DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Muppet Show - Season 2

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Matt Hough, Jul 29, 2007.

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  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    The Muppet Show – Season Two
    Directed by Peter Harris, Philip Casson

    Studio: Disney
    Year: 1977-78
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    Running Time: 612 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
    Subtitles: EHD
    MSRP: $39.95

    Release Date: August 7, 2007
    Review Date: July 29, 2007


    The Series

    5/5

    Jim Henson was a genius, pure and simple. Beginning his career in 1955 and continuing to his death in 1990, he and his cohorts entertained generation after generation with their warm, witty, and wise puppetry. At some point in our lives, we’ve likely been touched by one or more of his various enterprises and contributions to larger productions: a season on Saturday Night Live, Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street, the films The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. But perhaps his greatest contribution to worldwide entertainment was The Muppet Show, a five year musical comedy-variety half hour that was syndicated around the world and which led to a series of delightful feature films. The franchise of amazing characters it created (some 400 during the run of the series) are still going strong decades after the peak of popularity for this show, and this new box set includes all 24 episodes from the second season of the series which ran during the 1977-78 television season.

    Having established running parody features during the first season like “Pigs in Space,” “The Swedish Chef,” “Muppet Labs,” and “Veterinarian’s Hospital,” Henson continued them throughout the run of the series. Wisely, he didn’t try to cram all of the recurring skits into every week’s half hour show. Rather, he alternated them every few weeks thus insuring they stayed fresh and anticipatory for the audience.

    As in the previous season, a major guest star toplined each week’s episode. The Muppet Show offered tremendous international exposure for any celebrity, and many of the biggest stars of the day clamored to sign on for a week of anything goes. For some like Judy Collins, the Muppets were warm and fuzzy. For others like Milton Berle, the razzing and mayhem was constant. In fact, Berle’s standup routine was subject to the most hilarious five minutes of hectoring and abuse by the curmudgeonly Statler and Waldorf in the history of the series. But even with stars who found it hard to fit into the Muppet world (Dom DeLuise, Don Knotts), there was something endearingly whimsical to be found in every show. There was never a joke too corny nor an idea too weird for the Muppets to fully embrace.

    Among the most memorable sequences during season two: Rowlf’s tender singing of “What a Wonderful World” to a real puppy, Judy Collins’ haunting “Send in the Clowns” with three acrobatic dancing clowns in the background, Rudolf Nureyev dancing “Swine Lake,” Bernadette Peters’ hilarious country song “Apple Jack,” Cleo Laine and Lou Rawls each scat singing with abandon with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, Julie Andrews’ sweet “When You Were a Tadpole” sung to Kermit, and Kermit’s signature “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green.”

    Here’s a rundown of all 24 episodes contained on four discs. An asterisk (*) marks a truly exemplary episode.

    1 – Don Knotts
    2 – Zero Mostel
    3 – Milton Berle
    4 – Rich Little
    5 – Judy Collins
    6 – Nancy Walker
    7 – Edgar Bergen
    *8 – Steve Martin
    9 – Madeline Kahn
    10 – George Burns
    11 – Dom DeLuise
    *12 – Bernadette Peters
    13 – Rudolf Nureyev
    *14 – Elton John
    15 – Lou Rawls
    16 – Cleo Laine
    *17 – Julie Andrews
    18 – Jaye P. Morgan
    *19 – Peter Sellers
    20 – Petula Clark
    21 – Bob Hope
    22 – Teresa Brewer
    23 – John Cleese
    *24 – Cloris Leachman

    Video Quality

    3.5/5

    The series was videotaped, and these thirty year old 1.33:1 tape masters have held up pretty well over three decades. For most of the episodes, the sharpness is well above average, and aside from aliasing on some fine line markings in blinds, few artifacts are present. Color, however, varies from bright on most episodes to dishwater dull on others, and there is occasional color banding on some colored backgrounds. Even though there isn’t a tremendous amount of detail to be found in the images, however, this is undoubtedly the best these shows have ever looked.


    Audio Quality

    3/5

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. Fidelity is limited, but the sound is clear lacking hiss, pops, or any other digital artifacts.

    Special Features

    3/5

    A 1974 Muppet Valentine special is the primary bonus on this set. Guest starring a very pregnant Mia Farrow, the thirty minute program predates the creation of most of the recognizable faces from The Muppet Show. Kermit’s around, of course, but few others in this special would make it to the television series two years later. The show displays average sharpness and mediocre color but is a valuable memento of Muppet history nonetheless. The program is heavily laced with love songs culled from Broadway musicals including “Love Is a Simple Thing” from New Faces, “Real Live Girl” from Little Me, and “I Got Love” from Purlie.

    A series of thirteen interview segments featuring characters from the 1996 short-lived ABC variety program Muppets Tonight are included on the disc. There are some good one-liners and puns from the familiar characters, but it’s obvious some of the voice talent has changed over the years. These segments are presented in widescreen letterbox.

    A 4-minute music video of the song “Keep Fishin’” featuring some of the Muppets with rock band Weezer also seems to have been taken from Muppets Tonight. It’s presented in a brightly colored 4:3 video transfer.

    There are the usual Disney trailers for the upcoming re-release of The Jungle Book, the previously available The Muppet Show – Season One, and the familiar Blu-ray preview trailer.

    One must mention the hilarious Muppet skits behind the main menus on each of the four discs. The funny characters are usually imploring the viewer to make a selection.

