Sunday, June 29

Little Known Muppet Projects #2: Inner Tube/Lead Free TV

Remember The Jim Henson Hour? It aired in 1989 on NBC on Sunday nights. I was excited to have the Muppets back on TV and religiously watched it. I was saddened to find out it was canceled, I always felt it needed more of a chance. But in truth, at the time, I was 7 and found it a bit alienating. As a kid, you are used to consistency and the show didn't offer that. I think it needed time for people to get used to it, then change it up. And according to Jim Henson's first idea, he wanted each week of the month to be different. Every first week would be The Storyteller, the second would be Inner Tube (which was renamed Lead Free TV in his pitch reel), the third would be a special and fourth anything goes. Back to the pitch later. Inner tube was a pilot he tired before the Hour.

InnerTube was a 10-minute 1987 pilot that was similar to MuppeTelevision of The Jim Henson Hour but had different characters, except for Digit. Also the puppet characters were made of foam latex, they were kinda creepy to me or still are. The cast includes the two harried mechanics Jake and Henry; a futuristic band (featuring Digit on keyboards, with a different, more robotic voice); Crasher, a wild loudmouthed punk character who mostly crashed into other TV shows or people's households; and Glitch, a computer animation that would mischievously interrupt transfer. Kermit and Miss Piggy would have made brief appearances in the show.

In 12 minute pitch for the Jim Henson Hour, Inner Tube was renamed Lead Free TV. The pitch was hosted by Jim Henson and accompanied for each week he explained with Kermit, Gonzo, Ms. Piggy, and Animal. It is available online and very delightful. The idea of these four types of episodes was dropped when The Jim Henson Hour was produced. The Storyteller did air as part of the show, but it was in half-hour episodes. Also, although the MuppeTelevision segments of the show as it was actually produced are similar in format to Lead Free TV, the Lead Free characters were replaced by the Muppets; some familiar faces, others new characters.

Oh Digit. I was both interested by him and scared by him. I liked the MuppeTelevision segments and welcomed him into the Muppet clan. Sadly the only 'new' Muppets to appear in other Muppet specials was Bean Bunny and Clifford, who no longer appears with them. Bean Bunny even cameoed in Muppet Babies. Digit however appeared on a video game. it always interests me how some Muppet characters bounce from one project to another and then never appear again. For example, Clifford joined the Electric Mayhem band as the sax player (In The Muppets at Walt Disney World) and then hosted Muppets Tonight with opened eyeballs. He still appears in specials, as he is puppetered by Kevin Clash, who is also responsible for Elmo.