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Running Time: 80 minutes
Starring: Peter Sellers, John Cleese, Dudley Moore, Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Retail Price: $19.95
Features: Brian Henson Introductions, Muppetisms, Movie Mania, From The Archives, Trailers
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Mono, English Closed Captions, Episode Selections, Scene Selections (14 Scenes For Show 1, 16 Scenes For Show 2, 13 Scenes For Show 3)
Released: March 14th, 2003
To my disappointment and probably to many, it seems the Muppets have lost their luster in the entertainment industry during the past couple of years. The past few films have been flops, a German business magnet bought them and seems to have buyer's remorse and while a television holiday movie aired this past November (2002), it really seems no one cares and there are no plans for any major Muppet comebacks anytime soon (though apparently they might be bought out again, and it seems Disney might take them over). Oh, and who can forget a semi-"Muppet Show" revival in 1996 with "Muppets Tonight!" (which ABC axed and most of the episodes were aired on The Disney Channel). I guess lovable, wacky, talking puppets don't have their place among computers, Harry Potter and Japanese animation with kids these days.
It's a shame, really. While I wasn't born when The Muppets debuted, they are an integral part of my childhood. I used to see "The Muppet Show" reruns all the time, and for a kid like me in the 1980s, one of the best cartoon shows - if not the best - was "Muppet Babies." And yeah, they had the first movie in 1979 and then two sequels in the early 1980s, but this show is what those kinda mop/puppets (according to Homer Simpson) are best known for other than "Sesame Street." With its special guest stars, smile-worthy humor and great characters, there's no question why "The Muppet Show" picked up a few Emmys and has tons of fans young and old (probably more told the old these days).
In case you've never seen an episode of the show or never even heard of it (damn this current generation! - though if you've seen the Weezer music video "Keep Fishin'," the idea of that video is like this TV series), the idea is that Kermit (he's the green frog) must put together a variety show every week at a theater. With him are the other Muppets such as drummer Animal (and then there was the rest of the band he was in, The Electric Mayhem), Miss Piggy (the pig who loves Kermit), up-and-coming comedian Fozzie Bear, that crazy Swedish Chef and the "whatever" Gonzo (though it turns out he was an alien - you'd know that if more than six people saw "Muppets From Space"!). So Kermit and his crew put together funny comedy sketches, get a big name guest star to spice things up and try to deliver a fun show, despite the backstage anxieties. Oh, and then there's hecklers Waldorf and Statler to give everyone a hard time.
Twenty-five years later, the charm of "The Muppet Show" cannot be denied. They'll probably never be another show like it (even though I thought "Muppets Tonight!" was decent), and that's probably a good thing. It's always rare for a show to be so appealing to both adults and children, but "The Muppet Show" was one of those rare deals. I'm sure the guest stars attracted many adults, as well as some amusing over-the-head references children wouldn't catch on to. And for the kids, there were those lovable Muppets and the Wacky fun they offered. The musical variety and wide variety of sketches always added a nice touch (such recurring and memorable sketches were "Pigs In Space," the Jug Band and "Vet's Hospital), as the show never got old or the slightest bit dull. The writing was always amazingly sharp, the guest stars never took themselves seriously which was part of the magic and the Muppet performers had great comedic timing and knew how to nail the show so perfectly and intricately.
The theme of this third volume are some great English comedians. Peter Sellers plays a wide variety of roles (such as a doctor, violinst and even Queen Victoria), John Cleese sings and also does a wide range of roles while the late Dudley Moore goes over the top. All of these are great and very memorableepisodes. I know this all might not sound like much to most of you, but the greatness of "The Muppet Show" was that it all came together to be a very entertaining, well produced, well constructed and well written show. If you never seen it, then I can safely say you've never seen anything like it and it's something you need to watch at least once in your lifetime. Besides, then you'll fully understand what I'm talking about. So whether you're new to the Muppet franchise or have seen these episodes many times, everyone should enjoy such classic TV on DVD.
Once again, we have full screen transfers in 1.33:1. They're quite pleasing to the eye, but not perfect (come on, it's a twenty-five year old TV show! You're not buying this for home theater demos). Color saturation is very nice, the Muppets themselves look quite detailed, fleshtones on the human guest stars look very good while backgrounds and sets do add their own spark to the visual mix. The episodes do have some noise, look a bit soft and appear a little fuzzy at times. Still, they retain a certain sharpness and in all, the transfers are nice to look at.
The two channel English mono tracks definitely compliment the show. You can hear all the original voices of the Muppets perfectly, the music (mainly that great theme song) sounds very nice and adds some slight activity, dialogue is easy to hear and the sound effects pack in their nice little bits of life, even if it's not major. Fidelity is very good and the dynamics are a bit limited, but I still say it is part of the fun. Oh, and this time English closed captions through your television is included!
Unlike some other television shows on DVD, those who were putting the Muppets on DVD were wise enough to include some decent bonus material. First up are Brian Henson Introductions. Lasting about a minute each and filmed, these are very nice as the man who pulls the main strings of our puppet friends now (get it?) and who has taken over his father's legacy talks about each episode presented. Henson provides great background information on the guest performers involvement with the show and highlights key moments (complete with clips from the episode). Heartfelt, and simply excellent. I will say, however, these are shot and edited in a more distracting style than the first two volumes.
Muppetisms is the new name for "Muppet Moments" (as featured on the past two DVDs). Here, old cranks Waldorf and Statler are presented in this amusing PSA-like bit (it's in full frame and lasts thirty-one seconds). Movie Mania is non-anamorphic widescreen and parodies "The Godfather" with "The Frogfather." Kermit is the famous Don while Fozzie tries to please him, and there's also some other funny Mafia-style moments. From The Archives has an original pencil sketch of Animal by Jim Henson and then there's Trailers for other Columbia/Tristar family titles, "Kermit's Swamp Years" and "Stuart Little 2."
Oh, and a note: if you go and select a show, you'll only be able to select certain scenes. Hit the "Play Show" icon at the bottom to get the entire episode (and yes, you can chapter skip there).
Even though The Muppets sadly seem to be fading from the pop culture scene, their legacy will always live on and probably be best remembered for "The Muppet Show." Columbia is doing a terrific job with television releases, and this is a prime example with a solid presentation and some nice extras. The list price is very nice too, so if you're a Muppet fan, then do yourself a favor and pick this volume (as well as the others) up!