UltimateDisney.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | DVD & Blu-ray Release Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Disney TV Shows | Search This Site



The Muppet Show on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3

"The Muppet Show" Season One: Special Edition 4-Disc Set DVD Review - Page 2

Buy The Muppet Show: Season One from Amazon.com The Muppet Show: Season One (1976-77)
Show & DVD Details

Director: Peter Harris (Episode #1 directed by Dave Wilson)

Executive Producer: Jim Henson / Producer: Jack Burns

Writers: Jack Burns, Jim Henson, Marc London, Jerry Juhl

The Muppet Performers: Frank Oz (Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Sam Eagle, Animal, George, Mildred, others), Jim Henson (Kermit the Frog, Waldorf, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, Newsman, others) Jerry Nelson (Floyd, Robin the Frog, others), Richard Hunt (Statler, Scooter, Sweetums, Miss Piggy, others), Dave Goelz (Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot, Miss Piggy, others), Eren Ozker (Hilda, Wanda, Janice, others), John Lovelady (Crazy Harry, others), Fran Brill (Miscellaneous), Jane Henson (Miscellaneous), Peter Friedman (Miscellaneous), Cynthia Adler (Miscellaneous)

Guest Stars: Juliet Prowse, Connie Stevens, Joel Grey, Ruth Buzzi, Rita Moreno, Jim Nabors, Florence Henderson, Paul Williams, Charles Aznavour, Harvey Korman, Lena Horne, Peter Ustinov, Bruce Forsyth, Sandy Duncan, Candice Bergen, Avery Schreiber, Ben Vereen, Phyllis Diller, Vincent Price, Valerie Harper, Twiggy, Ethel Merman, Kaye Ballard, Mummenschanz

Running Time: 599 Minutes (24 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Mono 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: August 9, 2005
Season 1 Airdates: September 27, 1976 - April 25, 1977
Four single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with furry cardboard slipcover

Buy from Amazon.com


Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Disc 4, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

A star () denotes my ten favorite episodes from the season. A pair of scissors () indicates that the episode is missing a segment.

Sandy Duncan shares a picturesque musical number with Kermit. Candice Bergen has had enough of her unappreciative man! The amusing Avery Schreiber revels in nonsensical singing with awestruck Muppets.

Disc 3

14. Sandy Duncan (25:34) (Originally aired October 4, 1976)
In between making two films for Disney (among other entertainment projects), pint-sized actress Sandy Duncan appeared on "The Muppet Show"! She showcases her musical talent in the drunken bar number "A Nice Girl Like Me" and "Try to Remember the Kind of September", a more serene song to Kermit. Humor is provided in a sketch where Duncan helps Sweetums find the beauty inside him and when the Swedish Chef makes donuts in one of his more memorable appearances.
Meanwhile, Kermit struggles to find out just what is this "banana sketch" that has Fozzie and everyone else laughing. In some sort of foreshadowing of the Broadway role that would bring Duncan much fame, this episode also includes a girl-and-frogs performance of the lyrical version of "Never Smile at a Crocodile", from Disney's Peter Pan.

15. Candice Bergen (25:34) (Originally aired November 29, 1976)
Actress Candice Bergen may be one of the Season 1 hosts most recognizable to present day viewers, but this appearance predates the debut of her most familiar on-screen personality ("Murphy Brown") by more than ten years. Bergen need not sing nor utter a word in the most entertaining sketch, the musical number "Put Another Log on the Fire" featuring a large hillbilly puppet who demands a lot of his wife. Other bits include a panel discussion with Bergen as an author on affordable world travel, a photo shoot with Kermit and Sweetums, and finally, Gonzo, Bergen, and others singing the catchy "Friends." Fozzie provides an amusing running gag with his "deliveries" for Kermit.

16. Avery Schreiber (25:34) (Originally aired April 18, 1977)
Comedian Avery Schreiber drops by and he, Miss Piggy, and Scooter collaborate to rile Kermit with jealously by convincing the frog that Schreiber and Piggy are a romantic item. Kermit steps into the role of a reporter for an amusing sketch in which gladiator Sir Avery of Macho challenges the vicious Monster of the Moors (played, of course, by Sweetums) to a battle of insults. Dialogue isn't needed for another diverting piece in which Schreiber's museum guard finds his lunch taken by a Fozzie painting, nor are traditional words used for the inspired final musical number where Avery scats funnily to some furry friends. A sympathetic Schreiber also helps Fozzie stand up to his hecklers, but he winds up stealing the bear's thunder.

