I miss Ward

Recently I started a little Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. re-watch. I just finished Season 2 last night and hadn’t really seen the first two seasons since the first airings. Last year, I dabbled with the idea of revisiting the old days of the show, but once I had gotten to the end of Season 3, I didn’t want to do that. In fact, I found myself really not feeling the need to watch Season 4 in the fall of that year and honestly just felt like quitting the show.

The reason for that? They bloody killed off Grant Ward! The bastards!

Ward was easily my favourite character on the show and I always enjoyed watching Brett Dalton’s performance. In retrospect, maybe I should’ve seen a more permanent exit for the actor coming once Ward was killed mid-season and possessed by Hive, but I couldn’t imagine the writers really letting him go from the show.

My heart sank once it became clear that they were killing him off for good at the end of Season 3. I really felt like I might be done watching the show. In the end, I did still watch Season 4 and it was good, better than I thought it would be, but the show just didn’t feel the same without him. You can imagine how happy I was once the Framework arc came in the last third of the season and Ward was back!

It was joy to watch Framework Ward and see other characters from the show’s past come back. Though it was probably the obvious route to go, many fans were predicting that Framework Ward would become real and come back to the show full time again, but this time as part of the team. I knew it would probably be too obvious, but I was SO hoping they would do that. I’m not lying, before I watched the season finale, I crossed my fingers that the very last scene of the season would be Framework Ward somehow making it into the real world. I really do think it would’ve been an interesting place to go. And it would’ve also given the writers the opportunity to fully redeem the character and do what they could have (and some may argue should have) done with him after Season 1.

The only drawback I could think of with that would be a Ward desperately longing for Skye again. I’ll be honest, I’ve grown less fond of Skye in later seasons and much preferred the delightfully twisted relationship between Ward and Kara/Agent 33. Re-watching Season 2 these last few days, I so loved revisiting that and wish we could’ve seen more of them together.

But if getting Ward back meant the possibility of SkyeWard being a thing again, I could take it. But sadly, the producers didn’t go this way, and declared in an interview that Ward will never being coming back again.

Bastards.

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When a Muppet vision crumbles

So…. that Steve Whitmire’s Greatest Hits thing… that didn’t really pan out, did it?

I think it’s fair to that the last three weeks for a Muppet fan have been truly devastating, bitter, EFFIN’ CRAZY, utterly nightmarish, and disillusioning. It’s been rough. Part of the reason I didn’t keep going with SWGH is various things going on in my life lately that have been difficult to deal with. This whole Steve firing situation is the last thing I needed to see happen. I’ve honestly held back tears.

The joy and the magic I usually associate not only with the Muppets, but also the Muppet Performers, has taken quite a hit. I’ve probably said all I needed to and could in a post in the Muppet Central forums (if you care to read it), so I’d probably just be reiterating a lot of what I had expressed there. That was difficult. To put it all into words as eloquently as possible. To articulate it all. To make it all make sense when I could barely make sense of the situation.

To see most of the Henson children’s comments about Steve and their dissatisfaction with his performance as Kermit, to see Brian Henson (a Muppet Performer who like Steve I also have a lot of love and respect for) say what he said and his criticism of Steve’s performance as Kermit… it’s all felt like a Muppet fan’s worst nightmare.

And as it got uglier and uglier, as I saw fans taking sides, as I saw a man I call a hero look so broken and in tears, and as the interviews, articles, or blog posts would pour out, more brutal comments about him kept coming, I was hoping I’d finally wake up.

That doesn’t seem to have happened yet.

I hope this is as worse as it’s going to get. I can’t take any more. I don’t want to take sides either. I still love Steve Whitmire. People don’t know what to make of his blog posts; are they genuine or “self-serving”? I can see both sides but I honestly believe he’s being genuine. This was his life’s work and after 39 years, it’s all been taken from him. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain he must be in.

I’m not saying that I’m “blindly following a hero” or calling the Hensons and Disney big fat liars just out to destroy Steve, but I don’t know the full truth. There are always two sides. I don’t know the man personally but I can’t imagine him to be this complete jerkass they’re describing him as.

Steve Whitmire’s Greatest Hits

I’m still in shock and feel a great deal of sadness over Steve Whitmire’s departure. When I first saw the news, I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. After 39 years of being a Muppet Performer and 27 years of keeping Kermit, other characters and Jim Henson’s legacy alive, that’s it. I never imagined this would come so soon and so sudden.

