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

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 12, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    [​IMG][​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    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...

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    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
     
  2. Adam_WM

    Adam_WM Screenwriter

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

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    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!
     
  4. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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  5. Aaron Cohen

    Aaron Cohen Second Unit

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    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. Christian Behrens

    Christian Behrens Supporting Actor

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    Aaron,

    I am sorry to say that you paid way too much for yours then.[​IMG]

    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
     
  7. Jeff Jacobson

    Jeff Jacobson Cinematographer

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  8. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    It was never recorded in stereo. never.

    Perhaps you were confused by my wording.
     
  9. Jeff Jacobson

    Jeff Jacobson Cinematographer

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  10. Brandon Gantt

    Brandon Gantt Second Unit

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    Are the DVDs from Time Life or Columbia closed captioned?
     
  11. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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  12. Franklin Sadnoy

    Franklin Sadnoy Auditioning

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    Are the Muppet DVD's single or dual layer format?
     
  13. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    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! [​IMG]

    I'm curious: why do you want to know?
     
  14. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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

    Franklin Sadnoy Auditioning

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

    -fs
     
  16. GarySchrock

    GarySchrock Second Unit

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    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. Gary Harris

    Gary Harris Stunt Coordinator

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

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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