Ben Vereen performs "Mr. Cellophane." Phyllis Diller and Zoot compare their saxophone skills in an unusual performance of "The Entertainer." An appearance by Vincent Price ensures a spookier than usual "Muppet Show."

17. Ben Vereen (25:30) (Originally aired January 24, 1977)
All-around performer Ben Vereen gives an energetic show in spite of Crazy Harry repeatedly responding to every explosive phrase uttered with some pyrotechnics. Vereen zestfully sings "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago and "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He also dances along with the old-fashioned "Boogie Woogie Music" song performed by a Siamese twin Muppet and others. Backstage, Fozzie gets stuck in a magician's trick chest, but showing dedication to his craft, he still gets carried out to the stage and gives an abbreviated act. Rowlf performs Beethoven's "Fur Elise" on the piano and portrays crackpot Doctor Bob yet again in another installment of "Veterinarian's Hospital."

18. Phyllis Diller (25:26) (Originally aired February 14, 1977)
Veteran funnywoman Phyllis Diller's arrival ensures a show leaning towards comedy and this episode does not disappoint in that department. In her first piece, Diller trades sob stories with Rowlf the dog at a bar. Later, she attempts to help Fozzie find some new standup material, while also aiding his attempts to dethrone Kermit as host. Other standout acts include Bunsen Honeydew's showcasing of some explosive gift items, a bizarre intergalactic musical duel between nonsensical "Hugga Wugga" and "You are My Sunshine", and Diller's feeble attempt at playing saxophone for the Muppets' performance of the familiar ragtime tune "The Entertainer." Backstage, Hilda tries to make herself look young like the guest, but hardly anyone takes notice of her efforts.

19. Vincent Price (22:45) (Originally aired January 31, 1977)
The presence of renowned horror actor Vincent Price at the Muppets Theatre has the whole gang in a spooky mood. Appropriately enough, the opening act is "I've Got You Under My Skin", sung by the Behemoth monster to a tiny creature who he swallows. Next is an inspired sketch in which Fozzie and Gonzo scout out their new summer home, which is also occupied by ghosts, Vincent Price, and his frightening assistant. There's also a song performed by the ghosts, a Price-led panel discussion on cuisine, a three-headed monster desperate to get on the show despite three different personalities, an amusing Muppets Newsflash on dangerous furniture, and a couple of entertaining exchanges of the guest with Kermit and Sweetums. This episode runs three minutes shorter than others; it is painfully missing the final musical number, "You've Got a Friend" (I'm assuming this is the famed James Taylor song) performed by Vincent and the Muppet monsters. Apparently, this is included on one of Time-Life's Best of discs.

Twiggy answers a Muppet reporter's question by singing "In My Life" next to a montage of personal photographs. Miss Piggy tries to one-up Ethel Merman in her spirited medley. Mummenschanz put on one of their odd acts. Just what is their story?!

Disc 4

20. Valerie Harper (25:28) (Originally aired November 22, 1976)
Valerie Harper, the star of "Mary Tyler Moore Show" spin-off "Rhoda", is quite enthused to be appearing on "The Muppet Show", and she performs a big, wardrobe-changing number for Kermit backstage.
Statler is so pleased by the act that he leaps down from the balcony to meet Harper and give her a flower, marking his only backstage appearance in the show's five-season run. This episode provides musical performances more amusing and catchy than usual, as Rowlf and Sam Eagle perform "Tit Willow", and Floyd and friends sing "Searchin'." In the final act, Harper gets a chance to dance with the Clodhoppers!

21. Twiggy (25:34) (Originally aired February 7, 1977)
Pretty British model-turned-actress Twiggy becomes the first (but not the last) single-named "Muppet Show" guest. She memorably performs The Beatles' "In My Life" next to a montage of personal photos and a spirited bedtime reading of A.A. Milne's poem "The King's Breakfast." Backstage, all are frightened of the Phantom of the Muppet Show that's supposedly haunting the theatre, but Kermit dismisses such a notion is ludicrous...until he meets Uncle Deadly. Also, feathered attire engages in song and dance, Fozzie encounters the world's first psychiatric machine, Rowlf plays Beethoven's "Minuet in G", and Wayne and Wanda get snowed in.

