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HTF DVD Review: The Muppet Show Season Three

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#1 of 12 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted May 20 2008 - 04:29 PM

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The Muppet Show Season Three





Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Year: 1978-79
US Rating: TV-G
Film Length: 612 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1:33.1
Audio: English Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English



US Release Date: May 20, 2008

The Film - Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image out of Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

“It’s the Muppet Show with our very special guest (fill in the blank) - yaaaaaaaayyyyy…”


Back in 1976, television was changed forever in the nicest, softest and most chaotically fun way possible when Jim Henson’s pinnacle family series, The Muppet show premiered in syndication. The Muppet show became an intrinsic element of anyone who was a child when it first aired. Even adults at the time found joy in the show directly or by extension as their children huddled in front of the television set, way back when, to watch the frenetic on stage and back stage antics of the varied characters in the show. What a phenomenal accomplishment and wonder The Muppet show was. Not only were each of the seemingly innumerable Muppets themselves unique, funny and scary, but watching the many familiar faces of 'real people’, guest stars trying to keep a straight face as the lunacy of the chaotic show unfolded around them is still today incredibly entertaining to watch. No other show to this day has achieved the wondrous blend of heart, learning, music and funny antics all while commenting on personalities and humanity at large that this superb show did.

The Muppet Show, a throw-back to the old vaudeville style variety shows, with singing, dancing and all manner of strange and wonderful things that can be performed on stage is the premise, but the real joy comes from watching the show go on from behind the scenes. It moves in and out of dressing rooms, showing the mayhem progress with Kermit working to keep it all running and Miss Piggy relentlessly pursuing an unrequited love for him in fits and spurts of romance and violence. The choc-o-bloc activity, flitting from moment to moment with nary a breath, is an onslaught of commotion and slapstick unfolding in bizarre and heartwarming ways.

The manic onscreen fun was brought to life by a bevy of puppet wielding talent, including Jim Henson himself, Frank Oz, David Goetz, John Lovelady, Steve Whitmore, Jerry Nelson and more. More than just socks with eyes, these fantastic creations came to life as either full dress puppets (the big scary ones to me as a child) or hand based puppets with hands and arms that moved, aiding the slapstick humor and infusing these fabric creations with life.

It was with utter joy that I sat down to watch episode after episode of The Muppet Show after all these years. I wish the Muppets has found a more constant way to remain in the day to day lives of our children. Beyond the happiness that comes from reminiscing about the muppets and all their various off-shoot programs, like Fraggle Rock and Muppet Babies, they have found no platform, other than Sesame Street, to be alive and entertain today. I might sound like a grumpy old man here, but The Muppet Show is exactly the kind of 'fun for everyone' television that the small screen landscape, with its gaping vacuum absent of decent, non-low-brow family entertainment, is so desperately in need of.

What really stands out after all these years is just how much the core characters are ingrained in me. My personal favorites, with their distinct personalities, flaws, successes and all (Gonzo, Fozzy and Beaker) are like old friends who have come out to visit but have simply failed to age a day or changed a bit.

The Muppet Show managed to get literally the most mind-blowing and diverse guest stars this side of a late night talk show. In this third season set alone you will find a very young (and slightly off-key) Kris Kirstofferson, Alice Cooper, Liberace, Gilda Radner, Harry Belafonte, Sylvester Stallone and Britain’s great comic, Spike Milligan. Some of the guests appear, at times, a little unsure of performing with our cloth friends, perhaps put off by the multitude of performers working hard just below the cameras line of sight, but regardless, the fun on screen is charming, funny and, thirty years later, timeless.

Time life did the world some small measure of service by releasing 'Best Of's (which I am no fan of) on DVD a few years ago, but available now on DVD in full seasons is exactly the way the show should be appreciated.

All 24 episodes of the third season are available here and the packaging continues the focus on the characters with Fozzy Bear - the box is actually fuzzy. Nice!



The Episodes
Disc One
1. Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge
2. Leo Sayer
3. Roy Clark
4. Gilda Radner
5. Pearl Bailey
6. Jean Stapleton

Disc Two
7. Alice Cooper
8. Loretta Lynn
9. Liberace
10. Marisa Berenson
11. Raquel Welch
12. James Coco
13. Helen Reddy

Disc Three
14. Harry Belafonte
15. Lesley Ann Warren
16. Danny Kaye
17. Spike Milligan
18. Leslie Uggams
19. Elke Sommer
20. Sylvester Stallone

Disc Four
21. Roger Miller
22. Roy Rogers & Dale Evans
23. Lynn Redgrave
24. Cheryl Ladd


The Video - Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image out of Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

The menu’s are 16:9 but the show itself is the pure original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The image is very pleasing indeed, with superb colors, bright and exciting with the iconic image of Kermit’s green against the dulled red looking very good. The image is surprisingly clean and issue free for being so old now. This is exactly how great shows from many decades ago should be preserved and presented on DVD, and Disney much be applauded for the genuine care and effort put into delivering such an important show as good as this in such a fine way.



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The Muppet Show comes with a Dolby Digital Sound audio track. Heavy in the center channel, the sound fits the show perfectly and is exactly as I remember it. The music and multiple applause moments sound warmer than I would have expected, as some older comedy shows can come off a tad screechy in the applause, but here it fits and sounds just right.

