45, and WRC placing Sam and Friends right before
it. This meant Sam and Friends was the lead in to the two most popular shows on the channel.
Jane exclaimed, “I mean, what could be better?… You’d have national news, international
news, weather, sports … and Kermit!” Between the new programming and their appearance on
the Tonight Show, the Muppets were on their way to stardom. The sheer amount of content that Jim and Jane
were outputting was impressive, even more incredible was its quality. Jim quickly developed
a sort of perfectionist nature. While his time to develop and rehearse was limited,
and there was only so much he could do before they went on the air, his creative eye was
sharpening, and the little tweaks and nitpicks that he had over his show was helping to produce
something extraordinary. He was beginning to come around on puppetry as an art. In the summer of 1957, Jim and Jane were approached
by the John H Wilkins Company to create a series of short commercials promoting Wilkins
Coffee. Jim agreed, but if Wilkins was expecting anything short of absolute Muppet madness,
they were in for quite the surpise. Wilkins: We’re here to get people to drink more Wilkins Coffee!
Wontkins: What’s the club for? Wilkins: To get their attention! Wilkins: Do you have any Wilkins Coffee in your house? Wontkins: No! Wilkins: You know a house just isn’t a home without Wilkins Coffee! The ten seconds adverts featured two new chartacters,
Wilkins, a Muppet that loved Wilkins coffee, and Wontkins, a Muppet that hated it. Wilkins
would constantly punish Wontkins for not drinking the coffee, sometimes threatening the audience
as well. Both would be voiced by Jim, in what would be his first consistent vocal roles
as Sam and Friends still heavily relied on lip-syncing. The short ads were funny and violent, but
they were more successful than Wilkins Coffee or Jim could have imagined. The advertisements
became a sort of national phenomenon, further placing the Muppets into the national cultural
conscience. Wilkins Coffee would even merchandise the advertisements with two hand puppets of
Wilkins and Wontkins, which would be a huge hit. In 1958, Sam and Friends would win the Emmy
for Best Local Entertainment Program. There seemed to be no limit to the Muppets’ potential,
but Jim was unphased. Although he was making a healthy living, especially for his age,
he considered himself to be an artist first, and a puppeteer second, and his allegiance
was not to puppetry, but to the audience that loved his work. He was finally able to shake
this mindset once for and all after a trip to Europe exposed him to the art and diversity
of puppetry. Of this experience, he said, “It was at that point I realized the puppetry was an art form, a valid way
to do really interesting things, I came back from that trip all fired up to do wonderful
puppetry.” During this trip, he had grown a full beard, which he would keep and would
become another aspect of his unique look. He returned to performing on Sam and Friends,
a college friend of Jim and Jane, Bob Payne, had assisted in Jim’s absence. Jim’s trip
had taken his abundant creative energy and focused it, and he had a few things he needed
to do in order to become the creator he knew he could be. In 1959, he would
resume his classes at the University of Maryland, and more notably, Jim Henson would begin to
date Jane Nebel. The two had both been engaged, Jim to a teaching student named Anne Marie
Hood and Jane to a man named Bill Schmittmann. Despite this, their close proximity and performing
relationship was so strong that it seemed only a matter of time before the two were
to get together. They both broke off their relationships and began dating. The newly
formed Muppets Inc. in which Jim owned 60 percent and Jane 40, would be the foundation
for their relationship. Jane would recall that the relationship was less based in romantic
passion than it was the passion for the work, and the admiration and respect the two had
for each other and their talents. The two would be married on May 28, 1959, taking a
short break from Sam and Friends to go on their honeymoon. When they returned, Jim’s
passion for puppetry and the show was stronger than ever. The Wilkins ads had instilled confidence
in his ability to create sketches without a track, and he bagan testing out different
voices for his Sam and Friends characters, giving Kermit, what seemed to be his favorite
Muppet, the voice that was closest to his own, a soft spoken, throat heavy, nasally
voiced that would become both Kermit and Jim’s trademark sound. Kermit: Let’s not be so formal. You can call me Kermit and I’ll call you… what would you like me to call you?
Announcer: Chet Huntley Kermit: Oh okay Chet Huntley. These original sketches were
created by Jim producing a 4 ½ minute soundtrack of the dialogue and music that he and Jane
would then perform to. Jim also began to experiment with animation. He always enjoyed drawing
his Muppet creations before building them, and much of Sam and Friend’s promotional
material were images he had drawn himself. Animation, a natural next step for the ambitious
creator, would become a personal passion of his. The new aspects of the show resulted
in some of the most impressive and memorable episodes of Sam and Friends. Harry: You’re just a beginner. I’m an old pro at this stuff. Watch!
