The Television Academy Hall of Fame is an annual televised ceremony, inaugurated in 1984 and sponsored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The Hall of Fame is a means of honoring individuals who, over the course of their careers, have made significant contributions to the television medium; inductees have included on-camera performers and newscasters, but also directors, producers, writers, and designers, amongst others. Unlike other "Halls of Fame," the Television Academy Hall of Fame exists purely as ceremony, and the umbrella title for the annual specials, and not as an actual museum. However, in May 1991, when the academy moved to new headquarters, a spot on the corner of Magnolia and Lankershim in Hollywood, California was reserved for the Hall of Fame Plaza, an outdoor exhibit of statuary and wall sculptures honoring past inductees (which, in 2005, added Jim Henson to the roster).
The third annual televised ceremony aired over NBC on April 21, 1986. Hosted by Milton Berle, the program included a tribute to the late Burr Tillstrom. Jim Henson stepped on-stage to speak about his fellow puppeteer, and Kermit the Frog narrated a biography of Tillstrom, over photograph stills. This segues into a taped puppet tribute, hosted by Kermit, and featuring Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop, Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody, Bil Baird and Charlemagne the lion, and multiple Muppet characters: Miss Piggy, Bert, Ernie, Statler and Waldorf, and Fozzie Bear. Tillstrom's award was accepted by Fran Allison.
The fourth annual televised ceremony was taped on November 15, and aired over FOX affiliates on November 30, 1987. One of the inductees that year was Jim Henson himself. For the occasion, Muppets from various productions sang a tribute to Jim ("Jim Is"), including several characters performed by Henson himself. Kermit hosted the segment (later joined by Miss Piggy) and Bernie Brillstein made a special video appearance. The special combined on-stage Muppet performances with video clips. Henson himself was among the performers, but the special as aired included edited cut-aways to footage of the Muppet creator laughing in the audience, fostering the illusion that Jim Henson was watching his own tribute. The other inductees that evening were Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Jacques Cousteau, Ernie Kovacs, Eric Sevaried and Leonard Goldenson.
Other inductees who worked with the Muppets or in Creature Shop projects include Milton Berle, Carol Burnett, Sid Caesar, Walter Cronkite, Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen, Mary Tyler Moore, Jack Benny, George Burns with Gracie Allen, Perry Como, Joan Ganz Cooney, Barbara Walters, Bill Cosby, Dinah Shore, Dick Clark, Phil Donahue, Bob Newhart, William Hanna & Joseph Barbera, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Landon, Dick Van Dyke, Edward Asner, Diane Sawyer, Robert MacNeil & Jim Lehrer, Lorne Michaels, Carl Reiner, Fred Rogers, Harvey Korman, Jean Stapleton, Katie Couric, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Regis Philbin, Garry Marshall and William Shatner.
- Backstage at The Muppet Theatre, the troupe sings Jim's praises, with some disagreement about his qualities. Featuring Fozzie Bear, Floyd Pepper, Scooter, Gonzo, Janice, Sam the Eagle, and Rowlf the Dog.
- New York workshop
- A voice-over chorus (including Richard Hunt) sing about how Jim is a "fairly adequate boss," while Michael K. Frith and other designers work. Two of The Primitives appear, and in the background, Muppet Workshop artisans tote Alice's head and Afghan Hound
- At Fraggle Rock, the Fraggles attempt to define Jim through a series of similes. Featuring Gobo Fraggle, Uncle Traveling Matt, Mokey Fraggle, Wembley Fraggle, Boober Fraggle, Large Marvin, Red Fraggle and an assortment of background Fraggles. Boober has just one question: "What *is* a Jim Henson?"
- Sesame Street (also in New York)
- At night, on the outskirts of 123 Sesame Street, the Sesame gang use Letters to explain what Jim means. The group includes Ernie, Bert, Grover, Big Bird, Herry Monster, and Count von Count. Oscar the Grouch, however, disagrees: "Ha! Jim Henson? He always treated me like... trash!"
- Los Angeles, California
- Bernie Brillstein, at a desk decorated with Muppet merchandise, takes a call from Kermit and Piggy, and informs the frog that Piggy lost the lead in Fatal Attraction.
- Live Finale (left to right):
- Floyd Pepper, Janice, Scooter, Count von Count, Sprocket, Rizzo the Rat, Rowlf, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Grover, Uncle Traveling Matt, Elmo
- Statler and Waldorf in audience
- Live performers: Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Steve Whitmire, Kathryn Mullen, Dave Goelz, Kevin Clash, plus Frank Oz and Jim Henson