NEWS UPDATE: January 13, 2010
Legendary Muppeteer Jerry Nelson has released a solo album filled with tons of great music featuring Jerry's signature voice. Be sure to check it out and maybe even spend ten dollars on some incredible music by a true legend.
Lisa Alexander - As previously mentioned here on the Mindset, the Muppets appeared on America’s Funniest Home Videos this past Sunday evening. As promised, the show was filled with Muppets—so much so that, instead of my usual activity of counting the commercial breaks I had to sit through to see the Muppets, I found myself barely able to keep up with them as I scribbled down notes.
Before the show even starts, we see host Tom Bergeron on his cell phone, complaining that he can’t find a big celebrity to celebrate America’s Funniest Home Video’s 20th Anniversary. He runs into Kermit, who is on his cell phone looking for ways to volunteer. (Kermit has apparently gotten a snazzy new cell phone since Studio DC: Almost Live. I wonder if he knows how to use this one.) Kermit and Tom explain their respective troubles, wish each other luck, and go their separate ways… only to come running back, index fingers pointed, to declare, “YOU!” (A very profound statement.) Naturally, Kermit volunteers to be a big star for AFV, and Tom is delighted, though suddenly befuddled when Kermit uses that ominous word “we.” With a mere whistle, Kermit summons a small stampede of Muppets and explains that they’re a package deal.
During the theme, the announcer tells us that, in honor of AFV’s 20th anniversary, tonight’s show is a Muppet Palooza, and the Electric Mayhem gets top billing. (I have no idea what the Muppets have to do with AFV turning 20, but hey, the Electric Mayhem got top billing!) Tom then explains that for one night only, they’ve got an in-house band—The Electric Mayhem, of course—and there they are, looking quite content at the back of the stage.
Tom’s next action is to introduce “one of the biggest stars in the business,” Kermit the Frog. Kermit and Tom only talk for a little bit before a burst of applause brings Pepe hurrying in. The king prawn’s new outfit—a neutral-colored sweater over a neutral-colored button-down shirt—doesn’t really strike me as something Pepe would choose for himself, but the wardrobe change has not dampened his personality. He immediately says to “Mr. Burgerbuns,” “I heard applause. Did somebody say my name?” He then volunteers to take Tom’s job as host, and sends Tom out to get him coffee. In the frog/prawn banter that follows, Kermit tries to explain that Tom is the host, and isn’t going to leave just to get Pepe coffee, so Pepe also orders a muffin for himself and a bagel for Kermit. Tom doesn’t even try to interrupt them—not that he would’ve been able to—and talks over them to cue the funny videos.
The Electric Mayhem is all tropical as we cut to and from a commercial break, playing a Jamaican-style melody and decked out in straw hats. All of them are feelin’ da rhythm, mon, and Floyd blinks at the camera.
Then Tom has an amphibian question for Kermit, who immediately starts on a rather defensive tirade that no, you do not get warts from kissing a frog. Tom explains that his question is actually about the next video—a frog making rather cat-like noises when a woman squeezes him. Tom wants to know what the frog was saying. In spite of a slight difference in dialect, Kermit manages to translate—and censor—the other frog, so Tom challenges him to translate the other animals in the following clips. Sadly, we never find out if he can. After several noisy animal clips, we cut to a voice-over promotion of “Give a day. Get a Disney day.” with the AFV theme in the background.
The next time we see the Muppets, Kermit is standing behind a handy-dandy waist-high wall that is just perfect for hiding Muppeteers, and Tom wants him to guess what happens in some clips. The first one takes place in a swamp, and Kermit accurately predicts who falls in. Next is a clip of a woman eating a plate of prawns. It stops on a shot of the woman dangling a prawn over her mouth, and before Tom can give Kermit any choices of what happens next, Pepe comes rushing on, thoroughly objecting to the video (as well he should), and he identifies the prawn on the screen as his cousin Minolo. (We’ve heard a lot about cousin Minolo, so it’s nice to finally meet him. …Sort of.) Kermit uneasily suggests that the video is using stunt shrimp. Pepe certainly hopes so, because cousin Minolo owes him money. Meanwhile, Tom still can’t begin to compete with the frog/prawn banter and is forced to talk over them as he cues the next videos.
