Jul 22, 2014

Muppet Retro Reviews: Muppets Tonight, Part 4

Written by Abigail Maughan.

108-- JASON ALEXANDER
PLOT: The egos and creative preferences of Gonzo and Jason Alexander clash while they attempt to make their college musical screenplay “Bats” a reality.
GUEST STAR: Actor Jason Alexander, whose other Muppet connections include doing voices in Dinosaurs, plays off of Gonzo well. He is very good at acting irritated, and his willingness to wear weird costumes makes him a good choice for a Muppets guest star.
COMEDY: There’s a lot of humor here, from skits like “Murder on the Disoriented Express” and an exceptionally good “Pigs in Space” to dialogue in bridge segments. In my opinion, this is one of the strongest-written episodes of the first season.
MUSIC: The only musical number is the “Bats” medley, which is plenty goofy and serves its purpose as a memorable closing number.
LOWLIGHTS:
  • I find the “Muppet Bandstand” skit a little weak. The beginning and ending jokes are fine, but the dancing is uncomfortable. That is what it’s supposed to be, though, so what am I complaining about?
  • It seems odd that the guest star reverses his opinion on what makes a quality show almost immediately, after arguing with Gonzo about it the entire episode. However, it is made funnier when Gonzo also reverses his stance on the matter.
HIGHLIGHTS:
  • It’s hard to compare “Pigs in Space: Deep Dish 9” to the original, as there are only three “Deep Dish 9” sketches. The one in this episode, featuring a robot called Al-1995 Plus Tax and a cameo by Swedish supermodel Vendela, is my personal favorite.
  • The banter between Gonzo and the guest star just gets more and more absurd, and thus funnier and funnier.
    • Jason Alexander: This is exactly what you did in school! Remember that production of “Death of a Salesman” you ruined?
    • Gonzo: Well, if you’re referring to my production of “Death of a Trans-Dimensional Giant Mutant Cyborg Salesman”, that show was a hit! And it won a Pulitzer Prize!
    • Jason: It did not win a Pulitzer Prize!
    • Gonzo: Well, my mother liked it.
  • This is one of very few episodes that feature Gonzo as a central character to the plot. It’s good to see him in the spotlight for the whole episode, and I wish this had happened more frequently over the two seasons.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS:
  • It’s neither a highlight nor a lowlight, so I’ll put it here: In this episode is one of the bizarre “At the Bar” segments, which feature Polly Lobster and Clueless Morgan from Muppet Treasure Island telling bad jokes, singing, and serving drinks to an unseen patron by the name of Mr. Callahan. I am honestly not sure what I think of these skits. They’re always weird enough to keep me watching, but they’re never good or bad enough to stand out amongst the rest of the episode. 
  • Gonzo: “It’s just like you to take something classy and high-minded—and leave it that way!” It’s a funny line, but isn’t Gonzo usually convinced that his own outrageous acts are classy and high-minded? It seems like an odd thing for him to say.
MY RANKING: 4/5 Fifteen-billion gigawatt laser cannons. I’d call this one a higher than average episode, with plenty of amusing skits and comedy, a pretty strong plot and satisfying resolution.

