Category: TV


Muppets-Haunted-Mansion gonzo

The ninth big-screen film starring Jim Henson′s wacky, warm, and wonderful Muppets is coming direct to your home next month, and bonus–at last we have a Muppets Halloween movie.  Disney+ released the trailer for Muppets Haunted Mansion, and it looks like a combination of the great, pre-Disney classic movies like The Muppet Christmas Carol–complete with ghost Muppets (or are they Muppet ghosts?), and best of all Disney tapped some original performers, including the legendary Dave Goelz (back as Gonzo, Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot, and more), and the brilliant Bill Barretta (back as Pepe, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, and more) and David Rudman (Scooter, Janice, Beaker, and more), plus hundreds of creative production staff.  Muppets Haunted Mansion is directed by Kirk R. Thatcher, who was behind the scenes on major genre hits like Gremlins, Poltergeist, Return of the Jedi, Star Trek III, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Robocop 2, and you probably saw him in front of the camera at least once, like when he played the guy on the San Francisco bus blaring his stereo–the one who Spock puts out of commission–in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  And the human leading the show, as the Muppets’ host in a haunted house they must stay in overnight, is the smartly cast funnyman Will Arnett (The Lego Batman Movie).

Check out the trailer below.

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The most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational event is heading your way.

It’s been 40 years since The Muppet Show wrapped its now classic five season run back in 1976-1981, with its last episode guest-starring Singing in the Rain star Gene Kelly.  One of the greatest half-hour series of all time and the greatest variety show format series ever is coming to the streaming platform Disney+ later this month.  Everyone who was anyone in the 1970s was a guest on the show, from Vincent Price to Don Knotts, from Cloris Leachman, George Burns, John Cleese and Paul Simon, to Linda Ronstadt and Steve Martin, to Elton John, Julie Andrews, Gilda Radner, Shirley Bassey, Peter Sellers, Debbie Harry, Rita Moreno, and Madeline Kahn, to Roy Rogers, Dudley Moore, James Coburn, Roger Moore, Sylvester Stallone, Lynda Carter, Milton Berle, Christopher Reeve, Bernadette Peters, Ethel Merman, Bob Hope, Diana Ross, Johnny Cash, Harvey Korman, Carol Burnett, Dizzy Gillespie, Alice Cooper, and even the cast of Star Wars–more than 100 guest stars in all, and from every single corner of music, TV, and film.  The show won four Primetime Emmy Awards and a Grammy (one of our favorite subjects–check out more about The Muppets here).  Behind the scenes (and under the table and behind the curtain) it was Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson, Louise Gold, Kathryn Mullen, and Steve Whitemire working the real magic.

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We watched them get the band back together the first time with Muppet Guys Talking, a fun documentary we discussed two years ago here at borg.  Now not even sheltering at home will hold back the fun-loving Muppet Guys, who are returning once again to share some more about Muppet creator Jim Henson, and the incredible creative process and their experience as Muppet performers, all while earning some money for front-line COVID-19 workers.  Part in honor of Jim Henson, who passed away 30 years ago, and part reason to get some of our favorite people back together virtually, it’s all happening this Saturday, and everyone is invited.

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Fraggle Rock BANNER

To celebrate 35 years of the Jim Henson fantasy TV series Fraggle Rock, Insight Editions is taking a look behind the scenes of the show in Fraggle Rock: The Ultimate Visual History.  It follows in the footsteps of three previous chronicles of Jim Henson’s creations, and his family’s prequel series, The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History, Labyrinth: the Ultimate Visual History, and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance–Inside the Epic Return to Thra.  Take a look at a preview of Fraggle Rock: The Ultimate Visual History below.

