Ryan Dosier – This summer, for the first time, I watched all 120 episodes of The Muppet Show in order. It was an incredible journey and I (obviously) enjoyed every moment of it. About halfway through the first season, I realized that this would be a perfect opportunity to make a list of my favorite episodes of the show. Initially I planned on only three episodes per season… then it went to five… and then I settled on six, because I’m indecisive and I love this show so much.
Over the next five weeks, I’ll be showcasing my six favorite episodes of The Muppet Show by season. I assert that these are the best the show has to offer. If you ever need to give someone a crash course in Muppet Show lore, any of these 30 episodes would be an excellent place to start.
Episode 103: Joel Grey – One of the very first episodes of the show sees Fozzie trying out a new act where he attempts to tell a joke on any subject. Guest star Joel Grey, a charming song-and-dance man sings and dances his way to the top with the episode’s many spectacular musical numbers, including “Wilkomen” and “Razzle Dazzle.” But what Joel Grey excels at, infinitely moreso than the first two guest stars, is interacting with the Muppets. His conversation with Kermit and his touching moment with Gonzo make this early episode one of the finest. Couple Grey’s likability with Fozzie’s first true triumph on the show–making Statler and Waldorf laugh at his amoeba joke–and you’ve got one of the most fun episodes the first season of The Muppet Show musters.
Episode 105: Rita Moreno – Rita Moreno was the only guest star on The Muppet Show to win an Emmy for her appearance on the show, and it was incredibly well-deserved. Her performance in this episode is a major highlight, especially her dance number with the full-body drunken bar patron and “Fever” with Animal. Of course, “Fever’ is one of the more well-known songs from the show, and it’s phenomenal. Frank Oz delivers one of his finest performances in “Fever,” and Rita is more than game to play along. Plus, Fozzie has a string of horribly bad (and funny) puns involving the backstage telephone. Kermit’s reactions to these puns are priceless.
Episode 119: Vincent Price – The first themed episode of The Muppet Show saw horror film icon Vincent Price bring his spooks and scares to Kermit and the gang. Vincent completely throws himself into his various personas in this episode, from the creepy innkeeper, to himself in the talk spot, to the scary songster during “You’ve Got a Friend” (which is woefully missing from the DVD release). It’s so interesting to see the early efforts to dive completely headfirst into a themed episode. Every sketch and song services this theme, and it’s brilliant. Many of the greatest episodes of The Muppet Show will follow a singular theme.
Episode 121: Twiggy – This episode features one of Season 1’s strongest backstage plots, centering around Uncle Deadly, the hideous Phantom of The Muppet Show. While the onstage sketches and songs are enjoyable, it is Uncle Deadly’s plot line that makes this episode one of the very best. Jerry Nelson delivers an incredible performance as Uncle Deadly, and Jim Henson gives Kermit some of his best nervous, terrified whimpers ever. The plot takes twists and turns and even has some mystery. It’s a blast.
Episode 122: Ethel Merman – Hands down my favorite episode of the first season, everything in this episode comes together beautifully. Fozzie struggles with his agent, Irving Bizarre, Miss Piggy finally comes into her true, diva form thanks to Frank Oz, we see classic numbers like “Java” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and much more. Frank Oz is a shining star in this episode, matching Ethel at every note with Miss Piggy, tapping into Fozzie’s brilliant insecurities, and sneaking Animal in for some flirting. If I could only watch one episode from Season 1 for the rest of my life, this would be the one.
Episode 123: Kaye Ballard – Clearly, The Muppet Show really found its footing and its voice at the end of Season 1–three of my favorite episodes are at the very end of the season. This episode, guest starring Kaye Ballard, not only features a dynamic and engaging guest star, but another excellent backstage adventure. Floyd Pepper leads The Muppet Show house band in a protest over the show’s theme song, much to Kermit’s dismay. Again, Jerry Nelson steals the show here as Floyd becomes an actual character for the first time. It’s a joy to watch characters develop on The Muppet Show, and this episode is crucial to who Floyd is. The best quote of the episode, and perhaps the season, “If I didn’t know I was a genius, I wouldn’t listen to the trash I write!”
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org