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HTF REVIEW: "The Best of the Muppet Show" Volumes 3 &4 (with screenshots)


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#1 of 18 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 12 2003 - 12:49 AM

Posted ImagePosted Image

The Best of The Muppet Show
Volumes 3 and 4







Studio: Columbia
Year: 1976-1981
Rated: NR
Film Length: 80 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Subtitles: None



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.

Posted Image

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.

Posted Image

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.

Posted ImagePosted Image

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.

Posted ImagePosted Image

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.


Special Features


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...

Posted ImagePosted Image

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.

Posted Image

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.

Posted ImagePosted Image

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.


Final Thoughts


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

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 18 OFFLINE   Adam_WM

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Posted February 12 2003 - 01:00 AM

The Harry Belafonte was always one of my favorite Muppet Shows. DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
.

 


#3 of 18 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted February 12 2003 - 01:57 AM

I just want to point out, for those not in-the-know, that these discs are identical to the same-numbered discs in the Time/Life set. For example, there is nothing different about the Columbia Volume 3 than there is about Time/Life Volume 3: a/v quality is the same, content is the same, extras are the same...even the box art is the same (the only difference being the company logos). The content of each DVD on either set is 3 full-fledged episodes of The Muppet Show, in no particular order, show exactly as aired (fullscreen and mono). There are no edits to the material; in fact in some cases there is unaired material spliced back in (not much of that, though...you couldn't tell the difference, really, if that material wasn't marked in the menus (which it is)). All in all, these are great DVDs, and - like Ron - I find it to be loads of fun. Just don't needlessly duplicate by buying both Time/Life and Columbia sets!
DAVE/Memphis, TN

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#4 of 18 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted February 12 2003 - 05:57 AM

[quote] Keep these sets rolling out! I'll be picking up
every one that is released! [quote]A big "ditto!" here.

Cees

#5 of 18 OFFLINE   Aaron Cohen

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Posted February 12 2003 - 06:24 AM

These discs are incredible. I have discs 3-11 now and can't wait to complete my collection (discs 1,2,12-15) They are a tad pricy though....I've been paying about 24 bucks a pop!

#6 of 18 OFFLINE   Christian Behrens

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Posted February 12 2003 - 09:39 AM

Aaron,

I am sorry to say that you paid way too much for yours then.Posted Image

But for anybody interested, check out this thread.

The deal for all 15 for $150 is still up; whether the coupon still works, you would have to try.

-Christian
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." (Benjamin Franklin)

#7 of 18 OFFLINE   Jeff Jacobson

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Posted February 12 2003 - 04:13 PM

[quote] The content of each DVD on either set is 3 full-fledged episodes of The Muppet Show, in no particular order, show exactly as aired (fullscreen and mono). [quote]

I'm confused. If it aired in mono, when was it in stereo?

#8 of 18 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 12 2003 - 08:43 PM

It was never recorded in stereo. never. Perhaps you were confused by my wording.

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#9 of 18 OFFLINE   Jeff Jacobson

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Posted February 13 2003 - 02:52 PM

[quote] Perhaps you were confused by my wording. [quote]
Yes, I was. But after re-reading it, it makes sense.

#10 of 18 OFFLINE   Brandon Gantt

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Posted February 13 2003 - 05:09 PM

Are the DVDs from Time Life or Columbia closed captioned?

#11 of 18 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted February 13 2003 - 09:36 PM

[quote] Are the DVDs from Time Life or Columbia closed captioned? [quote]

No.


For complete info about all of these releases, you can check here. If an item is closed-captioned, we list that under "subtitles" (Ron probably does the same thing, I've never noticed either way).


By-the-way, for those of you who still don't have Volumes 1 and 2, and are looking for the best price: wait until the week of March 25th. Columbia is lowering the SRP on the "Elton John" and "Mark Hamill" releases to a mere $12.95 each!!! Posted Image

In that vein, note that the Vol's 1 & 2 were released at an SRP of $24.95, but that Vol's 3 & 4 are being released for $5 less, at an SRP of $19.95; this should make it easier to pick up without waiting (well, pick up 3 & 4 on March 4th, then wait until March 25th for 1 & 2).
DAVE/Memphis, TN

...Want to see your favorite show on DVD?

#12 of 18 OFFLINE   Franklin Sadnoy

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Posted March 09 2003 - 07:51 PM

Are the Muppet DVD's single or dual layer format?

#13 of 18 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted March 09 2003 - 10:44 PM

I just checked my database and I have them all listed at single-layer. Forgive me for not running to the other room and examining all 15 discs! Posted Image

I'm curious: why do you want to know?
DAVE/Memphis, TN

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#14 of 18 OFFLINE   Mark Zimmer

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Posted March 10 2003 - 02:40 AM

I just checked vol 3, which I reviewed this weekend for dOc, and it is single layer, confirming David's database.

#15 of 18 OFFLINE   Franklin Sadnoy

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Posted March 10 2003 - 10:46 AM

Why? Call it professional curiosity.... I work in the DVD industry. -fs

#16 of 18 OFFLINE   GarySchrock

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Posted March 10 2003 - 04:15 PM

I still haven't convinced myself to go out and buy these muppet sets yet. I love the muppets, but the idea of these discs being released individually, with the episodes out of order just hurts. Why oh why can't we have season sets. Then again, as I recall vincent price and alice cooper are on the same disc, which has definitely made it tempting. (I'd also definitely say that the harry belafonte show was pretty good). It just pains me how these are being so milked.

#17 of 18 OFFLINE   Gary Harris

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Posted April 19 2003 - 03:08 PM

What are the chances for a season by season box set of these? Any rumors about a release?

#18 of 18 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted April 19 2003 - 10:24 PM

[quote] What are the chances for a season by season box set of these? Any rumors about a release? [quote]

Honestly, I'd put those chances at a little bit better than a snowball's chance in hell, but not by much. Don't forget that they have to go back and get music and talent releases for every song and performance done in every show. So if a show guest stars Zsa Zsa Gabor and she signs off on it, it might come out as long as there isn't a skit in there with a song from Elvis. Then they'd have to go to the Presley estate and work out rights with them...you understand? (By-the-way, that's not a real example; I just made one up by the seat of my pants.)
DAVE/Memphis, TN

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