The Best Argument Yet Against Public Television in the U.S.


Comes by way of an e-mail from a techie friend who works in the entertainment biz:

It always amuses me when I look at genre lists from public television stations in Europe. They have an incredible number of classications for various types of programs involving puppetry—drama with puppets, comedy with puppets, dance with puppets, etc. (I didn't make these up). So supporting public television can only mean one thing: more puppets. As such, I think I'll take the libertarian viewpoint on this issue.

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  1. What is the libertarian viewpoint on puppets?

  2. I’ve noticed this myself. I’ve never understood why the last couple decades have seen this explosion in the popularity of puppet-based entertainment in Europe, as I’m not aware of it being particular “in” prior to the early 1970s or so. (If I’m wrong, may God save me from Hakluyt’s wrath.)

  3. The libertarian viewpoint on puppets is “Team America.”

  4. That if people want to pay for them with their own money, and the puppets don’t object, you can’t say anything about it.

  5. Matt Welch,

    I’d rather watch puppets than Extr?me limite. 🙂

  6. better puppets than $^&@$%&*#% clowns.

    also you can burn puppets, thereby allowing the SUV driver who doesn’t know better because he is a brainwashed corporate nazi, to soil the environment further.

    so there.

  7. SR,

    You can do cool things with puppets. 🙂

    Of course you can also ask why has jazz always been very popular in France even when it reached its nadir here in the U.S.? Its rather bizarre to think that the place that brought that music form to life basically abandoned it for decades.

  8. Since when has burning clowns been a problem?

  9. If the pu-pu-puppet head
    Was only bu-bu-busted in
    It would be a better thing for everyone involved
    And we wouldn’t have to cry

  10. I saw these guys on German TV a couple of years ago, but I don’t think that’s what your correspondent is talking about.

  11. Ah, I dunno. We had the Muppets, and Lamb Chop, and King Friday + crew from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and now we’ve got Avenue Q. We’re not completely puppet-averse as a culture.

  12. Your friend hasn’t seen Greg the Bunny

  13. What is the libertarian viewpoint on puppets?

    Government will turn us all into them.

  14. Comment,

    That was a great show. 🙂

  15. better puppets than $^&@$%&*#% clowns

    I think you’ve got this all backwards…

    …As someone who can both juggle and ride a unicycle at the same time, I can tell you that mimes and marionettes are crime. …which means that clowns and puppets are law. …and if we’re talkin’ about European puppets, we’re probably talkin’ about marionette-crime.

    …and if you’re watchin’ puppets–even sock puppets–hitting each other, and you’re not laughing, then there’s nothing wrong with the puppet master, there’s something wrong with you.

  16. “As such, I think I’ll take the libertarian viewpoint on this issue.”

    Whenever somebody uses “as such” to mean “therefore,” I want to rip my eyes out.

  17. But does Europe have Puppets Who Kill?

  18. jp: What’s really freaking my bean lately is this tendency to use “anymore” in the sense of “these days” or “nowadays” but without a negative like “not” in the sentence. Ergh, I don’t know the grammatical terms to explain this correctly. But let me give an example:

    A sentence like, “Nobody goes there anymore” is what I’m used to.

    But more and more I’m seeing/hearing sentences like, “It seems like almost everyone has a cell phone anymore.” Or “People expect to live to at least 60 anymore.” One of our local radio personalities talks like that all the time. And I hate it. OT, but I’ve been brooding over this in silence for far too long. It’s barbaric.

  19. When puppets are crime, then only criminals will puppet.

    Vive Le Henson

  20. Punch:”What is the libertarian viewpoint on puppets?”

    Well, they seem to be against banning giant ones, anyway:

  21. Every prez since Truman has been a puppet of someone…

  22. What’s wrong with puppets? Are they suddenly not cool? Because I was planning on pitching a television series using the Indonesian wayang kulit style of shadow puppet theater and I want to know if I shouldn’t even bother. Is no one in this country ready for a shadow puppet retelling of Hindu myths with a stirring gamelan accompaniment?

    Actually I’m wondering if by “puppets’ most people in the States understand hand puppets or sock puppets, rather than the sophisticated marionettes and rod puppets that are traditional throughout Europe. I would certainly rather watch that than most of what’s on network television.

    “Ah, I dunno. We had the Muppets, and Lamb Chop, and King Friday + crew from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and now we’ve got Avenue Q. We’re not completely puppet-averse as a culture.”

    And don’t forget “Kukla, Fran and Ollie”. Except Fran wasn’t a puppet.

  23. “…As someone who can both juggle and ride a unicycle at the same time”

    Tom Crick,
    There was a guy who claimed to be legally blind who would ride all over the apartment complex where we used to live, juggling bowling pins on his unicycle. I think he was being truthful about his affliction as one eye was constantly focused on the Planet Blypton, and the other wasn’t focused, period.
    The bunch of us who got together for volleyball chose his ass last. (But, come to think of it, he may not have been the worst player. I’m not sayin’ who might have been.)
    That said, I can’t recall his ever making a connection between his so-called talents and puppets, marionettes, mimes, clowns.
    You know… he may have been sense of humor impaired too.
    Too bad we didn’t have more beer trucks racing through that apartment complex, eh?

