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The Muppet Show: Season One DVD Review

Old 08-02-05, 01:58 PM
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The Muppet Show: Season One DVD Review

http://www.tvdvdreviews.com/muppetshow1.html

“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!” – “The Muppet Show” Theme

The Muppet Show: Season One DVD Review

By Jonathan Boudreaux

Life is hectic. Sometimes, though, you simply have to slow down, relax, and reconnect with nature. Listen to birds singing outside your window. Observe an ant exploring the crevices of a sidewalk. Watch a frog host a variety show. Hear a bear tell corny jokes. See a pig karate chop everyone in her path. Yes, communing with nature has gotten a lot easier with the release of The Muppet Show: Season One on DVD. You may already have some of these episodes on DVD since a few were previously released in “Best of…” compilations. But there’s no doubt about it – this is the first installment in what promises to be the definitive collection of the 1976-81 comedy classic.

Through the years, Jim Henson’s Muppet creations appeared on everything from Saturday Night Live to The Ed Sullivan Show. In the mid-1970s, Henson went to the three major US television networks with the idea that the Muppets should have a show of their own. The networks passed on the project, but enough local stations became interested that the series eventually went into production. Each episode was taped in England over two or three days and then syndicated around the world.

The episodes are presented here in production order. The episode featuring Juliet Prowse, for example, was the first one filmed, but it didn’t air until late in the season. The show’s producers and creative team were worried that the first few episodes were too rough and inconsistent, and they wanted to present their strongest material first. They shouldn’t have worried. Sure, some of the performers are still finding their feet (Fozzie’s voice sometimes changes from sketch to sketch, and Frank Oz doesn’t always perform Miss Piggy), but the episodes are entertaining right from the start. The first episode also includes a beautiful dance number in which Prowse dances with a herd of green gazelles to the tune of Scott Joplin’s “Solace.”

Each episode is filled to the brim with deliciously dumb humor (A loaf of bread that speaks with a French accent? Oui, oui!) and cartoonish violence (more explosions than you can shake a stick of dynamite at) that appeals to adults and kids alike. Who can resist the Swedish Chef battling a plate of killer spaghetti? Or Sandy Duncan perkily convincing a monster that you’re only as ugly as you think you are before she gets socked in the face with a pie? Even dance numbers can turn violent, as when Rita Moreno violent pummels her dance partner who she finds stepping out with another woman (Miss Piggy, actually) in a café.

Some of the show’s most memorable moments are musical ones. Lena Horne practically looks possessed while performing an oddly compelling rendition of Jim Croce’s “I’ve Got a Name.” Valerie Harper apes Ethel Merman, Mae West, and Marilyn Monroe in her “Broadway Baby” number. Merman herself duets with Miss Piggy on a rollicking version of “Anything You Can Do.” Duncan sings “Try to Remember” to an attentive Kermit. Moreno’s sultry “Fever” is accompanied by a too-enthusiastic Animal on drums.

One key to the series’ success is its eclectic roster of guest stars. What other series would dare to feature such a wide variety of guests, including TV stars, acclaimed actors, legendary singers, Broadway vets, a supermodel, and a mime troop? Season one’s guests, in production order, are Juliet Prowse, Connie Stevens, Joel Grey, Ruth Buzzi (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In), Rita Moreno, Jim Nabors (The Andy Griffith Show), Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch), Paul Williams, Charles Aznavour, Harvey Korman, Lena Horne, Peter Ustinov, Bruce Forsyth, Sandy Duncan, Candice Bergen, Avery Schreiber, Ben Vereen, Phyllis Diller, Vincent Price, Valerie Harper (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Twiggy, Ethel Merman, Kaye Ballard, and Mummenschanz.

The episodes include the original season one opening credit sequences which varied slightly from those in the seasons that followed. In season one, Fozzie interrupts the theme song each week to tell one of his lame jokes, Kermit introduces the week’s guest during the song, and Gonzo sounds the final note by banging on a gong in the “o” of “The Muppet Show.”

This collection’s supplemental materials provide tales about how the Muppet design team perfected a hidden stitch when sewing the characters, and how they scrambled when the company that produced the green material used to construct Kermit went out of business. These stories are fascinating, but The Muppet Show remains a classic because no matter how much behind-the-scenes information we have, we watch the show and the characters seem real. When Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Gonzo take the stage, we don’t really think about how Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Dave Goelz are underneath them, manipulating foam, stitches, and green felt. Instead, the characters seem like living, breathing creatures. Watch French crooner Charles Aznavour sing “Inchworm” to a tiny worm crawling up his leg for an example of how effortlessly the Muppeteers brought life to even the simplest of creatures. Tiny moments like that one contain more imagination and ingenuity than many TV shows exhibit in entire seasons.

