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 15:
Senor Wences: Kermit and crew decide to do a puppet show in
honor of Wences and extra guest Bruce Schwartz. Pinocchio starts off the show
singing "Puppet Man." After that, it's more self-referential
jokes on about puppets. Senor Wences makes his first stage appearance with his
puppet Johnny (his hand with a wig) and moves onto Pedro the head in a box and
then it's on to spinning plates. Up next is Vet's Hospital followed
by the Swedish Chef demonstrating bread lump puppetry doing a version of "These
Boots Were Made for Walking." Up next is the beautiful UK skit with Bruce
Schwartz doing a Japanese ghost story. Beauregard and Fozzie try to get into
the puppet act and Fozzie makes it onto stage with a clown. Senor Wences closes
the show with another ventriloquist using his chicken puppet, which should have
involved Gonzo in some way.
Lola Falana: After a great into about the history of Gonzo,
the show starts with what is to be Gonzo's last after receiving a movie
deal from a Bombay, India movie studio. A group of chickens join Gonzo for a
rendition of "Goodnight, Ladies" which is followed by Lola doing
"He's the Greatest Dancer" with monsters and a bird. After
comforting Camilla the chicken, Gonzo does a tearful rendition of "I Did
It My Way" in which he says goodbye to Kermit and the show. The UK skit
is the chickens once again singing to Gonzo, this times it's "Gonna
Wash That Man Outta My Hair." Up next is one of the funniest editions
of Muppet Sports. Tree staring is billed as the classic confrontation of man
against wood in which the wood wins in the end. Gonzo is let down and Lola attempts
to brighten his day by singing "Smile." Gonzo gets rid of his replacement
Trevor the Gross and takes over his skit "Top Hat." Lola and everyone
return for "United We Stand."
Juliet Prowse: The last episode on this disc has one of the
BEST SKITS EVER included. It's the Mahna Mahna song and
Muppet fans will know what that is (whatever that means). Gonzo does one of
the strangest things ever by eating a tire to the music of "Flight of
the Bumblebee," which is followed by Juliet and the Muppet Gazelles dancing.
A quick At the Dance is followed by the UK only song, "You and I George,"
by Rowlf. It's another great performance by my favorite Muppet. Kermit
chats with Juliet and Fozzie does a Cowboy sketch that ends the way all skits
should, with an explosion. Scooter does a rare appearance in a dancing bear
skit and the group closes with Kermit conduction the Muppet glee club, with
disastrous results and scary performance from Piggy.
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?