Menomina, dew dew duh dew-dew
The wonderful Ms. Elise Hacking and I watched the first three episodes of The Muppet Show last evening. Seeing this classic is, for me, a nostalgic experience of the highest degree. My parents, in their frequent recollection of embarrassing anecdotes and pseudo-humorous behaviors from my early childhood, are quick to mention that in those bygone years there was a time when only two things could get me to sit down and watch TV — regular showings of Star Wars on cable (I can’t recall if it was HBO or Prism, but sometimes they’d show it two times on the same day) and The Muppet Show. Actually there were three things, though for some reason my parents always tell it as two and then add the third later in the story, but since that third is Sesame Street it’s understandable, just another riff on the Muppet theme.
The brilliance of The Muppet Show is that it was one of those rare things that truly bridged the gap between kids and adults. The show was enjoyable on so many levels for so many reasons that practically any viewer should be able to find something to love. But what we watched last night were literally the first three episodes of the show and while there were still a few laugh-out-loud moments the experience was somewhat akin to reading the first draft of a beloved novel. Or, to steal a more accurate analogy from the reviewer in Entertainment Weekly, a publication who’s reviews I’m shocked to even mildly agree with, it’s like watching The Simpsons first season. It’s still funny and quirky and cool, but compared to what you know it will become? Nothing. Having had these characters be such a part of my childhood, I can’t help but feel there is something wrong with the universe when a completely different, far deeper voice comes out of Miss Piggy’s mouth. Not that it was something I heard very often, Piggy has barely evolved into a distinct character. The first time we see her, she is essentially just the “female pig” in a Muppet choir, the equivalent of of “thug #3” in an action movie. However, from that very first sketch the humor hinges on the slow development of this female pig’s lust for Kermit so the framework is there. In the third episode Fozzie and Gonzo’s voices are also markedly off from their norm.
The caliber of guests in these early episodes are also far from stellar. All three featured song-and-dance people who were most likely marginal celebrities at best when the show first aired in 1976 and are beyond forgotten now. The only one who’s name rang even a vague bell was Connie Stevens, the guest of the second episode, who I think my mom used to like for some reason. The best “guest” moment in these was Ernie and Bert’s guest appearance in the second episode. I have some high hopes for later in the season, when the likes of Vincent Price show up. I also look forward to seeing the original pilot which is included with the extras, supposedly far more adult in nature. Without doubt I will voraciously consume each subsequent season as they come out and just get better and better. The Muppet Show was one of those programs that went out when it was on top, a notion that will make these DVDs continually sweeter treats. It’s the most sensational, inspirational, muppetational thing a guy could ask for.