The Best of The Muppet Show
Volumes 3 and 4
Film Length: 80 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
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
Talk about the little things in life that bring
me such joy....
Nothing puts a smile on my face more than watching
the Muppets. And why not? The Muppets, the adorable
little creatures spawned of sock puppets and
imagination, have been dear to the hearts of the
Amercian public since their creation. Most of us
grew up watching Jim Henson creations like Sesame
Street, The Muppet Babies, The Muppet Show and
Fraggle Rock -- not to mention their handful
of theatrical films that include The Muppet Movie
and The Muppets Take Manhattan.
While the "Muppets" (the combination of the words
‘marionette’ and ‘puppet') had been around on
television for the past two decades, it was tough
for Henson to sell his idea of a variety show to
the major networks who had labeled his creations
as kiddie fare. Henson ended up taking his Muppet
staff to England, where he had set up a deal with
English entrepreneur Sir Lew Grade to finance The
Muppet Show. Not only did it become the most
popular first-run syndicated series in television
history, it also became the most widely seen
television show of the late seventies.
The weekly variety show was actually a show within
a show, with Kermit as the producer/host of Muppet
Theater. Kermit had the considerable task of
keeping guests and Muppets happy, fending off Miss
Piggy's advances, bolstering Fozzie's confidence
after another joke falls flat, and tolerating
Gonzo's bizarre stunts. The show became a hip
place for big-name stars to make appearances. Among
the greats were Elton John, Peter Sellers,
Dudley Moore, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Martin and
Alice Cooper[/i]. The songs -- which run the gamut
from rock to jazz to Broadway -- have an all-age
appeal, blending wacky voices and unmistakable
personalities with irresistible melodies.
Following in the tracks of Time/Life Video,
Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment began releasing
their own "best of" series. These recent 25th
Anniversary Edition DVDs are the third and fourth
releases of the series, featuring 3 full-length
shows each, including Special Bonus Material.
The third DVD release features guests Harry
Belafonte, Linda Ronstadt and John Denver.
The fourth DVD features Peter Sellers, John
Cleese and Dudley Moore.
I found the material on this new collection of DVDs
to be a mixed bag of entertainment. The best this
set has to offer includes Peter Sellers doing
a multitude of impersonations from a singing gypsy
to Queen Victoria in Viking gear. There's also the
ever-funny John Cleese trying his best to get
out of his contract agreement with the show, and
doing a very funny stint as a pirate invading Pigs
In Space. It was also a delight watching Dudley
Moore in battle with the show's band over his
new electronic jukebox.
An episode featuring Linda Ronstadt is a
little weak for the fact that the artist doesn't
bring a strong presence to the show, though Miss
Piggy makes every effort to break up a pending
romance between her "Kermie" and the singer. While
it's great to see the appearance John Denver,
I was disappointed by the selection of musical
numbers. One featured singer I found to be highly
worthy of this collection was Harry Belafonte,
who joins a chorus of African-masked puppets in a
rousing and memorable Turn The World Around
number that he performed years later at a tribute
to Jim Henson.
How is the transfer?
Transfer quality hasn't changed since the first
batch of releases. Quality generally looks very
good, though you can see how the clarity of the
DVD format brings out the limitations of the
original video broadcasts. There's a slight lack
of sharpness and detail in the picture. I didn't
notice the occasional ghosting that I saw in the
original sets. There is excellent color rendering
here and images remain mostly clean throughout.
Unfortunately none of these shows were preserved
in stereo. The mono sound and absence of any
dynamic range severely limits the impact of most
of the great musical numbers found here. Though
sound dynamics are flat, the audio does come through
with reasonable clarity.
The producers of this DVD collection really went
out of their way to make this set a fun and enjoyable
experience for fans. Though the added material is
very sparse, this is one of those times that big
things arrive in small packages. More in a moment...
The content of these DVDs are laid out wonderfully,
thanks to extensive menus that break down the show
by various skits. There's no hassle trying to find
your favorite episode of Pigs in Space, Swedish
Chef or soap opera Veterinarians' Hospital.
Each show contains an introduction by Brian Henson
who tells you a little history of the episode you
are about to watch. For instance, Peter Sellers
shyed away from doing a one-on-one interview with
Kermit the Frog, for the reason that the actor never
felt comfortable talking about his own self. The
writers worked around this by having Kermit interview
the actor in Queen Victoria drag. In another intro,
Brian describes the difficulty of writing comedy,
and his father's sure-fire trick for making any skit
a funny one.
Here is where the real fun is! Each DVD contains a
set of Muppet Extras that are hilarious.
Watch Kermit and Fozzie recreate the opening scene
of The Godfather, aptly titled The
FrogFather. There's also a side-splitting
funny cast audition for the part of Terry Malloy of
On The Waterfront with various muppets yelling
out "Stella....Stella". Also new to this
set are some personal Muppetisms featuring
Bunson and Beaker and Staler and Waldorf. There's
also the inclusion of some neat original artist
sketches of Muppet favorites.
The real value of these Best Of The Muppets
sets lies not just in the universal appeal of these
foam-rubber creations. It's the opportunity to
revisit some of the most well-known artists of our
time that are no longer with us. I can see myself
some 30 years from now looking at these DVDs and
reminiscing about Dudley Moore, Gene Kelley,
Peter Sellers and John Denver. This
is a wonderful opportunity to own a snapshot in
time when a highly creative show like this brought
together such an A-list of actors.
Keep these sets rolling out! I'll be picking up
every one that is released!
Release Date: March 4, 2003
All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality