Anyone Can Be a TV Writer- Jim Henson

The people who have worked to become a successful TV writer come from many different places and backgrounds.  Many did not even work in the entertainment industry- they were just everyday people with an idea.  Most successful TV writers started at the bottom, worked odd jobs at some point, and overcame some sort of obstacle or hardship to get where they are today.

Jim Henson is best known as the creator of The Muppets, though he has also received attention for projects like Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. Known for his pioneering work in puppetry, Henson not only performed on his projects, but he also created advanced puppets to achieve the work he wanted to do, and was posthumously awarded the Disney Legends Award in 2011 for the incredible amount of work he did.

Jim Henson was born September 24, 1936 in Greenville, Mississippi, though he would be raised in Maryland.  He would later recall the arrival of the family’s first television as “the biggest event of his adolescence.” In 1954, while attending Northwestern High School, he began working for WTOP-TV, creating puppets for a Saturday morning children’s show called The Junior Morning Show.  Upon graduating high school, Henson enrolled at the University of Maryland at College Park to pursue studies in Studio Art. A puppetry class introduced him to the crafts and textiles courses offered in the College of Home Economics, and Henson graduated in 1960 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics. When he was a freshman, Henson was asked to create a five-minute puppet show for WRC-TV, which was called Sam and Friends; the characters would be the early development of what would become the Muppets, including an early prototype of Kermit the Frog.

In his work at WRC he began experimenting with techniques that would change the way puppetry was used on television, including using the frame defined by the camera shot to allow the puppeteer to work from off-camera. Henson also developed puppets with new materials, such as foam rubber covered in fabric, to make them more emotive and used rods to move his puppets’ limbs instead of strings, which allowed greater control. In spite of the success of Sam and Friends, Henson spent much of the 1960s and 1970s working in commercials, talk shows, and children’s projects before being able to create his dream of the Muppets as “entertainment for everybody.” Henson made appearances on many shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show, and his Muppet creations appeared in commercials and other programs. In 1963, Henson and his wife moved to New York City to develop Muppets Inc. After his wife had to quit working to raise children, Henson hired writer Jerry Juhl and puppeteer Frank Oz to replace her; he credited both writers with helping to develop the trademark humor and character of his Muppets.

In 1969, Joan Ganz Cooney and the team at the Children’s Television Workshop approached Henson to work on Sesame Street, a visionary children’s program for public television, which included a portion of the show set aside for a set of colorful and funny puppets living on the street. At first, Henson’s characters appeared separately from the realistic segments on the Street, but after a test-screening, the show was revamped to integrate the two components, placing a higher emphasis on Henson’s work. In addition to creating the characters, Henson was involved in producing various shows and animation portions during the first two seasons. Concerned that Muppets Inc. was being typecast as a purveyor of children’s content only, Henson, Oz and his team captured adult audiences with a series of sketches on the first season of Saturday Night Live. In 1976  The Muppet Show began taping, with Henson as the performer for several of the characters, including Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, the Swedish Chef, and Guy Smiley.

Though he was still engaged in creating children’s television through the eighties, with shows like Fraggle Rock and the animated series Muppet Babies, Henson continued to explore darker, more mature themes with shows such as The Storyteller. He also worked on the sitcom Dinosaurs, which was to be a standard sitcom structure, with puppet characters instead of standard actors.

Jim Henson won an award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for his work on The Storyteller, and was nominated in previous years for The Muppet Show in the category of Best Light Entertainment Programme. In 1978 The Muppet Show won in the category of Most Original Programme. Henson won the Daytime Emmy for The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and his program Muppet Babies won four years consecutively.

Anyone can make a TV show, movie or webisode concept presentation package with New Show Studios.  You do not need special credentials, background or a college degree to pursue an idea.  As long as you have a clear idea of what your basic idea is and you are able to verbalize this, New Show Studios is happy to help.

New Show Studios can help you take action and pursue your TV show, movie or webisode idea.  The company has a unique method of creating show concept packages that give network and movie studio executives a professional quality view of your idea.  They can take your idea, develop and package it into a demonstration video and send it off to producers and executives in the entertainment industry.

Remember that even with the best presentation materials new entertainment development is high risk and there is very little likelihood that your idea will be successfully licensed or result in profit to you.

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