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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that mild cartoonish violence -- some of which doesn't seem to have immediate, negative consequences -- is the only thing that makes Jim Henson's classic 1980s kids' series Fraggle Rock iffy for the youngest viewers, who might get the idea that it's OK to bop someone else on the head to make music, for example. Everything else about it pushes it well into the positive zone. The show also tackles big themes like inclusion, sustainability, and, to some extent, spirituality, but does so in a metaphorical way that subtly helps viewers see the ways in which the actions of one culture can affect another. Another plus? Parents who used to watch this show when they were young can have fun seeing their own children enjoy it.
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What's the story?
While his Uncle Traveling Matt (voiced by Dave Goelz) is out exploring "Outer Space" (aka the human world), young Gobo (Jerry Nelson) stays home in FRAGGLE ROCK, a carefree land that exists just beyond the wall of an old workshop occupied by a retired human inventor named Doc (Gerard Parkes) and his loyal dog, Sprocket. Every time Gobo ventures out into the workshop to collect his uncle's latest postcard, a frantic Sprocket tries to alert an obvlivious Doc of his presence ... meanwhile, every time Gobo exits from the opposite side of Fraggle Rock into a world inhabited by Gorgs and an all-knowing Trash Heap (also voiced by Nelson), he has to contend with the bumbling Junior (Richard Hunt), who spends his time plotting new ways to capture Gobo and his fun-loving friends.
Is it any good?
It's cliche to say they don't make 'em like they used to, but in the case of this series (made possible by the success of The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, the kids' classic that started it all), it's true. And now that the series is available on DVD, it's something the whole family can enjoy for generations to come.
Adults who watched this classic show as children probably didn't notice the show's many messages. Fraggle Rock attempts to explore the interconnectedness between species and express how the actions of one group can have consequences -- both positive and negative -- for the rest of the world. More likely, they remember the show's catchy theme song and how fun it was to watch the Fraggles interact with those around them, including the industrious Doozers, who busied themselves building towering -- and apparently tasty -- structures, only to have the Fraggles tear them down come snack time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the incidents of cartoonish violence they see on Fraggle Rock, which originally aired in the 1980s. How do those incidents compare to today's shows? Are TV characters more or less violent than they used to be? How so?
Do the puppetry and special effects seem dated now, or do they still hold up? Parents: Is Fraggle Rock as good as you remember? Kids: What do you think of it?
What messages does the show send about human behavior? Why is that Gorgs, Fraggles, and Doozers are all too aware of one another's existence, but most humans don't seem to notice a Fraggle in their midst?
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