Friday, May 3, 2013

TV on DVD Review: The Muppet Show - Season 2

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Songs, dances, and skits that will make you laugh
Cons: A couple of weak episodes and very weak "extras."
The Bottom Line:
Don't miss it - only
Chance to watch Gonzo fiddle
As we watch George Burns

"I've Never Heard Anything So Ridiculous as Dancing Chickens."  "How About a Talking Frog?"

I've been on the prowl for a good deal on the second season of The Muppet Show for quite some time.  When I found one, I snapped it up and started watching almost immediately.  I'm glad to say that all the fun and silliness of the first season is still here.  It's just been refined so that it's even better.

For those unfamiliar with the show, it follows the misadventures of the Muppets (large puppets, not that there are usually any puppeteers on the show) as they attempt to put on a variety show each week.  Each episode includes several songs and some skits as well as several recurring sketches such as "Pigs in Space," "At the Dance," and "Veterinarian's Hospital."

Every episode also includes a human guest star.  Since these shows originally aired during the late 70's, some of the people aren't as well known today.  But for every Jaye P. Morgan, Judy Collins, Rudolf Nureyev, or Teresa Brewer I hadn't heard of, there was a Don Knotts, George Burns, Julie Andrews, or Bob Hope who I did know.  Honestly, knowing these guest stars does help at times as they will sing one of their songs or make a joke about what they are famous for.  But for the most part, it doesn't matter.  The humor is timeless and the songs are still good.

But not every episode is top notch.  Actually, two of the weaker ones are near the beginning.  Don Knotts and Zero Mostel's appearances weren't as memorable or funny as I expected.  Also disappointing was the Steve Martin episode.  This one was different in that the show was canceled so that the Muppets could audition new acts.  It allowed Steve Martin a chance to do some bits from his standup.  However, I didn't find the new acts all that funny.  And I did miss the recurring sketches.

Speaking of which, "Veterinarian's Hospital" really hits its stride this season.  They milk every premise for every pun imaginable.  (And yes, they admit to that when a cow is the patient.)  I love a good pun, so this was good news for me.  Also enjoyable is their wacky spoof of Star Trek called "Pigs in Space."  I had actually been missing it in the first season, so I was thrilled to see it showed up here.

There are also a couple of characters who show up here for the first time.  Beaker, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's faithful lab assistant makes his debut, forever changing the Muppet Lab segments.  Poor Beaker always has to demonstrate the latest scientific breakthrough for us against his better judgment.  Robin, Kermit's young nephew, makes his first appearance here as well in the episode guest starring Bernadette Peters.  She sings a wonderful song to him taken from the sound track of Snoopy: the Musical, if you can believe it.

In addition to the sketches and interaction with the guest stars, there's always some running story backstage.  In one episode, the theater is in danger of being sold.  In another, Kermit is out sick and needs Fozzie to fill in as host.  Then there's the week that a cow is wandering around backstage.  Miss Piggy pays the audience to cheer extra loudly for her in an attempt to get star billing.  Later, she decides to lose some weight.  And we can't forget the week she gets jealous of Kermit doing a duet with Miss Mousy.  Finally, there's the show when the pigs completely take over, including new host Kermit the Pig and comedian Fozzie Pig.

But what really stands out in my mind are bits and pieces from the guest stars.  Bob Hope is one of the guest stars who only shows up a couple times in his episode (some of them are in more than others), but the running gag about him being double and triple booked made up for it.  George Burns finds a potential new sidekick in Gonzo when the two sit down and talk.  I swear, Gonzo was channeling Gracie Allen.  Julie Andrews tries to ask what the Muppets do for fun, but gets the answer in ways she never expected.  John Cleese refuses to do the closing number, not that this stops the Muppets.  But my single favorite moment of the season was watching Milton Berle being heckled on stage by Statler and Waldorf (the two old men in the balcony).  He just winds up feeding them one straight line after another.  It's hilarious to watch.

This set contains 24 episodes spread out over 4 discs.  The picture is full frame and the sound is stereo.  They look and sound wonderful for being 30 years old.  Since I have never seen these episodes before, I don't know if anything has been cut or not.

The extras, on the other hand, aren't the best.  "The Muppets Valentine Special" had a few amusing moments, but it wasn't as funny as the show.  "The Muppets on The Muppets" is a series of new interviews with the characters.  There are some amusing bits, but it wasn't as funny as it sounded.  Finally, "Weezer & The Muppets Keep Fishin'" was a pretty good music video.  At four and a half minutes, it was the shortest and best of the extras.

The second season of The Muppet Show is not for anyone looking for anything serious or cultured.  (Just ask Sam the Eagle).  But for the young and young at heart who want something that is guaranteed to make them laugh, this will fit the bill.

Season Two Guest Stars:
Don Knotts
Zero Mostel
Milton Berle
Rich Little
Judy Collins
Nancy Walker
Edgar Bergen
Steve Martin
Madeline Kahn
George Burns
Dom DeLuise
Bernadette Peters
Rudolf Nureyev
Elton John
Lou Rawls
Cleo Laine
Julie Andrews
Jaye P. Morgan
Peter Sellers
Petula Clark
Bob Hope
Teresa Brewer
John Cleese
Cloris Leachman

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