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The Muppet Show - Season One


TITLE: THE MUPPET SHOW - SEASON ONE


Info:

DVD Release Date: August 9, 2005 (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
Color/1976-77
MSRP: $39.99
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 22 Half Hour Episodes
Running Time: 604 Minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: approx. 30 minutes
Audio: English Stereo
Subtitles: English, Muppet Morsels [see special features]
Special Features: The Muppet Show Pitch Reel; The Muppet Show Original Pilot: Sex and Violence; Season One Promo Gag Reel; and Muppet Morsels.


Introduction:

It’s time to raise the curtain on The Muppet Show! Join Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, the Swedish Chef, and more, in the first season of this groundbreaking twist on the classic variety show! What happens when you combine a show like Laugh-In with a show like Sesame Street--the Muppet Show, of course?

As you’ll see if you view the pitch film on disc four, The Muppet Show was a hilarious gang of nuts from the very beginning. Admittedly, the last time I was able to watch the show was when I was ten, so I was kind of iffy if the quality of the show would hold up ten years later. Still, I wanted to see the show again – so when Buena Vista announced the season one set, I was interested to say the least. Will the show hold up in my eyes after ten years? Will I still find the jokes as funny as I did when I was nine? Did Buena Vista use original or syndicated prints? And what are the names of the two old guys in the balcony that I can never remember? All this and more follows!


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Normally I’d do some talking about which episodes you should watch specifically, and which episodes have celebrity guests – but the Muppet Show is a different animal (not to be confused with the character OF Animal). EACH episode contains a special guest, and the different segments are so varied that – while one segment may be flat – the next could be classic. Therefore, I’m simply going to go down the episode list, list the celebrity, and make note of a few interesting things:

Episode 1) Juliet Prowse: This is a classic – the first episode of The Muppet Show. First off, those of you who remember hilarious Dr. Pepper commercial from a few months ago – the one where the woman, drinking the Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, hears everyone singing “Ma-na-ma-na…Do Do Do Do” – will be delighted/surprised to discover that the first sketch in Muppet Show history is actually three Muppets doing this song.

Episode 2) Connie Stevens / Bert & Ernie: One of a couple Sesame Street crossovers. First Swedish Chef (outside the pilot)

Episode 3) Joel Grey

Episode 4) Ruth Buzzi

Episode 5) Rita Moreno

Episode 6) Jim Nabors

Episode 7) Florence Henderson

Episode 8) Paul Williams

Episode 9) Charles Aznavour - Charles demonstrates the romantic power of his native language to Kermit, winning over Miss Piggy by whispering to her in French, "Your oil filter has a leak and your transmission is sagging."

Episode 10) Harvey Korman

Episode 11) Lena Horne

Episode 12) Peter Ustinov features the song “It’s Not Easy Being Green”

Episode 13) Bruce Forsyth

Episode 14) Sandy Duncan - This episode features the recurring joke about the banana sketch. Oh, and Sandy gets drunk and does a song & dance.

Episode 15) Candice Bergen

Episode 16) Avery Schreiber

Episode 17) Ben Vereen

Episode 18) Phyllis Diller - Phyllis Diller plays “The Entertainer” on the sax with the Muppet Show band – and it’s comedically bad.

Episode 19) Vincent Price

Episode 20) Valerie Harper - This season showcases the controlled chaos that would be the show theme as the series progresses. It begins with the scripted "spontaneity" of Valerie arriving at the theater and asking if she can do the opening number. She then "auditions" an elaborate number, complete with quick costume changes, backstage.

Episode 21) Twiggy

Episode 22) Ethel Merman

Episode 23) Kaye Ballard

Episode 24) Mummenschanz (They’re a mime troupe). This is the last-produced episode of season one. Gonzo loves Miss Piggy…also, Thirty days has September, April, June, and Fozzie’s Cousin Fred, who gets out on Wednesday.