We have less than a week to go till the debut of Matt Vogel’s Kermit in a Muppet Thought Of The Week video on YouTube. Since new videos of those usually get posted on Mondays, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet we’ll be hearing what Kermit will now sound like this coming Monday. Considering how Matt Vogel has now become “King of the recasts” with the number of classic characters he now has his hand in (there’ll probably many puns like that – unintentionally or not… sorry) and how super amazingly bloody talented and versatile he’s shown to be, I’m not worried at all about Kermit. I expect at the worst, it will just take some getting used to. Much like Steve’s Kermit originally did for a little bit at first.

Today, I thought a great way to deal with this pain and to lead up to this debut would be to post each day to celebrate some of the truly great moments Steve’s given us. Given his wonderful singing voice, I thought I’d call it Steve Whitmire’s Greatest Hits – celebrating some of the great Muppet musical moments that highlight his singing talent, but also moments that highlight just what a fantastic puppeteer and actor he is.

Whether it be as Kermit, Rizzo, Wembley, Beaker, Bean Bunny or Ernie, Steve always showed what range he has and the amount of soul he gave to all of his characters.

When this idea came to me (earlier today), there were a number of songs that came to mind that I thought deserved special mention. One of them is a duet Kermit did with Kylie Minogue in her 2001 ITV special An Audience with Kylie Minogue. Pretty much everybody has heard the original, well known version of her hit 80s’ song ‘Especially For You’ with Jason Donovan. It’s not one of my personal favourite songs – or rather that version isn’t – but I just love this duet.

There are some things Steve’s Kermit did better than Jim’s, and given Steve’s singing talents, I always felt his Kermit had a better singing voice. I mentioned how Steve gave such soul to his characters and this moment here is no exception. His vocals just make it for me. It’s beautiful to listen to. And the amount of love and detail Steve did with his craft shows here, too – the movements he did with Kermit’s arm, the shapes Steve would put his own hand in that gave Kermit some wonderful (and sometimes funny) expressions, all the things he did that made us truly believe Kermit is alive. He’s a master puppeteer, actor, and a damn good singer and I think this clip really showcases that.

News I SO didn’t want to see today!

Over an hour ago, I read the news that Steve Whitmire has left the Muppets.

Since then I’ve just been in shock.

I don’t care if I get laughed at. I’m heartbroken. This is devastating to me. I could cry. This is NOT news I wanted to read today! It’s news that once I read, I had to stop what I was in the middle of doing. Since then, I’ve spent the last hour trying to think of what to say and process it. I can’t. What follows is not exactly the right words I could find, but it’s the best I could do.

I don’t know Steve Whitmire, but I love him. I love his work, I love his characters. He’s a hero of mine. I grew up in the 90s so I’ve known his Kermit longer than Jim Henson’s. As well as continuing what Jim had done with the character, he also made Kermit his own. He IS Kermit to me. So much so that I just could never fathom anyone else performing him.

Just last night, I was on a message board and had seen people posting worries or rumours that Steve had left, but a reliable source had said they were (apparently) false. I was bloody relieved when I read that. I didn’t even want to think of the possibility of Kermit being recast and Steve leaving. I knew it was going to happen at some point, but that had to be so far away from now, right?

It’s not just his Kermit that I love. His original characters mean so much to me, too. Wembley will always be my favourite fraggle. I’m not much of a dog person, but I do love Sprocket. I adore Rizzo the Rat. He’s always been a favourite of mine since I was a kid. Beaker, Statler, Link Hogthrob – other characters he took over, continued on and so made his own. I love what he did with them aswell.

He’s a master puppeteer and an amazing actor and singer. It feels like such a huge loss to have The Muppets without him. I don’t know why he’s left. I really hope there aren’t bad reasons at all and it was his decision he wanted to make. After all the years, the amount of hard work and everything he’s given, it would be such a shame for it to end on bad terms that resulted in him being given no choice but to leave. Obviously, I don’t know the reasons and maybe will never find out, but I wish him all the best. I don’t know if he’s retired but I hope nothing but good times follow on whatever path he takes.

I’m not worried about Kermit. I’m just more devastated that Steve won’t be performing him anymore. The fact that one of the main performers will be Kermit’s new performer eases the pain a little. And the fact that it’s Matt Vogel adds any possible comfort there can be. He’s proven many times now to be a bloody amazing talent and a great choice to take over other classic characters like Floyd Pepper, Sweetums, Uncle Deadly, Lew Zealand, Big Bird and The Count. I’d wish him good luck but I doubt he needs it.

I have no worries at all about Kermit being in safe hands. I just don’t want to imagine to imagine Kermit no longer being in Steve’s hands. I don’t want to imagine The Muppets without him. It’s something that will take some time to adjust to.