Jim Henson could have, had he wanted to, been the Pied Piper of the 1970s and led us all to our watery grave. Seriously, we were putty in his hands, we would've followed him anywhere. Henson's magnum opus, Sesame Street, debuted on November 10, 1969.
Henson began his career in puppetry in the 1950s, when he first created Sam and Friends, among the latter being an early iteration of Kermit the Frog, who would later resurface and gain global popularity as the star of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. Henson spent much of the 1960s doing the rounds on the talk show circuit, making commercials and appearing regularly on The Jimmy Dean Show.
Toward the end of the decade, Henson was approached by the Children's Television Workshop to contribute segments to their new show Sesame Street. Henson and his team at Muppets, Inc. contributed Kermit the Frog, Grover, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, Guy Smiley... one would be hard pressed find a deeper bench of funny, lovable and more magical characters in the annals of children's TV.
The show was a massive hit and let to Henson and friends launching The Muppet Show (which holds up remarkably well) and a series of Muppet movies, the TV series Fraggle Rock, and the feature films Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. Find me a guy who's entertained more kids for more hours... go on, I'll wait.
Henson died tragically at the age of 51 from toxic shock syndrome brought on by a lung infection, but his legacy endures as Sesame Street is at 4,626 episodes and counting and in 2011 Jason Segel spearheaded the making of The Muppets, which is pretty great.