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Gentle Giant leads the way again with the next exclusive for the at-home edition of San Diego Comic-Con 2020 (since the actual event cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).  It’s the first ever release of The Muppets’ Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem in action figure form reunited on stage (cardboard) in The Muppets–Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem Deluxe Box Set 2020 SDCC Exclusive.  You get Dr. Teeth on piano, Floyd Pepper on bass, Janice on guitar, Zoot on sax, and Animal on drums in deluxe show-stage packaging, a three-tiered window box with a protective fifth-panel door.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The beginning of a new film references the scope of the success of the Muppets: In 1978 the Muppets were seen weekly by more than 235 million people in more than 102 countries, and Time Magazine called them “the most popular entertainment on Earth.”  Created by Jim Henson in 1955 and starring in Sesame Street, in feature films, and in animated films, the Muppets endure to this day.  Regularly returning on television and in movies, they continue to entertain and educate young and old alike.  Frank Oz, the creator and actor behind Sesame Street and The Muppet Show’s Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Cookie Monster, Grover, Animal, and Sam the Eagle, Aughra and Chamberlain in The Dark Crystal, and the performer and voice of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (and director of countless other films), has produced and directed a new film with four other original Muppet performers to recount the development–and fun–of working in their timeless fantasy world.

Feeling like an informal dinner party among old friends, but even more like the first hour of a 12-part series, Muppet Guys Talking–Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched, is a wonderful, cheery glimpse at life working with Jim Henson, who Emmy-winning performer Frank Oz says “wanted to make a better world.”  Originally premiering at last year’s South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas, the film will be available for fans everywhere for the first time next week at MuppetGuysTalking.comFrank Oz brings together Emmy-winner Jerry Nelson, creator and performer of Count von Count, Snuffleupagus, Lew Zealand, Statler, Floyd, and Gobo Fraggle; Emmy-winner Dave Goelz, creator and performer of The Great Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot, and Fizzgig from The Dark Crystal; Emmy-winner Fran Brill, creator and performer of Prairie Dawn, Zoe, Little Bird, Betty Lou, and The Land of Gorch’s Vazh; and Bill Barretta, BTVA Award-winning creator and performer of Pepe the King Prawn, Johnny Fiama, Bobo the Bear, and Big Mean Carl.  Along with providing insight into Muppet mastermind Jim Henson, the “Muppet Guys” provide some advice on creating characters that will be worthwhile to creators in many media, as well as offering a great peek into the job of performing with puppetry.  The most difficult part?  Yep, holding your arms over your head inside the Muppets for a very long time.

From John Denver and the Muppets Rocky Mountain Holiday.  You don’t see the dozen human performers underneath the ground working the Muppets and speaking their lines.

Oz and Goelz recount major difficulties in the craft, like building a hole in the ground around a bonfire with a propane tank near their heads, so they could stand and perform their characters sitting around a real campfire above, as filmed for the famous John Denver Rocky Mountain Holiday TV special and album.  They also discuss Henson performing the risky opening scene of The Muppet Movie, stuffed inside a tube submerged in a backlot, underwater stage swamp with a small TV monitor and his arms above his head to perform Kermit singing and playing banjo on “The Rainbow Connection.”  The discussions among these friends are fun to watch, and the viewers will feel like they are a part of the room.  And viewers can’t help but listen for the performers slipping in and out of various voices–like the sound of Grover and Cookie Monster from Oz a few times when he gets animated or is laughing.  The most valuable bits center around what seems to be a shared tool among the performers–Oz developed a thorough backstory for each of his characters that never makes it beyond his own mind, to assist with his performance (like method acting).

Other highlights include Dave Goelz recounting how he got into the business when he was a young aspiring puppeteer working an office job at Hewlett-Packard, Bill Barretta discussing his inspiration for the King Prawn character Pepe, Fran Brill discussing her fix for performing while not being as tall as the others, and Jerry Nelson coming up with the voice of Snuffleupagus and discussing the late performer Richie Hunt (who performed characters including Scooter, Beaker, Statler, Janice and Sweetums).  Sadly documentary contributor Jerry Nelson passed away before the premiere of the documentary at South by Southwest, and the show is dedicated to him.

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Just in time for our holidays, the Star Wars Holiday Special is making a comeback later this month.  It will be forty-two years to the day that kids like myself first saw Bea Arthur serenade a cantina full of familiar aliens as Ackmena, met Chewbacca’s extended family, and saw Boba Fett on the screen for the first time (after his preview as an action figure offer).  The Special aired on television for the first time in 1978, and now Disney+ is bringing the holiday special to a new generation of Star Wars fans.  The twist is your next celebration of Life Day is also the next LEGO movie, so expect loads of laughs and throwbacks in the animated LEGO Star Wars Holiday SpecialEven better, it comes with time travel and mash-ups across the movie spectrum.

