THE MUPPET SHOW
Review by Michael Jacobson
Performers: Jim Henson,
Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt
Creator: Jim Henson
Audio: Dolby Stereo
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 2008 Minutes
Release Date: May 20, 2008
“Hey, Fozzie, why are you carrying that fish?”
“Oh, just for the halibut…”
The guest stars really shone bright on the third season of The Muppet Show…such a talented array of players, many no longer with us, each kicking up their heels with Jim Henson’s delightful creations. As good as the Muppets were, they sometimes got upstaged. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The 24 episodes of season three was like a who’s-who list of 70s celebrities. They ranged from the unusual, like the gleefully off-kilter one with Alice Cooper (a great sport) to the flamboyant, like Liberace, who concludes his appearance with a lengthy piano concert including a rollicking take on “Chopsticks” and one of the loveliest versions of “Misty” I’ve heard, to the hysterical, like the manically energetic Spike Milligan, to the downright sexy. I still remember Raquel Welch’s appearance as a child, and it was the moment that made me a confirmed heterosexual for life!
I can’t forget the virtuosity of Roy Clark, playing all the parts of a jammin’ instrumental tune at the same time…he can’t REALLY play the trumpet, but he does everything else dang well. Or the delightful sounds of Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge in their joint appearance (they were married at the time)…I still think Rita’s song “We’re All Alone” might be the most beautiful tune ever written, and it even sounds good with a chorus of Muppets backing her up. Or the out and out legends, like Harry Belafonte, Danny Kaye, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and Pearl Bailey…what a fun bunch of stars!
Some don’t fare quite as well…Sylvester Stallone’s appearance is a bit awkward, as is Marisa Berenson’s. But there’s far more that works than doesn’t work. Lesley Ann Warren is a trooper as the intrepid Muppets keep mistaking her for other acts (“Lesley and Warren”), and Leo Sayer, once a huge star, shows why, as he’s not afraid to ham it up for the audience.
Some of the Muppets’ tried and true standbys are on display…my favorite is Veterinarian’s Hospital, which is one bad joke after another (“Doctor, this man is a conductor!” “Well, he’ll get no symphony from me…”), but it’s only on here and there. Pigs in Space is more prevalent, but less funny than before. The Swedish Chef has a mock Swedish conversation with Jean Stapleton, Fozzie’s jokes still bomb, and Statler and Waldorf still heckle with the best of them.
The year’s shining moment might be Loretta Lynn’s appearance, where the entire show is done from a train station platform. Everything has a rough and thrown together feel, which is very charming, and of course, Ms. Lynn lights up the program with her one-of-a-kind voice.
The Muppets fell more and more comfortably into a groove as their show progressed, which might be one reason the show eventually had to stop, so they could set their sights on movies as a new challenge. But these discs show why their program has to be considered one of the decade’s top variety television shows. It’s funny, it’s musical, it’s crazy…gotta love it!
Complete episodes: Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, Leo Sayer, Roy Clark, Gilda Radner, Pearl Bailey, Jean Stapleton, Alice Cooper, Loretta Lynn, Liberace, Marisa Berenson, Raquel Welch, James Coco, Helen Reddy, Harry Belafonte, Lesley Ann Warren, Danny Kaye, Spike Milligan, Leslie Uggams, Elke Sommers, Sylvester Stallone, Roger Miller, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Lynn Redgrave, Cheryl Ladd
The full frame transfers make do with a videotaped program from the 70s. It’s not bad, but it shows its age here and there with some softness, a little image wear, and a bit of weakness here and there in the definition department. Completely watchable, just not a DVD high point.
Likewise, the stereo audio fares as well as can be expected. There aren’t a lot of range demands, but the spoken words and the music still come out clearly and without a lot of aging or interference present.
The extras are on the fourth disc, and they include “Muppets on Puppets”, an hour long public television documentary from 1968 on Henson and his creations, “A Company of Players”, which is a look behind the scenes with Muppet performers both old and new, and some Purina commercials from the early 60s featuring Rowlf the Dog. The menu screens continue to be well-done, as Kermit and Miss Piggy sort of guide you through the selections.
The Muppet Show was a staple of my youth, and as an adult, it will always be welcome in my home. Jim Henson created years of magic with his delightful creations, who proved up to the challenge more often than not when sharing the stage with some legendary performers. A real treat!