The Muppet Show is finally coming to Disney+, so let’s take a look at some of the best episodes and guest stars from the original show.
The Muppet Show is coming to Disney+ — all five seasons of it. The original series aired at the end of the 1970s, reaching into the early ’80s as well. The show is a product of its time and wears that influence not as a burden, but as a proud marker of what makes it unique. After all, there hasn’t really been a show like it since. The closest might be Saturday Night Live, which ran concurrently to its puppet-filled equivalent.
But outside of that, there’s hardly a show that’s managed to pull in so many high-profile celebrities, and definitely none that combine them with the abject silliness of the Muppets. Here, we pick out some of the best of The Muppet Show‘s five-season run, highlighting the episodes that truly showcase what makes the classic worth remembering.
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Season 2, Episode 17, “Julie Andrews” is a great introduction to the show, as it lacks any of the early-installment weirdness of the first season while still being a good sampling of the show’s various segments. The News Flash and Muppet Labs pieces are as charming as they are short, and the rest of the episode is equally captivating. Julie Andrews’ elegance stands as a nice contrast to the all-out weirdness of the Muppets, and also serve as a nice punchline to the running gag of the episode — the cow backstage. Most of Kermit’s time throughout the episode is spent attempting to safely return the animal to its owner. That joke might sound simple, but it’s one of the moments where Kermit’s “straight man” performance really shines.
While Julie Andrews serves as a nice balance to the weirdness of the Muppets, Alice Cooper surpasses it. The rock artist’s 1978 appearance in Season 3, Episode 7, “Alice Cooper” comes in the middle of his recording career, and The Muppet Show leans into his occult reputation. The majority of the episode plays out with Cooper as a literal satanist, attempting to convince various Muppets to sell their soul to the Devil. While that sounds like a schtick that could get old fast, it’s given a light touch. Cooper only directly tries to convince Kermit and Miss Piggy, while Gonzo is seduced into selling his soul by simply having Kermit explain the story of Faust to him. The episode also features Robin’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” one of the show’s more popular musical numbers.
Star Wars’ Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew and Anthony Daniels
At the height of Star Wars popularity, just before the release of The Empire Strikes Back, The Muppets had its most high-profile guest stars of all time: Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew and Anthony Daniels. Featured in Season 4, Episode 17, “Cast of Star Wars (Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, and Anthony Daniels),” the trio act in character, as they “crash” into the Muppets studio, with Kermit quickly shoehorning them into participating in the night’s show. They end up clashing with “Dearth Nadir” — Gonzo in a Darth Vader costume — as well as with a Muppet named Angus McGonagle, the original act scheduled for that night. Hamill also gets to spend a little time out of character, as Luke introduces his “cousin.” The individual acts in this episode can be a bit underwhelming, but the raw spectacle of the Star Wars characters more than makes up for it.
The Muppets is a variety show, and the contents of an individual episode can range from humorous skits to full musical numbers. Episodes tend to play to an individual guest’s strengths, but they can sometimes be shoehorned into musical acts they aren’t suited for. Featured in Season 5, Episode 9, “Debbie Harry,” Debbie Harry (the lead singer of Blondie) is the absolute opposite of that trend, playing out two of the band’s most popular songs with Muppet accompaniment. Those two numbers are the highlights of her episode, standing up to any performance she might give in the studio or in concert. And if all of that wasn’t enough, she also gives a duet of “Rainbow Connection” with Kermit, allowing the small green frog to reprise his most famous song from The Muppet Movie.
While all of the above episodes can be comedic, entertaining and well-produced, it’s Gene Kelly’s episode that comes off as the most genuine. The actor/director arrives in Season 5, Episode 1, “Gene Kelly,” hat in hand, eager to watch the show he’s been invited to, only to discover that he’s supposed to be starring in it. The rest of the episode consists of the Muppets tricking Kelly into performing on stage, while also trying to get him to perform “Singing in the Rain.” Kelly explains that he doesn’t want to sing the song, since he’s saddened by the realization that he’ll never outperform the filmed version of it. The actor’s explanation of this strikes a chord, and while he does eventually sing it, it’s with no bells or frills — just a simple accompaniment from Rolf.
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