The twenty-four episodes that make up season one are divided onto four discs. Each disc is decorated with a portrait of one of the Muppet gang – Kermit on disc one, Miss Piggy on disc two, Fozzie on disc three, and Gonzo on disc four. The discs are housed in a foldout case decorated with photos of the Muppets on the exterior panels and a detail of the red Muppet Show curtain on the interior panels. The four discs attach to two panels – each panel holds two discs (one on top of the other) in a figure eight pattern. A booklet lists the episode numbers and guest stars for each of season one’s episodes. The case slides into a cardboard sleeve, the front of which is decorated with a flocked close-up of Kermit’s chest. Apart from the fact that the disc configuration forces viewers to remove one DVD to get to another, the packaging is clever and well-designed.

The DVD menus – which feature full-motion clips of Statler and Waldorf – are simple and easy to navigate. Viewers can play all episodes or choose an individual one. The episodes do not include chapter stops. This is unfortunate since the nature of The Muppet Show’s brief sketches practically cries out for chapter stops so that viewers can quickly navigate to their favorite bits. Video and Audio

These episodes are in remarkable shape. They look and sound as if they were shot last week rather than thirty years ago.

The episodes are captioned.

Extras

Each episode includes “Muppet Morsels,” subtitle tracks that present facts and trivia about the show and its guest stars. Did you know that “Mahna Mahna” was originally recorded in 1968 by Piero Umiliani for the documentary Sweden, Heaven and Hell? Some of the bits of trivia are merely filler – and they are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors – but overall these “Morsels” are quite tasty. They are also much more informative and substantive than typical audio commentary tracks.

The remaining extras are found on disc four. The “Original Pitch Reel” (2:52) was created by Jim Henson in an attempt to sell network execs on the idea of buying a show featuring the Muppets. Hosted by a staid Muppet newscaster who gets progressively more unhinged as the pitch goes on, this proves to be an interesting artifact – especially considering the fact that it in no way resembles what The Muppet Show eventually became. This presentation makes a big deal of the fact that Laugh-In’s George Schlatter would be co-producing the series. Schlatter ultimately was not involved with the series.

The “Season One Promo Gag Reel” (1:47) features the cast of The Muppet Show goofing off in promo spots advertising season one’s episodes.

The real gem is the series’ “Original Pilot” (25:23), “Sex and Violence.” Hosted by Nigel (who later became the Muppet bandleader), this is an embryonic version of the show we’ve come to love. That’s right – Kermit only makes the briefest of appearances, and other favorites like Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and Gonzo are nowhere to be seen. The pilot is simultaneously faster and slower than a typical episode. The backstage bits with Nigel, Floyd, and Sam the Eagle are quite leisurely, while the gag portions of the show zip by with lightening speed in a way highly reminiscent of Laugh-In. Running gags featuring the seven deadly sins and a joke-telling Mount Rushmore are especially funny. Watch the closing credits for a real treat. As the Muppets and the deadly sins run amok, the camera pulls back to reveal the Muppeteers. This is not to be missed by Muppet fans. Summary

The Muppet Show: Season One hasn’t aged one bit. It’s just as funny, imaginative, and magical as you remember, and now the series is finally receiving the luxe DVD treatment it deserves. This set will make a welcome addition to your collection.

7/31/05

The Muppet Show: Season One
:: Features ::

* •4 Discs

* •24 Episodes

* •604 Minutes

* •No Chapter Stops

* •The Original Muppet Pitch Reel

* •The Original Muppet Show Pilot

* •Season One Promo Gag Reel

* •"Muppet Morsels" Trivia Tracks
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Old 08-02-05, 01:59 PM
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Old 08-02-05, 02:02 PM
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Thanks for posting this review but just one question, why couldn't this have just been included on the existing Muppets thread?
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Old 08-02-05, 03:21 PM
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... or in the DVD Reviews forum.
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Old 08-02-05, 03:45 PM
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Grrrrrrrr! Comically berate original poster giving good information for not following loose forum protocols. Destroy him, smash him!

Last edited by lotsofdvds; 08-02-05 at 03:51 PM.
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Old 08-02-05, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Chew
Thanks
You're welcome!
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Old 08-02-05, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by LorenzoL
Thanks for posting this review but just one question, why couldn't this have just been included on the existing Muppets thread?
You're welcome.

I could have posted it in the other thread, but I forgot that the other thread existed. I'll do a search next time.
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Old 08-02-05, 11:48 PM
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just cut and paste it in the other thread and delete this one

Finally! The Muppet Show - Season Sets (August 9)
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Old 08-03-05, 05:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Cameron
just cut and paste it in the other thread and delete this one

Finally! The Muppet Show - Season Sets (August 9)
Thanks for the link. I just posted the article in the other thread.
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