One byproduct of this age of high-tech entertainment is the behind-the-scenes documentary, revealing the tricks of the film maker's trade while selling big-budget sci-fi flicks, ambitious rock videos, and so forth.
"Down at Fraggle Rock . . . Behind the Scenes" (on HBO, premiering tonight at 8 and repeated throughout the month) is light years beyond mere techno-hype, however. Here is an entertaining introduction to an extraordinary children's show and a fascinating glimpse into the magical world masterminded by Jim Henson, who serves as genial host.
We meet, one by one, all the furry, funny Fraggles who dwell in the underground world of Fraggle Rock. Simultaneously, we get to know the equally delightful group of puppeteers who bring life to this amazing bunch of characters.
Those who've followed "Fraggle Rock" during its tenure on HBO will be tickled at finally matching human faces with those comical inhuman voices, and in discovering how Doozers sing and Gorgs dance.
Anyone unfortunate enough to have missed the series may wish to tune in a half-hour early and watch the episode preceding the documentary. Still, knowing nothing about "Fraggle Rock" will not prevent a first-time viewer from being enthralled by the wondrous puppet machinery, described in an endearing no-big-deal tone by Henson.
For five years, the show has enjoyed popularity around the world. A particularly delightful segment of "Behind the Scenes" follows the Fraggles singing the same ditty in a variety of languages, a la "It's a Small World."
As head writer Jerry Juhl notes, there are many layers of meaning in the series. Henson admits his intention to allow the Fraggles to gently teach trust, caring, honesty and peace to his young viewers. One must be grateful that at least one voice reaching our children is singing about love, and not shouting about violence.