Tales of the Tinkerdee Pilot

Tammy Claus

Tammy Claus

Ahhhh. You also have to love that, in the first Muppet production to have prominent female characters who aren’t male characters in drag a la Sam and Friends and some of the Wilkins and Wontkins ads, one of them dresses in male drag!


Ok, moving on, meanwhile, inside the castle, there have been a number of party-preparation-related mishaps, including the cake not being an opulent 267 layers, as the king had ordered, but instead a single layer with 267 candles–“It looks like a pastry porcupine!” Goshposh exclaims–and an order mix-up leading to the castle being filled with 67,000 peanut butter sandwiches. Remember that for later. Consider it Chekov’s endless piles of sandwiches.


Anyway, what proceeds is basically a door-slamming farce in which Taminella dresses herself up as multiple characters and somehow manages to fool each person who crosses her path, thanks to the laws of comedy. She tricks Goshposh into thinking she’s his daughter, despite her prominent snaggle-tooth, husky voice, and the fact that she just looks like herself with a curly blonde wig–he just writes it off as the “poor child” not “looking her usual self” due to pre-party stress–and later the princess into thinking she’s the Prime Minister by slapping on a counterfeit conical hat. Over the course of the story, she ends up locking numerous characters in cupboards, each of whom keeps getting freed, and she herself goes into the cupboard numerous times to change costumes, but she eventually does manage to steal all the presents, tossing each one to Charlie out the window.


What’s particularly funny about this set-up is the game of telephone that occurs as the Prime Minister announces each guest’s gift and Taminella repeats it to Charlie, who himself repeats it, each one getting verbally mangled more horrifically in the process:


PRIME MINISTER: A sterling silver, mother of pearl, sapphire-trimmed cuckoo clock!

TAMINELLA: A sterling sapphire, mother of silver pearl-trimmed cuckoo clock!

CHARLIE: A silver sapphire, mother of cuckoo, sterling clock-trimmed pearl!


The Prime Minister and King Goshposh

The Prime Minister and King Goshposh

You can also very audibly hear each object breaking as he tosses it into the sack, but Taminella doesn’t seem to care. She doesn’t want them for any particular reason other than to be wicked, which really is as good a reason as any for a fairy tale witch.


The show culminates with a fantastic sequence where Tammy freezes Gwendolina with a magic spell whose curse can only be broken by uttering the very specific phrase, “My uncle was bouncing through the ice cream on his pogo stick,” then covers her in powder so she’ll look like a statue, emerging a moment later herself dressed as an outrageously European sculptor with a beanie, false mustache, cigarette, and over-the-top French accent, in order to fool the king. And, naturally, fate and comedy then conspires for Goshposh to unknowingly manage to say the exact words he needs to break the spell. With lightning speed, however, Tammy tosses back on her princess wig, claiming to be the real Gwendolina, just as a very confused Gwendolinda does.


In order to judge the truth, the Prime Minister references an old wives’ tale that when a Tinkerdee witch is struck in the face with a cream pie, lightning will strike, and naturally, as soon as the test is performed, it does, although Taminella, whose eyes are covered with cream at the moment, swears “I didn’t see a thing!” And yet her trickery has finally been unmasked, and as punishment for her crimes, King Goshposh orders her tossed in the dungeon, telling her she will be let out only once she has consumed every last peanut butter sandwich. See, I told you that would pay off later! It’s also a really clever twist on some of the very dark fates that befall villains in the Grimm fairy tales. Snow White’s stepmother, for example, was forced to dance to her death at the princess’ wedding in iron shoes that had first been set in a fire–the non-Disney versions of fairy tales can be brutal–and this sticky comeuppance is a silly twist on that sort of sentence.


"Tales of the Tinkerdee"

“Tales of the Tinkerdee”

As Kermit sings at the close of our tale, “She cried and screamed and muttered/But to this day, in a dungeon cold, she’s caged and peanut-buttered!” And presumably Charlie gets off scot-free, along with all of the presumably mangled gifts! The fairy tale closes with an extremely clever end credits sequence in which Kermit walks towards the camera, and as he does, a variety of prop castle gates close behind him, one after the other, each with a different credits listing written on it, like the Get Smart credits sequence in reverse, albeit 3 years previously.


And there we have it: Tales of the Tinkerdee, a show that perhaps was not meant to be but which drew together many imaginative aspects of Muppet production that Jim and his people had been experimenting with at the time and improved upon them, proving that a half-hour-long puppet TV narrative could creatively work (whether or not television execs were ready at the time to see that puppets could be worthy entertainment for adults), and setting the stage for so much great Muppetiness and Jim Henson storytelling to come afterwards. And you can watch this truly fascinating piece of Muppet history here.


Please come back Monday, when I survey the birth of the first Muppet superstar. No, not Kermit, but Rowlf the Dog!


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