  24. We’re not completely puppet-averse as a culture.

    Do ventriloquist dummies count? Charlie McCarthy. Jerry Mahoney. Other puppets: Howdy Doody; Beany and Cecil (before they became cartoons); Kukla, Fran and Ollie (OK, Fran wasn’t a puppet); Mr. Moose from Captain Kangaroo; Whitefang and Blacktooth (do they count?) and others from Soupy Sales; and ALF. And, yes, I’m obviously a baby boomer.

  25. Mark Borok,
    You reminded me… the geezer who used to be inside Big Bird and I, fellow geezer, are like this. I even have his book. Met his wife too.

  26. In case anyone is interested, this is a terrific book:

    Bil Baird’s “The Art of the Puppet”. Not only details the role puppetry has played in various countries through history (the Bunraku theater of Japan, he wayang kulit and wayang golek puppets of Indonesia which I referenced earlier, the Sicilian Orlando Furioso puppets) but also the largely forgotten American puppet scene (Tony Sarg, Bil Baird himself) that existed before Henson. This book made me want to become a puppeteer when I was a kid.

  27. Ah, the Meat Puppets, those were the days. I used to go see them at the Mason Jar in Phoenix and I had about 3 hours of them doing AC/DC covers on tape from a friend who worked in a studio. The last time I saw them they were on smack and nearly uninteligable and I sat in puke. Oh well, they were great while they lasted. I have a British released album of theirs that I paid silly money for when I was living in London. I wonder if some music geek would pay good money for it.

  28. So does this mean Miers gets to be a Supreme Court justice and get her own PBS show?…

  29. Look, Matt, I’d tread lightly when insulting puppets. Bert is watching you. And he’s evil.

  30. The libertarian viewpoint on puppets
    is. . .Manamana.

  31. Let’s try that again: Bert is evil.

  32. Hey, if PBS wants to run a Meet the Feebles marathon, I’m there. Maybe I’ll even pledge.

  33. More people would watch PBS if they showed more of me, Milton Friedman’s Scrotum!

  34. Fellas, fellas! Have you forgotten Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot? Hell, if PBS ran the “Master Ninja” episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I might even contribute during the pledge break.

    We should really just relax,


  35. As this thread illustrates, it’s wrong to stereotype puppets. Clearly not all puppets are bad. There are good puppets, and bad puppets, cool puppets, boring puppets, in short, puppets are as much individuals as any other persons. Each puppet’s individual rights must be respected, and each puppet is responsible for his own actions. Don’t give me any of your leftist “puppet-master” nonsense (a theory that puppets have no will of their own and are under Svengali like control of others) either.

    Several people have mentioned that they would support PBS if they hosted the right puppets. Well I actually did support PBS when they hosted Kermit, and King Friday. I stopped when they switched to Elmo and Barney (don’t even get me started on telletubbies).

  36. What’s this guy got against puppets?

    Damned pupaphobe.

  37. I hear the eskimos have 20 words for the fear of puppets.

  38. I can’t believe that all you boomers left Farfel off your lists.

    Nestles makes the very best
    Chawwwwwwww-klit (Clack!)

  39. It looks to me like some of you might be under the control of the alien parasite. I must insist that everybody take of their clothes now. Purely for security reasons.

  40. Why is everyone so worried about what another country watches or doesn’t watch? Should we be concerned about what is going on here? I have 2 kids and can’t even watch abc, nbc, or cbs at night due to the fact of all the violence and adult language as well as the adult content! And we wonder why there is so much violence and hatred. PBS bring on the puppets.

  41. Actually, that’s the thing about PBS: for kids they have things like “Sesame Street” and for adults they have, or used to have, the sex and violence of things like “I, Claudius” (I think the first scene of the first episode involved a bunch of bare-breasted women dancing).

    That’s treating kids like kids and adults like adults.

  42. Yeah, Matt, but what does your friend make of Noggin?

    Kid-friendly cable network, not a public dollar in site, and puppets everywhere.

  43. (I think the first scene of the first episode involved a bunch of bare-breasted women dancing).

    Actually, I recall such a scene in an episode of Danger UXB. But there must have been some T&A or violence in I, Claudius because my parents wouldn’t let me watch it with them (I was in the 3rd grade).

  44. Oops. Joke post name change incident.

  45. what’s wrong with puppets?

  46. Actually, I recall such a scene in an episode of Danger UXB.

    I was recalling that scene too.

    How far we’ve come. I’m sure you’ll not see anything like that on Masterpiece Theater for a while.

    We’ll have to wait until those heathen Democrats are in power again.

  47. But there must have been some T&A or violence in I, Claudius because my parents wouldn’t let me watch it with them (I was in the 3rd grade).

    There were orgies.

  48. And I meant to say “sight” not “site.”


  49. By the way, this thread should not die without some mention of the UK’s Gerry Anderson and SuperMarionation!.

    Stingray, Thunderbirds, etc.

    Without SuperMarionation!, there would probably be no Team Ameria, after all.

  50. Whenever I am in a discussion with a bunch of indie-film snobs, I always roll out the fact that I am one of the few people in the world to have seen the now-legendary Superstar:The Karen Carpenter story in the theatre (filmed with Ken and Barbie dolls, not actual puppets I guess, but close).
    It’s sort of the indie-film equivalent of having seen Jimi Hendrix live.

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