Jim Henson shared many visions during his prolific career, but with Fraggle Rock, Henson’s idea wasn’t to simply entertain but to create a new type of Muppet TV show capable of ending all war. In 1983 Henson’s team delivered on that vision creating a baseline set of morals for its young global audience through the teachings of tolerance, acceptance, diversity and problem solving through unity.
Executive produced by John Tartaglia and Dave Goalz, Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock reintroduces family’s to those teachings through familiar characters at a time where our world is more divided than it has ever been and where some of the silly creatures from out of space (humans) really are putting that funny monicker to good use.
Fraggle Gobo returns alongside his naive, energetic best-friend Wembley, the athletic Red, the artistic and compassionate Mokey and the cautious and sobering Boober in a reboot of the series that pulled those boggle-eyed frizzy-haired scamps together, in spite of their differences and in order to work toward a brighter future.
Just a hole in the wall away from human civilisation, Fraggle Rock, a fantastical world of caves and tubes covered in glitter and prone to pool parties and wild sing-songs, serves as the perfect setting for an allegory about different creatures seemingly unaware of how interconnected and vital they are to one another.
The cheerful and harmonious Fraggles coexist alongside the miniature workaholic Doozers, (four second celebrations? anyone?). With the dimwitted large Gorgs just a hop-skip and jump away - as are their delicious radishes and important lessons about friendship, self-care and staying in-tune with the world around you.
One character that continues to be fascinated by the world around us is Uncle Traveling Matt. Named after the blue-screen system used on earlier episodes, he bridges our world with theirs by capturing mundane moments whilst, most often than not, misinforming his nephew Gobo and the other Fraggles in hilarious ways.
Matt’s portal to space (earth) is through the hole in the wall of new tenant Doc, a graduate student played by Lilli Cooper who reprises the role of the late-great Gerard Parks, alongside returning puppet-dog Sprocket. Working together, they teach young viewers the importance of self-belief, perseverance and preservation of our precious planet.
Familiar silly creatures from out of space also make guest cameos across the show’s 13 episodes. They include Daveed Diggs, Cynthia Erivo, Ed Helms, Patti Labelle and Kenan Thompson, who play along with the highly talented team of puppeteers who are the reason the whole production comes together. Long-time Fraggle Rock mainstays Karen Prell and Dave Goelz give sensational performances, as does Donna Kimball (reprising her role from 2021’s series of shorts) and series newcomers Jordan Lockhart and Frank Meschkuleit.
Whether Jim Henson’s creations are flailing their arms around in order to hit the high notes in Philip Balsam, Dennis Lee and Harvey Mason Jr’s flutterflie pleasing repertoire of ear-worms (you’ve been warned) or simply emoting to the audience, there hasn’t been a stronger representation of the art form in quite some time.
The same can also be said for the bold writing from Tartaglia. Unafraid to write Boober and Wembley into storylines reflecting on anxiety, debilitating fear and the long-lasting effects of negative self-image for an audience of adults and kids alike, its moments like these that confirm the production to be far more than an exercise in nostalgia and instead, an exercise in magic.
'Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock' is further proof that magic exists, and for as long as Jim Henson's creations are back on our screens, the magic will never leave us.
Sigmund is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of ScreenTimes where he began his Apple TV coverage in 2016. With an unwavering passion for Apple, storytelling and storytellers alike, he writes about Apple TV with a focus on the arts, development, tvOS, home theatre and accessibility. Sigmund also co-host’s Magic Rays of Light, a weekly podcast exploring the world of Apple TV and the many talents bringing our screens to life.