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I guess I just like liking things

My brother sent this to me in an email the other day because he hates to see me happy — at least, that’s how I took it, anyway. It’s the Muppets, backstage at the theater, preparing a “Jim Henson tribute production number,” when they find out Jim has passed away.  I made the mistake of watching the video at work, and I was glad no one came into my office for a while afterwards, because I honestly teared up.


I’ve talked about The Muppets a little before, but I don’t think I can adequately explain what a big part of my life they’ve been. Perhaps it’s because they were one of the few shows our family watched together, perhaps because they were an introduction to the larger world of pop culture, or perhaps because the Muppets are just that great.

I never met Jim Henson, but I’ve come to understand through interviews and articles and books just how much The Muppets represent his vision. When he passed away ten days after my 18th birthday, it seemed like that was it, no more Muppets. I remember being sad, but it’s interesting to me that I’ve become much sadder about it over the past 23 years.  Like, the more I consider what we’ve lost in those 23 years, the worse it gets, and the more years that pass, the more we’ve lost. The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie are two of my favorite pieces of pop culture, and no matter what form of Muppets we might get, we’ll never have that version again.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the last Muppet movie was great and did a fantastic job of honoring Muppet history while carrying the brand forward, and I’m looking forward to more entries in the series. But… there’ve been some missteps along the way.  It’s still Muppets and it’s still good, but Muppets Tonight lacks heart, and some of the after-Jim Muppet movies have been (to me) downright disappointing.

Which brings us back to this clip. It’s a part of “The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson,” a program I haven’t actually all of (frankly, I’m not sure I could make it through – the description alone has me sniffling). The Muppets are tasked with doing what they do: put on a show! They don’t know Jim, but they’re giving it their best shot. But then they find out via fan letters that he has died and Fozzie wants to cancel the big number. Robin talks him out of it: “Take what you got and fly with it, Uncle Kermit says. I think he learned it from Jim.” So they do it, singing what was reportedly Jim’s favorite song, “Just One Person.” It’s very meta, because the Muppets figure the best way to go about things is to do what they do, and you know that’s the exact way Jim’s friends and crew were thinking about how to honor him.

I don’t have a lot else to say about this. Sometimes the death of someone you never knew can affect you in ways you don’t expect. Seeing this video again reminds me that everyone has something they contribute, and I hope it helps me appreciate those around me a little more. I hope it helps you, too, and I’m sorry for making you sad today.

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