A great audio track for this great set.



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Muppets on Puppets : – (58:43) – This archived piece, filmed for ‘National Education Television’ (precursor to PBS), features Jim Henson hosting a revealing look at the world of puppeteering. Henson, with the help of some fellow puppeteers (including Frank Oz), educates us on different types of puppets; hand, string, rod and shadow, with some fun demo’s, especially Frank Oz’s ‘the man’ puppet in “The Sunday Painter”.

This feature, despite being old, grainy, black and white and having some audio drop outs (around the 14 minute mark), remains interesting and entertaining throughout. A real treat.

A Company of Players : – (10:19) – A fascinating little feature with old footage of Jim Henson and others behind the scenes. It features interviews with accomplished individuals in the field, such as Kevin Clash and Jerry Juhl. It explores the muppets, creating new characters and the personalities rampant throughout the cast. It would only have been better if it were longer!

Muppet Commercials : – (2:34) – A look at some Purina commercials featuring Muppet Show piano player Rowlf from 1962 and 63. Rowlf appears here with a sidekick (Baskerville) who sounds a heck of a lot like Kermit.




Final Thoughts

You can’t go wrong with The Muppet Show, and in its third season the show was so comfortable with its format, the many, many characters and incessant zaniness that it rarely misses a beat. The constant flow of top-notch talent filling the guest spot was a testament to the power of the show to get names and faces broadcast in over 100 hundred countries and do wonders for a career.

It doesn’t matter whether you treasure the memories of the show from childhood or have never seen an episode before in your life, The Muppet Show is pure slapstick, crazy fun entertainment. The imagination at play here is fantastic. The show has many great musical numbers and includes jokes that would probably have flown over many kids’ heads at the time, but with so much going on, it really never mattered.


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Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
My DVD Collection

#2 of 12 AndyMcKinney

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Posted May 21 2008 - 01:41 AM

Anybody know yet if all 24 episodes are full-length and unmolested this time, or do we have to contend with edits, again?

#3 of 12 MatthewA

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Posted May 21 2008 - 03:18 AM

According to the sitcomsonline.com review, they seem to be fairly consistent in the 24-25 minute range, which suggests no season 1-style edits (of stuff Columbia bothered to clear when they had the rights, no less).

Enough is enough, Disney. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray.

 

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#4 of 12 Dale MA

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Posted May 21 2008 - 03:25 AM

Thanks for the review Neil. My set is currently winging its way to the UK!

#5 of 12 David Rain

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Posted May 21 2008 - 08:12 PM

Celebrational !
Still Turning the Beat Around at Our Cool New Pad

Retro Remixes

 


#6 of 12 Ethan Riley

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Posted May 23 2008 - 09:29 AM

Muppetational! Seriously--does anyone have a complete list of season one cuts?
 

 


#7 of 12 MatthewA

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Posted May 23 2008 - 12:17 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Riley
Muppetational! Seriously--does anyone have a complete list of season one cuts?

There was a complete episode guide online that had a list of all the sketches, and this review mentions the cuts:

"The Muppet Show" Season One DVD Review - Page 1 of 2

I have gotten conflicting reports on the status of the Region 2 version.

I do know the Vincent Price episode was released uncut in the Time Life/Columbia volume that had it. I wish I had bought it.

Enough is enough, Disney. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray.

 

My DVD/BD List at DVD Aficionado


#8 of 12 Corey3rd

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Posted May 23 2008 - 01:22 PM

there ought to be a list with the addresses of music publishers that wanted outrageous fees for their songs to be used on DVD so we can send them "Thanks for nothing" postcards.
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#9 of 12 Tina_H_V

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Posted May 23 2008 - 02:16 PM

I recall, with VERY tremendous enthusiasm, watching these episodes--particularly the episodes in which Raquel Welch and Leslie Uggams appeared. Those two episodes are enough for me to buy this Muppet collection unconditionally!!!!!
Posted Image

As a 12/13-year-old during this season, these left an indelible mark on me as a girl--as did the Sandy Duncan episode from 1976's First Season!!!! Posted Image

And since I already have Season One...I may as well proceed to pick up Season Two while I am at it!!!! Posted Image
The Acid Queen Still Rocks and Souls!!!! ;D

#10 of 12 MatthewA

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Posted May 23 2008 - 02:36 PM

I broke down and bought season 1 when it was on sale with season 2 for $20 each.

Enough is enough, Disney. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray.

 

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#11 of 12 Jay Pennington

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Posted May 24 2008 - 09:24 AM

In the 70s 60 Minutes did a very nice segment on the show: behind the scenes footage, interviews, etc. All on 16mm film. It would be great if the rights to this was obtained for a future set.
-Jay

#12 of 12 MatthewA

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Posted May 24 2008 - 09:29 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Pennington
In the 70s 60 Minutes did a very nice segment on the show: behind the scenes footage, interviews, etc. All on 16mm film. It would be great if the rights to this was obtained for a future set.

The DVD of South Pacific was able to clear a 60 Minutes segment from the 80s about James Michener, so it's not out of the realm of possibility, assuming the stuff can still be found.

I'm wondering why studios don't at least try to license more archival material like this for their TV shows. It has to be cheaper than creating new stuff.

Enough is enough, Disney. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray.

 

My DVD/BD List at DVD Aficionado