109—WHOOPI GOLDBERG
PLOT: Miss Piggy, Andy, and Randy race from the airport to the studio for the closing number, while Whoopi Goldberg shows off.
GUEST STAR: Here is one of many Muppet projects that actress Whoopi Goldberg is a part of. I’ve noticed that Muppets Tonight always keeps the guest stars central to the plot, even a loose one like here, whereas on The Muppet Show it seemed to be optional. I’m not saying either method is better than the other, as quality entirely depends on what else the episode contains.
COMEDY: The backstage plot isn’t too uproarious, but we do get some adequate skits, such as a “People’s Court” parody and a scene with various Muppets auditioning to replace Miss Piggy. There’s nothing I’d necessarily consider comedy gold, but it’s all pleasant enough.
MUSIC: We have one of the most notable Muppets Tonight musical numbers here, in the form of Kermit’s cover of The Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” which is a rather impressive yet bizarre music video. Whoopi Goldberg also attempts to teach some uncooperative rats how to play reggae music, and, for the second time in Muppet history, the finale is a glitzy duet of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” by Miss Piggy and the guest star.
LOWLIGHTS:
  • You know, I honestly can’t think of anything too awful about this one. We have some so-so acts, like a “Fairyland PD,” a brief Big Mean Carl segment, and even Whoopi’s parade of novelty acts, but nothing I’d consider a lowlight. 
HIGHLIGHTS:
  • Speaking of “Fairyland PD”, the UK spot featuring Bobo and Clifford as inept detectives solving fairy tale cases, I think the one in this episode, “Goldi Lock-Up”, is the funniest of the four.
  • The totally sincere way both Whoopi Goldberg and Rizzo announce their plans to fly makes me laugh.
    • Whoopi Goldberg: Ladies and gentlemen… I will now do something never performed by any human being. I… will fly! 
    • Rizzo: Uh, excuse me, Whoopi, but you have a phone call over there. It’s Miss Piggy.
    • Whoopi: Oh. Cover me! *leaves*
    • Rizzo: But I… Uh… Ladies and gentlemen, I will now do something never before performed by any rat. I… will fly.
  • The bloopers to this episode feature an impromptu fistfight amongst Clifford, Johnny, Sal, and Rizzo, and it is delightful.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS:
  • Who is driving the limousine when Andy, Randy, and Piggy are all in the back seat?
  • Why isn’t Piggy driving from the beginning? She’s aware of her nephews’ incompetence.
  • If the theater is only three blocks away, as Piggy says, why couldn’t she just walk there?
MY RANKING: 3/5 Reggae Rodents. I wouldn’t say there’s anything overly special or memorable on whole about this one, but there’s really nothing wrong with it.

110—MARTIN SHORT
PLOT: After getting flattened in the elevator, Martin Short becomes obsessed with eating Johnny Fiama’s mother’s pasta sauce.
GUEST STAR: Mainly, I find the guest star incredibly off-putting and unfunny. Comedian Martin Short’s wild style of comedy is not one that I personally love, and thus this episode is not one that I personally love. However, the skits are written to his strengths, and I can’t think of any other Muppets Tonight guest star who this episode’s plot would have worked for. It just doesn’t appeal to me.
COMEDY: The humor features a lot of puns from Rizzo and odd antics from the guest star. We do, however, get some decent skits such as “E-I-E-I-O-R,” an exceptionally good “Swift Wits,” and Beaker getting attacked by Sal Minella.
MUSIC: The guest star was limited to just one number: “Steppin’ Out with My Baby”, sung in a weird voice by Martin Short wearing a fat suit. Thankfully, there’s a cute background chorus of penguins for the second episode in a row.
LOWLIGHTS:
  • I find Piggy’s disgust funny, but the skit featuring Martin Short’s SCTV character Ed Grimley is too weird for me. And, yes, I do realize that “too weird” is not the best excuse for a Muppet fan to give.
  • Fat Martin Short + Fat Clifford = disturbing.
HIGHLIGHTS: 
  • Rizzo’s term “nuttier than a fruitcake” is a phrase I may or may not occasionally use.
  • I really wish we’d seen more of “E-I-E-I-O-R” than just two instances. I think it’s really quite funny, reminiscent of “Veterinarian’s Hospital” but unique enough to stand out on its own.
  • Okay, I actually do like the “Flippers” parody skit. Aside from it being just plain funny, it’s probably because Martin Short is not dancing and/or shouting like a crazy person. 
OTHER OBSERVATIONS:
  • It’s hard to believe that Brian Henson still has working vocal chords after doing Sal’s manic shouting on this show. 
MY RANKING: 1 out of 5 pots of sauce. I just don’t like the guest star, but I bet a fan of his would appreciate this episode more than I do.

Well, that brings us to the end of the first season! We’ll begin season two next week, but in the meantime, I’m curious: what do you think is the best episode of Season 1? Let us know in the poll below!