This is about the halfway point of the show, and the only Muppets we’ve seen talk are Kermit and Pepe, which makes you wonder where the other Muppets are… and then we see The Electric Mayhem still groovin’ a tropical tune, man, and all is right with the world. Imagine how many Muppeteers that tied up for the entire length of the show. On the other hand, they’ve been keeping it pretty mellow for a while now, so either they’re going wild when we’re not looking, or somebody slipped Animal some Prozac.
After a commercial break, Tom thinks Kermit will like the next set of videos, which are all of weddings. Kermit is instantly all nerves, which I’m pretty sure is the first time we’ve seen him get skittish about someone else getting married. It turns out he’s right to be nervous, because Miss Piggy hears him talking about weddings, thinks he’s proposing, and immediately rushes out with bouquet in hand, already wearing a veil, with the band ready to play the Wedding March. Tom and Kermit explain that they were talking about the clips, and Tom apologizes for the mix-up, wanting to make it up to Miss Piggy. She makes him an offer: head, gut, or groin? Karate-chop delivered, she flounces off stage, leaving Tom to collapse. Kermit offers Tom some sage advice, cues the videos, and calls for the medic.
Later, Tom apparently wants some refreshments to help recover from that chop, and we see him backstage wanting to know what The Swedish Chef is serving. The dishes are Chef’s Surprise—pretty much a blast of confetti—and a classic serving of Swedish Meatballs in a nice throwback for the hard-core fans.
The Electric Mayhem has a quick costume change and starts playing polka. Their polka-playing skills have dramatically improved since The Muppets Take Manhattan, but that doesn’t mean their tastes have changed; after playing polka for a full commercial break, Zoot looks like he’s in pain. Maybe his vest is too tight?
Miss Piggy, looking gorgeous as ever, decides to join in the volunteering and tells Tom she will help bring about world peace by singing. (Clearly, she’s picking up subliminal messages from the Fraggle hole at her hair dresser’s.) She sings a cute little ditty to the tune of AFV’s theme while Tom awkwardly squirms his way through a second Miss Piggy encounter, this time avoiding a chop.
As the show nears its end, Kermit and Tom talk to us about volunteering with another plug for “Give a day. Get a Disney day.” Tom also wants us to film ourselves volunteering and send the funny stuff to the show. Kermit suggests we read to tadpoles.
When it’s time for the audience to vote, Bunsen and Beaker arrive to inform Tom that voting is no longer necessary with their new Laughometer. You simply wire the audience to the machine, and it measures their laughter to determine the winner. To demonstrate how safe it is, Bunsen has Beaker wired to the machine, with the predictable but ever-hilarious results, complete with light-up eyes and smoke. The electrocuted Beaker turns to Tom for comfort while the audience votes the old-fashioned way.
After the winner has been announced, Tom hangs out with Kermit, Miss Piggy, the Swedish Chef, Bunsen and Beaker, and a couple chickens we haven’t seen since the initial stampede, but Pepe is not in the shot. We then see the Electric Mayhem, now playing AFV’s theme, and a new talent is revealed—Zoot plays flute! He’s pretty good at it, too. We then cut back to the other Muppets and see why Pepe was running late; he changed out of that sweater-combo and back into his usual black-shirt-and-chain outfit.
This was a fantastic appearance. All of the Muppets—and their performers—were definitely in top form. Kermit’s facial expressions were especially excellent, and I was very impressed by the frog/prawn banter. (By the way, try saying “frog/prawn” ten times fast…) Poor Tom really couldn’t even begin to compete with the Muppets, which is probably why there were so many times that he appeared without them, and possibly why he complained about having to follow a polka number.
While The Electric Mayhem didn’t have any lines, they were definitely a presence, and one that has been sorely missed. They had more costume changes than Miss Piggy, and the constant culture-switching reminded me of the opening spreads in Langridge’s Muppet Show comic books, where we’ve seen them don berets and shake maracas. It’s a nice, subtle consistency, and it shows that they’re paying attention and putting in effort.
Of course, I would have loved to have seen more Muppets, but I’m an insatiable fan. Realistically, if you consider how many Muppeteers were needed at all times to perform the Mayhem, it’s absolutely wonderful that we got as many additional Muppets as we did. My only real complaint is that I wish they’d cut back to Kermit to see if he could translate any of those other animal clips, especially since the last video of that set was of a pig. That’s a comedic opportunity they shouldn’t have missed.
Overall, I’m thrilled with the appearance. Between this and last week’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, I’d say 2010 is off to quite the Muppetational start.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier