So, you’ve spent the whole weekend watching The Muppet Show now that it’s finally been added to Disney Plus. You’ve witnessed Kermit the Frog duet with Julie Andrews and tap dance with Gene Kelly. You’ve watched Elton John sing “Bennie and the Jets” with the Muppets and Harry Belafonte “Turn the World Around” with them. You’ve seen Christopher Reeve and Lynda Carter rub their superhero magic onto the cast and Vincent Price and Alice Cooper scare their (proverbial) pants off. And, of course, you’ve watched Luke Skywalker acquaint the gang with his “cousin”, Mark Hamill.
Yes, you’ve watched all your favourite episodes of The Muppet Show (and, well, any one with a guest star whose name you recognized). But now what? Where do you go from here? The obvious answer is to start back at the beginning, but some of those earlier episodes admittedly can be rough for some folks.
We’ve come up with eight underrated classics from The Muppet Show’s five seasons. The guest stars might not be the biggest draws to those who grew up after their time, but each of our picks features tons of great Muppet antics and may even make you a fan of the celebrities they feature.
Juliet Prowse (Season 1)
This episode may seem a little rougher around the edges than what might be expected for a series as well-regarded as The Muppet Show, but that’s precisely why it’s worth a watch. It was actually the very first episode filmed and contains such classic segments as Muppet staple “Mahna Mahna” and a performance of “Simon Smith and His Dancing Bear” featuring Fozzie and Scooter.
It’s fun to see how different characters like Fozzie Bear and Gonzo were back when this was shot in 1976 compared to the cultural icons we know them as today. But the most fascinating character to observe here is Miss Piggy, who is performed alternately by both Frank Oz (who would go on to become her regular Muppeteer) and Richard Hunt. See if you can figure out which portions are voiced and puppeteered by which performer!
Piggy isn’t the only character played by multiple performers, though. The canine Muppy is performed by Dave Goelz as well as briefly by a real live dog!
Connie Stevens (Season 1)
This episode was the second pilot filmed for the series and contains several fun segments, including a rendition of “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” from Kermit and an appearance from Mahna Mahna during a number other than his namesake one.
The biggest highlight here is the appearance of Ernie and Bert from Sesame Street, marking the first of several crossover appearances between the two shows. Bert gets all decked out and performs “Some Enchanted Evening” while dancing with Connie Stevens, and it’s about as ridiculously delightful as you might expect.
Cloris Leachman (Season 2)
Fans of The Muppet Show’s pigs like Miss Piggy and Link Hogthrob will probably get a kick out of this episode. But it’s the unsung pigs that steal the spotlight here…literally. The pigs decide to take over the show, and begin kidnapping all of the other Muppets only to replace them with hog-esque versions of themselves.
This means that not only is there a race for the Muppets to escape before all of them are tossed into the boiler room and a total pig takeover occurs, but that the action onstage is changed up a bit in this episode as some favorite recurring sketches have a fun pig-themed twist.
Helen Reddy (Season 3)
This episode has a lot of silly moments like Miss Piggy leading a performance of “Stayin’ Alive” while dressed as Marie Antoinette and Animal and The Swedish Chef visiting Reddy in her dressing room to serenade her…with song choices that aren’t exactly appropriate for the occasion. But it also marks the debut of one special Muppet in particular.
That’s right, this is not only the first Muppet Show appearance from Beauregard the janitor, but the character’s first appearance, period. So it’s only fitting that a large portion of the episode’s backstage shenanigans are focused on him performing his duties…badly. (Can’t find any elbow grease? Just use axel grease instead!)
Loretta Lynn (Season 3)
The Muppet Show generally operates under a standard variety show format, but sometimes – particularly in later seasons – that setup gets a curveball thrown into it. In this instance, the Muppet Theatre is being fumigated, so the show is being performed at a train station.
This results in Kermit and Gonzo accidentally ending up on a train travelling away from the platform where the show is being produced, and racing to make it back before everything goes to chaos. In the meantime, Scooter takes over as host and showrunner.
Some of the sketches themselves also get some great gags tied into the episode’s unique location, like acts being interrupted by passengers and sets being created last minute.
Pearl Bailey (Season 3)
This episode is wacky in all the right ways. The main plot is all about the cast preparing for the big closing number: the jousting scene from Camelot. The act is hyped up all throughout the episode (even though everything naturally goes wrong in preparing for it) and it’s well worth the wait. It’s full of surprises and a number featuring pretty much the whole cast of The Muppet Show almost always means viewers are in for a treat.
Of course, there’s also plenty of fun to be had on the way, perhaps most notably a recurring bit which entails an avocado sitting up in the box talking with Statler and Waldorf whenever the camera cuts over to them.
Linda Lavin (Season 4)
In another example of twisting the program’s classic format, Miss Piggy decides to throw Kermit an all-out bash at the Muppet Theatre. She cancels the regularly scheduled Muppet Show proceedings and replaces it with a tribute to everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic amphibian. That, of course, means she’s effectively this episode’s showrunner, and it’s about as chaotic as you might expect.
One standout moment of this episode is Statler and Waldorf’s duet on “It Was a Very Good Year”. We’re used to seeing them heckle the show, but it’s rare for them to actually get a chance to perform, and it’s a nice number.
Hal Linden (Season 5)
If you liked seeing Statler and Waldorf perform together for once, then you should definitely check out this episode in which they are put in charge of the whole show. It’s a fun role-reversal as they host and deal with the backstage drama while Kermit and Fozzie take their usual box seat spots and heckle accordingly.
Naturally, most of the typical types of sketches and acts seen on The Muppet Show are “cancelled” for this episode, and a lot of the performers don’t exactly react well to this news. We end up getting some pretty fun numbers here, though, like a musical medley featuring songs from two very different holidays competing against each other.
What’s your favourite episode of The Muppet Show? Let us know in the comments below!
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