Written by Abigail Maughan.
108– JASON ALEXANDER
PLOT: The egos and creative preferences of Gonzo and Jason Alexander clash while they attempt to make their college musical screenplay “Bats” a reality.
GUEST STAR: Actor Jason Alexander, whose other Muppet connections include doing voices in Dinosaurs, plays off of Gonzo well. He is very good at acting irritated, and his willingness to wear weird costumes makes him a good choice for a Muppets guest star.
COMEDY: There’s a lot of humor here, from skits like “Murder on the Disoriented Express” and an exceptionally good “Pigs in Space” to dialogue in bridge segments. In my opinion, this is one of the strongest-written episodes of the first season.
MUSIC: The only musical number is the “Bats” medley, which is plenty goofy and serves its purpose as a memorable closing number.
- I find the “Muppet Bandstand” skit a little weak. The beginning and ending jokes are fine, but the dancing is uncomfortable. That is what it’s supposed to be, though, so what am I complaining about?
- It seems odd that the guest star reverses his opinion on what makes a quality show almost immediately, after arguing with Gonzo about it the entire episode. However, it is made funnier when Gonzo also reverses his stance on the matter.
- It’s hard to compare “Pigs in Space: Deep Dish 9” to the original, as there are only three “Deep Dish 9” sketches. The one in this episode, featuring a robot called Al-1995 Plus Tax and a cameo by Swedish supermodel Vendela, is my personal favorite.
- The banter between Gonzo and the guest star just gets more and more absurd, and thus funnier and funnier.
- Jason Alexander: This is exactly what you did in school! Remember that production of “Death of a Salesman” you ruined?
- Gonzo: Well, if you’re referring to my production of “Death of a Trans-Dimensional Giant Mutant Cyborg Salesman”, that show was a hit! And it won a Pulitzer Prize!
- Jason: It did not win a Pulitzer Prize!
- Gonzo: Well, my mother liked it.
- This is one of very few episodes that feature Gonzo as a central character to the plot. It’s good to see him in the spotlight for the whole episode, and I wish this had happened more frequently over the two seasons.
- It’s neither a highlight nor a lowlight, so I’ll put it here: In this episode is one of the bizarre “At the Bar” segments, which feature Polly Lobster and Clueless Morgan from Muppet Treasure Island telling bad jokes, singing, and serving drinks to an unseen patron by the name of Mr. Callahan. I am honestly not sure what I think of these skits. They’re always weird enough to keep me watching, but they’re never good or bad enough to stand out amongst the rest of the episode.
- Gonzo: “It’s just like you to take something classy and high-minded—and leave it that way!” It’s a funny line, but isn’t Gonzo usually convinced that his own outrageous acts are classy and high-minded? It seems like an odd thing for him to say.
MY RANKING: 4/5 Fifteen-billion gigawatt laser cannons. I’d call this one a higher than average episode, with plenty of amusing skits and comedy, a pretty strong plot and satisfying resolution.
PLOT: Miss Piggy, Andy, and Randy race from the airport to the studio for the closing number, while Whoopi Goldberg shows off.
GUEST STAR: Here is one of many Muppet projects that actress Whoopi Goldberg is a part of. I’ve noticed that Muppets Tonight always keeps the guest stars central to the plot, even a loose one like here, whereas on The Muppet Show it seemed to be optional. I’m not saying either method is better than the other, as quality entirely depends on what else the episode contains.
COMEDY: The backstage plot isn’t too uproarious, but we do get some adequate skits, such as a “People’s Court” parody and a scene with various Muppets auditioning to replace Miss Piggy. There’s nothing I’d necessarily consider comedy gold, but it’s all pleasant enough.
MUSIC: We have one of the most notable Muppets Tonight musical numbers here, in the form of Kermit’s cover of The Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” which is a rather impressive yet bizarre music video. Whoopi Goldberg also attempts to teach some uncooperative rats how to play reggae music, and, for the second time in Muppet history, the finale is a glitzy duet of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” by Miss Piggy and the guest star.
- You know, I honestly can’t think of anything too awful about this one. We have some so-so acts, like a “Fairyland PD,” a brief Big Mean Carl segment, and even Whoopi’s parade of novelty acts, but nothing I’d consider a lowlight.
- Speaking of “Fairyland PD”, the UK spot featuring Bobo and Clifford as inept detectives solving fairy tale cases, I think the one in this episode, “Goldi Lock-Up”, is the funniest of the four.
- The totally sincere way both Whoopi Goldberg and Rizzo announce their plans to fly makes me laugh.
- Whoopi Goldberg: Ladies and gentlemen… I will now do something never performed by any human being. I… will fly!
- Rizzo: Uh, excuse me, Whoopi, but you have a phone call over there. It’s Miss Piggy.
- Whoopi: Oh. Cover me! *leaves*
- Rizzo: But I… Uh… Ladies and gentlemen, I will now do something never before performed by any rat. I… will fly.
- The bloopers to this episode feature an impromptu fistfight amongst Clifford, Johnny, Sal, and Rizzo, and it is delightful.
- Who is driving the limousine when Andy, Randy, and Piggy are all in the back seat?
- Why isn’t Piggy driving from the beginning? She’s aware of her nephews’ incompetence.
- If the theater is only three blocks away, as Piggy says, why couldn’t she just walk there?
MY RANKING: 3/5 Reggae Rodents. I wouldn’t say there’s anything overly special or memorable on whole about this one, but there’s really nothing wrong with it.
PLOT: After getting flattened in the elevator, Martin Short becomes obsessed with eating Johnny Fiama’s mother’s pasta sauce.
GUEST STAR: Mainly, I find the guest star incredibly off-putting and unfunny. Comedian Martin Short’s wild style of comedy is not one that I personally love, and thus this episode is not one that I personally love. However, the skits are written to his strengths, and I can’t think of any other Muppets Tonight guest star who this episode’s plot would have worked for. It just doesn’t appeal to me.
COMEDY: The humor features a lot of puns from Rizzo and odd antics from the guest star. We do, however, get some decent skits such as “E-I-E-I-O-R,” an exceptionally good “Swift Wits,” and Beaker getting attacked by Sal Minella.
MUSIC: The guest star was limited to just one number: “Steppin’ Out with My Baby”, sung in a weird voice by Martin Short wearing a fat suit. Thankfully, there’s a cute background chorus of penguins for the second episode in a row.
- I find Piggy’s disgust funny, but the skit featuring Martin Short’s SCTV character Ed Grimley is too weird for me. And, yes, I do realize that “too weird” is not the best excuse for a Muppet fan to give.
- Fat Martin Short + Fat Clifford = disturbing.
- Rizzo’s term “nuttier than a fruitcake” is a phrase I may or may not occasionally use.
- I really wish we’d seen more of “E-I-E-I-O-R” than just two instances. I think it’s really quite funny, reminiscent of “Veterinarian’s Hospital” but unique enough to stand out on its own.
- Okay, I actually do like the “Flippers” parody skit. Aside from it being just plain funny, it’s probably because Martin Short is not dancing and/or shouting like a crazy person.
- It’s hard to believe that Brian Henson still has working vocal chords after doing Sal’s manic shouting on this show.
MY RANKING: 1 out of 5 pots of sauce. I just don’t like the guest star, but I bet a fan of his would appreciate this episode more than I do.
Well, that brings us to the end of the first season! We’ll begin season two next week, but in the meantime, I’m curious: what do you think is the best episode of Season 1? Let us know in the poll below!
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org