Sam and Friends was the first television show to feature The Muppets. It ran from May 9, 1955, to December 15, 1961 on WRC, NBC's owned-and-operated station in Washington, D.C. This was where Jim Henson invented the idea of using the camera's viewpoint to make a television show with puppets more than just a filmed puppet show: there was no need to hide the performers as long as they were out of camera range, enabling the puppets to be filmed just like live actors.
The show was about an average man named Sam, who attempted to escape the harshness of reality with the help of bizarre, abstract creatures that he created based off of exaggerated parts of his life. Sam's friends included Yorick, Harry the Hipster, and a character named Kermit who would go on to bigger things.
This show provides examples of:
- Ambiguous Gender: Icky Gunk is the only character with no confirmed gender.
- Big Eater: Yorick, who will eat almost anything, including his co-stars.
- Breakout Character: Kermit, who eventually became the face of the Muppets franchise.
- Cast of Snowflakes: It even includes a mannequin as the title character, unusually for the Muppets.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- This was the first appearance of Kermit the ... nondescript lizard thing. He didn't become a frog until some years after this show ended.
- Jim Henson wasn't fully comfortable voicing puppets yet, so many installments of the show, especially in the earlier years of its run, were segments lip-synced to novelty records.
- The main premise of the show was that Sam was the only real "person" in the cast, with the rest of his friends being figments of his imagination.
- End-of-Series Awareness: See Trash the Set.
- Enforced Plug: At the end of episodes a few of the characters would give an enthusiastic ad-read for that episode's sponsor, with one of the most common being Esskay Meats.
- Lethal Chef: Omar attempts to make a salad that ends up being served on fire.
- Parody Assistance: When Stan Freberg saw how Henson was having puppets lip-sync to his records on Sam and Friends, he not only gave full approval, he also cameoed in one episode to complain about them using his records (only for Kermit to whack him with a baseball bat).
- Parody Episode:
- Protagonist and Friends
- Repeat After Me: One of the surviving episodes has a group of the Muppets acting out a Stan Freberg sketch in which a choir director (played by Kermit) is prompting the choir with the words for "I've Got You Under My Skin" and they follow along faithfully when he starts forgetting the words himself.Kermit: "I said to myself, this affair..."
Choir: I said to myself this affair
Kermit: Oh darn it, what are those words?
Choir: Oh darn it what are those words
- Shout-Out: Yorick with his skull-like head is named after the Posthumous Character in Hamlet whose skull Hamlet monologues to.
- Snakes Are Sinister: Downplayed with Icky Gunk, who, while sinister, is still a heroic character.
- Token Human: Sam was the only truly human character, although there were several abstract humanoids.
- Trash the Set: In the final episode, Kermit and Harry blow up all the scenery and equipment since they won't need it anymore.
- Visual Pun: In the "Visual Thinking" sketch, when Kermit says "I don't like jazz" a square appears around his head.
- World of Pun: The episode "Powder-Burn".