Sam and Friends (partially found early Jim Henson puppet TV series; 1955-1961)
Sam and Friends was the first TV show created by puppeteer Jim Henson alongside his future wife Jane Nebel. It was filmed in Washington, D.C.. The show aired twice daily on WRC-TV and the NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C. from May 9, 1955, to December 15, 1961. It had a total of 86 episodes.
Only 42 episodes (16 existing, 8 documented, 9 known from memory + 8 existing Esskay commercials and 1 memory-known Esskay commercial) of the show have been listed as known. Some of the taped ones have been shown at screening events at venues like the Museum of the Moving Image. The remaining episodes have been erased, and it is unknown if copies still exist. It is rumoured that some episodes are stored in archives in Long Island, but so far, no physical evidence of this claim has been put forward.
Known Episodes[edit | edit source]
Existing[edit | edit source]
A handful of surviving episodes have been shown at the Paley Center for Media; others have been shown at screening events at venues like the Museum of the Moving Image. A compilation of the show's episodes can be found on YouTube, however, it doesn't contain all of them.
- C'est Si Bon: In a French village setting, Moldy Hay lipsynchs to Stan Freberg's rendition of "C'est Si Bon," with Hank and Frank repeating his dialogue too literally as a backup choir.
- Chef Omar: Omar prepares a chef salad, which blows up in his face when he serves it flaming. (This sketch was restored from the Henson Archives in May of 2016, was shown at the Museum of the Moving Image, and was performed at Hamburg, Germany in 1961, but has yet to surface online.)
- Glow Worm: Humming along to "The Glow-Worm," Kermit is bugged by some inchworm-like fingers and is later met with a human hand.
- A Horse Named Bill: Kermit lipsynchs and plays the banjo to a recording of "A Horse Named Bill." This sketch is sometimes called "Loona" (referencing the singer's object of affection, Luna) when featured in exhibits.
- Hunger is From: Lipsynching to "Hunger is From," Yorick details his midnight snacking while eating a plate full of food.
- Huntley and Brinkley: In a parody of The Huntley-Brinkley Report, Kermit hosts an interview with NBC News anchormen Chet Huntley and David Brinkley (as played by Hank and Frank).
- I've Got You Under My Skin: Icky Gunk, and Hank and Frank serve as chorus singers in a lip-synched rendition of Stan Freberg's "I've Got You Under My Skin" while Kermit, in spoken dialogue, messes up the lyrics.
- Poison to Poison: Lipsynching to the Spike Jones track "Poisen to Poisen," Harry the Hipster (as "Ed Burrow") interviews Chicken Liver (as Alfred Hitchcock) in his rather horrifying home.
- Powder-Burn: A pun-filled Gunsmoke parody with Marshall Dilly (Chicken Liver) preparing for a showdown with Black Bart (Yorick) which results in a game of chess.
- Singin' in the Rain: A little girl Muppet lipsynchs to a double-speed version of "Singin' in the Rain." The scene ends with her submerged in a bucket of water.
- That Old Black Magic (1957): Kermit and Sam lipsynch to a recording of "That Old Black Magic" by Louis Prima and Keely Smith. This was also performed on The Today Show.
- Visual Thinking (1959): In a mix of puppetry and animation, Harry demonstrates the art of Visual Thinking to Kermit -- and what it does to you once it gets out of control.
- The Westerners: Lipsynching to the Bob and Ray recording The Westerners, Kermit, and Chicken Liver are two cowboys who are having a little trouble getting off their horses. This sketch is sometimes called "Riding Horses Backwards" in exhibitions.
- Weather Warehouse: Harry demonstrates to a skeptical Kermit his new business for selling weather, and gives him a tour of the warehouse. Only brief footage of the skit is found, but the full sketch has not surfaced.
- The Yellow Rose of Texas: Kermit lipsynchs to a Stan Freberg recording of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" and deals with an out-of-control drummer. Only brief footage of the skit is found, but the full sketch has not surfaced.
- Final Episode (December 15, 1961): Kermit sings a song, then discusses the end of the series with Harry -- who blows up all the scenery and equipment since they won't need it anymore. (This sketch is not generally available for viewing, although the footage is known to exist still.)
Documented[edit | edit source]
While video footage for some segments does exist, some other episodes have been documented by either the Henson Archives or newspaper articles from when Sam and Friends were still on television during the timeframe from 1955-1961.
- The Muppets made regular appearances on Today beginning in 1961. Some of these segments were performed from their Sam and Friends set, communicating with Today hosts via satellite. A clip of one such performance of "Yes! We Have No Bananas" is found in an NBC special for Time and Again.
- Kermit, wearing a wig, lipsynchs to a recording of "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face," hence singing to Yorick, who is disguised completely in a piece of cloth with a face drawn on it. This was performed on several of the Muppets' guest appearances on certain talk shows like The Steve Allen Show and The Jack Paar Show; according to Jim Henson's Red Book, the sketch originated on Sam and Friends, but it is unknown whether the sketch was also done on Sam and Friends itself.
