Enjoying The Quieter Moments of The Muppet Show

The original version of this article appeared on Just For The Halibut, and is posted here with the permission of Marni Hill.

Marni Hill – When we think of The Muppet Show, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the zany sketches, loud explosions, rapid-fire jokes and penguins being thrown around for no other reason than because the prop guys had nothing else to do at the time. But what about those moments in between where things calm down a bit and we get something different from the characters, but just as good as the loud stuff?

Without any more preamble, here’s some of the best quiet moments of The Muppet Show (at least in my opinion).

Gonzo’s Leaving??? (Season 4, Ep 11)

For all of Gonzo’s weirdness, there is a real sweetness to him that leaves you wanting nothing more than the best for him. This moment from the Lola Falana episode contrasts from the earlier segments in the show where Gonzo is hyping up his own importance to appear successful in front of his friends. To go from He’s the Greatest Dancer to this reiterates that, for all of his pageantry, here is a vulnerable character who wants more, but is scared, just as anyone in his position would be. Kermit adds a familial feel to the moment, being both an encouraging boss, but also a good friend. I’d like to think that Dave Goelz and Jim Henson found this scene poignant to perform. It’s a great reflection of their friendship and chemistry on-screen either way.

Time in a Bottle (Season 2, Ep 7)

My all-time favourite song from The Muppet Show, Jim let’s his softer-side absolutely shine here. To me, the song is so symbolic due to the Muppet in this segment being an embodiment of a particular facet of Jim’s psyche. Jim was made well-aware of just how short life can be by the tragic death of his brother, Paul Henson. Jim spent his life using every moment he could to make sure he accomplished everything he thought was possible, and as we all know, he only had 53 years to do so. Hindsight is everything and if Jim had been given the chance to concoct a potion to give him more time, perhaps he would have taken it.

Inchworm (Season 1, Ep 9 & Season 3, Ep 13)

Danny Kaye and Charles Aznavour both gave this song a whirl and both times  it was beautiful and somehow nostalgic. Charles’ version brought out the innocence of the song, with the children learning their multiplications in the background, it seems like a gorgeous moment frozen in time- nothing bad can happen in that moment. If Charles brings out the innocence, Danny brings forth the intimacy. Set side-stage rather than onstage, Danny is just having a moment with the Muppets. What makes it intimate is the back and forth between the Muppets singing the multiplications and Danny’s pleasant harmony. They’re just having a good time, I guess you don’t need an explosion or two for a great Muppet moment, huh?

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Season 3, Ep 7)

Among all the creepiness that came with Alice Cooper invading the show was this little gem sung by a little gem. Jerry Nelson is always a highlight for me, so it’s nice when we get a quiet little moment with him and his versatile voice. I was going to add Halfway Down the Stairs to this list, but hey, we’ve seen it mentioned a million times before and this song is just as good of a performance. Another example of ‘simple is good’, all the song needs is the setting of a small pond in the middle of a forest. What I like about it is that a pond in the middle of nowhere gives an impression of timelessness. The forest could be anywhere at anytime, but the idea of a child looking up into the sky and asking big questions about life is timeless and universal. It’s a slightly different take of Dorothy singing in Kansas, but it still works.

Gonzo’s Wishing Song (Season 3, Episode 9)

If Time in a Bottle reminds me of Jim, Wishing Song reminds me of myself.

Haven’t we all had those moments where it just feels helpless? You’re in a stalemate, life isn’t going anywhere, you’ve been rejected in some way, you thought something was one thing, but then it turns out that the actress you just met doesn’t want to marry you even though she paid you a compliment. Okay, maybe not the last bit, but I have been there, in fact I’m there right now. I’m glad the second verse of the song showed a different way to look at things. You may not have what you want from life yet, but hey, look what you have right now! Neat, huh?

Song for Kermit (Season 2, Ep 17)

As if Julie Andrews wasn’t going to make this list! The innocence factor is back with this song, it’s sweet and kinda sappy, but that’s perfectly okay sometimes. Jim and Julie are clearly enjoying themselves here, having worked together a few more times before and after this episode, it wouldn’t surprise me if they considered each other good friends. The song alludes to a sweet childhood friendship surviving the test of time. Very simple, very gentle and perfectly wholesome as you come to expect from both Kermit and Julie from time to time.

Am I the only one who still finds it weird when she calls herself a fish? No? Just me? Fair enough.

Being Green (Season 2, Ep19)

This just seemed to be the right moment to end on. I know Kermit already performed this in the first season, but this second performance stands out more due to the context of it within the episode. Kermit is driven insane (even more than usual) from the shenanigans of his performers, so Kermit makes the decision to shove everything else aside and take a moment to breathe. I am so happy that they chose this song for that moment. Everyone already knows that this is Kermit’s anthem, aside from Rainbow Connection, so Being Green is a habitual stress-release. It reminds Kermit of who he is, why he is doing what he does even though it sometimes pushes him to the point of insanity. This is Kermit at his most serene and Jim at his best as far as I’m concerned.

Enjoying the quiet moments….

If you haven’t guessed by now, I actually prefer it when The Muppets are shown in these type of scenes. It makes them more…..is ‘human’ the correct term to use here? Fleshed out? Three dimensional? I think you get the point. The loud brashness and gags these characters bring are fantastic and always a treat to watch, but it’s far easier to connect with them when you can see their vulnerabilities, hopes, dreams and aspirations without first being filtered through the veil of comedy.  I hope these moments have given you as much joy as they have given me. I highly suggest listening to them with your eyes closed- it can only give you a new perspective.