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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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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