Common Ground: Muppets back for new generation

The Muppets appear to be back on top, and I can’t seem to get enough of the furry, wisecracking creatures.

For a while it seemed the Muppets had fallen off the radar, relegated to old VHS movies and DVDs.

Now they are in commercials and movies and their hits can be downloaded from iTunes.

Kermit the Frog stars in a Lipton Tea commercial, and a bunch of Muppets join Animal in proclaiming there’s “no room for boring” as they coast down the highway in a Toyota Highlander.

My children knew a little bit about the Muppets, but they never were much interested until 2011’s “The Muppets,” and, most recently, “Muppets Most Wanted.”

I can’t blame them. Their attention is so divided these days.

During my childhood years, we had far fewer choices in television and movies. Cartoon programs aired on Saturday mornings, and educational shows were a rarity.

Years ago, my nursery school teachers rounded us up into a large room to watch episodes of a then-new show called “Sesame Street.”

Muppets fever grabbed a hold of me around age 3. There was really no competition.

The Count taught us how to, well, count. Ernie and Bert showed us how to get along, and my favorite Muppet, Roosevelt Franklin, a character who attended a school named after him, was so cool that he released his own record in the mid ’70s.

That was my first record, by the way, and, wow, did it have a lot of soul. On it, Roosevelt reminded us that learning to count was “out of sight.”

His character was dropped in the ’70s amid complaints his rowdy elementary school did not set a good example or that his character was stereotypical. I disagree. Roosevelt’s character stole the show and my heart.

Meanwhile, the Muppets continued to gain momentum in the ’70s and ’80s, with several movies, like “The Muppets Take Manhattan” and a bunch of Muppet soundtracks. A prime time Muppet variety show even featured celebrity performers.

Earlier this year, the SyFy channel aired, “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.” In the show, contestants vie for a chance to work for Henson’s Creature Shop by winning a series of challenges designing and creating creatures reminiscent of Henson’s work throughout the decades.

The comeback of puppet characters has once again made its mark on a newer generation. Much of the same humor, song and dialogue that cracked us up in the ’70s and ’80s is back.

It just shows us that the old tried-and-true mechanics of puppeteering can still deliver just as much excitement as many of its computer-generated rivals.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.