by Abigail Maughan
102 — GARTH BROOKS
PLOT: Garth Brooks adamantly refuses to sing a country song, much to the frustration of Clifford, Rizzo, and the visiting network executive.
GUEST STAR: Country singer Garth Brooks engages in all sorts of bizarre activities here, including dressing in pantaloons, singing “If I Were a Rich Man,” and dancing the mambo. Sadly, it’s not all at the same time. He interacts easily with his Muppet costars and provides a very nice closing number.
COMEDY: Immediately, we see that the humor has improved significantly from the last episode. No, there wasn’t an immediate change from one week to the next, this was actually the fifth episode produced, simply airing much earlier. I find the humor all around much sharper, from Clifford’s introduction to basic backstage dialogue.
MUSIC: Lots of it, all from the guest star. We get his rendition of “It’s Not Unusual,” surrounded by swooning Muppets, and his take on “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof, accent and all. At the end, the Muppets join him for a pleasant take on his hit “We Shall Be Free.”
- The “Romeo and Juliet” skit with Garth Brooks and Miss Piggy is just okay. Piggy’s near-sightedness gag isn’t quite enough to carry the bit, but her indignant cry of “Whoever wrote this should be shot!” does make me laugh.
- This episode features the first “Tales from the Vet” installment, my personal favorite of the recurring segments on the show. Dr. Phil van Neuter’s zealous derangement balanced with his odd domestic quirkiness makes him one of my favorite new characters on Muppets Tonight.
- Now that the show has gotten its format established, this episode introduces lots of new Muppets Tonight aspects and skits that will become very familiar, such as the new Pigs in Space crew, the animal-hating game show “Swift Wits,” “The Tubmans of Porksmith,” new characters Seymour and Pepe (briefly), and Bill the Bubble Guy, the latter of whom seems to be this show’s less frenetic equivalent of Lew Zealand.
- This exchange:
- Clifford: Kerm, that’s great! If you weren’t a bug-eyed, spindly-legged froggy, I’d give you a big kiss on your knobby little head.
- Kermit: And if you weren’t a purple, catfish-faced, multicolored moptop, I’d let you.
- Rizzo: Aw, ain’t friendship a beautiful thing? *cries*
- There’s lots of old Muppet character cameos in this episode, like Floyd Pepper, George the Janitor, and Rowlf the Dog, not to mention Murray the Minstrel and an Inkspot from Fraggle Rock dancing with Garth Brooks at the beginning.
- According to Muppet Wiki, that’s Kirk Thatcher dressed as Garth Brooks dressed as a geisha. And that may be the most nonsensical sentence I’ve ever typed.
- How is it that in this episode Andy and Randy briefly quote Shakespeare (“If you prick us, do we not bleed?” etc.), but in the previous episode, they couldn’t even remember their own names?
MY RANKING: 5 out of 5 head bubbles (Eww.) This would be an episode I’d use to introduce someone to the show. Funny jokes and an entertaining guest star, not to mention a very diverse skit selection and good character moments for Clifford, Gonzo, and many others. Now this is more like what we’ll see on Muppets Tonight. Not immediately, though, because here comes...
103— BILLY CRYSTAL
PLOT: Less of a plot than a running gag, Bobo the Bear repeatedly proves his ineptitude as the studio’s new security guard.
GUEST STAR: Actor and comedian Billy Crystal interacts well enough with the Muppets, the skits featuring him are amusing enough, and the writers seem to be writing to his strengths. However, the blending of his style of comedy with that of the Muppets feels somewhat forced.
COMEDY: Muppets Tonight sure likes using puns. It’s even acknowledged in the “City Schtickers” skit, which doesn't really go anywhere. There’s a more diverse blend of comedic styles in this episode than in the Michelle Pfeiffer episode, but about the same level of quality, which is... not exceptional.
