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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents

The Best of the Muppet Show: Elton John/Julie Andrews/Gene Kelly (1976)

"How many times have I told you, never eat the guest at the start of the show!"- Kermit (Jim Henson)

Stars: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Other Stars: Elton John, Julie Andrews, Gene Kelly, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz
Director: Philip Casson, Peter Harris

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing offensive)
Run Time: 01h:19m:21s
Release Date: 2002-09-03
Genre: television

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+BB- C

 

DVD Review

The Muppet Show premiered in 1976, and ran until 1981. Each episode focuses on the Muppets' creation of their own television show, featuring a special guest star every week. In the beginning, the producers were unable to secure a lot of big name talent, until famed ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev made a guest appearance late in the first season. Such a renowned dancer appearing on such an odd show soon had stars all over Hollywood clamoring for a guest spot.

"Odd" is about the right term to describe the Muppets. What are they? Well, as Homer Simpsons says, "Not quite a mop, and not quite a puppet, but man... so to answer your question, I don't know." No one does, really, except for the late Jim Henson, who catapulted the Muppets to popularity in the late 1960s with Sesame Street. He turned felt and glue into a troupe of memorable characters, from Kermit the Frog (performed by Henson himself), to the Swedish Chef ("Bork, bork, bork!"), to the extremely self-confident Miss Piggy (an out-of-control Frank Oz). The characters are all quite unique, in look and personality, and the loveable bunch gained enough popularity to sustain them through six feature films and two additional TV series.

Henson's influence is just as widely felt—for three decades, children have been raised on Sesame Street—and his creations are some of the most widely recognized icons in popular culture (particularly Kermit the Frog). The Muppet Show is just the type of series that deserves preservation on DVD, and these three episodes are a good start.

Episode 38: Special Guest Star: Elton John
Production Date: Oct. 25, 1977

Kermit: Elton John is a very important musician.
Sam: Then why does he dress like a stolen car?

Pop star Elton John visits the Muppets this week, and all of them are very interested in his elaborate costumes. He performs Crocodile Rock with the help of a chorus of too-friendly crocs and almost gets eaten. Benny and the Jets fills up time, but the big number is (of course) a duet with Miss Piggy (always hogging the spotlight), as the two croon Don't Go Breaking My Heart. John is great at interacting with the Muppets, and manages to hold his own against Gonzo and Scooter's pushy bids for screen time. Elsewhere, Swedish Chef tries to cook an omelet, but his chicken only lays ping-pong balls. He ends up chasing it with a cleaver throughout the episode (a "running gag," get it?). Sketches include Pigs in Space and Animal Veterinarian. Lots of fun.

Elton John is a living Muppet. 4 Kermits.




Episode 41: Special Guest Star: Julie Andrews
Production Date: Nov. 23, 1977

Gonzo (to the cow): Wow, you've got a great pair of legs! In fact, she's got two great pairs of legs!

Julie Andrews is an undeniable talent, able to hold her own in from of large Broadway audiences. She's no match for the Muppets, though. Andrews manages to be upstaged in nearly every one of her scenes (not a difficult thing to do when you are playing against puppets). Her performances tend to drag, particularly her duet with Kermit (When You Were a Tadpole). Still, the show is redeemed by some decent sketches, including a cute running gag about a real live cow that has wandered onto the set (Kermit can't decide what to do with it, the Swedish Chef plans to cut it up and cook it, and the Flying Zucchini Brothers shoot it out of a cannon) and a game of chicken badminton (much to Gonzo's chagrin, as he's got a thing for the bird).

I like Julie Andrews, but this episode is a little slow going. 3 Kermits.




Episode 91: Special Guest Star: Gene Kelly
Production Date: Aug. 19, 1980

Kermit: Guys, the invisible cheeseburger has lost his voice!

The Muppets welcome another musical guest star (am I sensing a theme?) as Gene Kelly joins the show. Unfortunately, he thought Kermit only invited him to sit in the audience, leaving the show without a guest star only moments before airtime! As Kermit tries frantically to convince Gene to perform, Scooter uses his Tarot cards to predict that the world is coming to an end. Beau believes him, and proceeds to wig out for the rest of the show. Gene finally does sing, and it's a big duet with Miss Piggy (Wonderful You), but she has to leave halfway through and Gonzo takes her place. On Pigs in Space, crew of the Swinetrek reach the end of the universe, where a mysterious being will tell them the meaning and purpose of life, but they'd rather get something to eat. This was the last episode of The Muppet Show filmed.

A great guest star and good sketches earn this one 4.5 Kermits.



Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The transfers of these episodes are fairly good, considering their vintage and the fact that they were shot on video. Colors look a bit washed out, but fairly solid. The softness inherent to the video format never overly distracts, though it does give the image a dated look. I noticed no obvious print flaws or grain, nor did I spot any artifacting.

Image Transfer Grade: B
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The original audio (English 2.0) holds up nicely—this type of program doesn't really call for a lot of flashy effects. All I ask is that dialogue be consistently clear and understandable (it is, except for some of Gene Kelly's singing in episode three, which sounds oddly muffled) and that the sound effects open up the mix a bit and are well-supported (they do and are). There's not much else to say, except that this track suits the material just fine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 46 cues and remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Muppets From Space, Muppets Take Manhattan, Bear in the Big Blue House, Kermit's Swamp Years
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Intros from Brian Henson
  2. Muppet Moments: Floyd and Kermit
  3. Movie Mania: Flipper Dance
  4. From the Archives
Extras Review: Columbia TriStar has produced some scant extras for these DVDs, nothing too impressive or substantial (note that these discs are simply reissues of the ones released by Time/Life last year).

The main menu links you to a trailer gallery with clips for Muppets From Space, Muppets Take Manhattan, Bear in the Big Blue House, and the direct-to-video Kermit's Swamp Years.

The rest of the extras are included in the episode submenus. Brian Henson provides a one-minute introduction for each show. Muppet Moments: Floyd and Kermit is nothing more than a brief gag, more of a TV spot than anything else (similar clips were included on the DVDs for the Muppet films). Movie Mania: Flipper Dance is a cute parody of Lord of the Dance, starring Kermit (as "Lord of the Flies"). Finally, From the Archives promises a look into Muppet history. Instead, you get a pencil sketch of the Swedish Chef, circa 1975. Oh well.

Demerits for not including subtitle support of any kind.

Extras Grade: C
 

Final Comments

I've grown up with the Muppets, both in their movies and on Sesame Street, but until now, I've never seen the series that made them famous. The Best of the Muppet Show DVDs are a good place to start. Classic television.

Joel Cunningham 2002-09-09