Monday, March 10, 2014

THE MUPPET SHOW: Every Episode Ranked - Part I

Hello old friends! It has been a while hasn't it?  I won't bore you with where I have been or what I've been doing since the last post.  I'm just going to get into the business at hand now.

And that business is Muppets.  The Muppets are popping up on the big screen again after their triumphant comeback in 2011's The Muppets.  Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo and all of our favorites are returning later this month in Muppets Most Wanted alongside the likes of Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey.

In honor of the upcoming sequel, I am devoting this month of posts to the show that made us fall in love with these beloved characters: The Muppet Show.  Over the past few weeks, I have watched every single episode of The Muppet Show and have now ranked every episode from best to worst. All 120 of them and I even came up with Episode Titles for each one (and yes, I realize that must mean I have a lot of time on my hands!).  So in today's post, I will share with you the bottom 30 of the list. (I apologize in advance for the quality on some of the videos, but as this is the bottom quarter of the list, it doesn't really matter if you see how bad they are!).

#'s 120 - 91
Season 5, Episode 19 - The Messenger Boy
Chris Langham was a British comedian who served as a writer on The Muppet Show since Season 3.  In the midst of Season 5, booked guest Richard Pryor had his little incident with free-basing heroin and could not make the taping.  They needed a new guest and decided on their young comedian writer.  The problem is the story they came up with is so inane and silly that it is not good showing for the Muppets.

Season 4, Episode 3 - A Mime Is a Terrible Thing (To Waste)
I think my Episode Title says it all. Mimes suck!

Season 3, Episode 20 - Stage Hands
She may have been extremely attractive and could speak multiple languages but I have to say: Elke Sommer wasn't very talented.  Her songs are boring and her chemistry with the Muppets is even worse.  She tries, oh how she tries, but its a "no-go."

Season 3, Episode 17 - The International House of Muppets
Spike Milligan was one of the most influential British comedians ever (he influenced the likes of Dudley Moore, Robbie Coltrane and the whole Monty Python gang!).  However, the material the Muppet writers gave him was trying to celebrate the fact that The Muppet Show was broadcast in several countries.  And when you're dealing with a show marketed to kids, the jokes are filled with not the most ethnically sensitive material.

Season 1, Episode 2 - Un-Bear-able
This was the second episode filmed.  They were still finding their footing.  And you can totally tell.  They even bring on a cameo from Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie, but something isn't right yet.  And Connie Stevens, as cute as she is, doesn't have a lot to offer.  Don't worry, the Muppets hit their stride soon within the first Season.  It just wasn't perfect out of the gate.

Season 1, Episode 24 - Weirdo In Love
I honestly don't know what a Mummenschanz is and based on what I see in this episode, I don't want to know.

Season 3, Episode 1 - Canteen Woes
Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge were one of the 1970s popular couples in "Country" music (the quotation marks mean that they genre-crossed, so its hard to define them as exclusively Country music!).  This was early in their careers (Kristofferson had just starred opposite Barbra Streisand in A Star Is Born and became a household name) and their "acting style" is just, well, pathetic.  In Kristofferson's duet with Miss Piggy, he can barely get through it seriously enough to sing the lines.  And his then-spouse Ms. Coolidge is even worse (her line readings are awful!).


Season 5, Episode 7 - Pirates!
When they booked two-time Oscar winner Glenda Jackson, they asked her what she wanted to do on the show.  Her response was that they can do whatever they want.  That was a bad idea.  They made her a pirate and had her sing sea chanteys.  It's just...a big "No."

Season 4, Episode 4 - Dog-Sitting
Dyan Cannon was a hot dish back in the day.  She was married to Cary Grant and even scored a couple Oscar nods for quirky comedies.  If the Academy was watching this episode, they would rescind those nods.

Season 5, Episode 8 - The Puppet Show
I never really was fascinated by Señor Wences' brand of puppetry.  I grant that people were impressed with his artistry and I'm sure he was a great influence on many people (including Jim Henson).  But this episode only had one thing going for it and that's Fozzie trying his hand at puppetry (it was always funny when Fozzie tried...and failed!).

Season 2, Episode 1 - Shades of a Bear
Don Knotts was extremely hilarious and a great comedic talent.  This episode however was kind of underwhelming.  He's good in it and the backstage story where Fozzie gets "shades" is humorous.  It's just not their A-level best.  It could have been better.

Season 2, Episode 4 - Dancing Chickens
Much like the Don Knotts episode above, this episode is a bit underwhelming.  There are some good moments, but they really could have done better.  Though with a guest who made his name impersonating Hollywood legends, how much could they really do?

Season 1, Episode 7 - Pig Problems
The lovely lady known as Mrs. Carol Brady is a showbiz legend.  She was a natural choice to be a guest on The Muppet Show.  Now I will voice what is probably an unpopular opinion: She's kind of irritating.  She always comes off to me as someone who is more impressed with her talent than anyone else is.  She has some good moments (especially when she spars with Miss Piggy!), but otherwise: Meh!


Season 3, Episode 9 - For the Birds!
The only thing the piano legend does in the show is his final medley that includes a "Concert for Birds."  And seriously, it should be "for the birds."  Not that I'm a big fan of the flashy keyboardist in the first place.

