Kermit the Frog hosts a variety show with singing, dancing and comedy.

The Lowdown

The Muppet Show was one of my favorite television shows as a kid. I never missed an episode and, even though I had no idea who most of the guests were, I loved every minute of it. I was not there for the special guests. I was there for the Muppets.

There are 24 episodes in Season 3. When looking back at my fuzzy memory, I always believed The Muppet Show was Saturday Night Live for kids. Now that I revisit the show, I realize that it is not so much SNL-like, but more like another variety show of the day, Hee Haw. For those too young, or too urban, to remember Hee Haw, it was a variety show hosted by country legends Roy Clark and Buck Owens and came to us from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. It was all music acts and short sketches, usually about a minute in length. This is pretty much exactly what The Muppet Show was.

I started to notice the similarities during the first episode, which starred Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge. I think it was the country aspects of that episode that made me remember my Grandparents watching Hee Haw when I was a child. What cemented it was episode 3 with Roy Clark. I was not impressed with Kristofferson, as he seemed to be either drunk or the most easily amused person in the world, as he laughed at the Muppets. I completely hated the second episode as Leo Sawyer was the biggest goof I have ever seen and lip synched all his songs badly. The guy was a joke.

Things began to pick up in the Roy Clark episode. Clark, as he proved through his years on Hee Haw, is one of the most charismatic performers I have ever seen. He really seemed to be enjoying himself the entire episode and I started to feel a little more comfortable with my fuzzy childhood memories. The Gilda Radner episode showed a great comedian during her prime and, by the time I reached the seventh episode with Alice Cooper, I was enjoying myself once again with my old childhood friends.

It is these childhood friends that make The Muppet Show such a great experience. I’ll start with the most popular, yet most boring of them all, in Kermit the Frog. Kermit had to play the straight frog to all the lunacy that surrounded him. Whether it is the amorous advances of Miss Piggy, the constant trouble from Fozzy Bear, or the crazed antics of Gonzo, Kermit doesn’t catch a break throughout the entire season.

The best parts of the show are the sketches. We get Muppet Labs with Doctor Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker that always entertain thanks mostly to the reactions of the assistant Beaker. Pigs in Space and The Swedish Chef are also highlights. There are missteps including the short At the Dance features, filled with stupid one-liners. Luckily, the high points always seem to overcome those failures. Even when the failures occur, we get two of the most famous hecklers in history, as Waldorf and Statler point out the stupidity of what we just saw.

Obvious high points of the season include the Roy Clark, Harry Belafonte, Gilda Ratner and Alice Cooper episodes. Even the bad episodes (Leo Sawyer) have enough comedy (Miss Piggy getting competition from another female pig, Annie Sue) to save it. I was worried I would be disappointed with a childhood favorite. I was not. The Muppet Show is just as funny today as it was when I watched it thirty years ago.

The Package

The Muppets on Puppets is a program taped in 1968 about puppetry for a public television station in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The show aired on NET (National Educational Television), a precursor to PBS in 1970. We start the episode with Rolf the Dog showing how to use a puppet. Jim Henson explains on this program the different types of puppets and how they are used. It is intercut with puppets and Muppets discussing the ideas with him. Frank Oz also joins Henson for this feature. It’s a pretty enjoyable little educational feature, but is geared towards kids.

A Company of Players is a featurette over the puppeteers. It shows how a number of the Muppets were created. Finally, we get a number of Purina Dog Chow commercials produced between 1962 and 1963. These commercials, starring Rolf the Dog, would lead to the Muppet becoming a star on The Jimmy Dean Show (1963-1966) before moving onto The Muppet Show.