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Odyssey preview very promising

By T. Erik Browne
January 17, 1999

If last night's preview of the Odyssey Channel is any indication of what's ahead, it's very promising for Henson and Hallmark fans to say the least. T. Erik Browne comments on this special 3-hour preview which he saw last night.

"It was interesting. The first half hour was Mandy Patinkin talking about how great the new Odyssey Channel was going to be. First he talked about all the great Odyssey Channel shows that would still be on. Then he talked about all the great TV movies and miniseries that they'd be showing courtesy of Hallmark. And finally he talked with Kermit via TV (Mandy was sitting in the studio talking to a TV with Kermit on it) about all the great Henson stuff they'd be showing. I think the message they were trying to drive home was that the new Odyssey Channel was going to be great, but I wasn't sure. Maybe if Mandy had said the word "great" a couple dozen more times..."

"Henson works specifically mentioned were The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, Fraggle Rock, The Storyteller, The Muppet Show, and specials such as Monster Maker, Dog City (the original one, not the cartoon), and Secrets of the Muppets."

"Then they showed the episode of the Muppet Show with Mark Hamill and the stars of Star Wars. This was uncut with no commercial interruptions, and included the "extra" skit recorded for the British broadcasts. This was, I believe, the first time an episode of this show has run in its "full" version on American television. The only change was that in the last second or so of the closing credits, while you could hear Zoot blow the final note on his sax, they showed The Jim Henson Company logo instead."

"This was followed by a short bit on making the Muppets, which seemed to be original. This bit focused on Muppets appearing in water, and included clips from an interview with Frank Oz where he describes how they did shots from The Frog Prince, The Muppet Movie, and The Great Muppet Caper where Muppets appeared in or on water. The final two hours was taken up with a showing of the TV movie The Yearling. I skipped this part."

This preview is exciting because we now know "officially" that a lot of the classic Henson specials, and series such as The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock will be returning to American television as early as this Spring. It's also encouraging because of the possibility of viewing unedited episodes (like The Muppet Show) on the network. If the network ends up being "commercial free" this will be an added bonus.

What remains to be seen, however, is what the new network is going to be named as it plans expansion into new areas. It has been referred to as the "New Odyssey", but it's likely another new name will appear. Also, as of this writing, an official date for the "crossover" to Henson and Hallmark programming has not been announced.

All-in-all though, the preview was a success, because it gives Henson fans concrete evidence that the shows they love will soon be returning to the airwaves on a daily basis.

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