Packaging:

The front cover of the package is quite interesting. The cover art has been known for sometime – it’s green with yellow spikes, in a design similar to Kermit. What wasn’t known was that the front cover is actually made of a type of fabric designed to feel like genuine Kermit-skin. It’s a small touch that shows that someone at Buena Vista wanted this set to be “special” (it IS the Muppets’ 50th anniversary), and put the necessary creative touches in to make it feel that way. Reverse cover is solid green with a couple of pictures – one has several Muppets jumping, one is a solo picture of Miss Piggy, and the other is a solo shot of Gonzo. The interior disc holder has some nicely done art. The front cover has a picture of Kermit covering the entire cover. The back cover has a red cover, with Kermit, Fozzie, and Miss Piggy’s feet showing under the curtain. There’s an interior cover with several main characters featured. The art in the information sleeve and behind the discs is a simple red curtain.

Package is similar to that used for several other releases, most notably The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Murphy Brown’s first seasons. The packaging is a digipak, with two molded plastic holders. The first holder holds discs one and two (D1 overlaying D2), while the other holds D3 and D4 in the same overlaying fashion.

Disc covers are straightforward. Disc One features Kermit on the cover, and holds the first six shows. Disc two features Miss Piggy on the cover, and contains episodes 7-13. Disc three has Fozzie Bear on the cover, and features shows 14-19. The final disc has Animal on the cover, and holds shows 20-24, and the special features (aside from the Muppet Morsels alternate subtitle track, which is on all four discs)

There’s a $5 rebate offer included in the set, valid with proof of purchase (in-case proof of purchase tab in addition to store receipt) of both The Muppet Show Season 1 DVD set and The Muppets Wizard of Oz DVD/VHS.


Menu Design and Navigation:

Menus are excellent. A screen of various-colored blocks rotates around in a V-like fashion, revealing the main menu. At various points, the blocks with the show logo flip around, and Statler and Waldorf (the two old guys in the balcony) say one of several various things. If you don’t choose a menu option after a certain amount of time, they even comment about your not choosing to play the show (they THANK you). Each option (Play All, Episode Selection, Set Up, Muppet Morsels, and Special Features) are all on an individual block. Selecting a block will cause the blocks to flip, and a sub-menu (blocks with a certain color scheme, with several blocks removed) will open up. The options for each submenu are in the part where blocks have been removed. Episode selection menus (Miss Piggy themed) offer a screenshot of the episode guest, as well as the episode name. Text links at the bottom offer to take you to either episode selection menu page 1 (Ex: 1-3) or page two (Ex: 4-6). For what it’s worth – the episodes are included in the disc in production order. The original air order is so erratic that production order simply works best.


Video and Audio Quality:

The video looks magnificent! The folks at Buena Vista outdid themselves. The video looks superb for a show that aired 30 years ago. The colors could stand to be a little bit more vivid – but from what I remember from the 90s reruns, the color then wasn’t much worse. Audio is somewhat soft, and could stand to be louder, but it’s still definitely audible. The music sounds as good, if not better, than most other releases from the same era. It’s a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, however don’t be misled by the 2.0, the sound coming out both speakers is nearly 100% identical. There are no chapter stops, but this is one of the few sets where I genuinely feel there shouldn’t be. Every segment is important to the show, from the introduction of the guest star and joke by Fozzie in the opening, to the goodbyes. As for the closing credits…well…if you’re doing Play All, it’s a great time to go to the bathroom – just make it back before the last joke Statler & Waldorf One of the FEW times I’m glad to see a studio didn’t do chapter stops. Some may prefer them anyway, but for once, I’m actually happy they didn’t.

Most episodes run about 25 minutes, but there are some that appear to be edited.

List of Edits:

Episode 3: Joel Grey:
Sketch: "Muppet Newsflash"
Song: "Stormy Weather", Wayne & Wanda-w/comments from Statler & Waldorf
There's actually a bit added compared to the original listing I have - a small bit between Gonzo, Joel, with guest spot by a Banana.