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One of the best subjects I have discussed with a celebrity was asking Peter Mayhew–the actor known for playing Chewbacca from Star Wars–to talk about working with the Muppets when he guest-starred on The Muppet Show with Mark Hamill as Luke and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO in January 1980.  Mayhew beamed as the memories flooded back and he described two incredible worlds he was immersed in–interacting with these great furry characters from television just as if they were real people, and looking down below them to see an entire separate world of creators sprawled across each other with their hands working in every direction like a giant work of magic.  Frank Oz, the actor and voice of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back and The Last Jedi, and the creator and actor behind Sesame Street and The Muppet Show’s Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Cookie Monster, Grover, Animal, and many more, has created a new documentary with five of the original Muppet performers to recount the creation of their timeless fantasy world.

Originally premiering at last year’s South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas, Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched, will be available for fans everywhere for the first time in March.  Emmy-winning performer Frank Oz, who also was co-director of The Dark Crystal and director of movies from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to HouseSitter, brings together Emmy-winner Jerry Nelson, creator and performer of Count von Count, Snuffleupagus, Lew Zealand, Statler, Gobo Fraggle, and the original Saturday Night Live character Scred; Emmy-winner Dave Goelz, creator and performer of The Great Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot, Waldorf/Robert Marley, and Fizzgig from The Dark Crystal; Emmy-winner Fran Brill, creator and performer of Prairie Dawn, Zoe, Little Bird, Betty Lou, and The Land of Gorch’s Vazh (and recurring Law and Order actress); and Bill Barretta, BTVA Award-winning creator and performer of Pepe the King Prawn, Johnny Fiama, Bobo the Bear, and Big Mean Carl.

Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, the late Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and the late Richard Hunt, with Gonzo, Floyd, Kermit, Fozzie, and Scooter.

The performers of so many beloved characters discuss their individual approaches to creating memorable characters and the impact Jim Henson had on their lives and work.  This is all a great tie-in to the 35th anniversary return of The Dark Crystal to theaters next month (check out our preview here and the Fathom Events website here for more information on that event).  For a taste of some of the fun to be had in Muppet Guys Talking, check out the website for the show, MuppetGuysTalking.com, and these quick previews:

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Apparently they don’t make it–at least in the first season–since a second season is already approved.  It’s the most classic piece of science fiction and adventure, coming to your PBS Masterpiece:  BBC’s latest adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel Around the World in 80 Days It’s David Tennant in the lead role as Phileas Fogg acting his most frenetically Doctor Whovian and passing to his fans the code word “companion” in its first trailer for the series.  It might be the most we’ve seen Tennant in this kind of rollicking role since his last turn as the 10th Doctor.  The production looks sharp, as we’d expect from the BBC, with costumes, trains, and set pieces quite up to snuff.

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Robert B. Parker′s crime-solving duo made famous by Robert Urich and Avery Brooks in Spenser for Hire is getting its first movie adaptation with the Netflix Studios release, Spenser Confidential.  The film is billed as an action-comedy, and is based on Parker’s star characters from his 40 novels.  Parker used other writers for some of the novels in the series, and this film is reportedly loosely based on the novel Wonderland, penned by Ace Atkins.

The wise-cracking Bostonian Spenser is not new territory for Mark Wahlberg, who will join director Peter Berg in their fifth film project together.  In this first trailer, Wahlberg, the 2017 highest paid actor in the world, makes it hard to differentiate this from the roles he’s played in The Italian Job, The Departed, The Other Guys, Ted, Pain & Gain, Shooter, 2 Guns, Transformers: The Last Knight, and All the Money in the World. But like Tom Cruise and Dwayne Johnson, fans go to Wahlberg movies to see Wahlberg be Wahlberg.

Hawk will be played by Black Panther co-star Winston DukeSpenser Confidential co-stars Alan Arkin (Catch-22, Argo, Gattaca, So I Married an Axe Murderer, The Muppets), Iliza Shlesinger (Instant Family, Elder Millenial), Bokeem Woodbine (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Ghostbusters: Afterlife), and Post Malone (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse).

Check out the first trailer for Spenser Confidential:

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