When you hear the name Jim Henson, who is the first Muppet character you think of? If you are like me, you immediately think of Kermit the Frog. Kermit was created in 1955, and while he may be the first Muppet created by Henson, he is not the first Muppet to appear regularly on network television.
Can you tell me which Muppet was the first to have a regular spot on a network television show? Hint – this Muppet also performed in television ads for Purina pet food.
And the answer is:
Rowlf was introduced to television in 1962, as Baskerville the Hound in a Purina Dog Chow commercial which aired in Canada. Rowlf’s first regular network TV gig was on the Jimmy Dean Show (yes, the sausage guy!), where he played Jimmy’s sidekick. In the show, Rowlf was performed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Rowlf appeared in almost every episode of the Jimmy Dean Show from 1963 through 1966. Jimmy Dean has said that Rowlf received upwards of two thousand fan letters a week! Rowlf joined the cast of The Muppet Show during its opening season in 1966 as the resident pianist.
As for Kermit – he first appeared in 1955 in a local television program Sam and Friends, in the Washington D.C. area. He made occasional guest appearances on The Today Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. Kermit appeared semi-regularly on Sesame Street, beginning in 1969, and began hosting The Muppet Show in 1976.
While Rowlf got the first jump on prime time, Kermit has proven to have more star power. If you ask me, they are both Muppet-ational!