Judge Paul Corupe's childhood was filled with nightmares of frogs playing the ukelele.
Our reviews of Best Of The Muppet Show: Volumes 1 and 2 (published October 21st, 2002), Best Of The Muppet Show: Volume 5 (published March 2nd, 2004), Best Of The Muppet Show: Volume 6 (published March 2nd, 2004), Best Of The Muppet Show: Volume 3 (published March 19th, 2003), and Best Of The Muppet Show: Volume 4 (published March 19th, 2003) are also available.
"I knew I should've done The Muffin Show instead"—Brooke Shields
The seventh DVD release in The Muppet Show line features another three shows from that celebrated genius of foam rubber and felt, Jim Henson. Offering comical puppet mayhem for kids and a shot of nostalgia for parents, this volume features guest stars Diana Ross, Brooke Shields, and Rudolf Nureyev performing songs, dances, and comedic skits with all your favorite characters from the original show.
When it appeared in the mid-1970s, The Muppet Show turned the variety format on its ear. What Jim Henson created was more than just a musical revue performed by puppets, it was Saturday Night Live for the milk and cookies set. Staunchly family-friendly, part of what made the show great was that it was as much about the backstage chaos of putting on the show as it was about the show itself. They just don't make TV programs like this anymore, and if they did, I'm sure they'd find some way to screw it up, like doing "hip" Matrix parodies or giving Ben Affleck a forum to flog his latest movie. The Muppet Show was a wonderfully well crafted show, and deserves a dignified DVD release. This isn't one, but let's look at what has been included anyway:
Diana Ross—The highlight of this volume is Diana's appearance on the show from season four. She causes such a sensation that the audience hates all of the skits by the usual Muppet performers, booing and hissing until Diana returns to the stage to sing more songs. She obliges them with "Last Time I Saw Him," "Love Hangover," and "Reach Out and Touch." An episode of Pigs in Space is also included, as is a rendition of "Feelings" meeped by everyone's favorite cylindrical test subject, Beaker.
Brooke Shields—This season five show is a little different than most episodes of The Muppet Show. Instead of the usual format, most of the show is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland, with Brooke in the title role. But the production is plagued with problems, causing Kermit to flail his arms even more than usual. After shrinking to enter Wonderland by eating a piece of cake, the mushroom Brooke eats to return to normal size causes her to grow far too big. While Dr. Honeydew is busy fixing the problem, Kermit fills the gap with Humpty Dumpty and Jabberwocky sketches.
Rudolf Nureyev—The famous Russian ballet performer is an unlikely guest star, and not surprisingly, this episode from season two is wildly uneven. Sam the Eagle is hoping for an evening of highbrow culture, but comes up disappointed. After Nureyev dances with a life-sized plush Muppet in a number called "Swine Lake," the ballet star proves himself a better dancer than a singer with "Baby, it's Cold Outside," a musical duet with Miss Piggy.
While still mildly amusing, The Muppet Show didn't maintain my attention as well as it did when I was growing up. Actually, that's not entirely true; even as a youngster I always got bored when the guest star came out to sing yet another song. At least in the case of guests like Rudolf Nureyev, now I know why. Diana Ross appears personable and enthusiastic about her performances throughout her show, but I probably would have appreciated her songs more if I actually were a fan of her music. No, for me, the best part of the show has always been the scenes in which the Muppets are allowed to do their thing, unencumbered by a human presence on the stage. If you're like me in this respect, this disc doesn't have a lot to offer.
The video and audio are fairly good here, although no better than you would expect from a 25-year old show. Having recently seen a televised episode of The Muppet Show, I can say that that this disc definitely looks and sounds much better than the reruns you can catch on TV.
There's very little in the way of special features on this disc, if you can even find them. Oh, you'll have no problem finding a bevy of trailers for other family friendly Columbia TriStar films like Baby Geniuses 2 (conveniently found on the main menu), but you have to select each show before you can click on the special features icon wedged in the corner. Then you'll be treated to two very brief, newly taped segments: "Muppetisms" and "Movie Mania," which barely warrant a first viewing, never mind a second. Still want more? Check out the one included production sketch!
There are more problems, too. Columbia TriStar has included a moving tribute to VHS technology by offering no chapter breaks. That's right, if you try to watch the last half of an episode later on, you'll have to punch fast forward and find where you left off. Choosing a scene from the scene selection menu will take you to just that one segment, and then back to the menu. To make matters worse, some moments from the show haven't even been included in the selectable scenes!
So, let me get this straight. I can buy every episode of Dilbert ever made, but if I want to watch the changing relationship between Beaker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew throughout the five seasons of The Muppet Show, I'm completely out of luck. Instead of slowly cranking out these skimpy "Best of" DVDs with confusing menus and paltry extras, it's time Columbia TriStar pulled the plug on this series and released each season as a proper box set for fans. Now that would be Muppetational.
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