22. Ethel Merman (25:34) (Originally aired February 21, 1977)
Broadway legend Ethel Merman performs a medley of songs from the various musicals she appeared in. Guest puppeteer Richard Bradshaw does some diverting things with animal shadow puppets. Backstage, Kermit reluctantly does negotiations with Irving Bizarre, Fozzie's miniscule agent, which the bear's crowd-clearing act doesn't help. In addition to Merman's finale (in which she sings "There's No Business Like Show Business" amidst many Muppets), there are performances by a couple of slinkys and a mouse inside Waldorf's cup.

23. Kaye Ballard (25:36) (Original airdate unknown)
Comedy actress Kaye Ballard shows up and spends more time singing than doing anything else. Laughs are provided in a couple of standalone gags, such as one with a facelift vending machine and another featuring a hairy blob's haircut. Backstage, Floyd and the rest of the Muppet Show band are ready to walk out because they disapprove of the theme song; Kermit convinces them to stay on for one of Ballard's performances, but the end credits are performed by Rowlf on a lone piano, directed by abandoned potential show host Nigel (who is featured in the bonus feature pilot).

24. Mummenschanz (25:35) (Original airdate unknown)
A three-member troupe of Swiss mimes called Mummenschanz makes for the oddest "Muppet Show" guests of the season. They perform with clay masks, notepads and other quirky props, while staying mute until signing off. Backstage, Miss Piggy thinks her charms have finally won over Kermit, but in fact the one in love with her is Gonzo! If the Mummenschanz don't win you over, then this season finale may wind up disappointing you. The most amusing sketch is one in which noisy librarians channel their various sounds into Strauss' "Blue Danube." In addition, Vendaface returns to work on Statler's mug, a sea creature sings about the fish he loves, and Wayne, Wanda, George, and Mildred make their final appearances in their usual forms.

Sandy Duncan finds the beauty inside Sweetums. Kermit reports on location at alien planet Koozebania. Rowlf and Sam Eagle perform an entertaining duet of "Tit Willow."

VIDEO AND AUDIO

"The Muppet Show" is presented in its original 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio and clearly, sufficient work has gone into making the series look good and new. The element is completely clean. You are able to perceive some limitations of the video format it was created in, but the transfer itself merits nothing but praise. It looks so good that you're more likely to tell it is an old program from the style and humor than from aged-looking video quality.

The packaging merely lists "Dolby Digital Sound", but while encoded in two channels, it is actually a Mono presentation. That's to be expected; such was the format of its original broadcasts. With a bit of tinkering, we could have gotten a more dynamic 5.1 experience, but as is, the soundtrack is entirely satisfactory. The canned laugh track sometimes wears thin on the viewer, but this aspect, as well as the abundant music, and witty dialogue, are all conveyed with clarity. Even for complicated stagings, the volume and quality of the sound remained consistent and free of any problems.

Most of the "Muppet Morsels" span several screens. Pop-up trivia tidbits can make an odd moment educational. The Original "Muppet Show" Pitch Reel

BONUS FEATURES

While this Season One set is not overwhelmingly packed in the bonus department, the treatment does offer more in the way of supplements than many of Buena Vista's season sets and all of the extras are actually worthwhile.

"Muppet Morsels" are the first and most significant bonus feature included on the set; you'll find them on every disc and every episode. This subtitle trivia track contains pop-up facts announced by graphics such as colorful question marks and Kermit's head. Interesting little tidbits flow at a fairly steady rate throughout each show.
Most of them are tied to what's on screen or at least to the episode at hand, but even when they're not, they're consistently fascinating. They provide information on guest stars (such as other film and television credits), songs (details on their writers and most famous performers), and allusions to art and other media (which may have been missed by the original or contemporary audiences). There's plenty of stuff on the Muppets' roots, their past on "Saturday Night Live" and two televised pilots, plus quotes and comments on the Muppet performers. The Morsels even count the number of Miss Piggy karate chops throughout the season. Overall, this clever feature is comparable to an audio commentary, though preferable to some degree; since the information within is not dispatched off-the-cuff, it is distributed in a steady and orderly fashion, plus it is far easier to enjoy the show without having the soundtrack obscured. The only complaint one should lodge is that the track would have greatly benefited from a quick and easy check on spelling and grammar; next time, they need either to hire a proofreader or fire the one who botched this one!

