Pondering Howard and Henson…

Two creative storytellers who influenced TC’s youth are top of mind in this ponderable. Read on and then, perhaps, make some time to study the bodies of work mentioned. – the editor

There has been a renaissance for two famous creatives during the last month. One decided to produce a documentary film about the other. Both of these men had an influence on the entertainment of my youth.

[renaissance: A resurgence of excitement or interest in something is a renaissance.]

One of the men – Ron Howard:

Ron Howard was on my TV screen during the 70’s on the famous Tuesday night staple, Happy Days. The original plot surrounded Ron and his family, the Cunninghams.

[In Milwaukee Wisconsin, hardware store owner Howard Cunningham, his wife Marion, and their children Richard and Joanie live through the 1950s with help and guidance from lovable and almost superhuman greaser Fonzie.]

A shift after season one prompted the removal of an older brother and the arrival of a leather jacket, now part of the wardrobe of a secondary character, Arthur ‘Fonzie’ Fonzarelli. Henry Winkler’s Fonz pretty much commandeered the show. His popularity skyrocketed.

[Note: A California visit during the show’s run is what brought the phrase “Jump the Shark” into existence.]

That came about when the episode’s silly plot had Fonzie, leather jacket and all, water skiing over a shark tank. Enough Already!

True Calling Calls…

It was around that time, Ron was done and had ventured into the director’s chair, and his true calling.

Ron grew up in the 60’s on screen. With Shirley Jones in The Music Man (1962), Glenn Ford in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father movie (1963), and of course the son of the sheriff on The Andy Griffith Show (1960).

His directorial career commenced in the late 70s (Grand Theft Auto ) a film!
[Note: GTA as video game was a 1997 and beyond phenomenon]

His directorial career began to hit its stride in the 80s with Splash, Cocoon, Willow, and A Beautiful Mind, which he won his Best Director Oscar.

Splash (1983)
Cocoon (1985)
Willow (1988)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Another 80s Guy…
Around this same time, Jim Henson was in his prime. I was introduced to his work on Sesame Street. Our family had a standard appointment Monday Nights at 7:30pm for The Muppet Show.
When films were released, we as a group, screened The Muppet Movie and The Dark Crystal, even at our editor’s former place of employment, The Chatham Cinema (https://www.hickorycinema.com/).
(To this date, it is still open.)


Turns 45?!?

This month marks the 45th anniversary of the release of The Muppet Movie. Brother James took his wife to the Fathom Events screening (https://www.fathomevents.com/events/the-muppet-movie-45th-anniversary/) at the local Cinemark a few weeks ago.

I opted for a screening on Disney+, along with some episodes of The Muppet Show.

Disney+ was also presenting the new Ron Howard documentary: Jim Henson Idea Man, as told through his surviving children, via clips and footage from his vast inventory of programming.

It barely scratched the surface, but was an engaging portrait of a creative soul, and how he related to his immediate family. It expressed the reverence of the “family business” and continuing Jim’s legacy through the hands of the Walt Disney company.

[Notable: a budding deal about the time of Jim’s sudden death in 1990 at 53 (!) through the current arrangement on streaming and new programming.]

Henson: A Muppet Tribute…

During the year Jim passed, a television special was broadcast as a tribute, as told by The Muppets.

As the program begins, Fozzie Bear receives a postcard from Kermit the Frog, who asks him to prepare a lavish production number in tribute to Henson. But Fozzie and the other Muppets don’t know who Henson is, and feel ill-equipped to give him a fitting tribute. Carol Burnett, John Denver, Ray Charles, Steven Spielberg, Harry Belafonte, and Henson’s friend and close collaborator, Frank Oz, offer via film their impressions of Henson and reminisce about working with him and the characters that he invented, which helps the Muppets to learn more about him.


Hilarity ensued between clips hosted by the likes of Carol Burnett and Steven Spielberg…

I lucked out to see this during the original broadcast, while recovering from a bad stomach flu. Flu wasn’t the only thing to knock me out that night. The last 10 minutes of the show, the crew was presented with a pile of fan letters, all about who Jim Henson was, and how sorry they were that he died. The cast proceeded to read these letters out loud, mentioning the fans who expressed their condolences.

Done. Stick a fork in me. Waterworks.

Ultimately Kermit returns telling all of us that The Muppets will continue, since “that is what the boss would have wanted.”

I believe I told several family members about the good hard ugly cry I had under the influence of stomach flu and heightened emotions. Until now, it seemed like it would have never been rebroadcast anywhere.

Thank you YouTube Gods.

After screening Jim Henson Idea Man, and a great episode of The Muppet Show with Rita Moreno, for poops and giggles I searched on YouTube for this long lost special…

Found It!!

The version I saw was off of Channel 4 in the UK, the American version was via Walt Disney Television on CBS, before Disney bought ABC. I found that one later.
I gleefully posted it on my News feed that night. Later that evening, my brother watched it with his wife on the TV.

View the one hour special here:


Serendipity at Work…

I don’t think it ever occurred to me to search for that TV special, if I didn’t watch Ron Howard’s documentary on Jim. While I and other members of my family have an affection for the song, The Rainbow Connection, the final scene in The Muppet Movie, when a rainbow shows up on set after a mishap during filming, the final lyrics sung by Kermit and the gang resonate even more now than it did 45 years ago.

That’s a Wrap…

“Life’s like a movie, write your own ending, keep believing, keep pretending, we just done what we set out to do…
Thanks to the Lovers, the Dreamers, and you…”

And that’s a wrap. Thanks for reading, listening and pondering with me!–TC



Enjoyed this read? Want more ponderables?

Sign up to our mailing list!

Our weekly DragonBustR Reader will provide you with a nice snapshot of what’s new and ponderable at Jedemi. Plus, you will get updates on The Jedemi Chronicles (Trilogy & Series).


Speak Your Mind