What is Your Favorite Episode of Muppets Tonight Season 1?
101-Michelle Pfeiffer
102-Garth Brooks
103-Billy Crystal
104-John Goodman
105-Cindy Crawford
106-Tony Bennett
107-Sandra Bullock
108-Jason Alexander
109-Whoopi Goldberg
110-Martin Short
Poll Maker






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

Jul 21, 2014

Muppet Retro Reviews: The Muppet Movie

Today's article, written by our friend Mitchell Stein, was pulled from our sister site The Mickey Mindset in a cross-promotional effort. Check out the site for a dose of Disney to go with your Muppet meal!
Mitchell Stein -  Being a major Muppet fan, The Muppet Movie is my favorite above all the other ones. The movie is funny, heartfelt and inspiring and gives us a nice backstory (sort of) to how the Muppets approximately got started.

Our story begins from the first strum of Kermit’s banjo to the music of "Rainbow Connection," a truly beautiful song. For me, the song is truly about finding yourself and living your dream and really sets the tone for the rest of the movie. When a Hollywood agent named Bernie (Dom Deluise) meets Kermit in the swamp, he convinces him to audition in Hollywood and possibly make millions of people happy. Kermit declines the fame and fortune, but upon hearing he could have the chance to make millions of people happy, he decides to go and audition. This is one of the reasons why I love Kermit. The only thing he cares about is everyone else and how they would feel. He cares about making the audience happy when not even thinking about his own fortune, unlike a certain pig out there.

Along the way Kermit meets up with Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Camilla, Miss Piggy, Rowlf the Dog, and the Electric Mayhem who decide to join him on his adventure to become rich and famous. Kermit catches the attention of Doc Hopper (brilliantly played by Charles Durning) who wants to use Kermit as his mascot to sell his Frog Legs. He’s so convinced about Kermit and so overshadowed by his own ambitions that he even goes as far as kidnapping him, hiring an evil scientist and a frog killer to convince Kermit to star in his commercials.

The music in the movie is always completely catchy, upbeat, mellow and profitable (I’ve had "Can You Picture" That stuck in my head all day). The "Rainbow Connection" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, but lost to “It Goes Like it Goes” from Norma Rae, it’s a true shame, as "Rainbow Connection" was a much deeper and meaningful song than the others. "I’m Going to Go Back There Someday" is easily one of the saddest songs in filmmaking history, which is sung by Gonzo when all hope is lost, and it seems that the Muppets will never be able to accomplish their dreams. "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along" is catchy and fun as is "Movin’ Right Along," which is probably one of my favorite Muppet songs ever.

With this being the first Muppet film I have to say they really started things off with a bang! The puppetry is eye-popping and way ahead of its time. Fozzie and Kermit dancing on-stage creates is incredibly eye-popping and sets the stage for an entire film where you will completely forget the characters are even puppets, and this was way before the days of CG animation.

In "Rainbow Connection," Kermit sits on a log in the swamp playing his banjo. Many people think this film is fake and filmed on a soundstage but in fact was actually filmed on location. Jim Henson would bend down into a small tank filled with oxygen with two spots to control Kermit and his banjo. It was extremely uncomfortable, but the finished project was totally worth it.

The cast of cameos lineup is truly terrific and has a great and hilarious lineup of celebrities including many popular names of the decade such as Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Milton Berle, Steve Martin, Cloris Leachman, Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Orson Welles, Bob Hope, Big Bird(!) and so many more. I truly love every cameo in this movie as each one is more memorable than the other. Some remain on-screen for as little as ten seconds, but their lines are quick and memorable and will always have a spot in Muppet history.

I truly love this movie. It’s the beginning of Muppets on the big-screen and began many more Muppet films to come. It’s the seed that grew into an entire big screen franchise and played predecessor seven other great Muppet films. It’s a lot of fun, has a lot of heart, depth and great story. I love this film and it still remains of my absolute favorites.






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

Jul 18, 2014

News Update: July 18, 2014

JULY 18, 2014

Since we didn't do a News Update last week, we missed out on sharing the video of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy on PBS's A Capitol Fourth, which aired live on 4th of July. The performance, which saw Kermit and Piggy singing "This Land is Your Land" and Kermit performing "Rainbow Connection," was positively delightful. Steve Whitmire's enthusiasm with Kermit during both songs is infectious and wonderful. Also Tom Bergeron, Fozzie, and Animal are there, and great as ever. (Special thanks to our friend Chris Stulz for making and sharing the video.)



