I cannot say enough good things about JimHenson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones. The book thoroughly covers Henson’s entire life. The sense of joy that Henson found through creating the Muppets and other less widely known projects comes through on each page.
Years before The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, Henson performed his Muppet characters on several Washington, D.C. TV stations, getting involved in the medium in its infancy. He quickly realized that he did not want his TV appearances to simply be a televised version of a puppet theater performance, which is what other TV puppeteers were doing at the time. He saw “that no puppet theater was needed at all—that, in fact, the space between the four sides of the TV screen was his puppet theater.” This major innovation, his unique Muppet creations and an often bizarre sense of humor led to an almost immediate devoted following for his early Muppet based show, “Sam and Friends.” Soon, Henson’s Muppets were appearing in a variety of commercials, and some even made their debuts in ads. For example, the Muppet who came to be known as the Cookie Monster first appeared in a Frito-Lay ad devouring potato chips.
Henson’s other interests outside of the Muppets are covered as well, such as a 1966 Academy Award nominated experimental short film called “Time Piece.” Jones also delves into some of Henson’s less successful projects, such as one of my favorites, “The Dark Crystal.” Sadly, Henson died too soon but his Muppets continue on and are likely to be loved for generations to come.