Happy Birthday Kermits

Posted in Muppets with tags , , , , , , on September 23, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

September the 24th, 2011 marks what would have been the 75th birthday of the late Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. Henson passed away in 1990 at the age of just 53 after ignoring flu-like symptoms and developing a form of bacterial pneumonia. If spending the better part of three months writing a book on Henson’s most famous creations has done nothing else, it has confirmed one thing I already knew; this should never have been allowed to happen. The word visionary barely manages to do justice to a man who single handedly brought puppetry into the modern age, who helped change the face of educational television, who predicted the rise of reality television, who envisioned a children’s series that would bring about world piece, and who did more in his fifty-odd years than most people could achieve in 200. The world is lesser place for his not being in it.

Jim with Kermit on The Tonight Show back in 1975.

What is often overlooked, however, is that September the 24th also marks the birthday of the second man to bring life to Kermit the Frog, Steve Whitmire. Whitmire was an experienced and versatile puppeteer when he took over the role in 1990 and since then has done an admirable job of keeping Kermit’s green spirit alive. Yes his voice is different, but his soul remains in tact. Nobody on the planet could do a better job.

Steve Whitmire performs Ernie in this behind-the-scenes peek at Sesame Street.

Announcing ‘Muppet Reasons’

Posted in Muppets, Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

Yes, I’m announcing a new blog. This time on tumblr. Muppet Reasons is intended to provide the discerning puppet fanatic with a daily dose of Jim Henson’s fantastic creations. With a new movie on the horizon and a covers album currently going viral, I predict the next year to be the year of the Frog. To this extent my goal is to provide the world with 365 reasons to love the Muppets. It’s an easier task than you’d think and one which I hope will be made easier by the fact that readers can submit their own Muppety reasons via a submissions box.

More exciting than this, however, is the fact that this new blog is also intended to help generate interest in my NEW BOOK! Yes, some poor sap has agreed to publish my second tome and it is going to be a comprehensive guide to Kermit, Piggy and the gang. Entitled Frogs, Hogs, Weirdos and Whatnots, the book will be released in April 2012. If you like Muppets or have ever enjoyed something I have written, I’d be very greatful for pre-orders. The book may be a while from publication, but think of the pre-order as buying a present for your future self. Conquer time laws of time and space by ordering a copy of Frogs, Hogs, Weirdos and Whatnots today.


Posted in Sites of Interest, The B-Keeper with tags , , , , , , , on August 8, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

I must apologise for the lack of updates to this site. I will try to fix that in the coming months as there have been some exciting developments on the book front. Until then, however, I hope you’ll enjoy a couple of videos I have produced for Tachyon-TV. The idea behind the Space Time Visualiser series is that the date than an article or video is posted relates in some way to the television programme being discussed. So far, I have produced two episodes of the series’ video incarnation alongside the incredibly talented Andrew Orton.


Are You Being Served, Sir? My Pussy Is Free.

Posted in Ramblings, Sites of Interest on May 5, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

Another week, another article for the lovely chaps at Tachyon-TV.

Few of the characters in Are You Being Served? were actually related to one another, but literally everything we learned of their personal lives was offered to us through the context of their working lives. To the staff of Grace Brothers, their department was, at times, literally a second home. This may mainly be due to budget restrictions, but, despite existing for the most part within the confines of one floor of a department store, we see the Are You Being Served family go through an awful lot of identifiable family rituals; a youngster leaving the nest (Mr Lucas’ departure), the loss of an elderly member of the group (Mr Granger’s departure), divorce (Captain Peacock’s wife leaves him), a summer holiday (The Movie), and a slightly awkward family reunion (Grace and Favour) – all take place under the benevolent patriarchal eye of Harold Bennett’s ‘Young’ Mr Grace.

Click HERE for more.

From The Get-Go

Posted in Ramblings, Sites of Interest on April 22, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

Hello all, I’m back with yet another short post to announce a new venture! This time, I’m happy to point you in the direction of From The Get-Go, “a new collaborative blog which delves into the world of pob culture via marathon viewing sessions and reviews. Each weekday, several writers with nothing better to do embark upon journeys through a menagerie of film and television series. In the age of multi-channel broadcasting, DVD distribution and digital downloads it is very easy to pick and choose what media we wish to be exposed to, but here at From The Get-Go, we find that the best way to get to grips with a series of any medium is to make your way through it from the very beginning through to the very end. In doing this you are forced to sit through the low-points as well as the high. Basically pure, sad, fan-boy commitment is the road to enlightenment.”

It’s Getting Eerie Around Here

Posted in Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , on April 12, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

Sorry for the lack of any new posts recently, I promise to clear out those cobwebs and oil that creaking door soon. The truth is I’ve been cheating on you with Tachyon TV. My latest offering for that illustrious site, a tribute to the fantastic and unduly neglected Eerie Indiana, can be found here.

Little Theatre

Posted in Ramblings, Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

For your viewing pleasure, a documentary I co-produced about four years ago.

Trumpet Blowing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 6, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

After a pretty cack day last Friday, I was really cheered up when a colleague sent me a link to a review of a conference I presented at last year, published by Scope: The Online Journal of Film and Television Studies. Please excuse this exercise in trumpet blowing, but of the panel I presented alongside Melanie Waters and Rosie White, Scope said:

A diverse panel explored the queered spaces and liminal practices of American television. Andrew T. Smith (University of Sunderland) began with an engrossing exploration of the career of TV scriptwriter Rod Sterling, creator of the Twilight Zone (1959-1964, CBS). Having identified a gap in television to film adaptation studies, that is the process of self-adaptation,Smith explored Sterling’s reflections on his own work through the process of adapting his own scripts.

Now I have to take some points away from the authors of this review for referring to Rod Serling as Sterling, but I’d say that’s a decent result! The whole conference report is available HERE.

Dearth Nadir?!

Posted in Muppets, Ramblings, Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

Another month, another contribution to Tachyon-TV. This time I take a look at the Mark Hamill episode of The Muppet Show. It’s one of the strangest episodes of the series and, given that we’re talking about the Muppets here, that’s saying something! You can read the article by clicking this link.

Internet Telly, Internet Radio

Posted in Ramblings, Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

Over the past couple of years I have been teaching first year university students the history of broadcasting and one of the things that I’m always keen to stress is that, at any given moment in history, nobody really had a clue how the mediums of television and radio would evolve – so who’s to say anybody has a clue where they are headed today?

That being said, I have noticed a definite change in my viewing/listening patters over the past couple of years. I’m not talking about the fact that, rather than subject myself to the mercy of programme schedulers, I now watch catch up with most television and radio via platforms like the BBC iPlayer or SeeSaw; though this is increasingly true of a great many people. No, what I’m trying to express is the fact that a good chunk of the TV and Radio I now experience was never broadcast at all,  but designed specifically for and distributed via the internet.

There is a hell of a lot of good stuff out there produced by dedicated amateurs or, in some cases, dedicated amateurs who have turned professional after their audience has increased to a size able to support them financially. There are chatshows, like Robert Llewelyn’s Carpool, pop-culture review series like That Guy With The Glasses, comedy documentarians such as The Angry Video Game Nerd, as well as quality drama from the likes of The Guild or, on the fan-film front, Star Trek: New Voyages. With his Smodcast Network, film director, Keving Smith, has provided me with enough radio material to fill each day of my week with diverse programming.

I love this democratisation of programme making and distribution; production values vary but literally anybody with a video camera or podcast mic can, in the true Mickey and Judy sense of the phrase, put on a show.  So much, in fact, did I enjoy this trend that  I even launched my own web series, The B-Keeper (which will return at some point, my concerned viewer).

I’m loathe to make predictions here, any study of the history of broadcasting demonstrates that these usually don’t pan out, but I will make an observation. With growing numbers of people turning to this alternate platform of entertainment, there appears to be an influx of cash being pumped in to internet telly and radio. I’d hate to see this opportunity for a new era of programme making overly commercialised so early in the day, but surely it can’t hurt to give a boost to some of the most promising creators out there.

Essentially, this post has been an excuse to post links to some of my favourite web-series. I hope you get something out of them. If so, mission accomplished.