One complication of shooting The Muppet Show at ATV’s studio outside London was adhering to the rigid restrictions of the British labor unions. In the US, if a shoot went overtime, it cost more, but everyone just kept working. At ATV, when the unionized stagehands, cameramen, electricians, et al. finished their allotted day, everything stopped immediately, the lights went out, and everyone went home. It didn’t matter if Jim’s team was halfway through a sketch or song, they had to stop where they were and pick up again the next day. Jim was beholden to the union rules.
In 1979, the success of various public sector union strikes in the UK encouraged other groups to follow suit. The technical staff at ATV went on strike beginning August 7th, and production on Season 4 of The Muppet Show came to a halt. Jim’s daughter Cheryl was working with Jim that summer and it happened to be her 18th birthday that day. What should have been a joyful coming-of-age celebration that evening, she remembered, turned out to be a rather glum dinner. But they all made the best of it. The strike dragged on until almost the end of October, but Jim took advantage of the down time and traveled with his family in Europe and the Caribbean, made several visits to the US, and checked in on the progress of The Dark Crystal. Without missing a beat, Jim was back in the studio on October 28th, taping Dizzy Gillespie’s episode.