The remaining bonus features are found only on Disc 4. They include the Original Pitch Reel (2:49), Jim Henson's sales pitch to the network heads of CBS, in which he (through the guise of a Muppet, of course) amusingly informs them of the surefire success "The Muppet Show" will bring by appealing to a wide variety of demographics. There's also the Season One Promo Gag Reel (1:45), a montage of brief promos for a number of Season One episodes. These typically feature Kermit selling the week's show in the face of tickling by Fozzie or other obstacles.

Miss Piggy and Kermit promote the episode of the week in the Promo Gag Reel. Kermit wanna-be Nigel, Sam Eagle, and Floyd in the 1975 "Muppet Show" pilot "Sex and Violence." Statler and Waldorf make a rare non-balcony appearance in the pilot special.

The last supplement is one particularly exciting for Muppet fans. It is the second of two "Muppet Show" pilots, commonly referred to as "Sex and Violence" (the first words on screen, though it's not labeled as such from the menus or package). This 25-minute, 21-second special plays out like an episode of the series the way it was conceptualized around the time of taping. ABC originally aired this on March 19, 1975 and like other rare pilots for series which caught on, it became a Holy Grail for fans who longed to see it again (or for a first time). It would be another 18 months before "The Muppet Show" took to the air in earnest, so naturally, much is different in this early form.
Many regular Muppet characters are on display here more or less as we know them, including Sam Eagle, the Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, Crazy Harry, Statler and Waldorf. However, the host of the show is not Kermit (who makes only a passing appearance during an "At the Dance" sequence, as do "Sesame Street"'s Ernie and Bert), but a pale orange fellow named Nigel. If you close your eyes, the difference does not seem too extreme, but Nigel was abandoned and appears only in the next-to-last episode of Season One as a source of ridicule. There's quite a bit of time devoted to semi-abstract pieces featuring colorful Muppets and a blend of music/unintelligible dialogue. There are also a pair of wrestlers who get themselves twisted to cheers of delight from the approving audience, a very funny recurring gag in which the Presidents of Mount Rushmore tell jokes to one another, and an amusing "Films in Focus" segment on Return to Beneath the Planet of the Pigs which aptly lampoons the Planet of the Apes films and television movie reviews. But the attentions of Nigel and others are mostly turned to a Seven Deadly Sins pageant, which concludes the show. Don't miss the disarming but fascinating end credits revelation!

While there's undoubtedly more that can be done for bonus features on future season sets, what's here is really quite great. The vintage content (pitch reel, promos, and pilot) is all highly interesting to see, and the lone newly-produced extra (The Muppet Morsels) is a vast fountain of knowledge which greatly enhances the DVD and encourages repeat viewings. There were rumblings of a Jim Henson retrospective being included on this set. It's clearly not, but would be a welcome addition to a future set as would be, of course, the other show pilot, 1974's "The Muppets Valentine Show." Its absence in favor of "Sex and Violence" is a bit puzzling, but hopefully it will be revisited in another season, along with more archival footage and Muppet Morsels to ensure Disney's release of "The Muppet Show" is both definitive and a must-have for fans and collectors.

The presidents of Mount Rushmore try their faces at knock-knock jokes in "Sex and Violence." Statler and Waldorf bring their sarcastic negativity to the Main Menu. When the cranky pair's comments are finished, the menu animates through artwork of the Muppet gang.

MENUS, DESIGN, and PACKAGING

Like a number of Muppet DVDs of the past, the menus are great fun. Statler and Waldorf show up on a number of the Main Menu screens to crack jokes at the expense of the show, sometimes in reference to the viewer's reluctance to select a button. When they're not around, stills of other characters show up on the turning colored squares. Submenus are not animated, but they are accompanied by music.

On each disc, you are given the option to "Play All" or to select an individual episode for playback. The 24 episodes are arranged by production order, which is probably best, although there's little demand for continuity from episode to episode. Unfortunately, there are no chapter stops provided within episodes; it certainly would have made sense to include these for a variety show. As it is, getting to a particular sketch can be time consuming, especially if it comes late in the episode. A new "Muppet Studios" logo appears for a few seconds at the beginning of each episode. English subtitles are provided for all 24 episodes, but not the pilot or other bonus features.

