In 1983 whilst in Nigeria setting up a writers/producers television workshop on behalf of the World Bank, I received a telephone call from Duncan Kenworthy in London, who had just been appointed Executive in charge of production for the Jim Henson Organisation, creators of the much-loved 'MUPPET SHOW'.
A few weeks prior to that call, we had discussed my coming up with an idea for the British sections of a new childrens’ television live action/Muppet show that had been produced at CBC in Toronto, and was proving to be a huge success in North America. The human lead in the show was a somewhat eccentric scientist who lived in a house in Toronto with his dog Sprocket (one of Henson’s most endearing Muppet characters), who is plagued by strange creatures beneath the floorboards, creatures that are only ever actually seen by a very outraged Sprocket every time they dare to venture into his territory. The creatures from the world beneath the scientist’s house were called ‘Fraggles’, and what a great, mischievous, loveable bunch they were, all shapes and sizes and colours, with such names as Gobo, Red, and Wembley, giant monsters called Gorgs, and an industrious colony of little creatures called Doozers.
What a genius Jim Henson was, and what wonderful scripts and ideas his writers had come up with. Where I came in was to try and think up a different human lead character for the United Kingdom version of the show, and I suggested a lighthouse keeper. Duncan, who was himself very much behind the initial concept of the show, had telephoned to say that my suggestion had been favourably looked upon, but that an outline for the show was needed as soon as possible. ‘When by?’ I asked with a groan. ‘Tomorrow morning,’ came the reply. ‘Just telephone the synopsis in to the office.’ ‘Telephone!’ I screamed down the almost inaudible line. ‘D’you know where I am? This is Nigeria!’ Nonetheless, after sitting up in my hotel bedroom all through the night, I had a thirty page outline ready for the most astonishing telephone call the following morning. It was like trying to dictate a synopsis through a thunderstorm! Nonetheless, as soon as I arrived back in the UK some weeks later, I was told that my lighthouse keeper version had been accepted.
Duncan produced the first series of FRAGGLE ROCK, then asked me to produce from then onwards. All in all, I spent about seven years on the project, during which time we had three different actors to play the lighthouse keeper: Fulton McKay, John Gordon Sinclair, and the best of them all, Simon O’Brien. Thanks to Duncan and everyone at the Henson Organisation, it was one of the happiest assignments of my career.
If you want to know more, why not send me an email. In the meantime, have a look at some of the location pics, and the original diagram of how to reach FRAGGLE ROCK itself, which in reality was St. Anthony’s Head lighthouse, St Mawes, in Cornwall.