- Hank, Sam, and Moldy Hay in a car by a roadside sign. Video footage is not known to exist, but a photo appears in Jim Henson: The Works.
- Kermit and Harry the Hipster with Professor Madcliffe in a factory. Video footage is not known to exist, but a photo of the sketch has been found from Jim Henson's Red Book.
- Sam in a city at night. Video footage is not known to exist, but a photo has been found on the Jim Henson Company Timeline.
- Kermit performs a parody of "Anything You Can Do" with prerecorded footage of himself.
- Stan Freberg himself pops his head into frame and criticizes the Muppets for using his records without giving him credit. Kermit says "here's a little credit" and pounds him back out of frame with a mallet.
- Henson used a puppet made from the skull of a squirrel to lipsynch to a recording of "There's a New Sound."
- In The Muppet Show episode 218, Kermit introduces "Tweedle Dee" as "the very first piece of material the Muppets ever did ... about 23 years ago." This would make "Tweedle Dee" the first song performed on Sam and Friends in 1955, but the actual Sam and Friends video footage for it is not known to exist and, judging by Kermit's statement from The Muppet Show above, it is unclear whether "Tweedle Dee" was performed on either The Junior Morning Show, Afternoon with Inga, or even Sam and Friends itself (three television shows that dated around the early days of the Muppets).
- Characters lipsynched to a Mel Blanc recording of "Money." 
- Elvis Presley recordings were used as satire.
- A sad love song is sung by a Muppet who holds a picture of his lady-love upside-down.
- One segment involves a character running around frantically looking for a hammer to use on his rocket.
- Kermit (sporting a wig) and Sam lipsynch to an Etta James recording of "At Last" and perform in a television set (whereas Yorick and Harry, this time, are not there to watch). A brief clip of this was shown in some documentary, but it is unknown which documentary it came from.
Memory-Known Lost Episodes[edit | edit source]
This is a list for any of the wiped/lost episodes known from memories of those who grew up watching Sam and Friends while it was still on the air. One account coming from a YouTuber that has posted a comment on the YouTube video for That Old Black Magic, stating some of the lost Sam and Friends episodes he recalls from when he watched the show during his childhood.
- Banana Boat (Day-O): Kermit and Sam lipsynch to a Stan Freberg recording of "Banana Boat (Day-O)." This was filmed in colour.
- Yes! We Have No Bananas: Kermit, Chicken Liver, Moldy Hay, and Harry lipsynch to "Yes! We Have No Bananas."
- Magical Sam (1960): Sam performs some magic tricks, including the famous rabbit hat trick, card stick to the wall, and a long rope in the mouth-- some tricks work and some don't (accompanied by small amounts of claps and gasps from the audience). An echoing voice says "Any volunteers?" Then Harry steps up as a volunteer to turn into a dog, but Sam accidentally uses the wrong spell, and the trick goes awry, turning Harry into a monster. Sam becomes terrified and runs away as the now monster Harry just waves goodbye. Video footage is not known to exist, but a photo of the sketch is pictured on the right.
- Little Blue Riding Hood: With characters lip-synching to a Stan Freberg recording, the skit opens with a title card that says "Muppet News," featuring Sam as the news anchor. The scene then cuts to Omar (playing the detective, sporting a detective suit and fedora), and Henrietta (playing the girl in the blue hood). The scene then cuts to Omar ringing the doorbell to talk to Henrietta's grandma (played by Mushmellon wearing glasses and an old lady wig). Omar was on the bed, whereas Henrietta walks in and tells Omar that her grandma has a mustache and she doesn't. The skit ends with Sam and Omar talking. This skit was filmed in colour.
- That's What I Like About the South: Sam, sporting a tuxedo, lipsynchs to a Phil Harris recording.
- Jailhouse Rock (stated in the Documented episodes above): Hank, Frank, Pierre, and Yorick in prisoner outfits (with Pierre and Yorick donning B&W-striped jail hats) dance behind jail bars and lipsynch to an Elvis Presley recording, up until they run away from Sam (sporting a cop outfit) at the end of the song.
- The Great Pretender: Moldy Hay (lead singer) and Icky Gunk (pianist) lipsynch to the Platters recording. This skit was filmed in colour.
- Looking for a Hammer (stated in the Documented episodes above): Professor Madcliffe builds a rocket and needs one more touch. He thinks he lost his hammer, then he starts panicking and running across the world. First, he rushes to Paris where he tells Pierre the French Rat, "Have you seen a hammer around here?!" "Nope," says Pierre (with a voice sounding like that from Stan Freberg's "C'est Si Bon" recording). Madcliffe then bolts over to Mexico and meets up with Chicken Liver, who is riding a horse (which may be a reference to "The Westerners" clip). "Have you seen a hammer around here?!" yells Madcliffe. "Que?" asks Chicken Liver in a Spanish accent. Professor repeats his line in Spanish. "No," says Chicken Liver. Professor nods his head, then travels over to Britain, with Kermit asking the same question and responding with a British accent. The title card "34 hours later" follows up, then Madcliffe returns to his lab and suddenly notices his hammer lying in the corner all this time-- he then facepalms.
