Michael Wermuth – Greetings, fellow Muppet fans! I thought I’d start a new series of articles I like to call “5 Good and Bad Things,” in which I talk about five good things about a Muppet production, as well as five bad things about that same production. Today, I’ll talk about my top five good things about Muppets Tonight, followed by my top five bad things about the show. Let’s begin the lists!
1. New characters
The so had so many great new characters, including Seymour, Pepe, Johnny Fiama, Sal, Bobo, Dr. Phil van Neuter, Nigel the director, Bill the Bubble Guy, Big Mean Carl, and Zippity Zap. So maybe I don’t like Johnny and Sal as much as the fans do, but I can’t deny that they were among the shows strongest characters.
2. Segments that took place before the guest stars were famous
Many episodes had fake clips of the guest stars working with the Muppets on fictional Muppet shows and movies before they were famous. And all of them are parodies of popular shows or movies. Some of my favorites include “Muppet Match-Up” with Michelle Pfieffer, “The Kermit the Frog Club” with Cindy Crawford, and “Flippers” with Martin Short.
3. Most episodes with female guest stars
I don’t know why, but most of the episodes featuring female guest stars were the best. Somehow, when a woman was the guest, the plot was a lot better and the sketches funnier. With female guest stars, we got such great plots as Miss Piggy and Michelle Pheiffer competing over being the first guest star, the Muppets struggling to keep the ratings above 50 to avoid an explosion, and Bunsen having a midlife crisis.
4. Seinfeld Babies
Appearing in episode 107, “Seinfeld Babies” was a really funny one-shot sketch. It came about when Gonzo wanted to keep the ratings up with an episode of Muppet Babies while Zippety Zap wanted to show an episode of Seinfeld, only for their tapes to mix up. What results is baby versions of the Seinfeld cast, in a parody of “The Contest” episode but with them seeing who can go the longest without a diaper changing.
5. Bill Baretta becomes prominent as a performer
Bill Baretta seemed to become one of the main Muppet performers on Muppets Tonight. Not only did he have the biggest number of original characters, but also the biggest number of characters who have continued as major characters after the show was canceled, including Johnny Fiama, Bobo the Bear, Big Mean Carl, and of course Pepe the King Prawn. He also had his first vocal performance as Rowlf on this show (briefly).
1. Not enough old characters, too many new characters
I know I listed new characters as one of the good things about the show, but at the same time there were too many new characters and not enough of the old ones. It’s understandable that many of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt’s characters were barely used and that Frank Oz had a limited schedule, but they should have brought in more of Jerry Nelson’s characters. And while plenty of the new characters were great, there were also plenty of new characters who weren’t so great, like Mr. Poodlepants, the Muppets Tonight band, and… well, look below.
2. The new pig characters (except for Spamela)
Most of the pig characters weren’t very interesting and too dumb. Spamela Hamderson was the only really good new pig character on the show. I tolerated Andy and Randy, but really don’t care for David Hoggselhoff or the pigs from Pigs in Space: Deep Dish Nine: The Next Generation of Pigs in Space.
3. Not enough full numbers
It was rare to see an entire musical number as it appeared on the show. The Muppet Show occasionally had numbers we didn’t see all of, but here it was too much. I know that at the time, casual audiences weren’t too interested in watching full musical numbers, but the Muppets are known for their musical numbers.
4. Statler and Waldorf in a nursing home
I didn’t like that Statler and Waldorf had to watch the show on TV at a nursing home. In fact I didn’t like that they had to watch it on TV as opposed to in the studio where they could heckle the acts to the performers, but at least season two improved on it by having them watch the show from a variety of different locations (many on location as opposed to using sets).
5. Kermit’s not the host
Clifford’s not a bad character, but Kermit should have been the host, not the producer. I’ve read that Brian Henson had Kermit not be the host because he didn’t want there to be comparisons to The Muppet Show, but audiences expect Kermit to be the star of a show with “Muppets” in the title and those comparisons would happen either way.
Well, that’s my top five good things about Muppets Tonight, and my top five bad things about Muppets Tonight. Maybe I’ll do more”5 Good and 5 Bad Things” articles in the future. Or maybe you will.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org