I rarely make a point of buying DVDs the day they’re released, but this Tuesday I’ll be first in line to buy Season 2 of The Muppet Show — assuming that anyone else inclined to wait in line holds off until I have a chance to run out at lunch. But if quality dictated demand, there would already be people dressed like Gonzo and Miss Piggy waiting in lawn chairs and sleeping bags outside Virgin Megastores everywhere.
To give you a taste of what’s so fun about the Muppets, here’s a clip from one of the extras on the DVD, The Muppet Valentine Show (1974):
The Muppet Show was rare in that it was genuinely appealing to both children and adults. The humor was silly enough for children (and, of course, the majority of characters were puppets), but it wasn’t always safe and sanitized. A recurring theme was mostly harmless monsters destroying things. For example, Madeline Kahn starred in a sketch in which she maintained a sunny disposition as a monster systematically destroyed everything she found lovely about the day.
Madeline: Just listen — listen to that lovely little bird singing!
(Doglion shoots it down with a pistol.)
The casting of guest stars seemed clearly designed to appeal to adults. Several guests, including Madeline Kahn and Steve Martin, hosted Saturday Night Live during the same month they hosted The Muppet Show. (And, really, what child would have chosen to cast Petula Clark?) I remember that my mother loved the show at least as much as I did — and she and my brother got into designing a Dr. Bunsen Honeydew for me (think green Nerf ball with glasses on a stick) when the theme of my fifth-grade chorus was “The Muppets Go to Broadway.”
This is not to say that the show was flawless. As usual, most of the Muppets were male, and much of the female-Muppet-oriented humor focused on the irony of a vain pig. But overall, the writing was sharp, and the second season featured some of the best comic actresses of the 1970s, including Nancy Walker, Bernadette Peters, Cloris Leachman, and Madeline Kahn. And Julie Andrews was on the second season. What could be sweeter than Julie Andrews and Kermit the Frog?
Jim Henson died when I was in college. I recall feeling stunned when I heard the news and thinking, “Kermit the Frog just died.” So I’ll leave you with Brian Henson’s words about Kermit and his father:
“But at the center of all of it was Kermit. Kermit was my father. My father first made Kermit out of a coat that belonged to my grandmother and through the years Kermit changed a little bit, looked a little bit different. and eventually became the Kermit that we all know. But what’s wonderful about Kermit is he’s the glue that holds all of these crazy zany characters together.”
What are some of your favorite Muppet memories?