The Muppet Show 1.12: “Peter Ustinov”

Piggy sings of her broken heart.

Piggy sings of her broken heart.

Now, if the episode were better written, I would think Piggy’s defection, so to speak, should have been the culmination of the story, not the beginning. From this point on for the rest of the episode, in each interaction Kermit has with another Muppet, that Muppet ends up choosing Ustinov over him, but surely Piggy (being the least likely) should have been the most devastating. She shouldn’t have been the first one in the chain but the comedic climax/breaking point that finally leads Kermit to wander off and work through his emotions with “Bein’ Green” (a nicely musical theatre solution to wrap up the plot). It also would have helped explain why Kermit got so defensive here when he didn’t over Jim Nabors, because it would have come on the heels of previous interactions with his other friends already making him feel insecure, making Piggy the straw that broke the camel’s back.


Related to this, there’s also another bit that doesn’t fully make sense in which Piggy sings “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” crying over Kermit. Taken literally, this completely breaks with the episode’s continuity. Now, if you want to take things a little deeper and make this work narratively, you could say that perhaps this is an indication that Piggy was just putting on a front the whole time, pretending to be interested in Ustinov as part of her scheme to get Kermit interested in her after he told her he couldn’t date her in the previous episode, and that she finally couldn’t take it anymore, revealing her true emotions here. The problem with this is that it’s not fully supported by the fact that, if this is a ruse, Kermit does seem to be playing into her hands, so the tears wouldn’t seem warranted, as from her perspective, it shouldn’t be long until he’s hers. Additionally, (a) there’s no other follow-up in the episode to indicate she was lying, and (b) this was the bonus UK spot unaired in the States, so they might just not have worried too much about the continuity not working perfectly. On the other hand, Piggy is nothing if not melodramatic, so the fact that Kermit isn’t hers now could be enough to prompt tears. Perhaps even having to pretend for a short while that she loved another was too much for her!


A few more things:


–The episode’s first musical act is a re-creation of the “Night at the Pops” sketch from Our Place, in which an orchestra made up of balloon-headed musicians literally pop in time to the music, the only difference being that, on Our Place, the piece of music was “Blue Danube,” and here, it’s “Pizzicato” from Sylvia, a ballet by Léo Delibes.

–Other than “Bein’ Green,” the episode’s best musical number and possibly overall scene is a very Muppety rendition of Cole Porter’s “You Do Something to Me”. Interestingly, Wayne and Wanda tried to sing the song in the Paul Williams episode, with Wanda inside a box for the classic cutting-a-woman-in-half magic trick and Wayne as the magician. They had to stop the song when Wanda yelped in pain, however, as they clearly didn’t know how to perform the trick without actually harming her. And here, just 4 episodes later, we have the song in its complete form, and again, the scene revolves around magic.

In this case, we see a fuzzy damsel-in-distress who an evil, bearded magician called Svengali is holding captive. While she innocently sings, he proceeds to turn her into a variety of different creatures. Her face stays the same but soon she finds herself turning into a bird, a seahorse, a plant, a tiger, and more, eventually the spells flying so fast and loose that she becomes hybrid creatures, combining various traits of the previously mentioned ones–super Muppety chaos.

"You Do Something to Me"

“You Do Something to Me”

In the end, however, with one last burst of magical power, the magician turns her into…a bearded woman who looks almost exactly like him! And in a thick Eastern European accent, she responds, “Oh, finally, I thought you’d never get me back to myself again!” ending on a perfect twist that reveals that she was never a victim or in any danger whatsoever. Instead, it was the seemingly innocent exterior that was the facade, and she this entire time had wanted this man–who is likely her mate–to restore her natural looks, which are beautiful to her, the more traditionally “cute” ones not being ones she was comfortable with. In many ways, it’s a companion piece to The Muppet Show‘s version of “I Feel Pretty,” commenting on societal beauty standards and celebrating people who are different from the norm but here with added magical flourishes.

–Early on in the episode, Kermit explains to Ustinov that the show’s head writer is a hatrack, and in a nice, subtle Easter egg, when the end credits roll, sure enough, “and the Hatrack” has been added to the list of writers, another meta moment that shows The Muppet Show starting to tweak the variety show format, here in a subtle way that most people might not have even noticed but a fun detail for eagle-eyed fans!

–Ustinov had such a great time with the Muppets that he later reunited with them briefly, when he was part of the famous “very brief cameo” with Oscar the Grouch in The Great Muppet Caper!


And that’s all for now! Next time: Bruce Forsyth.


Pages: 1 2