- Driving a Car: (stated in the Documented episodes above): An Esskay Meats commercial. Hank, Sam, and Moldy Hay are driving a car by a roadside sign. Not much else is known about this skit, but there was a female narrator voice talking to Moldy Hay (hence why he's looking toward the viewer), and the skit ends with them driving to a grocery store.
Unknown/Unconfirmed Episodes[edit | edit source]
According to a Muppet Wiki talk page about Sam and Friends, someone has received an email from an anonymous user stating that there were two other sketches called "National Yorick Day" and "The 12 Days of Christmas," but so far, no physical evidence of this has been put forward. This is a list for episodes that appear whether or not to be confirmed of having appeared on Sam and Friends.
- National Yorick Day
- The 12 Days of Christmas
- Sad love song of a puppet holding a picture upside down (stated in the Documented episodes above)
Esskay Meats Commercials[edit | edit source]
Esskay Meats was the original sponsor for Sam and Friends, and served as the launching pad for Henson's experiments in using puppets and sharp humour in selling products. Each episode of Sam and Friends ends with an Esskay Meats commercial skit featuring the show's characters. Many Esskay commercials with these Muppet characters (including Kermit, Harry the Hipster, Sneegle, King Goshposh, Rowlf, Moldy Hay and Yorick) were produced from 1959-1963. In May 2016, a small handful of Esskay commercials were restored from the Henson Archives and were shown in "Henson in High Definition: The Early Years" at Museum of the Moving Image. Here are the Esskay Meats commercials from Sam and Friends that have so far been restored from the Henson archives (but have yet to surface online) as follows:
- Professor Madcliffe and Henrietta (referred to here as Mildred) keep mispronouncing words in the script. Henrietta keeps flubbing lines from the copy for the advertisement.
- Madcliffe and Icky Gunk act as spies.
- Hawk's Bacon (FOUND): Kermit and Harry the Hipster scat some jazz on the piano.
- Kermit and Harry describe a bacon package displayed on the wall at an art gallery.
- Harry (in drag, as a librarian) suggests meat books to Kermit in a library.
According to a Tough Pigs forum post from 2004, there were a couple of other known Esskay commercials featuring the Muppets with Esskay spokeswoman Patricia. Another Esskay commercial is pictured to the right, but the video footage for it has not made it to YouTube in any form.
- "Patricia has a paper bag stuffed with Esskay sausage products, and she's asking Moldy Hay what he likes. She brings out each item, and he says that he likes that one okay, but it's not his favourite kind. After spotlighting each product, Moldy Hay admits that his favourite kind is pork and bacon sausage. Kermit pops out of the paper bag, having eaten all the pork and bacon sausage, and he delivers a tagline about how Esskay makes their sausage with the finest quality pork and bacon, blah blah. Sticking out of the bag, it actually seems a bit sarcastic, like he's poking fun at Patricia without her realizing it."
- Patricia pulls out multiple Esskay Products and she and Kermit have a conversation on how everybody loves bacon.
- "Patricia talks about cocktail wieners over a jazzy snare and hi-hat beat, and Kermit and Harry chime in on the beat with phrases like 'Hot Shots!' and 'Ess-Kay!'"
Gallery[edit | edit source]
External Links[edit | edit source]
- Muppet Wiki talk page on Sam and Friends's unknown episodes. Retrieved 16 Apr '17.
- Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones (page 63) Retrieved 16 Apr '17
- Brief clips from the Today performance of "That Old Black Magic" on YouTube. Retrieved 15 Apr '17.
- Defunctland's DefunctTV video covering the series as part of a 6-part retrospective on Jim Henson. Retrieved 23 Apr '19
References[edit | edit source]
- A video compilation of surviving Sam & Friends episodes. Retrieved 25 Mar '17.
- Jim Henson's Red Book entry on Sam and Friends' "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." Retrieved 21 Apr '17.
- Jim Henson's Red Book, page 54 Retrieved 25 Mar '17.
- The Jim Henson Company Timeline. Retrieved 3 May '17.
- Documents found in visit to Henson Archives via User:Toughpigs, User:Pantalones, and User:Scarecroe
- The GrantCast EPISODE #001 – Stan Freberg Talks About Jim Henson!
- J. Y. Smith, "Jim Henson, Creator of Muppets Dies at 53," Washington Post, May 17, 1990,
- Jim Henson's Red Book 1/13/1966 - Tonight Show - "Money" and "Sclrap Flyapp"
- Christian Science Monitor "Muppets Win Way" by Ursula Keller, December 15, 1959, via Jim Henson's Red Book "2/-/1955 – ‘Began working together. [Jane]‘"
- YouTube comment regarding memories on lost Sam and Friends episodes. Retrieved 25 Mar '17.
- Tough Pigs forum on Muppet commercials for Esskay Meats. Retrieved 11 May '17.