Before the menu loads on Disc 1, sneak peeks play for Valiant, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, and the upcoming November Special Edition re-releases of The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and Muppet Treasure Island for Kermit's 50th Anniversary. From the Sneak Peeks menu, there are additional promos for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, James Cameron's Aliens of the Deep, the Old Yeller: 2-Movie Collection, and "According to Jim" on ABC. All previews are available exclusively on the first disc.

The front of the slipcover and inside of the Digipak. The outside of the Digipak, inside of the booklet, and back of the slipcover. Got all that?

Like most half-hour series that Disney has bestowed the season set DVD treatment upon, Season One of "The Muppet Show" comes packaged as a six-sided Digipak housed inside a cardboard slipcover. The slipcover is designed to resemble Kermit's upper torso and as promised, the appropriate part of the front is "furry", though far less furry than you might expect or hope for. The back of the slipcover houses the relevant information on the show and the DVD set. The inner case has a slot to hold the inserts (which are otherwise just loose in the case): a four-sided episode listing and a coupon for a $5 mail-in rebate when you buy both this set and concurrently released 2005 telemovie The Muppets' Wizard of Oz. Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, and Gonzo are each featured on the four discs, which are held overlapping in two sides of the Digipak. The remaining three sides of the case display artwork from the series with no particular attachment to the characters' Season One appearances.

It's time to get things started / on the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational / This is what we call "The Muppet Show"! Sir Avery of Macho shows off his most potent weapon: the insult.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Nearly thirty years later, the Muppets' exclusive debut certainly feels dated and doesn't hit every mark, but, by and large, proves to be an utterly enjoyable experience. The craft and cleverness of Jim Henson and company allows this variety show to succeed with its unique blend of humor, music, and countless personalities both furry and endearing. With this highly pleasing Season One release, Disney has given near-perfect DVD treatment to "The Muppet Show." This aptly-designed, four-disc set offers a complete and chronological collection of the debut season's episodes, all featuring terrifically restored picture and sound, and a nice supply of great bonus features, too. The only complaint one can muster is with regard to the five episodes which are missing segments, which while certainly no trivial point, ultimately isn't a greatly significant amount of footage. One hopes that future seasons can be entirely unedited or at least, an explanation can be provided to account for the cut sequences.

All things including the missing musical numbers considered, this Season One box set still earns a glowing recommendation. It will not fail to deliver several hours of entertainment for literally the whole family and to sweeten the deal, this set is offered at a very reasonable price, particularly next to the random 3-episode compilation DVDs that fans previously had to settle for.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy Season 2 / Buy Season 3

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews - Muppets & Puppets:
The Muppet Show: Season 2 (1977-78) The Muppet Show: Season 3
The Muppet Movie (1979) The Great Muppet Caper (1981) The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa The Muppets' Wizard of Oz Dark Crystal (25th Anniversary Edition) Labyrinth (Anniversary Edition)
The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas (CD) The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005) The Muppet Christmas Carol Soundtrack (CD)

Dinosaurs: The Complete First and Second Seasons (1991-92) The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons (1992-94)
Bear in the Big Blue House: Sense-sational! Visiting the Doctor with Bear Early to Bed, Early to Rise
Under the Umbrella Tree, Volume 1 Under the Umbrella Tree, Volume 2 Under the Umbrella Tree, Volume 3

"The Muppet Show" Guest Stars in Disney Films
Ruth Buzzi: The Apple Dumpling Gang Freaky Friday (with Kaye Ballard)
Peter Ustinov: Blackbeard's Ghost Robin Hood
Bruce Forsyth: Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Sandy Duncan: The Million Dollar Duck The Cat From Outer Space The Fox and the Hound
Phyllis Diller: A Bug's Life Boy Meets World: The Complete Second Season
Vincent Price: The Great Mouse Detective

Related Interview: Phyllis Diller

UltimateDisney.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | DVD & Blu-ray Release Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Disney TV Shows | Search This Site

<< Return to Page 1

Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Disc 4, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

Search This Site:

UltimateDisney.com/DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed August 6, 2005.