Ryan Dosier – Welcome back to my list of the 30 Greatest Episodes of The Muppet Show! This week, I pour through six of Season 2’s finest half-hours. These six episodes are easily some of the show’s very best and show just how stunningly The Muppet Show evolved between its first and second seasons. It’s almost like watching a brand new show.
Episode 208 – Steve Martin – One of the first episodes to go “off format” and take the plot of the show in a totally different direction was this one. As Kermit auditions new acts for the show, guest star Steve Martin entertains the Muppets instead of a random audience. His skits and songs are brilliant fun, and the new Muppet acts are glorious. Favorites include Marvin Suggs and His All-Food Glee Club, Baskerville the Hound’s Fozzie impression, Statler and Waldorf’s “Varsity Drag,” and the ever-present Mary Louise. Plus, Richard Hunt’s guffaw replacing the show’s standard laugh track.
Episode 209 – Madeline Kahn – Arguably the most perfectly crafted and expertly paced episode that The Muppet Show ever put out guest stars comedienne Madeline Kahn. Opening with Kermit’s “Happy Feet,” we then float through a Gonzo-centric backstage plot, the Swedish Chef versus the lobster banditos, Floyd Pepper singing “New York State of Mind,” a brilliant Pigs in Space, the Muppet Newsman exploding, and an exceptional climax with Gonzo’s “Wishing Song.” This is all accentuated by the wonderful Madeline Kahn, who brings her talent, grace, humor, musicality, and charm to the Muppets’ insanity.
Episode 210 – George Burns – Gonzo fiddles, while George Burns. Sorry, had to get that out of the way. This episode features a wonderful turn by Jerry Nelson as Tongue Magazine gossip columnist Fleet Scribbler. Scribbler is slimy and cunning and worms his way into sneaking hot gossip out of Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef, much to Kermit’s dismay. The onstage proceedings are heightened by George Burns, the consummate Vaudevillian. He is especially great in his musical numbers with Rowlf, but Gonzo steals the show throughout the whole episode. (Didn’t wanna do it!)
Episode 215 – Lou Rawls – Sometimes the music of a great guest star is enough to elevate an episode to the top. Such is the case with Lou Rawls, who croons his way brilliantly through some jazzy numbers with the Muppets. “Groovy People” and “You’re the One” provide a nice change of pace from the more traditional musical fare on The Muppet Show. Meanwhile backstage, Fozzie spends the entire episode on roller skates for his stand-up act, which makes for physical comedy gold. Musical numbers like Kermit and Piggy’s “Ukelele Lady,” Link Hogthrob’s “Sonny Boy,” and the Electric Mayhem’s “Bye Bye Blackbird” jam with Lou Rawls make for one awesome episode of The Muppet Show.
Episode 219 – Peter Sellers – There are few guest stars whose turn on The Muppet Show was insane and varied as master comedian Peter Sellers. Throughout the course of the show, he plays Inspector Clouseau, Boris, a gypsy violinist, Queen Victoria (as a viking), Doctor Merkwürdigliebe, a masseuse, and a preacher crooning about “Cigarettes and Whiskey.” The range is incredible and the comedy is unending. Even more comedy comes in the form of Kermit’s palpable anger over Muppet Labs’ teleportation device, which continually teleports folks in and out at inopportune times. Add to all this Gonzo’s song “Memory Lane,” Kermit singing “Bein’ Green,” and Peter Sellers stars in one of The Muppet Show‘s most hilarious and quintessentially Muppety episodes ever.
Episode 223 – John Cleese – Is there a funnier Muppet Show guest star than Monty Python’s John Cleese? Arguably, but I can’t come up with one right now. The mustachioed genius plays out some of the funniest Muppets-meet-celebrity moments, including his treatment of Gonzo’s limbs, his pirate pillaging of the Swinetrek, and his drastically unhinged closing number. And then there’s Floyd and Fozzie making jokes at the expense of Gonzo’s long arms, Kermit and Miss Piggy performing “Waiting at the Church,” Sweetums and Robin singing “Two Lost Souls,” and John Cleese’s agent getting eaten by Mean Mama. This is probably my favorite episode of Season Two, and simply one of the finest examples of Muppet comedy that one can find.
Check back next week for Season 3, and don’t forget to check out last week’s entry covering Season 1!
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org