1 The Muppet Mindset: Muppet Retro Reviews: Muppets Tonight, Part 3

Jul 15, 2014

Muppet Retro Reviews: Muppets Tonight, Part 3

Written by Abigail Maughan.

105—CINDY CRAWFORD

PLOT: Bobo the Bear falls in love with Cindy Crawford, and enlists Rizzo’s help to woo her. There’s also an amusing subplot involving Sal Minella being hit by Cupid. I like that this episode shows a more complex side of Bobo than the dimwitted snarker he usually is. It’s nice to see him be both ambitious and insecure.
GUEST STAR: I’m sure supermodel Cindy Crawford is great at supermodeling, but that’s kind of hard to showcase as a Muppets guest star. Therefore, we see her trying to act and sing, which works for what’s needed in this episode.
COMEDY: This is Bobo the Bear’s most prominent episode, so he obviously gets several funny lines. There are lots of good skits too, like a Kermit-themed “Mickey Mouse Club” parody and Johnny Fiama’s failed attempt at a commercial. This episode also contains the infamous “nice balloons” scene, which, if not the most sophisticated punchline in the world, is still worth a chuckle.
MUSIC: Bobo’s “60s Retro Montage Fantasy” with Mickey Dolenz is a fun scene for the character. There’s also a song about cheese by some Irish rats, Rizzo’s brief rendition of “I’m Too Sexy for My Shirt,” and a section of “I Remember It Well” by Kermit and the guest star, which is a segue to a tango number between Bobo and Cindy. All are entertaining in their own ways.
LOWLIGHTS:

  • Ugh, this “Bay of Pigswatch” is bad even by “Bay of Pigswatch” standards. First there are the jokes with the eggs, then the mandatory male pigs gaping at Spamela’s breastikaboobical region, then the completely random mine washing up on the beach. None of it seems to fit together at all.
  • That bizarre computerized spinning thing done with the guest star near the end of the closing number just looks weird and unnatural.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Irish Rodents opening is a whole lot of fun. The show sure loves cheese puppets.
  • “Stu!”
  • I like all of the Rizzo moments in this one. He’s one of my favorite Muppets, and it’s satisfying to see him be a leader instead of a sidekick every once in a while. 
  • This joke:
    • Cindy Crawford: Excuse me, I’m looking for the Muppet Studios.
    • Bobo: Yeah, lady, you and the IRS.
  • This is a very good episode for Bill Barretta and his characters. He has an abundant amount of scenes with Bobo (obviously) and Johnny, as well as Clueless Morgan, David Hogsellhoff, and “Swift Wits” host AND Snookie Blyer and Big Mean Carl. Heck, this whole TV show is a great showcase of Bill Barretta’s immense talent.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

  • Okay, how does Cindy know bear mating calls?
  • I’m just nitpicking now, but why is there only one female Frogketeer besides the guest star in the “Kermit the Frog Club” skit?

MY RANKING:  4 out of 5 heart-shaped butterflies. I like this episode a lot, if for no other reason than Bobo taking the spotlight. I’m glad that he wasn’t one of the many characters that vanished after the show ended.

106—TONY BENNETT

PLOT: Johnny Fiama embarrasses himself in front of his idol Tony Bennett, and Sal wants to repair his confidence. These two are getting more prominent with every single episode. Of the episodes that revolve around the pair, I think this is the best.
GUEST STAR: Singer Tony Bennett is utilized nicely in the plot and in musical numbers, and seems to be enjoying himself. If not, I guess he’s just a darn good actor.
COMEDY: We obviously get lots of Johnny and Sal goofiness here, and a handful of funny skits, including the hilarious “NYPD Green” and a “Great Moments in Elvis History.” This episode also begins the ingenious trend of playing bloopers through the end credits. If there’s anything on the planet funnier than Muppet bloopers, I’d like to know what.
MUSIC: The guest star sings three full numbers on the show, and they are all really nice. The show opens with his and Kermit’s duet of “Firefly,” and closes with his and Johnny’s duet of “Shaking the Blues Away,” both of which are just plain fun. In between those, his song “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is uniquely used as background music for a faux sadness montage.
LOWLIGHTS: 

  • In this episode is one of the recurring UK spots “The Tubmans of Porksmith.” The punchline of every segment seems to be “Get it? Because Howard likes food!” It typically doesn’t garner more than a “meh” from me, even if Bill Barretta and Kevin Clash do perform their respective characters very entertainingly.
  • The drama between Johnny and Sal seems somewhat forced, especially on Sal’s part, but everything up to and after that point is enjoyable. 

