Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Tuesday, June 11. All times are Eastern.
Prepare to get up on the dance floor with Pose, then keep reading for our conversation with Cheryl Henson, President of The Jim Henson Foundation, about Jim Henson: The Early Works.
One of TV’s most heartfelt, captivating stories returns tonight with a little time jump—we find the Houses of Evangelista and Ferocity, among others, in 1990, just as Madonna’s “Vogue” begins encouraging the masses to let their bodies move to the music (mo-ove to the mu-sic!) Pose’s second act also means the return of some of the best performances out there, including MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Angelica Ross, and the inimitable Porter. And yes, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya returns with them. Look for her premiere recap just as soon as she stops vogueing.
Henson’s Place: The Man Behind The Muppets and Jim Henson: The Early Works (ShortsTV, 9:30 p.m.): Now, here is a hell of a way to spend an evening. Henson’s Place is a lovely little time-capsule, a chance to peer into the mind and workshop of the man who created Kermit, Big Bird, and countless other indelible characters. It’s well worth your time. But we’re even more excited about what follows: the U.S. television premiere of Jim Henson: The Early Works, a collection of innovative, experimental films made by Henson in the ’60s, long before Miss Piggy became a household name.
We spoke with Cheryl Henson—Jim Henson’s daughter who, in addition to her roles as President of the Jim Henson Foundation and a member of the Board Of Directors for The Jim Henson Company, appears in two of the films in this program—about The Early Works, what viewers can expect, and what it feels like to have your 2-year-old form compared to a plucked chicken in an Oscar-nominated film.
The A.V. Club: What a treasure trove these films are.
Cheryl Henson: That’s exactly what they are, a treasure trove. There are so many little gems there, and each one is so unique, and each one shows a seed of something that my dad developed later, or might have developed later. One of the things that I like most about this collection is the range. It really shows what a versatile artist he was. He was exploring and experimenting. There’s a delight and an endless curiosity shown in this work. Many people don’t know how interested my father was, and how involved he was, in innovative filmmaking. In many ways the technology of both television and film is what first drew him to puppetry. This very early work really shows that early exploration.
AVC: Time Piece, which earned him as Oscar nomination, certainly showcases his capacity for invention and exploration. How does that one resonate with you?
CH: That piece was very personal to my dad, and to the people around him at the time—my Mom in particular. She and Frank Oz have both talked about how the piece was almost created complete in his imagination. It wasn’t really collaborative. So many of his other, later works were really true creative collaborations. But this one was something that was very, very personal to him. He knew exactly what he wanted it to be from the beginning. Because of that, you can see it as even more of an individual artist’s statement than the other work that he did.
AVC: What’s your memory of when these films were being made? Do you remember being around for the productions? You appear in at least one: Run, Run.
CH: I appear in two, but I’m not so sure I want to tell you where I appear in Time Piece. I’ve been embarrassed for that particular appearance.
AVC: You don’t have to!
CH: Okay, well, I’m the naked 2-year-old running around in a circle, who gets the visual comparison to the plucked chicken. And of course, my sister Lisa and I are the two girls in Run, Run.
AVC: Do you have a particular favorite in this collection? Anything that especially speaks to you?
CH: Well, Time Piece is the classic. It’s the one that makes me feel, “Wow, that’s amazing. That’s my dad.” But one that is really not well-known that I think is so delightful is Cat And Mouse. It’s so, so sweet. And I’m particularly intrigued by the visual style, the way that the cat is created with negative space. I think it’s really, really marvelous.
And of course, Run, Run is very personal to me. We loved those woods. They were behind our house. There was a little stream back there that was painted a lot by the American impressionist painter John Henry Twatchman, who had lived in our house in the 19th century. And I love that we wind up returning to my mom. She was an artist herself, she co-founded the company with my father. They were performing partners for a number of years before they were romantic partners. I think very often people don’t recognize how important my mother was to the founding of the whole style. She had a very outrageous, anarchist sense of humor.
They had five children together, and she became a very active mother. And to me, to have that film end with us being greeted by a mother, it’s a very real celebration of motherhood. I think that’s a really beautiful thing.