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 13:
Tony Randall: Television, stage and screen star Tony Randall
arrives and inadvertently turns Miss Piggy to stone. The show must go on and
go on it does, with Piggy as a statue through most of it. The first musical
number is a caveman-pig interpretation of Yakkity-Yak. That is followed by an
odd skit where four chamber musicians are surrounded by explosions and flames
after knocking over a candlestick. Another episode of Muppet News Flash falls
flat and Tony makes his first stage appearance singing "Tippy Tippy Tim."
A great skit of a gorilla singing "I've got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts"
is included form the UK and of course the coconuts sing as well. Dr. Teeth sings
a rendition of Poison Ivy until he is silenced by a bunch of vines and Piggy
(still turned to stone) makes her appearance on stage in a Pigs in Space skit.
The episode closes with Tony reading a poem called "The Green Eye Of The
Little Yellow God" as he's interrupted by Scooter and various other
Beverly Sills: Singer Beverly Sills opens the episode by breaking
Scooter's glasses and it's followed by "Take Ten Terrific
Girls (and only 9 costumes)," which is one of the few performances by
Statler and Waldorf. Fozzie mistakenly introduces Sills as a country singer
and she works her way through "Where The Bloom Is On The Sage" in
an opera style, until she's joined by a jug band. A funny Muppet News
Flash ('til the cows come home) is followed by Gonzo and Beverly hanging
spoons from their noses. A truly weird UK skit is included and it's called
the Fuss Brothers Opera. Two upside down mouths (with beards) sing odd sounding
opera and I can't get over how weird it all looks. Several backstage skits
and an editorial by Sam the Eagle (which includes Fozzie the Amoeba) are followed
Pigoletto. The opera by Beverly and the pigs closes the show and is probably
my least favorite of the episodes.
Pearl Bailey: After a great intro by the fist song is "My
Soul is a Witness," sung beautifully by Bailey and accompanied by the
Muppet Choir. The group works on the jousting scene from Camelot and Bunsen
introduces the newest Muppet Labs invention, edible paperclips. After a short
skit with chickens playing chimes, Pearl and Floyd do a funky rendition of "In
The Good Old Summertime." That's followed by the UK skit "An
Actor's Life for Me" by Rowlf and Fozzie, who are often the Abbott
and Costello of the show. After a "Pigs in Space" and "At
the Dance" episode, the Muppet version of Camelot begins. Of course there's
a problem, they can't afford the music for Camelot so they substitute
the music from "Hello Dolly" and "West Side Story,"
which closes the show out with the following songs, "Hello Dolly"/"Fugue
For Tinhorns"/"Anything You Can Do"/ "A Boy Like That"/"Everything's
Coming Up Roses."
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?