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 14:
Liza Minnelli: This is another themed episode (similar to
Brooke Shields' Alice and Wonderland). Liza and the Muppets put on a full
episode Murder Mystery. Kermit is a private eye that's hired by Liza O'Shaughnessy
to discover who is terrorizing her stage show. At the rehearsal the gang does
a production of "Copa Cabana" and the director gets murdered at
the end. The Muppets appear as angels in a production of "It's Gonna
Be a Great Day" as another character gets murdered when Fozzie investigates.
Kermit is called to Liza's dressing room to catch the murderer and it's
lights out. When Kermit gets ht over the head the show cuts to the UK exclusive
skit. A pack of dogs sing, "Pass that Peace Pipe" while backed by
the Mayhem band. One by one they are murdered and Liza discovers Kermit (watch
for croaking joke). Liza sings to Kermit, "It's a Quiet Thing,"
to make him feel better. The whole gang gathers again after a few more scenes
to sing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" as the killers are
revealed. It's an interesting and experimental episode that doesn't
carry the laughs as usual, but you see the techniques being developed for the
Madeline Kahn: The first song of the show is also one of the
most popular from the entire series. Kermit does an awesome song and dance number
called "Happy Feet" where he tap-dances. The foot theme continues
after a brief backstage moment when Kahn sings "Feet." It's
a hilarious skit that features life-size Muppets with large, purple feet. Later,
when Gonzo tells Piggy he no longer cares for her (which is news to her) she
becomes jealous because Gonzo thinks Madeline is prettier than her. The Swedish
Chef has a surreal skit—even for this show—where the lobster he's
about to cook is rescued by a group of bandito lobsters. The UK skit of Floyd
singing "New York State of Mind" follows this. Once again the Muppet
makers show their knack for creating the most eloquent and simple moments with
these characters that they have brought to life with just their creativity.
After an episode of Pigs on Space, Fozzie sings "The Pig Got Up And Slowly
Walked Away." Madeline and one of the larger, monster Muppets, do a great
skit in the park where everything is quickly destroyed. After a quick Muppet
News Flash that is deceptively simple, one of my favorite performers, Rowlf
does a quick, one line rendition of "Up, Up and Away." Gonzo closes
the show with a touching moment between him and Madeline where she explains
her true feelings.
Mummenschanz: The theater group Memmenschanz "host"
a show that I didn't remember until I started watching it. Scooter and
Floyd rock out to "Mr. Bassman" and it's followed up with
Mummenschanz doing a cute skit where their faces are notepads with drawn expressions.
It's an interesting bit of performance art and a perfect example of the
show introducing people to something new. In a brilliant skit, a librarian directs
a group as they make noises into producing "The Blue Danube." The
Mummenschanz do another skit followed by a great episode of At the Dance. Next
up is the UK skit that I seem to remember. It's a green, worm-like creature
swimming against a aquarium background singing "I Love the Fish I'm
Near." Kermit attempts to the Mummenschanz and then Wayne and Wanda sing
"Paper Moon" only to have it go horribly wrong, as usual. A Muppet
News Flash is followed by the show closing Clay Face, where the performance
artists wear masks made of clay and mold them into new faces as they act.
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?