    In Conclusion

    4.5/5 (not an average)

    The Muppet Show’s second season earned and richly deserved an Emmy Award for Best Variety-Music Series against formidable competition (The Carol Burnett Show, Saturday Night Live, Evening at Pops, America 2Nite). The five major puppeteers Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, and Jerry Nelson accomplished the herculean task of infusing different and engaging personalities into scores of foam rubber and felt designs. For fans or even for the curious, it’s a box loaded with pure entertainment.


    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
     
  2. Jonny_L

    Jonny_L Stunt Coordinator

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    Great review Matt, I can't wait to get my copy.
     
  3. Doug Wallen

    Doug Wallen Screenwriter

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    So ready to get this amazing set. Truly enjoyed all seasons of the muppets and number 2 cannot be released soon enough.
     
  4. John_Dee

    John_Dee Extra

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    I've been waiting for this set for ages now, can't wait to get it. How long since the first season came out, 2 years or something?

    The only thing is that I don't know where to order it from. Just a lot of sites don't list whether they have the plain version or the one with the special felt packaging and I'm having trouble getting an answer.
     
  5. Chris Bardon

    Chris Bardon Cinematographer

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    Thanks Matt-can you confirm whether or not they actually included chapter stops on the episodes this time? The first season didn't have any, and for a show like this where you might want to get at single sketches, it's a little annoying not to have them.
     
  6. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I don't believe they did have chapter stops within episodes, but I will certainly check this afternoon and get back to you here. I'm currently working on HOME IMPROVEMENT - Season 7, and those episodes do feature four chapter stops per episode.

    And on the question of the felt slipcase, the review copy did indeed have this. I wasn't aware other copies might not.
     
  7. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    There are no chapter selections listed on the DVD menu, but each episode HAS been divided into four chapters, and using the "page +" or "skip" or whatever your remote calls it will take you to the other three chapters once you've begun an episode.

    I hope this helps.
     
  8. David Rain

    David Rain Screenwriter

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    This looks like a killer set. Now I'm just waiting for some genius to come up with a reason why they're not going to buy it. Too many pig jokes ? Kermit isn't wearing pants ? Cruelty to chickens ?
     
  9. Gregory Pauswinski

    Gregory Pauswinski Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review, Matt! I can hardly wait to own Season 2!!!
     
  10. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    Thank you Matt--a great review. Did Piggy have fuzz on the cover, like Kermie did during the first pressing of season one? Great news about chapter stops this time around--season one drove me nuts...!

    Did you notice any cuts in any of the episodes? I guess there were a few "music rights" deletions in season one. grrr...
     
  11. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Yes, Miss Piggy is "fuzzy" on the slipcase of the DVD.

    I did not notice any cuts though there might have been some. If there were any, Disney has covered its tracks well.

    I do remember that one sequence - Rowlf and Fozzie playing a duet of "In an English Country Garden" on the piano - was on two different shows. That might well have been inserted in place of another "music rights" selection.
     
  12. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    That song originally was created for the U.K. version, and was not seen in the U.S. I do not yet know if it has been used here in place of a cut American song. I am told such substitutions did occur in volume one, but I forget where the list of cuts/substitutions is on the web.
     
  13. Jamie Badminton

    Jamie Badminton Auditioning

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    The review over at Muppet Central confirms no cuts...

    (Can't direct link to it I'm afraid as I don't have 10 posts, but you'll find it at muppetcentraldotcom from the front page)

    The Elton John episode includes a repeat version of English Country Garden as an extra UK skit along with the complete original content and is actually longer than the rest of the episodes in the set as a result - the theory is that a longer master tape with the added song mysteriously existed in the vault for that episode and Disney used it for fear of not being definitive!

    I'm so stoked that we are getting an unbutchered second season - wonderful news, and I hope it continues to the end of the series!
     
  14. Chris Bardon

    Chris Bardon Cinematographer

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    Yeah, the first season had a bunch of material that was produced for the UK, so I'm guessing that there'll be more of the same with this release.
     
  15. Jay Pennington

    Jay Pennington Screenwriter

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    Thanks, Matt! Definitely looking forward to the set.

    BTW, the Weezer video had nothing to do with Muppets Tonight.
     
  16. Doug Wallen

    Doug Wallen Screenwriter

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    Just enjoyed the Don Knotts and Zero Mostel episodes. Had forgotten how much better utilized every character was. Great set and looks just great.
     
  17. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    Was the "Burlington Bertie from Bow" song in the Don Knotts episode also created for the U.K. version? I ask because that's a particularly British song lol. Also, Julie Andrews sang it in her movie "Star!"

    I just bought the set after work today; I've already watched 3 episodes. Good stuff, and get your copy soon while Miss Piggy is still fuzzy. I remember last time people were complaining right away that only the very first pressing was "fuzzy." A lot of fans wound up with a smooth Kermie. Don't let this happen to you!
     
  18. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    Which sadly did happen to me. Which is why I ordered S2 immediately and it's en route from Amazon somewhere over or around the Pacific right now...
     
  19. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Years before she performed it in STAR!, she recorded "Berlington Bertie" on a Columbia LP of old music hall songs called DON"T GO IN THE LION'S CAGE TONIGHT. It's a very entertaining album.
     
  20. RafaelB

    RafaelB Second Unit

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    Yes, it was the extra UK skit for that episode. I found that muppetcentral.com has an extensive episode guide that lists each bit and states which one is the UK skit.

    V. informative.

    Rafael.
     

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