Fraggle Rock doesn’t have the same pop culture impact as some of the other Jim Henson associated television shows such as The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, but it still has a very passionate fan base. The main Fraggle characters were placed back into the spotlight when they starred in a series of shorts on Apple TV+ during the early months of the pandemic. Thanks in part to the reception of Rock On, the franchise received a reboot entitled Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock set to be release later this week.
The pilot serves as an excellent introduction as we meet the main societies we follow the entire season including the titular Fraggles, the diminutive and hard-working Doozers, the gigantic and materialistic Gorgs, and the silly creatures of Outer Space (humans). The main characters retain the same qualities they had in the original but for the newbies, you can easily get a feel for the main players and their personalities. The series does a good job of making it accessible and approachable.
One of the few new faces is Lilli Cooper who is Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock’s version of Doc, the human whose home has an entrance to the underground caves of the Fraggles. Cooper brings warmth and positivity to the role and though the character might encounter some setbacks, she perseveres and finds a way through them.
The minor gripe I have about Doc is, as someone who was at one time a PhD candidate in a STEM based field, her academic experience isn’t very authentic. The writers seem to have her do things such as conducting research and acquiring lab space to fit their narrative no matter how unrealistic it is. It’s a shame because Doc has some good ideas and does some interesting things that can inspire future scientists so why not provide a clearer image of what that life would be like.
Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock is cleverly planned out using early episodes to dive deeper into its characters with relatable dilemmas. Because it’s an all-ages show, there are lessons to be learned but, for the most part, they are never done in a patronizing way. The situations capture the difficulties in doing the right thing and overcoming hardships. For example, exploring how do you help when you feel helpless is deeply profound given the light tone. However, the Mokey-centric storylines can be frustrating because she can be so dogmatic and her matters are resolved in a sudden change of heart.
The first couple of episodes consists of one-offs but their continuity builds into a much larger conflict and overarching tale in the final half. There is a greater emphasis of how we don’t exist in a bubble and everything is interconnected. The expansion of the role of Merggles and the encounters with the never-before-seen Craggles further enhance the scale and the importance of “if we’re all going to make it, it’s going to take all of us.”
The set designs are beautiful and really transport you to another world. They create a lot of personality to each site considering most of series takes place in caves. The added details of random creatures in the background provide another dimension and originality to it all.
There is also plenty of fun in Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock. Any time the Doozers show up is a pleasant distraction. They are so adorable in their little construction hats and the advancements in technology since the mid 80s help bring them to life and seem less robotic. The adventures of Uncle Matt in “Outer Space” return and his crazy interpretations of everyday items and the outlandish names he comes up with can be amusing. Though the character himself can be annoying with how self-absorbed yet clueless he can be.
One of the biggest components of the original was the music. Who can forget the theme song? Don’t worry, it’s still there and the reboot carries on that legacy with catchy songs. They made a wise decision in bringing back Dennis Lee and Philip Balsam and their songwriting helps maintain the overall spirit that was developed in the 80s. The duo hit a range of emotions from solemn to silly depending on what the story calls for. The production work from Harvey Mason Jr. and the inclusion of other writers freshens things up and update the style to more modern sensibilities.
There is some top-notch talent to perform the musical numbers. In addition to the regular cast, guest stars such as Pattie LaBelle, Cynthia Erivo, and Daveed Diggs lend their voices. Dave Grohl is clearly a Muppets fan (Remember his turn as Animool from the Moopets?) This time he’s joined by the rest of the Foo Fighters for an entertaining rock piece.
Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock explores personal individual lessons in significant ways while highlighting the importance of community. It also retains much of the heart and soul of the original through its characters, music, and themes.
The entire first season of Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock can be streamed on Apple TV+ this Friday, January 21.
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