Thursday, May 19, 2011


This past Monday was the anniversary of a very sad day in my childhood.  On May 16, 1990, my Mom was driving myself and my brother home from school and she turned on the radio to hear the traffic report.  As we were waiting for the light to change, the NewsFlash came on and announced that Muppet creator (and all-around genius) Jim Henson had passed away that day.  For the rest of the day (and well into the evening), I was inconsolable.  Those of my generation understand why.  I didn't know him personally.  I didn't work with him or live in the same neighborhood as him.  But watching things like Sesame Street, The Muppet Movie, Fraggle Rock and The Muppet Show (quite frankly, the greatest TV variety show of all-time), I felt like I knew him and, more importantly, I learned from him.  I think of something I learned from the Muppets (and, by extension, Jim Henson) almost every day.  And every year, at this time in May, I try to celebrate the joy and inspiration that Henson gave me by sharing my favorite Muppet things with my circle of friends.  Well, now that I have this blog, my circle has grown larger and maybe we can share together.  This week's 10 FAVORITES is dedicated to the memory of Jim Henson and is all about my favorite Muppet thing of all-time: The Muppet Show!  So, here are the most sensational, inspirational, celerational AND Muppet-tational:


Episode 424: Diana Ross
At the time, Diana Ross was one of the biggest stars in the world and the writing staff at TMS used this icon perfectly.  She danced with a big bird (no, not that one!) and sang "Love Hangover."  She also coaxed Fozzie out of his usual bout of low confidence by singing one of her signature tunes, "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand" (see below).  It's just brilliant!

Episode 208: Steve Martin
I love it on any series where it is clear that the writing team is stepping outside of its so-called "box."  Here, the Muppets shut down the show for a day to hold auditions.  One problem, they booked funny-man Steve Martin as their guest star.  But, of course, the "Wild-And-Crazy-Guy" makes these auditions quite hilarious.

Episode 105: Rita Moreno
This is the best episode of the first season (and the one that won them several Emmys that first year!).  It was here where you knew what the show could be and how best to utilize the talents of your guest star.  Oscar, Tony and Grammy winner Rita Moreno added an Emmy to her mantle for this fabulous performance.

Episode 217: Julie Andrews
I always wanted Julie Andrews to be my nanny just so she could sing to me!  Watching her in Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music OR her appearance on TMS, just entertained me to no end.  It didn't matter whether she was singing on a hillside (with a goat!) or with a bunch of Muppet monsters, she was just an enjoyable presence in my home.

Episode 214: Elton John
This episode is great just because of the melding of two geniuses.  The Muppet genius of Jim Henson (and all those around him!) plus the musical genius of Elton John makes for one of the most musically successful episodes of the series.  John sings most of his chart-toppers like "Crocodile Rock," "Bennie and the Jets," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and a hilarious duet with Miss Piggy on "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" (below).

Episode 506: Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields was one of the most famous child stars when I was growing up.  When the Muppets booked her on the show, the writers out-did themselves.  Of course, Lewis Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures In Wonderland was perfect for Jim Henson and his creative team (his famed Creature Shop since then worked on at least 3 variations on the Carroll tale).  Here, the Muppets get to try their hand at the many wacky characters in the story.

Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star John Cleese helped to co-write this episode and the comedic brilliance is multiplied.  His concept was to play it as a guest star who just didn't want to do the show.  Cleese is amazing at playing an exasperated, "diva"-like star, especially when they try to get him to sing (see below).

Episode 515: Carol Burnett
This episode received an Emmy Award for Best Writing of Variety Series and there are many reasons why.  The concept to have Gonzo running the Muppet Theater like its a 1930s dance marathon is too funny in and of itself.  Add the top-notch comedic timing of Carol Burnett and audiences are rolling on the floor.  I like to call this episode "They Shoot Muppets, Don't They?" ( least I think it's clever!).

Episode 212: Bernadette Peters
There is really only one reason why this episode ranks so high in my mind.  One song, just one song that has become the anthem for Jim Henson and his work.  Watch Broadway diva-extraordinaire Bernadette Peters sing this hauntingly beautiful song to Kermit's nephew, Robin.  It just touches something in my heart (I am not made of stone!).

Episode 314: Harry Belafonte
This episode is both one of the funniest episodes of the series AND one of the most poignant.  The concept of the episode has Fozzie trying to write a script for the show (can you just imagine?).  Frank Oz is also a genius, especially when he puppeteered characters like Fozzie Bear or Miss Piggy or Cookie Monster.  In this episode, Oz goes all out in his characterization of Fozzie and makes us love him even more.  On top of all that hilarity, guest star Harry Belafonte brings a beautifully touching moment by singing his brilliant song "Turn the World Around" for the episode's finale (see below).

I hope this brought back good memories for those of you who, like me, grew up watching the creative genius that Jim Henson brought to the world.  I will never forget any of the things I have learned from the Muppets (in all their incarnations).  Thank You Jim!

"Life's like a movie, write your own ending."

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