The genius of Jim Henson took many forms over the years, from the educationally driven Sesame Street to the frantic pace of the sketch show-inspired The Muppet Show to the musical, lesson-teaching Fraggle Rock. To some degree, all of Henson’s shows hold appeal across the age spectrum, but Fraggle Rock strikes that balance between kid-friendly and fun for the adults the best.
Sesame Street is pretty much strictly for the young ones with its simple educational lessons and The Muppet Show can skew a little older, with its guest celebrities probably meaningless to kids and wit that likely goes over their heads. But Fraggle Rock is different. The simple morals can easily be understood and the songs are infectious. It’s difficult to imagine any kid not enjoying the show. As an adult though, it’s not hard to watch five or six episodes in one sitting, regardless of whether or not there are kids around. I marvel at the fact that I forget I am watching puppets every time I watch a Henson production – the construction of the Muppets and the enthusiasm of their operators make the experience far transcendent above that of a mere puppet show.
Fraggle Rock ran for five seasons on HBO from 1983-1987, and amassed a total of 96 episodes over the course of the run. The Complete Series Collection includes every one of those episodes plus a slew of bonus features on 20 discs. Seasons four and five, both half the length of a regular season, have been combined and are represented here solely as season four.
There has been widespread criticism across the Internet about the Fraggle Rock Complete Series Collection, and at this point, all the complaining seems completely warranted. The first three seasons have already seen separate DVD releases, but the fourth season (in reality, four and five) is only available as part of the complete series. As of now, there have been no announcements about a standalone season four release. Naturally, most people who have purchased three separate seasons already would not want to buy or be able to afford a complete series set that’s going to cost them close to $100. For completists, there is no issue, but to not even offer a separate season four release for everyone else is unacceptable.
Yes, this places the shadow of a huge caveat over the rest of this review, but the set deserves to be judged apart from this information.
The Fraggle Rock Complete Series Collection is an outstanding set; whether you remember the show from your childhood or are looking forward to introducing a new generation to the show, it’s perfect. I look forward to sharing Fraggle Rock with my children someday. At the rate children’s programming appears to be devolving, this DVD set may be a very necessary resource by that time. The quality of the episodes speaks for itself, and the morals that deal with common childhood issues like fear, responsibility, friendship, and selfishness are integrated nicely among the fun songs and silly Fraggles.
The Complete Series Collection is packaged in a binder with a plastic front made to look like a piece of Fraggle Rock. The front certainly looks nice, although the thin plastic feels rather flimsy – this probably isn’t a set you’d want kids handling if they’re not careful. Inside the three-ring binder, the discs are packaged in cardboard pages. Two discs are inserted into sleeves on one page, while the reverse page shows episode information. It’s not the sturdiest way to hold the discs – quite a few slipped out during shipping – but for a set this size, it sure is an efficient use of space. Included with the set is an illustrated map of the Fraggle universe.
On the special features front, the set doesn’t disappoint, carrying over all the special features from the individual season sets and adding a number of new ones. For each season, there is a disc of special features, and each one is loaded with interviews from all of the principal actors and many crew members. Several promos from the original run on HBO are spread across several discs. There are many in-depth making-of featurettes focusing on different elements of the production, the highlight being a nearly hour-long documentary hosted by Henson himself. The final special features disc includes excerpts from the last day of shooting and the wrap party for cast and crew.
If it weren’t for the lack of a separate season four set, I would give an unreserved recommendation for the Fraggle Rock Complete Series Collection. As it stands, Lionsgate Studios and Hit Entertainment have made a big mistake by only making the final season available in this set.