The Muppet Show 1.04: “Ruth Buzzi”

Princess Ruth Buzzi romances Sweetums.

Princess Ruth Buzzi romances Sweetums.

Ruth Buzzi, famous at the time for being a regular on the sketch comedy show Laugh-In, is the first Muppet Show guest who seems to really jibe with the characters and the show’s sensibility (it’s no wonder she would later be a regular on Sesame Street). You can tell this right off the bat in her first song, a rendition of the classic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” which isn’t only the best musical number on the show up to this point but the best Muppet/human-guest interaction, full-stop.

 

The staging and concept are fantastic, constituting the first time that The Muppet Show seemed to really think entirely outside the box for a number, creating a whole mini-one-act-play between Buzzi–as a faux-medieval princess–and Sweetums, acting out a courtship that subverts fairy tale

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The Muppet Show 1.03: “Joel Grey”

Kermit chats with Joel Grey.

Kermit chats with Joel Grey.

The third installment of The Muppet Show (currently available on DVD) features a lot of firsts. For starters, it’s the first episode of the show to have been filmed during the show’s regular production schedule, beginning in May 1976. The Juliet Prowse and Connie Stevens episodes were shot as test episodes in January of that year in advance of the show starting in earnest. It’s also the first episode where the guest is a man–star of stage and screen Joel Grey–which incidentally also marks the first time Kermit doesn’t flirt with the celebrity! In fact, it’s the exact opposite. If anything, Kermit gets a bit testy with him, and the feeling is mutual, albeit both in a comedic way.

 

During their sitdown chat, Kermit has trouble allowing Joel to have a word

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The Muppet Show 1.02: “Connie Stevens”

Kermit dances with Lydia the Tattooed Pig.

Kermit dances with Lydia the Tattooed Pig.

The second episode of The Muppet Show (available on DVD) was actually the first one filmed–sort of. Before the main season began filming at London’s Elstree Studios in May 1976, Jim Henson and Co. flew to London in January to shoot two test episodes, the first of which featured Connie Stevens and the second, Juliet Prowse. After finishing them and receiving feedback, however, they largely reworked them. While the spots with the respective guest stars remained intact, other sketches were reshot with new scenes, shuffled around, and so on and so forth to the point that the new episodes definitely belong in the reverse order slot, particularly due to continuity bits that now progressed from one to the next.

 

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The Muppet Show 1.01: “Juliet Prowse”

It's...THE MUPPET SHOW!!

It’s…THE MUPPET SHOW!!

It’s been over a year in the making, but now I can finally type the words I’ve been waiting to write for what seems like forever: we’ve finally reached the very first episode of The Muppet Show!! And what a journey it has been, both for Jim Henson and us, with so many pilots, dreams, hopes, false starts, and near misses finally culminating in the series that Jim spent practically his entire career working to bring to fruition. A show that, just as he predicted in his pitch reeldid become the most popular in the world!

 

Now, I’ve seen The Muppet Show, particularly the first three seasons, since they’re the only ones currently available on DVD, numerous times, but what might be most fascinating to me on this viewing is that, whereas

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SNL: “The Land of Gorch” #12-16

Chevy Chase covers for Gorch.

Chevy Chase covers for Gorch.

As I spoke about in the previous Land of Gorch post, by the time these sketches were in production, Lord Lew Grade had already greenlit The Muppet Show, and the first two episodes had filmed in London, meaning that Gorch was on its way out at Saturday Night Live. In the meantime, however, these strange alien characters made a few final appearances in a series of sketches that were actually about them being “fired” from SNL. While their lack of popularity on the show had come up before on the show itself, Gorch goes entirely meta in this last burst of sketches, producing some of the cleverest material they ever had, taking the opportunity to even get a bit existential as these puppets begin to actually grapple with what it means to be a puppet who’s about to be shelved for good, adding a surprisingly melancholy undertone to these comedic scenes. After all, for Gorch, this is

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SNL: “The Land of Gorch” #7-11

Scred and Gilda

Scred and Gilda

In my first Land of Gorch post, I explained the circumstances surrounding this Muppet sketch’s recurring appearance in the first season of Saturday Night Live (if you want to see these sketches, the first season of SNL is up on Hulu and Amazon, or you could buy it on DVD) and how the Muppets and their performers never really came to mesh well with the cast and crew of SNL, which was particularly frustrating to Jim Henson, as all of his efforts to get the Muppets their own variety show had failed up to that point. Luckily, however, this unfortunate situation wasn’t to last long. Instead, fate intervened in the form of Lord Lew Grade, a Ukrainian-born British lord who ran a highly successful television production company, ATV, and who seemed to come down from the heavens in order to finally grant Jim his fondest wish: The Muppet Show!

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One to One with Julie Andrews

OneToOne1

Kermit conducts a (shrinking) choir.

Although, technically, One to One is the third Julie Andrews/Muppets special–after Julie on Sesame Street and Julie: My Favorite Things–it barely feels like it, as Julie and the Muppets hardly ever interact over the course of the show, other than the finale, in which two Anything Muppets stand at the back of the stage while Julie sings in the front, which doesn’t really count. It seems kind of shocking that anyone would pass up the opportunity to actually take advantage of Julie and the Muppets being in the same studio together, but there you have it.

 

This is also much less of an entertainment variety special than the first two. Instead, it’s an infomercial for World Vision, an Evangelical-Christian-run charity that raises money for humanitarian aid, and while its religious

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