1 The Muppet Mindset: Muppet Retro Reviews: Muppets Tonight, Part 6

Aug 5, 2014

Muppet Retro Reviews: Muppets Tonight, Part 6

Written by Abigail Maughan.

204—PIERCE BROSNAN
PLOT: Everyone is puzzled by Pierce Brosnan’s ineptitude compared to that of his character James Bond, including Peirce himself. Meanwhile, a hostile gang of lobsters seeks to take over the world, starting with KMUP.
GUEST STAR: As we all know, Muppet guest stars get an equal balance of showing off their own skills and engaging in crazy Muppet shenanigans. Pierce Brosnan seems happy to poke fun at himself and his most famous movie role.
COMEDY: This episode is full of spoofs of James Bond movie motifs, from the 007 gun-barrel camera to a self-proclaimed “cheap knock-off of a James Bond song.” That and the Rock Lobsters are all so clever that all of the non-related skits really pale in comparison.
MUSIC: Besides the aforementioned parody song, Piggy sings “Whatever Porky Wants” during the “Spy in the Casino” sketch. Perhaps most memorable is the cover of “Rock Lobster” by the antagonistic lobster rebels. The musical running gag of rats singing “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” whenever the opportunity presents itself is little forced, but funny, nonetheless.
LOWLIGHTS:

  • The entire middle section, consisting of “Bay of Pigswatch,” “Swift Wits,” “At the Bar,” and the juggling scene, falls flat when bookended by the spy spoofs.
  • The recurring UK spot of the animal-hating game show “Swift Wits” is fine for what it is, and that is filler material. It doesn’t stand up to the typically genius writing of the rest of the show. I do appreciate how the writers kept finding creative new ways for the contestants to fail.
  • There’s a scene with the guest star chucking juggling sticks at Andy and Randy, which predictably goes nowhere for way too long.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • This exchange:
    • Bunsen: We call this our Deadly Alarm Clock.
    • Pierce Brosnan: I see. And how does that work?
    • Bunsen: Well, we put it in a great big slingshot and fire it point-blank at somebody’s head. It really hurts.
  • The Muppets turn the ridiculous concept of the Rock Lobsters’ song, takeover, and defeat into a highly entertaining plot twist.
  • The “Spy in the Casino” sketch, featuring Pierce Brosnan fumbling through a Muppetized James Bond movie scene, is all kinds of funny.

MY RANKING: 4.5 out of 5 Dancing Grandmas. Themed shows are always fun, and this one is so absurdly clever, I’d give it a full 5/5 rating if not for the incredibly weak middle. At that, though, it’s one of my personal favorite episodes.

205—DON RICKLES AND COOLIO
PLOT: The Muppets and Coolio struggle to survive and prove their worth when an oppressive new owner buys their station.
GUEST STARS: From completely opposite ends of the entertainment spectrum come rapper Coolio, who gets to bring what he’s famous for to the Muppets, and comedian Don Rickles, who out-grumps even Statler and Waldorf.
COMEDY: This episode has abundant pop-culture references, from “Star Search” to “Family Matters.” Some work, like the former, and some don’t, like the latter. Other cultural references include the first installment of “The Real World Muppets” sketches and an action movie parody starring Jean-Dodd van Clamme.
MUSIC: The high-energy finale of “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)” is a great big Muppet party hosted by Coolio. Elsewhere, Don Rickles sings a few lines of “Bein’ Green” in full Kermit costume.
LOWLIGHTS:

  • Coolio: “Man, this Urkel-o thing is stupid.” Agreed.
  • “Enter the Chowder: Manhattan Style,” stars Jean Dodd van Clamme and lots of seafood puns. A few are funny, but most have no “sole.” Wocka wocka.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Ernst Stavros Grouper makes a good one-time antagonist. He is appropriately intimidating, with a great design. His hilarious voice and mannerisms are courtesy of Bill Barretta.
    • Grouper: Now that I’m in charge, there will be lots of changes, Virgil.
    • Kermit: Uh, my name’s Kermit.
    • Grouper: That is one of the changes.
  • Near the beginning, Kermit and Clifford introduce a clip called “The Two Homies of Verona.” Any sketch that includes lines like “Yo-eth!” and “Yea, verily whack!” is funny in my book.
  • It’s nice to see Kermit as a prominent character here, which is rare for the show. 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

  • Not one, not two, but three different cameos by Bill Barretta are here.
  • The word “hip” is continually used in this episode, as a measure of whether the Muppets are or not. The Merriam-Webster definition of the word is “having or showing awareness of or involvement in the newest developments or styles.” If that’s the sense that the series was trying to accomplish, I think it’s fair to say that it succeeded. For better or worse, though, is up to individual fans to decide.

MY RANKING: 5 out of 5 Homies of Verona. The dual guest stars work, and the writers keep it unique and consistently funny almost the entire way through.

206—PAULA ABDUL
PLOT: In the first of two Clifford-centric episodes in a row, Clifford attempts to get Paula Abdul to kiss him while Bunsen and Beaker’s Abraham Lincoln robot terrorizes KMUP.
GUEST STAR: Paula Abdul fits in with the various Muppet personalities quite well, flirting with some, acting as a sounding board to others, and gets two numbers to showcase her talent.
COMEDY: Physical comedy makes up a majority of that in this episode, with characters getting pummeled by cannonballs and the robotic president. This episode seems like it has just as many mediocre recurring sketches as the Pierce Brosnan episode above, such as a repetitive and uninspired “Pigs in Space,” but they are more spread out, which I personally prefer.
MUSIC: From the guest star, we get the song and dance number “Opposites Attract,” as well as a touching yet humorous finale of “Lean On Me,” sung to the dejected Abe Lincoln robot. I’m a sucker for a good parody, and the post-finale closing of the Nine Inch Snails delivers.
LOWLIGHTS:

  • Sam the Eagle gets a number of scenes throughout the series attempting to spread culture and morality, as seen here. The problem is, he is almost always accompanied by Andy and Randy Pig, who suck the joy out of nearly every scene they’re in. I suppose they do well demonstrate what a lost cause Sam’s mission is, but that doesn’t mean it’s entertaining.
  • Maybe I’m allergic to fish humor, but I didn’t care for “Whale Theater.” At least it was short.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • This exchange:
    • Nigel: Okay, we’re going next to the Nine Inch Snails.
    • Whatnot assistant: They’re still not here yet, sir.
    • Nigel: WHAT? Where are they? What are they doing, CRAWLING?
    • Whatnot: In a word, yes.
  • “The Refined Young Cannonballs” has the same flavor as a number Gonzo would do on The Muppet Show. A crazy, Muppety, perfect opening.
  • The “Opposites Attract” number, featuring Paula Abdul, a neat full-bodied Clifford, and several old monsters like the Clodhoppers and the Extremes, is rather impressive. Paula Abdul isn’t the only talented dancer here; take a moment to appreciate the puppetry that went into creating this amazing number.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

  • There’s quite a bit of finality in this episode, with the last installments of “At the Bar,” “Great Moments in Elvis History,” “Swift Wits,” and “Pigs in Space.”

MY RANKING: 4 out of 5 Refined Young Cannonballs. This episode is very funny, kooky, and all around pleasant. Above average for sure.






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

1 comment:

  1. Come on, you got to admit that it was nice to see Julius Strangepork again during the "Bay of Pigswatch" sketch in the Pierce Brosnan episode.

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