Archaia Comics are heading back down to Fraggle Rock with a new series of Fraggle stories. The series will be written by Kate Leth and illustrated by Jake Myler. The book is titled Fraggle Rock: Journey to the Everspring and according to Nerdist it will feature the beloved Fraggles we know as well as some new characters. Journey to the Everspring is divided into four parts, with the first issue released on October 8th. Here's hoping Archaia can capture the excellence of their first Fraggle Rock series once again!

The San Diego Comic Con is coming up next weekend, and Sesame Street is heading out for a panel! The panel is on Sunday, July 27 at 10:15am in Room 6A. The impeccable, huge Muppet fan Chris Hardwick (Nerdist) will be moderating the panel, which includes Muppet performers Eric JacobsonJoey Mazzarino (also head writer and director), and David Rudman, as well as executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente. During the panel, they'll debut a new Season 45 episode called "Numeric Con," a parody of Comic Con itself. They'll also be premiering a new segment of the fantastic "Cookie's Crumpy Pictures" series called "Star S'mores." Color me happy (and fuzzy, and blue).

The Jim Henson Company is also going to Comic Con with a panel of their own, titled "The Jim Henson Company: Upcoming Comics with Archaia," so there will clearly be a lot of discussion of Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow comic books. The panel will be held July 25th at 6:00pm in Room 32AB. Panelists for the Henson Company include Jeff Stokely (illustrator for The Storyteller: Witches), Jake Myler (illustrator for Fraggle Rock), Ian Herring (colorist for Tale of Sand), and Shane-Michael Vidaurri (writer and illustrator for The Storyteller: Witches). Special thanks to ToughPigs for this info!

Once again, the rumor that the Muppets are heading to Broadway with a brand new original musical has resurfaced. This time, The New York Post is reporting on it. Nothing new comes to light in this article, and really it adds nothing more to the table that we haven't known for awhile now, but it's nice to see it still being talked about.






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

Jul 17, 2014

How To... Be a Salesman

Michael Wermuth - So you want to be a salesman? Well, here’s how a salesman must act. Oh, but there are at least three types of salesmen (and only three represented in this article)… Which type would you want to be the most?

Type 1: The Door-To-Door Salesman
As a door-to-door salesman, you get to go to people’s houses and sell things. Be sure to wear a good suit, even if you otherwise don’t wear clothes. The first thing you should do is knock on the door and provide your client with a fairly polite greeting. Some people don’t like having salesmen at their house and will try to quickly slam the door on you, but one way to keep the door open is to push your body to the door as soon as possible, preventing it from being slammed. You could also block the door with a body part. Most people use their foot, but some use their nose. I must warn you about this method, though: It hurts!

But suppose your customer doesn’t have the thing that your item is for? What if you’re selling earmuffs and your customer doesn’t have ears, or you’re selling nose warmers but he has no nose? Then just give your customer a set of ears or a nose! But then what if he DOES have what goes with what you’re selling, but no way to keep it up – let’s say you’re selling sunglasses and your customer has eyes but can’t wear them because he doesn’t have the ears or nose to hold the sunglasses on his face? Sell him sunglasses with ears and nose attached!

Type 2: The Street Salesman
To be a street salesman, you get to be out on the street. You must dress in a trench coat and fedora, and talk in a soft, whispery voice. If your potential customer repeats what you say, just “SHH!” him. And you should always be prepared to give a reason for your customer to buy what you’re selling. If you’re selling an empty box, tell him why he needs an empty box. Explain that it’s better than a box of yucky worms. Explain that an empty box will be useful in catching jellybeans if it rains them. If you want to sell a letter of the alphabet, tell him to look at that letter if he’s wondering what letter a word starts with – for example, if you’re selling a U, tell him to look at the U if your customer is up all night wondering what letter the word “up” starts with. And try to be flexible: If your letter is made from a rope attached to poles, it’ll be easy to change your letter if your customer wants a different one. A U-shaped rope can easily be changed into a V or a W. And if you’re selling invisible ice cream cones, sell different flavors, and try to make it clear if you don’t accept invisible money.

