Sony // 1976 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 2nd, 2004
It's time to play the music.
It's time to light the lights
It's time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight.
In 1976, the face of puppet-driven star-studded variety shows starring pigs and frogs and rats was changed forever. It was at that golden age of television when The Muppet Show stormed onto the scene, providing viewers with a television experience unlike anything ever seen before. A family show in the truest sense of the term, The Muppet Show offered the rugrats beaucoup sensory overload -- I mean, talking animals and slapstick, what else could you want -- and was witty enough to make adults not hate their lives for watching such zaniness. The breeding ground for so much pop culture mainstays, the show launched American icons such as Gonzo, Kermit, Miss Piggy, the Swedish Chef, Animal, and my personal favorite Dr. Teeth (he's just so darn schmoooove...) into the collective consciousness. Well, almost three decades later, the song and dance numbers, the vicious assaults by a pig, the guest stars, the wisecracks from the balcony seats, the whole enchilada returns in restored glory to DVD, with The Best of the Muppet Show.
The Best of the Muppet Show: Volume 5 features, like the other editions, three shows. Here, the guest stars are Steve Martin, Carol Burnett, and Gilda Radner. Prior to each show, Brian Henson, Jim Henson's son and heir to everything Muppet, offers an introduction, punctuated with an anecdote specific to the show. These intros are nice, and really create the sense of nostalgia for the series.
Following is a brief rundown of each individual show:
Guest Steve Martin
Steve Martin, primed for his moment in the guest start slot is victim to a miscommunication. Turns out, the night he was supposed to be on is audition night, where Kermit and his cronies give their attention to wannabe acts. These include some off-the-wall performers (e.g. a band of singing food), including Mr. Steve Martin himself. This episode is unorthodox in the fact that Martin does not participate in routines with the Muppets, per se, as much as deliver his shtick to a small Muppet audience. This one ends with a bang, however.
Guest Carol Burnett
The legendary Carol Burnett gives it a shot on the show, only to find out that the Great Gonzo has scheduled a dance marathon on the same night. In this very Gonzo-centric episode (certainly not a bad thing) Burnett must compete with spontaneous waltzing that spills over into her acts.
The most excellent Gilda Radner, and probably the best female Saturday Night Live performer (in my opinion), finds herself smack in the middle of some truly bizarre Muppet mayhem including a duet with a giant carrot (?!!) and a run-in with a state-of-the-art Muppet-manufactured adhesive.
Holy Moly, what an absolute shot of "well-don't-that-just-take-you-back" this disc is. Everything from the big opening with all the Muppets in their own little window, to Statler and Waldorf's smart-ass remarks, to Gonzo's trademark flubbing of the final note, transported me back to a simpler, funnier time that featured a maniacal, incoherent drummer and barnyard animals flying through the air.
Ah, The Muppet Show, such a staple of many, many childhood memories. Granted the full-length features it spawned were of a mixed bag (with The Great Muppet Caper by far my favorite; that scene at the wrought-iron gate where the Muppets are trying to break in...classic!) But, how could you not watch and adore the antics of those crazy creatures with grown men's arms up their rears cracking puns and delivering rousing show-tune spectacles?! Or maybe I'm just overly sentimental...
Anyway, this volume sports some truly memorable moments. Between Carol Burnett's throttling of a defenseless frog, to Gilda Radner's involuntary attachment to Beaker, this disc is boasting some serious family-theme artillery.
Ironically, the episode I was most looking forward to, actually ended up being the weakest of the three: Steve Martin's. Love the guy, but sans the Muppet-arranged sketches, where, honestly, much of the joy stems from seeing these stars interact with a friggin' 6 foot tall blue eagle, the shows just kind of fell flat...flat, at least, for an episode of the Muppet show.
The transfers are well done, but a major drawback is the lack of chapter selection within the individual shows themselves. Instead, the skip button takes you back to the menu.
These discs aren't exactly rife with features. It would have been great to see some extensive behind-the-scenes footage or grab a commentary track. Instead are small, humorous vignettes from the Muppets. They're cool and all, but I would have liked to see how the magic happened.
The most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational
This is what we call the Muppet Show!
Sigh...those were the days...
Go forth, all ye felt-filled creations, and spread joy to those too young to know or too old to remember or too jaded to recall the joy of a freakish little creature with a huge nose mentally abusing chickens! Court adjourned!
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1976
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Movie mania
* Photo gallery