MUSIC: We get two musical numbers here. The first is a fun rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” sung by jungle creatures to an unamused lion. The second is a jazz number led by Billy Crystal that ends up being enjoyable, but I don’t consider it among the show’s best closing numbers. There’s also a brief performance of “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” between Kermit, Fozzie, and the guest star, which is a bright point of the Western sketch.
- I know that’s one of the things he’s famous for, but, to me, the scene with the guest star doing various impressions for the Muppets gets a little tedious.
- The introduction of Johnny Fiama and Sal Minella on the show doesn’t really do them justice, and is really rather cringe-worthy, but I think the same can be said for Miss Piggy’s first appearance back on The Muppet Show. Just goes to show that great characters can emerge from mediocre intros.
- Here is our first real look at the obtuse but well-intentioned Bobo the Bear, who supplies many of the biggest laughs in this episode, and eventually some of the best jokes in the entire series. My favorite gag from him here is his attempt to count all of the countries on a globe to prove a point.
- While his "The Eagle's Nest" segment itself isn't fantastic, Sam the Eagle gets several good character moments there and in the backstage scene preceding it. "And they say purgatory doesn't exist!"
- These lines:
- Rizzo: Why should I have to tell him?
- Clifford: Because I'm the man and you're the rat. I've got genetic seniority!
- The announcer at the beginning doesn’t sound like the usual Jerry Nelson. Bill Barretta, maybe?
- Note the rare appearance of Fozzie Bear on the show, and the even rarer appearance of Zoot.
MY RANKING: 2 out of 5 fake sneezes. It's got some good jokes here and there, but overall doesn't rank among the show's best episodes.
PLOT: The imbecilic Andy and Randy Pig make themselves John Goodman’s aggravating slaves when he saves them from electrocuting themselves. Even though it is a pretty standard trope in television comedy, it is made entertaining here.
GUEST STAR: While actor John Goodman’s written motivations don't make a lot of sense (why would you voluntarily guest star on a variety show to relax?), the guest star seems to be a good fit for this show and plot, acting appropriately exasperated throughout.
COMEDY: And now we’re back to what I think is consistently funny comedy. Backstage conversations flow well, and the skits are a lot better. The “Rats Patrol” skit in particular has a good collection of jokes, my favorite being “Tell her I… I… couldn’t think of a steak joke.”
MUSIC: Our first number is the incredibly odd but not unpleasant performance of “She Blinded Me with Science,” performed by Dr. van Neuter in flashback form. The finale is “Feelin’ All Right,” which showcases a surprisingly decent voice from the guest star and plenty of Muppet sight gags.
- The "Lunarmooners" skit, a spoof on the classic TV show “The Honeymooners.” Hardly any of it made me laugh, although I do appreciate the writers’ dedication to spoofing pop culture that spans decades.
- Wait… Did Randy Pig just say something funny? I think the two pigs are tolerable this time around.
- Clifford: You should thank Mr. Goodman for saving your little piggy skins!
- Andy: Thank you, Mr. Goodman!
- Randy: Yeah! Without our skins, we could never be naked!
- Although they were both prominent characters on the show, Gonzo and Rizzo seldom get to interact like the buddies they were throughout the decade. In this episode, we get their one-time segment “Gonzo and Rizzo’s Incredible Discoveries,” which, if not comedy gold, is still made fun by their goofing around.
- The bit with Johnny and Sal is a very good one. We get concise looks at their very funny personalities, and their scene is my favorite part of the episode.
- I haven’t mentioned yet how catchy and fun the show’s theme song is. Allow me do so now: the show’s theme song is rather catchy and fun.
- Interesting how the two future performers of the main characters in Monsters, Inc. immediately follow each other as Muppets Tonight guest stars.
- Also interesting how three out of four episodes in a row feature at least one talking cheese.
- Check out the other human at the very end. It’s Jerry Nelson!
MY RANKING: 4 out of 5 trucks full of mouse traps (and one bear trap.) Even with the usually obnoxious Andy and Randy taking the spotlight, I find this episode very funny and full of lots of good skits.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org