Episode 6: Jim Nabors
Song: "Gone With The Wind", Jim-w/comments from Statler & Waldorf
"The Danceros" -A four legged dancing creature
Strange Sketch Order in 2nd Quarter of Show

Episode 8: Paul Williams:
Song: All of Me

Episode 9: Charles Aznavour
Song: "The Old Fashioned Way", Charles-w/comments from Statler & Waldorf

Episode 19: Vincent Price
Song: "You’ve Got A Friend", Vincent & The Monster

I don't have the resources to see if any specific lines were cut out of any scenes (doubtful), almost all edits are music edits). Pitchfilm MAY have had a line cut out - it's possible, but I didn't notice anything condusive to an edit.

Original Pilot (Sex and Violence) runs 25:22, so I doubt it's edited. Pitchfilm is 2:51...


Special Features:

Four special features in the set – and all four are quite interesting.

The Muppet Show Pitch Reel (2:50): Before networks commission a pilot, they’re shown a brief presentation or film to convince them to put down the money to pay for one 30/60 minute test episode of a show. Included in this set is the pitch film for The Muppet Show – and it’s hilarious. It starts out with an executive Muppet doing straight-laced info about Jim Henson and George Slaughter. The first sign of the direction of the pitch film happens about a minute in, when the eyes of Jim and George in the photos suddenly shift, and look at the Muppet. As for the rest, well, watch for yourself. Quite simply, this pitch film is so hilarious that had I been in the boardroom making the decision, I quite possibly would have considered a 13 episode order based SOLELY on this – forget the pilot.

The Muppet Show Original Pilot “Sex and Violence” (25:33): First, I want to discuss an interesting thing that happened at the end of this pilot: The camera zoomed out, and for one of the rare times, you could actually see the people controlling the Muppets – a rare shot. The pilot was a bit more adult than the series was – it started with an announcer saying “Ladies and Gentlemen – the end of sex and violence on television”, followed by the words “Sex” and “Violence”, carved in stone, blowing up. There’s also the “Seven Deadly Sins Pageant,” “Mount Rushmore Standup,” Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem, the debut of The Swedish Chef, Pro Wrestling, several slow-dance segments that talks about, among other things, how the show jumps around (think your typical dance on Laugh-In, but with slow-dancing), and much more. Anyone familiar with the pacing of an episode of Laugh-In will feel right at home here – there’s a remarkable similarity in the timing and quick-hit pacing of bits and sketches.

Season One Promo Gag Reel (1:46): Just want to clarify something first – this is a gag reel consisting of hi-jinks that happened during the filming of promos. Both the actual promos involved and the gag reel of bloopers from the series itself are in this set – it’s bloopers from the promo reel. There’s only a few, but they’re pretty funny.

Muppet Morsels (no time): By choosing the “Muppet Morsels” option on any of the first three discs, or the same option within “Bonus Features” on disc four, you can access a secondary subtitle track on each of the episodes. The morsels are scattered across all the episodes. One example; For example: Did you know that Jim Henson had a fondness for masquerade balls, and threw them often in New York. They manage to fill 25 minutes of episode length 24 times with this kind of valuable information (a lot of it IS better than my example, admittedly).


Final Comments:

Buy this set now - there’s a link at the end of this review. There, I got it out of the way. This set is GOOD…really good. The Muppet Show may seem like a “kids show,” but it’s often far from. After having not seen the show in ten years, I can honestly say, a decade later, the show still holds up in my eyes. Really, it’s a comedy show for all ages that just happens to use the Muppets, and feature a couple of crossovers with Sesame Street; not to mention that the show looks and sounds great. The only thing missing, in my view, from the set was commentary. Frank Oz is still alive, and there are still more than a few people associated with the show – not to mention the celebrity guests – that could spend some time doing commentary. Aside from the occasionally quirky one, the Muppet Morsels are also a cool – and rare – feature that I hope are continued for the hopeful second season set.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 3/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.0/5

Seth Thrasher Seal of Approval

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 07/31/05 (edited 08/05/05).

To order the DVD click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0009ULBGS/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20


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