Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Best of the Muppet Show: Mark Hamill/Paul Simon/Raquel Welch (1977)
"It's time to play the music / It's time to light the lights / It's time to meet the Muppets on The Muppet Show tonight!"- The Muppets, from their peppy opening theme song
Stars: Mark Hamill, Paul Simon, Raquel Welch, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy
Other Stars: Fozzy Bear, Animal, R2D2, C-3P0, Chewbacca
Director: Peter Harris, Philip Casson
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 01h:19m:02s
Release Date: 2002-09-03
DVD ReviewAs any parent of a preschooler can tell you, the Muppets' work on Sesame Street has been well represented on DVD, and now it's time for their eponymous show to get in on the fun. Three episodes from the late 1970s appear on this disc, one of a pair of DVDs that no doubt mark the beginning of a rash of future releases.
Episode One: Mark Hamill
"Listen, pal, we're on a mission. There's no way we're getting involved with any third-rate variety show."—Luke Skywalker
The disc kicks off with an episode hosted by Mark Hamill, at the height of Star Wars mania—he's in character as Luke Skywalker, along with R2D2 and C-3P0, on a special mission of indeterminate origin. Chewbacca makes a cameo late in the episode, and given that it's highly unlikely that George Lucas will ever authorize a release of the notorious Star Wars Christmas special, this is probably as close as we're likely to see to that, in terms of Star Wars camp. It features C-3P0 doing a soft shoe number to You Are My Lucky Star, and Chewie and R2 do an inept little duet as well. Hamill alternates between playing himself and appearing as Luke; the joke of the thing is that they're identical cousins, in some bizarre tribute to The Patty Duke Show, I suppose.
Hamill doesn't demonstrate a tremendous flair for musical comedy, but it's a reminder that he's got some skills besides wielding a light saber. He seems ripe for a Travolta-like Pulp Fiction renaissance, though he probably won't want this DVD to serve as his audition tape.
There's some stuff on here that has to be lost on the kids, and must be designed that way. How many children are familiar enough with W.C. Fields, for instance, to get that one of the singing fish is sending him up? (Or these days, how many parents are, either?) In general, of course, The Muppet Show skews to an older audience than Sesame Street, but still seems engineered for those who need adult accompaniment to R-rated movies.
Cultural context aside, this episode rates three and a half Kermits on our five-frog scale.
Episode Two: Paul Simon
"That’s just the first verse. You wanna hear the other twenty-eight?"—Gonzo, auditioning a song for the guest host
Paul Simon is the host of the second episode, and the producers wisely play to his strengths—this installment is made up almost exclusively of renditions of Simon's songs. A Muppet band performs a nice, straightforward rendition of 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, and Simon is backed by them on Love Me Like a Rock. Simon has a wryness, but he seems much more comfortable singing than acting; Scarborough Fair is an opportunity for him to look appropriately horrified as Miss Piggy butchers his song. This episode is a reminder that both Simon and the Muppets have a history with Saturday Night Live, which The Muppet Show resembles in a number of ways: fake news reports, glimpses backstage, the guest host around whom much of the event revolves.
I hope Miss Piggy will excuse the metaphor, but this one is the pick of the litter.
Episode Three: Raquel Welch
Raquel Welch: 'Cause I’m a woman: W-O-
Miss Piggy: P-I-G.
The, uh, talents of Raquel Welch, the guest star on the disc's third episode, lend themselves less well to this format; a song-and-dance number she performs in a loincloth with a giant spider (an unusual tribute to One Million Years B.C., presumably) may put you in mind of Rob Lowe's infamous Oscar show duet with Snow White. It all becomes rather lurid for a puppet show, with the male Muppets leering at Welch; Welch's presence literally drives Fozzy Bear into therapy, in an effort to become more assertive. Welch's finest moment is a duet with resident diva Miss Piggy, singing I'm A Woman. This episode is also notable as it contains the disc's only appearance of my very favorite recurring Muppet, the Swedish Chef. Ork ork ork ork.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The Henson Company has seen to it that these episodes are well preserved, and they look pretty fair, though the colors have faded some; this is especially evident in the opening and closing sequences of each episode, which must have received regular wear and tear. Blacks are pretty consistent, and grain is at a low level.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Things don't sound quite as good as they look—the audio quality tends to be a little tinny, and the bass level is pretty weak, which manifests itself on the many saxophone licks. (They sound a bit too much like relatives of Kermit.) But the dialogue can be readily understood, and the music is tuneful enough, which is about all you can ask for on an enterprise like this.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 45 cues and remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Muppets From Space, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Bear in the Big Blue House, Kermit's Swamp Years
- video introductions to each episode by Brian Henson
- Muppet character sketch
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsSome good, clean musical fun for the younger ones who have outgrown Sesame Street, these episodes are welcome additions to a family's DVD library. The disc may even provide the added bonus of introducing your kids to Paul Simon, so you can listen to something other than Raffi in the car.
Jon Danziger 2002-09-09