The Muppet Show 1.08: “Paul Williams”

Paul Williams isn't even the tallest person on The Muppet Show!

Paul Williams isn’t even the tallest person on The Muppet Show!

Remarkably, the Paul Williams episode of The Muppet Show received an Emmy nomination for Best Writing on a Variety Show. Unfortunately, the reason I find it remarkable is that it is easily the most poorly written episode up to this point with a higher-than-usual number of jokes that completely fail to land–for example, the Newsman sketch this week features an “important, breaking story” about a retired shoe salesman, played by Williams, whose telephone rang but, when he picked it up, discovered that the caller had hung up, likely an attempt to satirize the media’s propensity for overhyping minor stories, but that doesn’t make it actually, well, funny–hardly any narrative structure holding it together, and an obsession with the guest star’s diminuitive stature as the sole source of humor surrounding his appearance.

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The Muppet Show 1.07: “Florence Henderson”

Piggy swoons for her Kermie.

Piggy swoons for her Kermie.

The Florence Henderson episode of The Muppet Show features two key and related firsts for the series: (1) the first time that Frank Oz plays Miss Piggy for the entire half hour, never once trading off the part with Richard Hunt, and (2) the first time that an episode’s plot directly involves the guest star, not counting the Harvey Korman episode, whose “plot” was simply made up of two scenes in which he was dressed as a chicken, so I really don’t count it.

 

As plots go, this one isn’t much to write home about, either–Piggy catches Kermit “wooing” Florence Henderson and gets jealous–and would hardly have registered a blip on the radar later in the show, but this early, it is a significant development in the Kermit/Piggy romance saga, being the first

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The Muppet Show 1.06: “Jim Nabors”

Piggy has a thing for Jim

Piggy has a thing for Jim

The Jim Nabors episode of The Muppet Show is a rather weak one, even by first season standards. Although a pleasant-enough guest, Nabors fails to really connect with the Muppets on screen, more often than not feeling like he’s acting alongside rather than really with them. You’d think someone who played as colorful a character as the classic country rube Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and then on his own show would be a natural, cartoonish fit for the Muppets, but he never really seems fully comfortable with them, which is ironic given that, in the Talk Spot, he claims that he feels right at home with all the barn animals around, as he grew up on a farm. Maybe it’s just anthropomorphic ones he’s having trouble wrapping his head around.

 

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The Muppet Show 1.05: “Rita Moreno”

Rita Moreno has a lover's dance quarrel.

Rita Moreno has a lover’s dance quarrel.

Today we come to one of the best episodes of The Muppet Show‘s first season. It still isn’t perfect by the standards of the later years. The backstage plot still isn’t much more than a series of the same gag, recurring over and over in different permutations, and the guest star still takes no part in it. However, in Rita Moreno, the Muppets find their best human companion up to this point (at least on this series), and more often than not, the material she’s given fits her like a glove. In fact, she would even come to win an Emmy award for her appearance, so viewers clearly could tell something special was happening here.

 

In some ways, Moreno’s persona is the perfect combination of Ruth Buzzi‘s gusto in feeling free to really play with the Muppets physically–not

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The Muppet Show 1.10: “Harvey Korman”

Ringmaster Harvey Korman and Thog

Ringmaster Harvey Korman and Thog

You might notice that I seem to have jumped from episode 4 to episode 10 of The Muppet Show, and while that is technically true, there is method to my madness. The Muppet Show wasn’t always aired in the same order in which it was produced, and airing order even varied from country to country. In this case, although the official episode number is 10, it was actually the fifth episode produced, and since one of my main goals with this site is to track the evolution of the Muppets, I decided to stick to production order, particularly in the first season, where characters, sketches, and the show itself really was developing week to week.

 

And so we come to the Harvey Korman episode, which finds in Korman an unusual guest with an entirely different energy with the Muppets than

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