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The opening number is among my favorites. The harmonies between Kermit and the guest star are lovely, and even the background antics from the three stupid pig characters don’t ruin it.
  • This:
    • Johnny: Tonight was the single most embarrassing moment of my life!
    • Sal: What about that time that you ralphed all over the Japanese prime minister?
    • Johnny: That wasn’t me, that was George Bush! Why do you always confuse us?
    • Sal: Sorry, Mr. President—I mean, Johnny.
  • We have an entertaining Gonzo stunt here in the form of “Gonzo the Great and his Misguided Missiles of Death.” I love that Muppets Tonight kept doing things like this regularly.

MY RANKING: 3 out of 5 cans of Rig-a Tony Bennett. Even though two fairly new characters carry the episode’s plot, it is still humorous and balanced by other solid Muppet skits. I’d call this episode a bit higher than average, which is not bad.

107—SANDRA BULLOCK

PLOT: The Muppets and their guest star scramble to keep up the show’s ratings when a mad bomber threatens to attack if they don’t. I’m just going to say it now: this is my favorite episode of Muppets Tonight.
GUEST STAR: Actress Sandra Bullock integrates very well in this episode, playing an important part in the plot, but not completely dominating her Muppet costars. She and her scenes are all very funny, with the exception of the very end.
COMEDY: This episode contains three of Muppets Tonight’s most memorable comedic bits, “Seinfeld Babies,” the “Elephino” joke, and “The Psychiatrist’s Office,” all famous for good reason. This one, I think, is the show’s best collection of humor in a single episode.
MUSIC: There are no full musical numbers, and yet, I don’t really mind. There’s so much of everything else, that there’s no room for one. It wouldn’t fit the frantic tone of the episode. There are lots of song snippets, though, including a “Mahna Mahna” reprise. We also get the first edition of Pepe and Seymour’s theme song, if that counts.
LOWLIGHTS:

  • “Keep the ratings above fifty”? As in, fifty total viewers in the entire country? I realize that this is a reference to “Speed”, the Sandra Bullock movie that inspired the episode’s plot, but are they really going to be that self-deprecating and say they only have approximately fifty viewers at any given time? Also, how is this being measured?
  • I love this episode right up until the ending. Just what is Sandra doing? Why does she think it’s appealing? How did she get her equipment so fast? Why does she keep going after the show is long over and everyone leaves? Is she just crazy?

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The two mad bomber exposition scenes with Bobo are very funny and tightly written, and of course very well executed by Bill Barretta and Jerry Nelson. 
  • This fourth-wall violation:
    • Clifford: Hey, how’d you know that?
    • Sandra Bullock: Because it’s the plot to one of the movies I did—“Speed!” Didn’t anybody see it?
    • Muppets: No.
    • Rizzo: But obviously the writers did.
  • I’ve expressed my ambivalence towards “The Tubmans of Porksmith” before, but even I have to appreciate the absurdity of this one’s first line: “You ate the whole buffalo?!”
  • These lines:
    • Bobo: You mean to tell me you’re gonna trace the call by pulling every wire out of every wall in this five-story building?
    • Andy and Randy: Yeah.
    • Bobo: Works for me.
  • I love the pure silliness of all the acts right after each other once the second half rolls around, such as the Anvil Chorus, the Mosh Pit-atoes, and of course Pepe and Seymour’s stand-up act. It’s all so uniquely Muppety. It’s wonderful.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

  • If this weren’t a Muppet project, I’d be asking questions about the characters’ sanity. Such as, if they fear for their lives, why don’t they just leave the studio? But because this is a Muppet project, the obvious answer is because it’s much more entertaining this way.
  • Where is Kermit during this whole bomb ordeal? 

MY RANKING: 5 out of 5 Polka Dots. Despite the strange ending, this is my favorite episode. It’s chaotic, but not a viewing mess. Everything just happens to click—the unique backstage plot, the odd parade of Muppet skits, the use of the guest star, and just basic comedy. I’d call it practically perfect.






The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

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