Kermit: Hey! A real watch! Harry: With moving parts no less!
Kermit: Gee! Have you taken this course already?
Harry: No man I’m a naturaly I’ve been doing it for years! May of 1960, Jim finally graduated from the
University of Maryland. In the time he resumed his college education and completed it, he
had married Jane, and she had given birth to their first child, a girl, named Lisa Marie
Henson. Just weeks after her birth, Lisa was already engulfed in the hectic life of the
Muppets. That summer, Jim, Jane, and Lisa traveled to the 1960 Puppeteers of America
convention. Jim went to the convention to see the works of and network with the famous
puppeteers of the time. Here, he would meet television puppeteer Burr Tillstrom, who was
well known for his program Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, a show in which an ensemble of puppets
acted as members of a theater troupe trying to put on a show. Tillstrom would introduce
Jim to a few of his acquaintances, including his puppet builder, a man named Don Sahlin,
and a young agent named Bernie Brillstein. Brillstein was uninterested in taking another
puppeteer on as a client, but Tillstrom urged him to give Jim a chance. Brillstein invited
Jim to a meeting in his New York office, describing that the first time he saw the puppeteer he
looked to be “a cross between Abe Lincoln and Jesus.” Jim brought in a box of Muppets,
and performed a few skits for the agent. Brillstein was blown away, singing him on as a client
without further hesitation. The next year, Jane became pregnant with her
second child. Jim and Jane began discussing the possibility that Jane would have to stop
performing to look after the children, and the two started looking for new talent. They
did so by travelling once again to the Puppeteers of America convention. Jim and Jane once again
networked with the talented puppeteers, this time hoping to find one to hire. The couple
ran into a 21 year old puppeteer named Jerome Juhl, a smart, witty performer that was already
a fan of the Hensons. Jim would sign him on as the first employee of Muppets Inc. Another
potential candidate was the 17 year old son of notable performers Mike and Frances Oznowicz.
The shy, young boy was a gifted performer, but like Jim before him, he had little interest
in making puppetry a career. Jim was determined to stay in touch with him, and hopefully after
he graduated, Jim could hire Frank Oz to be a full time performer with Muppets Inc. Juhl began work on Sam and Friends, taking
over Jane’s position. He proved himself to be a competent puppeteer and an incredible
writer. Sam and Friends was at the height of its popularity throughout 1961. However,
Jim was ready to move on from the show, to experiment with the art form and push the
boundaries of puppetry. A few years later, Jim would write the following in his often
succing journal: “Sam and Friends- Last Show, Dec 15, 1961.” The end of the final
show saw the entire set exploding around the cast, a fitting finale. The Sam and Friends
characters would continue to be used by Jim and Jerry in various live and televised performances
over the next few years. Some would evolve into some of today’s recognizable Muppets,
and Kermit would remain on Jim’s arm as he took Muppets Inc on its next adventure.
Sam and Friends would be missed by its fans in the DC area, but they had a feeling that
this wouldn’t be the last they would see of Jim Henson. I’d like to explain the Muppets meteoric rise to fame in both the world of entertainment and the field of commercials. Ok just so you don’t tell them the truth. *Montage music plays* Jim: You know what a puppet is! You’re a puppet! Uh, this is Don Sahlin, who is our Muppet builder. Host: So Frank has the right hand and you have the left. Who is operating the head? Muppet: I don’t really know. Jimmy Dean: Ah ha ha ha ha. Rowlf: “Hey doc there is a hole in your headlights!” Jimmy Dean: *laughs* Jim: We got interested in the film medium. Host: Yeah you were lucky that one of them was nominated for an Academy Award for a film called timepiece. Jim: That was just this past year. Announcer: Who can help this man?
Dragon: The La Choy Dragon friend! Dragon: You need La Choy Chow Mein!
Man: Oh yeah? Is it easy to fix?
Dragon: Easy? It’s a six minute supper! Ed Sullivan: Here are two comedy scenes with the Muppets. And I’m quite sure the adults will enjoy them too. The Muppets! Host: The Muppets! The 60’s had been a time of growth for Jim
and the Muppets. Jim had grown his team, finally adding puppeteer Frank Oz and puppet builder
Don Sahlin, as well as puppeteer Jerry Nelson. Jim’s family had grown, with him and Jane
now having four children, Lisa, Cheryl, Brian, and John. The much larger Muppets Inc had
moved to New York City, produced a variety of commercials, appeared on nearly every variety
and late night show of the day, and had even produced a few art films. Despite all of the
success and even some well deserved fame, the Muppets had still yet to have their big
break, but it was certainly on the horizon. A man named Jon Stone, who Jim had worked
with years previously on a small project, asked Jim to come sit in on somes meeting
for a show being developed by a new children’s entertainment company. Jim agreed to attend
the seminar, located at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. After all, it was
just right down the street.

Comments 100

  • I am absolutely sold on the Pork 'N' Bacon Sausage. Why doesn't Esskay still sell it?

  • Amazing quality as always…better than anything on Tv nowadays.

  • I'd love to see you do a video on Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America. It's still open but it's so outdated; almost none of the featured characters are on TV anymore.

  • This is great but I think you talk a little too fast/non-stop

  • "It was a working relationship." That produced four kids in four years…

  • 1:07 Literally the best way to sum up Jim making Kermit bar none.
    This Documentary is absolutely Fantastic!

  • im selling this vintage disney world place mat from the 70's!

  • I always wondered how a good looking guy like Jim ended up with such a plain/older-looking wife; He simply married a coworker/employee with similar interests & hobbies. Ideal grounds for a lasting marriage, so long as you don't make huge mistakes like having one to stay home to watch the kids while the other goes overseas to work, which is exactly what they did.

  • Is it just me, or does Sam look like a shaved Fozzie?

  • Oh, Jim just made up the word "Muppet". I always thought the word "Muppets" was a mix of puppets and music, since singing is their specialty.

  • 0:14

  • Loving these episodes!

  • a cross between Abe Lincoln and Jesus. What a description

  • I love the tv show histories but will yu ever do more things on amusement parks?

  • “Sam and Friends! Brought to you, by Esskay”.

  • Willkins: If you don't drink Willkins Coffee right now, I'll say the N-word!

    Wontkins: No!

    Willkins: You asked for it! Ni**a!

    World: spontaneously combusts


  • This series is amazing, but I wish you'd number them in the titles. I watched part 2 first, not realizing it was a series. I wouldn't want others to miss any part this impressive series!

  • 7:38 Professor Madcliffe looks like a dildo

  • You are killing it.  Great presentation.

  • The production quality of your videos have become genuinely amazing, and I'm not just talking about the awesome Squarespace sponsorship you did in the same style as Jim's original commercials. The pacing, the editing, the structured and easy transition between segments. This channel has become television levels of professionalism and quality, and I sincerely hope it keeps getting better and bigger.

  • (Music)
    Is brought to you by…
    Squarespace and Esskay!

  • Seeing clean cut Jim seems strange. Hard to believe that is the same bushy bearded hippy we all know and love!

  • I love this! Thank you so much for making this miniseries. Its fascinating, well written and really captures Hensons spirit. Excellent job!

  • You are one of my favorite channels here on YouTube. Thank you for being you!

  • You make such amazing videos! The effort is appreciated

  • I live in Maryland/DC area, about half hour from College Park (where the University of Maryland is) and the statue of Jim Henson outside the student union at UMD is lovely. Glad to learn the whole story.

  • When the new one coming out. Also please please do the Prehistoric Forest.

  • Kermit's origins were freat

  • 22:27 The origins of the scariest Sesame Street character.

  • Ah Muppet show and Sesame Street

    My literal childhood, I shall never forget.

  • I love that the discount for squarespace still exists. That. Is. Amazing.

  • 1:13 you forgot to insert 'Hi-ho!'

  • These videos are amazing

  • Is it just me or does the Squares space thing looks like the Wilkins Coffee ads

  • It’s This Jim Henson Story

  • I'm glad Kermit was his favorite. Kermit holds a special place in my heart. I love that frog.

  • It's so weird to watch all these old videos from before 70% of people became fat

  • You and The Gaming Historian have been my biggest inspiration when it comes to format and presentation with the documentary style story telling. I can't wait to be finished with my own project I have in the works.

  • nostalgia attack!

  • Me: Yes Defunctland has posted a video! Click on to find its some rubbish about the muppets again! Who cares? What happened to your good videos?

  • So wait, are all the Muppets just figments of Sam's imagination, including the casts of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and Dinosaurs? Have we just been watching a random guy's daydreams all this time?

  • Sam Looks Too Creepy 😱😱😱. He Looks Like Nightmare Baldi

  • im really glad that the muppet series exists! as someone who's really interested in these things but awful at explaining them, it's helpful that they're around to be beheld!
    i have to ask, though- where did the concept of the show being almost entirely in sam's imagination come from? i haven't seen anything about it anywhere before, and it seems a bit strange to me!

  • great series, well done!

  • This is a superb episode. Thankyou.

  • “Have you subscribed to Defunctland yet?”
    tears him in half and eats him

  • It's crazy when I realize I live literally a few miles away from where Jim Henson lived.


  • (of course I've herd of television…)

  • Hello ladies and gentlemen Esskay is the best!!!

  • Holy shit! At my Grandma's house one of my bath toys was that Wonkins puppet!! That's wild AF.

  • 👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿🙏🏿😭💖

  • Dude I love the Chow Mein Dragon ! Its a 6 minute supper!

  • 5:46 Narration correction: "The soft-spoken, yet commanding FIRST-YEAR STUDENT"! You Americans with your stupid, pretentious BULL-SHIT terms, "Freshman" and "Sophomore"……..UGH!

  • 14:20 and I just took out a life insurance policy for my whole family and I'll be heading home soon to murder them in monotone

  • "Kermit" is the English translation for "Jose".

  • right down the street.

  • I gotta see the first episode of Sam and friends, so I can see the first words of kermit

  • Now I want some pork and bacon sausage ….. damn.

  • Of note: when an opportunity first presented itself to him, Jim Henson knew nothing about puppeteering, so … he borrowed two books on the subject from his local library and schooled himself with them! ❤️📚🏛❤️ And that’s how we all got to grow up with the Muppets!! ALL RESPECT TO LOCAL LIBRARIES EVERYWHERE!! SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY!!! 🤘🏼✊🏼✌🏼

  • I've rewatched the entire series twice so far, and I can't stop crying. Such unbridled creativity, a rose garden of a mind, thorns and all, blossoming quietly but constantly under such an unassuming personality. Thank you for doing this.

  • A show produced for local television? That concept blows my mind in 2019. Just think of how much more value TV could have today and how many more paths to success there could be for aspiring directors if that kind of local programming still existed.

  • I've watched this series a couple times now. It's really well done, man. Everyone involved should be super proud

  • This is my favorite series on youtube. Thank you for your work and giving light to a great man to a new generation of media.

  • "afternoon"
    Damn….those are so e shit names for a tv show…..

  • What's "Woody humor"?

