The Muppet Show 1.07: “Florence Henderson”

Piggy catches Kermit and Florence "in the act".

Piggy catches Kermit and Florence “in the act”.

But she’s even better in her other scenes, which feature a more well-rounded person than Carol Brady but not one who snaps without provocation. In her first appearance after her song, Kermit flirts with Henderson, as he was wont to do with female celebrities, although with her, it seems to cross the line into full-on wooing: “Florence, your eyes are like two limpid pools,” he says, to her delight. At that moment, however, who should crash the party but an incredibly angry Piggy, who responds to Henderson’s ensuing genial greeting with, “Don’t ‘Hi, Piggy’ me, you frog-stealer!”? However, Henderson, exhibiting the grace and poise (along with the parenting skills) she was known for, and without missing a beat, mollifies the hot-under-the-collar diva by masterfully claiming that Kermit had merely been “practicing on me what he really wants to say to you,” an explanation which sends Piggy over the moon. “You mean it?” she cries. “My life! My love! I am like putty in your hands,” pouncing on her froggy paramour, who manages to duck away at the last moment.


A moment later, Piggy lays down the law with Henderson again, telling her not to “make one move towards that frog,” but Henderson reassures her again that she and Kermit are just old friends (this is actually true: the two did an episode of The Mike Douglas Show together in 1966!). Piggy thanks her profusely, before leaving, pronouncing that she is “off to find my love!” As soon as she’s gone, Kermit pops back up, relieved, and asks where she went. Henderson responds by parroting Piggy’s line, in a tone that gently pokes fun at her melodrama, when our porcine heroine reveals herself to have never left after all! “I knew it!” she yells, attacking Henderson with karate chops, punches, and even bites, making her the first human that Piggy ever used her fighting moves on (she’s also the first anything that Piggy karate-chopped other than Kermit, though that streak doesn’t last long, as in the debate sketch later on in the episode, Piggy will attack Floyd, as well, setting off a contentious relationship between them that will also recur later)!


What’s great about the scene is that, first, we have kind, lovely Henderson, then it shows just a brief indication that Henderson isn’t actually a Carol-Brady-like saint. Her tone never verges into actual nastiness in teasing Piggy behind her back. It’s much more good-natured than that, but she’s clearly not above poking a little fun. And then, when Piggy comes back and fights her, you get to see Henderson really allowing herself to get roughed up by a Muppet, which is the sign of a great Muppet Show guest, that they don’t mind sacrificing their vanity (and messing up their hair) for the sake of a laugh.


Florence and the Monsters are "So Happy Together".

Florence and the Monsters are “So Happy Together”.

And Henderson is similarly fun in her last big moment–a rendition of the classic Turtles song, “Happy Together,” accompanied by an assortment of Muppet monsters. Compared to some other Muppet Show production numbers, it’s neither the most elaborate nor creative ever done on the show–even her opening song displayed more technical ingenuity, but it lacked the pure joy and effervescence of this simple singalong, a great example of how the Muppets paired with the right song and guest could produce magic even without too many added conceptual flourishes.


But returning to the Kermit and Piggy saga, what’s also great about the way Henderson’s appearance functions in the episode is that it affects and drives the backstage “drama” even when she’s not on screen. Piggy’s love for Kermit is reestablished near the start of the episode, when he yells at the Bouncing Borcellino Brothers–a bickering troupe of pig brothers whose continued attempts to produce acrobatic feats is continually undermined by their lack of talent, along with their piggish weight throwing off their balance as they pile on top of each other–and Piggy is driven to distraction by his “masculine yell”! She continues: “Is there anything I can do for you, my dear? I want to make you happy…When you are happy, the pig is happy.” Kermit sarcastically responds, “Wonderful,” but she doesn’t notice his tone, eventually attacking him with kisses. “Forgive me for being so forward,” she says, “but I am a liberated pig” (At this point, she also has more porcine characteristics than she later would, even going so far as to oink in rapture as she’s kissing him, belying her claims that she’s left her barnyard background behind, although one could interpret that as part of her gradual evolution to greater stardom, when she would suppress that sort of crude behavior all together). That’s the lovestruck frame of mind she’s in when she then finds Kermit romancing Henderson, thus explaining her feelings of betrayal and hurt.


Later on, she continues to show her love and devotion for her frog, throwing herself at him yet again when she hears him yell at the Borcellino Brothers yet again (they provide another episodic throughline, appearing at the start of the show, then out of the blue in the debate sketch, adding further chaos to an already fraught situation (one of the first Muppet Show examples of a Muppet specialty that would continue to develop over the course of the show, where a sketch would fall apart all together like a house of cards, rapidly collapsing into utter chaos, often due to the late addition of a problem from earlier in the show exacerbating the problems of the current sketch), arguing again backstage in this scene, and then even make one last attempt at their act during the curtain call!). She picks the worst possible moment to ambush him, however, as Kermit had just finished saying, “If I ever see another pig…” And there she is! “Oh, Kermit,” she cries, “every time you yell, it sends a shudder through my body, a tremble of desire and uncontrollable passion…In you, I see a seething volcano ready to erupt like Vesuvius and explode–”


Piggy and her frog.

Piggy and her frog.

Which he does an instant later, blowing up in her face in utter anger and frustration. Her reaction? “He loves me!” And poor Kermit replies, “I give up,” succumbing to her next kiss attack. And thus another key feature of the series, and Kermit in particular, is developing alongside Piggy’s love for Kermit, and that is the frog’s temper. It’s one of the things that helps make him a more complex character than simply a beleagured host surrounded by lunacy. More often than not, Kermit is the calm voice of reason–the only one who can handle juggling all of the craziness constantly coming at him from all sides and, to some extent, keep it in line. But what makes Kermit feel real is the fact that, sometimes, the pressure does get to him and he can snap–sometimes epically so. And while we have seen him lose his temper on Sesame Street, this is the first time on The Muppet Show that it hits such a height. Like a real person, Kermit is made up of a tangle of contradictions. Just because he seems like a levelheaded individual on the outside doesn’t mean he is on the inside or all the time. After all, Kermit himself has admitted before that he has to be a little crazy himself to choose to surround himself with these nuts!


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