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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Best of the Muppet Show - Diana Ross / Brooke Shields / Rudolf Nureyev
The Best of the Muppet Show - Diana Ross / Brooke Shields / Rudolf Nureyev
Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // April 6, 2004
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by DVD Savant | posted March 21, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

This Best of the Muppet Show compilation puts together three half hours starring Diana Ross, Brooke Shields and Rudolf Nureyev. It won't disappoint fans of Kermit and Miss Piggy - the color is fine and the fast pace and clever effects make up for the sometimes corny jokes.

The Muppet Show was a pleasant sensation of the late 70s, a variety antidote for lame network fare. It was syndicated but always scheduled as a second-class production. No matter, it soon became one of the most popular shows on the tube, and the whole nation sought it out.

It was the big payoff for Jim Henson after a couple of decades working as comedy filler on various variety shows, and pioneering the creative educational creatures of Sesame Street. His earlier deadpan topliner Kermit appears here as the emcee for a wild music-hall revue show, with a guest performer every week. Master puppeteer and later director Frank Oz did wonders with a raft of characters like Miss Piggy.

The format tries to sell the idea that these various furry and feathery creatures are performing in a real theater, using video matting and ingenious effects to tie the backstage wings to the footlights, and the stage to the audience. The two old gentlemen hecklers in the right-side box no longer seem as funny as they did, but like everyone else in the show, they're given lively comedy material. We quickly accept the characters as living entities, forgetting that they're manipulated mostly from below. The performers seem to accept the Muppets as well, and the colorful showcase attracted many of the top names in show business.

Diana Ross's episode is the best of the three, mainly because it's a more standard show, with the cast fawning over the singer and trying to figure out why the audience loves her but boos all the usual acts. There are reasonably good episodes of Pigs in Space and Veteranarian's Hospital to back up Diana's songs, which include her standard Reach out and Touch Somebody's Hand.

Brooke Shields is on hand for an extended takeoff on Alice In Wonderland probably concocted to compensate for the fact that the young model-actress doesn't have exploitable stage talents. She ends up being the walk-on reactor to a number of situations pulled from the children's story without much rhyme or reason. Some of the lyrics in the songs are clever but it's not as inspired as some of the better way-out Muppet material. Fozzie Bear gets confused about what story he's in and then can't extricate himself from a Tin Woodsman suit. For a while we think the two storylines might intersect, but it all just ends in an okay sing-along to "We're Off to See the Wizard."

Rudolf Nureyev's show is hampered by a single theme - the stodgy American Eagle character keeps hammering away at the need for dignity and culture, while Nureyev just wants to relax. He does a Gene Kelly / Fred Astaire type dance, none too well, and then goes through a predictable ballet of Swine Lake, opposite an unbilled partner in a flabby pig suit. Among other riffs on the idea of "culture," Rolf the dog plays DeBussy on the piano while Fozzie ruins everything trying to light his candleabra.

The shows are great for nostalgia's sake although the luck of the draw might make a different trio of episodes a more entertaining set. Savant is certainly nostalgic for the Muppets, as I still remember rushing my 1 year-old daughter through her Saturday bath in order to sit her on my lap and watch it before her bedtime, waving her arms around in sync with Kermit's spindly flippers. I wish I could do it all over again.

The shows come with some gallery and text extras called Movie Mania and Muppetisms.

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