Season 5, Episode 3 - Rats!
The folk legend sings some beautiful songs and tries her darndest to have some great chemistry with the lovable Muppets.  And hey, Muppet favorite Rizzo the Rat gets some great material in this episode.  However like some of the episodes mentioned already, its fairly ordinary and underwhelming.

Season 2, Episode 20 - The Mickey Moose Club
I usually like Petula Clark.  But she could have at least sung one of her most famous hits like "Downtown" or "I Know a Place" or the hauntingly beautiful "You and I."  Instead, she sang a version of Herb Alpert's "Boy From Ipanema" (with a strange-looking Muppet called a Bossman) and topped it off with the Annie anthem "Tomorrow."  Maybe by this time she was tired of singing her greatest hits and decided to sing hits by other people.

Season 5, Episode 10 - Parlez Vous Francais?
The classical floutist was an interesting guest in that he tried to speak some actual French with the fantastic faker that is Miss Piggy.  And there are some other great moments (like the Electric Mayhem's version of "Rockin' Robin" led by Janice!).  But what Monsieur Rampal brings is ultimately rather dull.

Season 1, Episode 9 - Managing a Weirdo
The other French guest the Muppets managed to snag was back in its first season with famed singer Charles Aznavour.  There are some good moments here (this was the episode where they really tried to develop the Great Gonzo) but like Monsieur Rampal, Monsieur Aznavour offers nothing more than his signature French voice singing some somewhat likable tunes.

Season 1, Episode 6 - The New Go-Fer
It has been joked about on everything from The Simpsons to Seinfeld.  Who new Gomer Pyle could sing like that?  Other than that though, the episode isn't too exciting.  However, it did introduce Muppet fave Scooter properly.

Season 4, Episode 8 - Down On the Farm
Some of the songs in this episode are pretty good and this was at the time when the show's writers were experimenting with themes (hence the whole Farm thing!).  But Arlo Guthrie, who is a very talented musician, is not as famed as his folk legend father Woody.

Season 3, Episode 22 - Cowboys!
I love all the in-jokes about The Muppet Movie (cause this episodewas made just after they had completed their first film!).  And Roy and Dale are somewhat charming, as are some of the songs.  But I don't get that excited about cowboys or western themes.

Season 2, Episode 22 - Trimming the Fat
Ms. Brewer sings some catchy tunes, but its Miss Piggy who serves as the MVP of this episode.  I'm just not a fan of storylines that deal with diets.  Not sure why...

Season 1, Episode 21 - The Phantom of the Muppet Show
She was the "IT Girl" of the 1960s in London's Fashion world.  Here she gets to show that she can sing and act and have a little fun.  She should have stuck with modeling.

Season 2, Episode 16 - Mama Bear
Cleo Laine is a fantastic jazz and blues singer with some great Broadway shows in her bio.  And her songs on The Muppet Show are good.  What brings this episode down then?  Its the work of puppeteer Bruce Schwartz who Jim Henson brought on cause he was impressed with his artistry.  His artistry however is the same kind of creepy puppetry featured in Spike Jonze's equally creepy film Being John Malkovich.

Season 5, Episode 22 - Power Failure
The best thing in this episode is Animal's drum battle with legendary drummer Buddy Rich (below).  The rest is kind of boring.  You can see why Jim Henson and others were getting tired of doing a weekly show.

Season 4, Episode 21 - It's Magic!
Master magician Doug Henning was a variety show staple of the 1970s.  With the Muppets, of course he was going to do his most famous magic tricks.  What the heck is that Muppet supposed to be that he puts in his Magic Box below?

Season 5, Episode 20 - The Vaudeville Show
For those who don't know, Wally Boag was the man who played Pecos Bill in Disney's classic animated short and even played the role in a live show at DisneyLand in Anaheim, CA for over 40 years.  He is one Steve Martin's biggest influences (according to Martin!).  And he's exactly the type of performer the Muppets would have a lot of fun with.  So why is his episode so underwhelming?

Season 3, Episode 10 - The Wedding of Kermit and Piggy
Marisa Berenson was a noted model, dancer and actress (she gave a charming performance in Bob Fosse's 1972 film version of Cabaret).  But in this episode, she adds nothing to it really.  The best part is Miss Piggy's scheme to trick Kermit into a Wedding.  Its classic and funny and totally Muppet.  But it could have been in any episode.

Season 2, Episode 5 - Bringing Down the House
Folk star Judy Collins filmed all of her songs separately from the rest of the Muppet gang due to scheduling.  And it shows.  Her stuff feels cut in and the backstage story barely mentions her being on the show.  That being said, her songs are pretty good and she sings them quite well.

Season 1, Episode 1 - The Muppy Show
This was the very first episode.  It has a lot of good moments (See: Mahna Mahna, Cowboy Time, Temptation or Simon Smith), but none of those moments have anything to do with guest star Juliet Prowse.  She only does a ballet at the beginning of the show and shares some sweet moments with Kermit.  That's it.  That was their very first guest.  Kind of boring, huh?

Tomorrow: #'s 90-61

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