  • One of the creators names is Perjurer? I dont believe it.

  • Loving this.

  • Jan in that skirt @10:27

    I'd fill her full of babies, too

  • 3:40 Easier said than done!

    🎶 Over the mountains and through the woods, to my new job we go!
    Afton's the worst, that dumb place is cursed and it's as boring as their show.
    Over the mountains and through the woods, Mangle don't you dare bite!
    This is taking forever and nothing is clever and why do the children die!?
    Bum, bum, bum and Mangle falls off a cliff, bye. 🎶

  • This video is insanely high quality.

    It is channels like this why TV is scared of YouTube.

  • There is very much an art to documentary and it's one this channel performs very, very well. Learning is rarely so fun.

  • Kermit was alive, indeed.

  • Episode 1: “Kermit was alive.”
    Episode 6: “And so was Jim.”
    That payoff was coming the whole time and it’s a thing of beauty

  • 7:52– The Kermit of Earth-2

  • Of course as soon as I start re watching this series since its completely over the first thing I notice is how it begins and ends with Kermit turning to face his operator.

  • Rewatching everything in this series all over again. Time to love Jim Henson more❤️

  • Love this channel. I worked as an emergency medical technician for nearly 3 seasons at six flags Great Aventure in NJ, great memories from loving visiting theme parks !

  • By the way I normally hate ads or when youtubers shove it into content but: Nicely done all int he spirit of the man himself .

  • im rewatching the whole series just so i can hear the intro, i love it. also jim hensen.

  • Don't think we didn't spot that SoCal Kit on the credits (and the click).

  • Drink Wilken's coffee or I'll bash your brains out and blow up your house. 😅😅😅 Wilkens' execs were smart not to get pissed.

  • who would dislike this? i’d love if you did some more defuncTV this is a great series kevin

  • Why does Sam sound like Bill Cosby to me?

  • hey Michael what motivated you into doing this retrospective?

  • Why did old cartoon eyes have a little wedge in them?

  • I love your content a lot, but I am a bit perennially distracted wondering what in the hell your ancestors did to make perjury their most defining attribute.

  • Sam And Friends? More Like Salmon Friends.

  • Remember,if you don’t have Wilkin’s Coffee..

    Someone will commit Harmful Illegal Attacks and House Fires.

  • Modern Muppets should bring back Sam, Yorrick and folks in some incarnation. In honor of Jim. Unless they already have.

  • I waited way to long,to watch this i love it

  • This should be on Netflix or some streaming service as a documentary.

  • BRO, kevin. please never stop doing this. i do not care wha you are talking about but you make it sound so cool and the writing is amazing. im watching this again moths later after just finishing the rest of the series, and you came full fucking circle bro- "kermit was alive"- bitch im in tears

  • What about supermariologan……oh wait

  • I never got over Jim's death. The muppet show made me happy for so many years. The muppet movies were like bringing old friends back into my life and continuing those friendships where we left off. Although, I was really disappointed that TMNT2 was dedicated to Jim. That movie was written with very low standards. It was a classic Hollywood cash-grab sequel. It ended with another Hollywood cash-grab song from Vanilla Ice who was completely overexposed. That movie should never be the last word and dedication to Jim. I like to look back to Labyrinth, the Dark Crystal (for the world creation and not the one-dimensional storyline), and finally for the unforgettable members of my family, the Muppets forever and ever!

  • Did anyone find more Sam and Friends episodes yet? Jim should've released them on beta or vhs before he died.

  • Jim: "You know what a puppet is. You're a puppet."
    Rowlf 😮

  • Nice to see where Henson got the idea to create the first Muppets character. Kermit looks way different than he does today.

  • I cannot helped but be enamoured by your puppet (muppet?) Cody! I just need to know how do I get one like him? Is he a custom build? DIY? I love the design of him!

  • Shout out to the greatest university in the world, the University of Maryland. If you didn't know, there's a statue of Jim and Kermit just outside the student union on campus. We love Jim and he will always be a Terp at heart.

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