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The Affect Show

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The Affect Show was a proposed television series being developed by Children's Television Workshop in 1972. The weekly program was being developed with the New Age goal of "increasing a child's psychological awareness of his own thoughts and feelings as well as his understanding of the thoughts and feelings of others."[1] CTW's panel of child development specialists, psychologists, and educators suggested that the show should reflect "a family mood with characters, probably puppets, who encounter situations that call for different types of personalities or emotions."[1] Building on the relationship Jim Henson had formed with CTW by working on Sesame Street, Jim and Henson Associates (including Jerry Juhl, Frank Oz, and Jane Henson[2]) were brought into the planning and development of the series.

Henson was intrigued by the premise and outlined several skits that he thought might illustrate higher psychological concepts, such as a "character that always sees things in abstract symbols" or a "character that summarizes."[1] In July 1972, Henson taped two short pieces which he had written to demonstrate the potential of the show to the developers. The first, called "Sulfuric Cake" was about miscommunication and ended with a cake in the face. The second, called "Dilemma" related to honesty and taking responsibility for one's actions.[3]

Henson told producer Diana Birkenfield that he thought the show was "meaningful" and "ought to be done." However, Birkenfield felt that it would be better for Jim and Henson Associates to focus on independent projects outside of CTW—especially in the realm of adult-oriented television— to avoid Henson being pigeonholed as solely a "children's performer."[1] However, eventually CTW abandon the project and no series was ever produced.

Some of the themes Henson had explored with The Affect Show would later resurface in his pitch for Starboppers and in segments of the Henson Company's CityKids.

According to a curated entry from the Jim Henson's Red Book blog:

CTW launched The Electric Company in 1971 for school-aged children, and the following summer, began exploring a concept for a third show, also aimed at 6 -10 year olds. From June 14-16, 1972, Jim attended a meeting at Arden House, an estate in Harriman, NY used as a conference center, organized by CTW to discuss (according to the meeting report), "...a projected program series treating the emotional development of young children." The production staff was hoping, at this meeting, to focus on just a few topics in depth in order to produce four to six taped test pieces. There was concern, however, that, "what a poor child may need to get along better with himself and others or to resolve conflicts may run counter to what a middle-class child needs” and that they could be, "…accused of indoctrinating children with values decided on by CTW staff.” The consensus was to, “…provide universal values and to avoid a propagandistic approach." Academic experts spoke about moral and ego development, self-esteem and pro-social behavior, and the group looked at existing Sesame Street footage and a film Jim made in 1962 promoting good decision making relating to traffic safety. The report described animated discussions on the format of the show leading to the concept of a "family mood with characters, probably puppets, who encounter situations that call for different types of personality or emotions.” Using the group dynamic of Pogo and Peanuts as an example, they decided that specific individual personalities taken together would provide an integrated message. Jim took detailed notes, doodling ideas and suggestions. On July 14th, preparing for the second meeting planned for July 19th-21st, he taped two pieces (described in his journal as "poor") which he had written. The first, called "Sulfuric Cake" was about miscommunication and ended with a cake in the face. The second, called "Dilemma" related to honesty and taking responsibility for one’s actions and failed to come to a full resolution. In-house correspondence indicated that Jim was excited about this project, eager to be involved with the production, and he took a big group up to the July meeting including Jerry Juhl, Frank Oz, his producer Diana Birkenfield, Jane Henson, Joe Raposo and others. CTW’s Gerald Lesser provided those attending with an overview summing up the basic concept: "The show is a new experiment...in whether television can be used to increase a child's psychological awareness of his own thoughts and feeling as well as [those] of others." Apparently, a decision was made to abandon the project as Jim made no further mention of it and no programming was produced. Some of the ideas from the show resurfaced in 1983 when Jim began developing his never-produced show, Starboppers.[3]

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones (pages 198-191)
  2. Jim's Red Book - 7/19-21/1972 – ‘Meeting at Tarrytown re: Affect Show w/Jerry J., Frank, Diana, Jane and Joe, etc.’
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jim's Red Book - 6/14-6/16, 1972 - Meeting at Arden House re: Affect Show

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