I'm sure that by now, I'm not delivering the news of director Anthony Minghella's death to anyone. Like everyone else, I was pretty surprised to hear he'd passed, him being relatively young and not associated with any particular health problems or addictions. However, none of the tributes to him that I've read so far mention my favorite work of his: the writing on Jim Henson's "The Storyteller" series.
I haven't met many people who remember this show from their childhood. If I didn't own both a DVD of the entire show (it only lasted 1 season) and the book by Anthony Minghella (a great library booksale find!) I would've doubted its existence. For some reason, this series didn't catch on. But it was absolutely beautiful. It starred John Hurt in the title role, as The Storyteller who would bring you a different folk tale each week. The Jim Henson Studio could create a dog puppet that was more realistic than an actual dog, so they may have been showing off a bit when they gave John Hurt his sarcastic sidekick dog.
I recommend the DVD of it to anyone, for any purpose. Whether you're a parent with young children, or you yourself just like some good escapist fantasy. Each episode has some humor, virtually no realistic violence, and beautiful puppetry. (The thought-lion from "The True Bride" appeared in several of Henson's publicity photos). But although the puppetry was the star, the writing hovered, perfectly unseen, in the background. Minghella was able to hit just the right note: understandable to children, yet not patronizing at all. The companion book was an excellent way to appeal to families who wanted to start their own storytelling tradition. How sad, to watch this DVD now and realize that both of the driving forces behind it are gone from us forever.