Q: What came first, the Muppets, the Fraggles or the "Sesame Street" group?

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

That's harder to answer than it sounds. The Muppets came first -- at least some of them -- and indeed, technically they're all Muppets. However, "Sesame Street" was Jim Henson's first major series.

The name Muppets refers to the pioneering kind of puppet Henson created along with his wife and early collaborator, Jane Nebel (the two incorporated under the name Muppets Inc. in 1958). However, "The Muppet Show" didn't debut until 1976, seven years after "Sesame Street." 

But actually, by the time "Sesame Street" debuted in 1969, with now-legendary puppeteer Henson guiding his fabric-and-foam-rubber creations across the screen, he was already an established TV entertainer. And here's where it gets confusing. 

He'd been doing guest appearances on the great '60s variety shows hosted by Steve Allen, Ed Sullivan and their ilk. It was while working this circuit that he introduced his first recurring character, Rowlf the Dog, in 1963, on "The Jimmy Dean Show."

Thus, a "Muppet Show" character was Henson's first famous creation, too. But he was born 13 years before the show. 

Henson has said that he wanted to do a more adult-oriented program after "Sesame Street," and indeed, one of the two pilots produced for "The Muppet Show" was called "Sex and Violence" (so, you know, mission accomplished right off the bat).

But even this adult-oriented approach to puppeteering had a precedent -- Henson started doing regular puppet performances of a more grown-up nature on "Saturday Night Live" in 1975.

"Fraggle Rock" debuted in 1983, and unlike the other two programs, the characters didn't really appear anywhere else first.

As a last note, technically all of these shows and characters were predated by "Sam & Friends." That was the name of Henson and Nebel's very first show, produced for the D.C.-area channel WRC-TV in 1955.


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