Type 3: The Pitch Man
The pitch man makes sales pitches, particularly for successful variety shows. To make a proper sales pitch, you must start out mild mannered and talk at a normal pace, but soon get carried away and talk at a faster speed. This is in contrast to the street salesman, where you must talk loudly and be more excited. Mention all the benefits of what’s being sold here, and wildly exaggerate whatever results you think will happen.
Disclaimer: The Muppet Mindset shall not be held responsible for body injuries from stopping customers from slamming their doors, and do not encourage scamming customers, selling illegally-acquired letters, numbers, or other products. The Muppet Mindset is also not responsible for customers not buying your products. Sell at your own risk.






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

Jul 16, 2014

Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Bill the Bubble Guy

Written by Ryan Dosier.

BILL THE BUBBLE GUY

Performed by...
Dave Goelz

First appearance...
Muppets Tonight Episode 102: Garth Brooks (1996)

Most recent appearance...
Muppets Tonight Episode 212: Johnny Fiama Leaves Home (1997)

Best known role...
Performer whose head spurts out bubbles

WHO IS BILL THE BUBBLE GUY?
Bill the Bubble Guy is one of the many new original characters who debuted in Muppets Tonight's first season. Bill's schtick is simple: he can blow bubbles out of his head. There's no rhyme or reason as to why exactly Bill has this talent, but there you go. Bill first appeared as a needy performer in the second episode of Muppets Tonight, trying to convince Clifford to let him be on the show. Clifford refused, but when guest star Garth Brooks refused to perform one of his own songs, the Head of the Network threatened to cancel the show and give Bill the timeslot. Unfortunately for Bill, Garth Brooks finally sang one of his own songs and Bill was left without his own sitcom. (The Big Bubble Theory?)

As Muppets Tonight continued, Bill's simple (and seemingly only) talent was used as a running gag numerous times. One notable example was in Episode 201, guest starring the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, where Big Mean Carl introduced his new act: Carl the Big Mean Bubble Guy. Bill protests, and ends up getting eaten by Carl, who then belches out bubbles. (Ta-da!!)

In Episode 107, guest starring Sandra Bullock, Bill and his entire bubble family appeared in the sketch "While You Were Slapping," spoofing the film While You Were Sleeping. In the sketch, Bill is in a coma while his fiancee, Sandra Bullock, and his family slap each other around (I don't get it either). Bill later appeared in the sketch "Muppet Heights" with Heather Locklear in Episode 203, under the name William B. Guy.

Bill was one of the many Miss Piggy impersonators in Episode 109 guest starring Whoopi Goldberg. He would've gotten the part... if it weren't for the bubbles that come out of his head. In Episode 205, when Ernst Stavros Grouper buys the studio, he changed the names and identities of many of the Muppets. Bill remained Bill the Bubble Guy, only because he lied to Grouper and said his name was Bob and raisins came out of his head. Grouper changed it to Bill the Bubble Guy immediately--lucky for Bill.

Bill the Bubble Guy's most consistent role on Muppets Tonight was as one of the housemates on the recurring sketch "The Real World Muppets." Joined in the house by Clifford, Rizzo, Bobo, and Darci, Bill was one of the more calm housemates, never causing much drama. He definitely caused a lot of bubbles, however.

WHY DO THE MUPPETS NEED BILL THE BUBBLE GUY?
Because bubbles come out of his head! Bill the Bubble Guy joins the long-lived pantheon of Muppets with one silly defining trait, such as Crazy Harry and Lew Zealand. Although Bill was nowhere near as successful as those characters, he's still a goofy, enjoyable presence throughout the run of Muppets Tonight. Though it's unlikely we'll see Bill on screen again, we'll always think of him anytime bubbles come out of someone's head.






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

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

Jul 14, 2014

What Do the Muppets Mean to Max Peters?

