March 28, 1990 12:00 PM

The Golden Girls are campaigning; to save the wetlands, the Murphy Brown gang is banishing Styrofoam, and the Head of the Class dweebs are focusing gray matter on the greenhouse effect. Across Nielsen’s America enviro-chic is in full sprout. Now two TV bigfoots—Muppetmaster Jim Henson and cable pioneer Ted Turner—are designing ecology-themed series to target the not-ready-for-prime-time audience. “Seventy-year-olds are not going to be affected by the rate the planet’s being destroyed,” says Turner. “But if today’s kids don’t do something about it in their lifetime, there’s not much of a future for them.” Henson agrees. “It’s not like kids are going to change things this year,” he says. “But maybe in 30 or 40 years, they’ll be more concerned.”

Turner’s show is scheduled to debut late this year, Hen-son’s in ’91. By then, ABC will have broadcast its April 22 celebrity salute to the 20th Earth Day (hosts include Barbra Streisand and Kevin Costner), and CBS and ABC may have given the go-ahead to series pilots depicting environmental SWAT teams.

JIM HENSON is developing his still-untitled series for Disney, which bought his company last year. To be shown on the 5-mil-lion-subscriber, pay-cable Disney Channel, it’s set in a TV station run by animals (aren’t they all? who will report on, and interact with, real-life species. “Preteens love animals,” Henson says. “You can turn that interest into an awareness of problems in the world today.” Henson has created all-new Muppets such as Ponce D. Lion, an anchor as irreverent as Good Morning, Vietnam’s Adrian Cronauer, and Netty, a streetwise lizard. But expect to see Kermit the Frog back to remind us it isn’t easy being green.

If that sounds a bit like Marlin Perkins Moves to Sesame Street, TED TURNER’S animated superhero Captain Planet promises to be as subtle as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Each week the crusader will combat nogoodniks like Looten Plunder and Sly Sludge, who deplete ozone, poach elephants, spill oil and spread dolphin-killing drift nets. Voices will be supplied by a surprising cast that includes Tom Cruise as the good Captain, Whoopi Goldberg as Earth spirit Gaia, and guest villains Richard Gere and Ed Asner. The show is a logical extension for the eco-aware Turner. In 1985 Turner co-founded the nonprofit Better World Society to make and distribute programs on environmental issues, and Super-Q station TBS has long carried prize-winning nature series by f, Jacques Cousteau, National Geoy graphic and Audubon. An Earth Day preview is planned that will feature wrestlers dubbed Mr. Meltdown, the Smog Hogs and Toxic Twins Tag Team. Are Americans suffering from a surfeit of eco video? “Not a chance,” says Turner. “If you were on the Titanic, how could you get an overexposure to lifeboat drills?”!

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