Every generation had a different Muppets era, from the earliest days of Sesame Street. I’m a fan of The Muppets Take Manhattan myself, but Jim Henson’s beloved puppets truly have something to offer everyone.
Just before his untimely death from pneumonia in 1990, Henson was in talks to sell his creations to Disney. Now the House of Mouse finally owns the rights to the Muppets, and they’re bringing one of the most beloved versions of the characters to Disney+.
The Muppet Show premiered in 1976 and ran for 120 episodes. The show embraced a classic vaudeville vibe, presenting a variety of sketches and musical numbers often featuring mega-famous guest stars of the day like Steve Martin, Diana Ross, and Mark Hammill. The show was presented as a “live” stage show in a theater, adding to the old-fashioned yet timeless appeal.
It was basically a family-friendly Saturday Night Live with puppets. The majority of the guests seemed to have a lot of fun interacting with the Muppets, and although the comedy was appropriate for all ages, it definitely wasn’t a kids’ show. The musical numbers were legitimately good, if goofy. Just check out the episodes with Liza Minelli or Rita Moreno if you don’t believe me.
A Return to What Works
After floundering for ways to bring the Muppets into the 21st century, including the disaster that was the 2015 ABC series, it’s comforting to return to the classic heyday of the characters.
“It’s going to be great to welcome back longtime fans, and to give a new generation of fans a chance to see how we got our start, how Miss Piggy became a star and so much more,” said Kermit in a statement. “And as for Statler and Waldorf… I can only add: ‘Sorry, guys, but… here we go again.’”
Disney announced that they’d be bringing all five seasons of The Muppet Show to streaming six months after the mediocre Muppets Now premiered in July of 2020. The “unscripted” improv show embraced the variety show format and the all-ages humor.
What’s truly lovely about the Muppets in almost every single iteration is that they manage to be funny without ever becoming cynical or sarcastic. The failed ABC series tried to make the Muppets edgy, but just look at them! They’re soft and wonderful, with no sharp edges anywhere. And that’s why we love them.
Best Episodes of ‘The Muppet Show’
If you’re new to The Muppet Show or want to revisit it with your kids, 120 episodes can be intimidating. While you certainly could start at the beginning and work your way through, here are a few of the best episodes if you’d prefer to watch the highlights.
- Debbie Harry (Season 5, Episode 16) shows up to sing some of Blondie’s biggest hits, including “Call Me.” However, it’s her duet of “Rainbow Connection” with Kermit that really steals the show.
- Zero Mostel (Season 2, Episode 13) isn’t exactly a household name now, but you shouldn’t skip his episode. He’s one of the few comedians who is even more zany than the Muppets themselves. Tragically, Mostel passed away before his episode aired in 1977.
- Alice Cooper (Season 3, Episode 7) might not be your first pick for a family-friendly variety show, but his shock rock schtick worked surprisingly well with the Muppets. His episode is campy instead of creepy, and it’s obvious that he’s having a fantastic time.
- Steve Martin (Season 2, Episode 7) is one of the greatest comedians of all time, so it’s no surprise that his episode of The Muppet Show ranks among the best. Martin played the banjo during his musical numbers and appears to have no idea that he’s sharing the screen with puppets.
- John Cleese (Season 2, Episode 12) loved the Muppets, but you wouldn’t know it from his episode. He decided to play his role as somebody who utterly loathed the delightful, chaotic puppets, and it’s comedy gold.