From its beginnings in Sesame Street, the Muppet Show thrived for 5 years and
120 episodes and became one of the most popular and enduring television franchises
of all time. I remember watching the show as a child and I still carry a love
for it, so imagine my surprise when Time Life announced that they were to release
3 episodes on DVD every month. Now, with over a year behind them, Time Life is
up to volume 15 on the set and still going strong.
Something about the Muppets entranced a nation, perhaps even more than Sesame
Street. Adults and children alike enjoyed the show and most of that was likely
due to the high-profile guests that frequented the show. Jim Henson and his
crew attracted stars like Elton John, Vincent Price, Orson Welles, Roger Moore,
and others in their 5-year run. Everyone wanted to work with the Muppets and
that feeling is still around today.
Several years ago an ill-fated revival attracted the likes of Garth Brooks
and Sandra Bullock. Their multiple movies also attract similar stars and it's
a trend that will likely continue. Thanks to Time Life, parents that remember
the show can now introduce it to their own children and enjoy it once again.
The following episodes are on disc 12:
Liberace: The famously flamboyant piano player makes a unique
appearance on the Muppet show in this episode. Liberace's performance
is held until the end of the show and lasts for several minutes. There are a
few skits that lead to his performance and they are: Piggy does a Greek skit
that has her smashing plates and singing and dancing. The Swedish chef attempts
to make coffee and is followed by an episode of Vet's Hospital. Getting ready
for Liberace's act, he auditions birds and Gonzo desperately wants his
chickens in the act. This is followed by the UK skit, She Wants to Sing Opera,
in which Piggy sings so badly it hurts. Liberace is finally up next and his
lengthy performance includes "Chopstick's Medley", "Misty",
"Nocturne # 5", "Has Anybody Seen My Bird", where Liberace
dances with the birds he auditioned. Quite a strange episode.
Rita Moreno: Star Rita Moreno (who won an Emmy for this episode)
starts the episode off with a skit in a café with a full size Muppet
that takes quite a beating. This is followed by an episode of Vet's Hospital
(the first episode, which features a strange looking Miss Piggy). The Swedish
Chef attempts to make flapjacks only to be thwarted by a sticky ceiling. The
familiar skit, At the Dance, is followed by the UK song by the Hillbilly band
that features a Jim Henson Muppet. It's a great, plain musical number
that's funny and eloquent. Marvin Suggs & the Muppetphones is a classic
skit that many will remember. Suggs plays the Muppetphones by hitting them on
the head and their responding cries and yelps make up the music. A short skit
on conversation is followed by a hilarious conversation between Kermit and Rita
where we find Kermit is quite ticklish. Sam the Eagle introduces Wayne and Wanda
and Fozzie has to take their place after the act doesn't quite go as planned.
Rita finishes the show with a scorching rendition of "Fever" that
brings the house down and includes the Muppet Band in perhaps their finest performance.
Lynda Carter: From the successful television adaptation of
DC Comics' Wonder Woman, guest Lynda Carter works through a super-hero
themed episode. The show starts with a odd Indian sacrifice version of "I
Get By With a Little Help From My Friends" by hippie Muppet Janice. The
gang studies to be super-heroes as Lynda does a disco version of "Rubber
Band Man." Another Muppet New Flash skit is the story of Rezal- Evad-Gib
(make sure to say it aloud). The UK exclusive in this is a Floyd doing a touching
rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," again showing the pure
talent in this show. Wonder Pig is a hilarious take-off on Wonder Woman where
Piggy takes on a giant chicken. Sheep Song is a funny version of the "Wolf
in Sheep's clothing" with an unexpected twist. Finishing up the
show, all the Muppet super-heroes make an appearance in closing song "Flash!
Video: Time has produced a great disc that presents the material
in its original 4:3 aspect ratio with few problems. The video looks slightly
aged, but the colors and contrast are sharp and bright. There are no real flaws
in the transfer and overall the video is clean and has only a few spots of grain
and pattern that were likely on the original source.
Audio: A nice stereo mix is all that is available. While a
re-mastered Dolby track would have been nice, the stereo mix works fine. It's
a well-balanced mix that sounds great on the vocals and music numbers.
Extras: Each disc in the set has several extras. Jim Henson's
son, Brian Henson, introduces each episode and reveals a few facts about the
process involved in filming each episode. Each show also includes previously
unaired skits from the UK (see episode description). There are a few short features
and skits that have been added but they aren't anything outstanding. The
best things are the extra skits and intros.
Overall: This is a neat perfect set of a perfect show. The
only thing that keeps this set from getting a Collector's Set rating is
the packaging and release status. The episodes are mixed together instead of
the order they aired or by season. A season-by-season set would be perfect,
but this will have to do for Muppet fans. There little excuse not to get these
as they are released. The price may seem a little high, but what's better
than getting a new Muppet disc in the mail each month by subscription?