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STUDIO: Buena Vista
RUNNING TIME: 612 Minutes
• Muppets Valentine’s Day Special
• "The Muppets on the Muppets" interview segments
• Weezer "Keep Fishin’" music video
Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, and other Muppet Players.
series of gracious guest stars shuffle along with a merry band of
felt and stuffing, singing, dancing, and making pratfalls all the
puns. Oh, god, the puns.
used to be a mystique surrounding entertainers; it had something to
do with the power to transfix an audience, and it crossed over the
disciplines of singing, dancing, comedy, and acting. It seems to have
traced a line straight out of vaudeville and into the realm of the
more “legitimate” stage shows, as the latter incorporated the
popularity of the former. A memorable entertainer would have an
unspoken contract with the audience: I will transport you, somehow.
It was, by most accounts, a magical time in the entertainment arts.
And I’m too young to remember any of it.
Can you guess how many of these guys I was afraid of as a child?
That’s right. All of them.
the stage, that kind of human-shaped escapism landed on the small
screen, and variety shows were born. Not having grown up on the
beasts, I’ve got a kind of abstract interest in why they worked at
all. In an entertainment industry devoted to delivering what the
audience wants, it’s faintly confusing to me that audiences have
changed so much from wanting a whole stew of different types of
entertainment to wanting one consistent thing. I mean, even shows
these days that might earn the “variety” label are concerned
first and foremost with comedy. Can you imagine a soliloquy on death
– performed straight – in the middle of an episode of SNL?
right, neither can I, and that’s not exactly the sort of thing that
you’d find in golden age variety shows, either. But while it’s a
brand of entertainment you’re liable to find given full parody in a
modern sketch show, The Muppet Show
gave an equal measure to homage. The intention of a comedy sketch is
to make you laugh, but what remains most distinct about Henson’s show
is its willingness to bind the bitter to the sweet, to confuse the
intent of any given skit or song. Whether it’s interjecting absurdism
into a lament or ending a dancing puppet routine with a sweet note of
love, The Muppet Show
unabashedly maintains variety.
The Tsar is getting less subtle.
love to attribute that to the showrunners’ love of the entertainers
that won them over, but I can only hypothesize. After months of
research, I’ve come up with a graph that traces an arc from Ed
Sullivan through The Muppet Show
and on to The Whitest Kids U Know.
It is not a very accurate graph. And, though it doesn’t
have any bearing on this set of discs, I’ve noticed a shift from
The Muppet Show to Muppets Tonight,
which, though short-lived, was entirely of my generation. We’ve
gone from variety shows to loving paeans to variety shows to,
finally, full parodies. Muppets Tonight was sketch
comedy, without the breadth of experimentation and willingness to
abandon comedy for a damn good, melancholy song, as The Muppet
Show did. And I think that Tonight, and
similarly, all the Muppet movies from Treasure Island
on, are lesser for their single-minded behavior, their lack of depth
as it relates to both emotion and irreverence.
have yet to mention the most obvious thing about The Muppet
which is that it’s a variety show performed almost entirely by
puppets, marionettes, and dudes dressed up in furry suits. That’s a
source for a lot of humor right there; but I think it does this
classic show a disservice to stop you’re appreciation of it at that
level. Look past it and you get a show with significant variety of
entertainment, from song-and-dance to comedy to drama and more,
between and within its individual episodes, a quality that doesn’t
seem to have a place on television anymore.
Shadow puppets are the Tijuana Bibles of the poor.
a whole lot in the way of bonuses, but they are good ones. A January
30, 1974 Valentine’s Day special is included in its entirety. I was
negative nine in 1974, so I can’t say as I missed the episode’s time
in limbo, but it’s a good addition to the rest of the set. You also
get a set of mock interviews set up with human guest stars and some
of the Muppets, commenting on the show in all seriousness.
because you asked for it, the music video for Weezer’s “Keep
Fishin’,” truly one of the pop masterpieces of our time. It’s
included because the thing was staged as a guest appearance with the
Muppets. What I want to see is Animal paired with Rush.
out of 10