Max Peters - The Muppet have contributed to my life in their brilliant way for many years now, starting when I was just a little kid. Growing up as a Dutch kid in the Netherlands, I had the privilege to enjoy a very well developed version of Sesame Street, with great Dutch actors and new puppets, who complemented the redubbed American material of Grover, Cookie Monster, Elmo, Oscar and, my favorites, Bert and Ernie. This duo were not only my favorites, they are by far the most popular Muppets in the Netherlands, which is partly explained by the fact that the Dutch dub, provided by great Dutch actors Wim T. Schippers and Paul Haenen, was very well performed and immediately recognizable. Their performances were so well received, that Jim Henson himself allowed the two to make their own Bert and Ernie records, which is pretty unique, for they were the only foreign actors who could do this.

I got addicted to these magnificent records (it's a shame that English-speaking audiences can't understand it), and I still listen to them today every now and then. They kept the spirit of the original characters alive and added their own great material (sketches and songs) and characteristics that made the records a joy to listen to. One of their songs even provided my life motto, "Make something out of it!", a song about positivism and making the best out of things.

So, my love for Jim Henson's creations started when I was very young with Sesame Street, but my first encountering of the actual Muppets themselves was when I watched a Dutch best-of DVD of The Muppet Show, that included a couple of great episodes plus the documentary Henson's Place. To quote Walter, "I found them," and I think I immediately got hooked by the fun, the musicality, the colorful characters and the energy of the show, and I only wanted more. Luckily, for a short period a Flemish television channel broadcasted a couple of Muppet Show episodes, and that is how I got a pretty good impression of what the Muppets were capable of. This, of course, made me want more, and I gradually bought all the Muppet movies (even the pretty mediocre ones which I still enjoyed), the first three seasons of The Muppet Show and a couple of television specials, like Rocky Mountain Holiday.

I watched The Muppets at the cinema, and the goosebumpingly good experience of seeing all the characters sing "Rainbow Connection" cannot easily be equaled. Every Christmas, I make sure to watch not just The Muppet Christmas Carol, but also Muppet Family Christmas and, when I have the time, even It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and Letters To Santa. By now, I can safely say I have seen the majority of Muppet material that is out there, with the exception of The Muppet Show season 4 and 5 episodes (let's say it once more; FINALLY RELEASE IT DISNEY!). And, of course, I have watched all the stuff multiple times, never getting tired of it.

For me, the Muppets symbolize a beautiful sense of childlike playfulness, augmented by a great sense of creativity, musicality, comedy and a lot of heart. They are always able to cheer me up when I feel down. The way in which the Muppet performers, builders, and writers approach entertainment is just incredible, allowing themselves to be extremely creative, original and funny, and all of this without having to be insulting, vulgar or rude. And that is what I enjoy so much, the approach is so innocent, and yet, at times they can provide very clever satire or absurdities. Furthermore, every celebrity that works with the Muppets performs better and funnier, whether it is Harry Belafonte on The Muppet Show or Robert de Niro on Sesame Street. And don't forget that other comedic giants, like the great John Cleese, admire the Muppets just as much as the fans do.

Moreover, the musical component of every Muppet production is what draws me in every time. They have produced countless memorable original songs and many brilliant covers of existing songs as well. And, being a musical person, I always appreciate the perfect singing harmonies that are provided, even though the voices sound funny or can't even pronounce normal words. Take for example the recent "Ode To Joy" by Beaker. Of course it's Beaker and he can only make his 'mee' sound, but at the same time, the harmony is perfect, just as a normal choir would perform it. That is what I enjoy so much about the Muppets, it's the combination of zaniness and high quality of performances. They can be totally silly, but also provide serious depth to characters.

Choosing a favorite character is hard, since there are so many, and I enjoy the main characters like Fozzie and Gonzo usually just as much as the zany, one-joke or even one-performance, small characters, like Lew Zealand or Angus McGonagle. However, I suppose I have three favorites, Bert and Ernie, mainly because they remind me of my youth, and because I regard them as the definitive duo, the greatest duo of all time. They perfectly complement each other, from their contrasting characters to the horizontal and vertical designs of the puppets. My third favorite has to be Kermit, since he represents the genius behind this all, my continuing source of inspiration, not just for performance but also for lifestyle: Jim Henson.

The  Muppets are my favorite source of entertainment in this world, and they will probably continue to entertain me for many years to come! It's a wonderful bunch and I love them.






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