Faith Nunez – Hello! And welcome to 5 Great Muppet Show Guest Stars from Season 3! I had a great time writing the first couple of articles, and this one was no different! However, it was super hard deciding which five guests to feature here, since the season is so jam-packed with amazing people. But after a lot of deliberation, I’ve whittled it down to those I love and those that aren’t talked about as often as they should be! So let’s dive right in!
Much like George Burns, Loretta is in a ridiculously well-rounded episode! The storyline is hilarious as the show has to take place at a train station while the Muppet Theater is fumigated. From Kermit and Gonzo being separated from everyone to the classic “Rhyming Song”, it would be easy for Loretta to be overshadowed by all the Muppet wackiness. But her lovely voice and fun performances easily stand on their own!
Before the show starts, Kermit informs Loretta that they can’t use the theater, but she tells him that it doesn’t matter since country singers can sing anywhere. And she immediately shows us that she’s exactly right! She sings “You’re Looking at Country” while being backed up by the show’s resident jugband, Lubbock Lou and his Jughuggers. I just love Loretta’s voice here! This episode was the first time I’d ever heard her, and I’ve really enjoyed her ever since. And while I know I don’t speak for everyone, I genuinely enjoy country music, so I have a really good time with her songs throughout the episode. While it’s definitely a simple number with Loretta just standing on the railroad platform with the band behind her, the unusual setting and the song itself are completely entertaining on their own.
A while later, Scooter talks to the station’s canine conductor about the show and the conductor is very happy that his humble station is hosting the famous show. That is, until he finds out that Scooter has housed Loretta in a broom closet in lieu of a dressing room. But, she’s totally cool with it, just singing some songs to herself. She starts singing “Oh, Lonesome Me” as a duet with the doggo as more and more Muppet pups come in the sing with them. It’s super adorable and catchy, and it really encompasses what I love the most about Loretta’s episode: the beautiful simplicity. While the episode certainly has the classic Muppet mania throughout it, it’s also “limited” by the location they’re forced into. This means there can’t be huge production numbers in this one, but it just gives the whole episode a special and unique charm that I love to come back to over and over again.
For her final number, Loretta sings “One’s On the Way” playing the stressed out mother of a parade of babies who go on to join Bobby Benson’s Baby Band later in the season. Again, this song features the cute, easygoing feeling of all of Loretta’s songs. A simple country tune with a background painted by our favorite ursine comedian (which looks as good as you’d expect), this song is a very fitting way to close out Loretta’s episode.
Loretta’s wonderful voice, charming performances, and willingness to sing at a train station all lead to another fantastic guest and episode. This entire episode encapsulates that the Muppets and their best guests don’t need overly elaborate sets, sketches, or songs. With their natural talents and love to entertain, they can make a great episode out of any circumstances!
While her scenes focus on her singing, Helen really showcases her range throughout the episode. And it’s not just her vocal range I’m talking about, but her ability to be sweet and sentimental and over-the-top and funny!
Helen’s first number, “Blue”, has always been one of my favorites of the series. It’s a simple scene visually with Helen, the Electric Mayhem, and some back-up singing Whatnots in a recording studio. It super relaxed and fits perfectly with both the song itself and Helen’s voice. This has always been a particularly beloved moment from the show for me, and it’s often one of the first that comes to mind when thinking of the best guest songs of the show.
Later on, Helen speaks with Kermit about a song she sings with her daughter, “You and Me Against the World”, and Kermit asks if she’d sing it with him. Of course, she agrees, because who would miss out on an opportunity to sing with the most famous frog in the world?!? The moment is very reminiscent of Julie Andrews singing to Kermit backstage in her episode. It has all the same charm, and emotion, and love pouring out of it. Both the lyrics and melody are sweet and sincere, and it’s yet another great, heartfelt moment in the Muppet Show library.
To close out the show, Helen shows off her comedic abilities by singing “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” with Sopwith the camel, a last-minute adjustment in the show’s schedule after Beauregard covers the stage in sand. It’s pretty hysterical to see her singing and dancing to this heartfelt song with a bucktoothed camel and do it with as much sincerity as you’d sing and dance with your significant other. It’s got fun and silly visuals and Helen’s incredible vocals to back it up.
Helen has a truly gorgeous voice and comedy chops to boot and they’re both on full display here. Helen isn’t a guest that I see talked about very much, but she totally should be appreciated as she gives each number her all!
Just try to say “Sylvester Stallone is in an episode of The Muppet Show” without smiling. I bet you can’t. And there’s a good reason for that! Rocky himself has an outing with our band of fluffy munchkins, and it’s both so fun and so absurd a concept, you can’t help but grin. Sly is such a laidback guest, but not in a “I-don’t-care-about-being-here” sort of way. But the down-to-earth and cool to hang out with sort of way.
When it comes to one-off and rarely used characters on The Muppet Show, some are memorable (the face-changing Whatnot from “I Feel Pretty”), while others fall by the wayside in Muppet History (the Vend-a-face machine). Thankfully, this is one of the memorable ones when a human-sized lion (who was not in the show before this moment and would only have 2 later appearances), prepares to fight gladiator style against Sly. However, the lion is understandably not into getting impaled by Sly’s sword. So, trying to get outta there, he starts singing “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and Sly joins in. This scene sticks out as pretty freaking hilarious for how ridiculous it is! I mean, it’s Sylvester Stallone and a bipedal lion singing a duet while in a gladiator coliseum, and it’s amazing!
Next up, there’s a couple of dressing room scenes where Sly encounters both some of his groupies and Link Hogthrob. When the groupies and Scooter, who they paid to get backstage, show up, Sly’s a great sport about it and shows them a few good punches which both the fans and the punching bag appreciate. A while later, Sly’s alone again and Link shows up to hide from the groupies who he, of course, thinks are his own. Link then goes on and on about all his self-care products in the dressing room that Sly is fully welcome to use, while Sly clearly just wants him to stop talking about it. Link then tries to show off using some of Sly’s equipment, only to give himself a black eye in the process.
And for the finale, Sly sits at a bar and starts singing “A Bird in a Gilded Cage” as Rowlf backs him on piano. He’s soon joined by the bar’s fellow patrons in singing the chorus. And while Sly isn’t the best singer the show has ever had and is more of a talk-singer, he plays up the depression of the song in an exaggerated way and does a great job with it. It’s the Muppet Show, so they obviously didn’t want to make it actually depressing, so they end it with everyone dramatically sobbing and wiping their tears with hankies.
Sly is a really fun guest who deserves more recognition too. He may not have a great voice, but he sings twice and sells the goofiness and overstated emotions in both numbers. He’s able to carry the comedy in the dressing room scenes and share the screen with the eccentric wackos of the theater very well. Sly’s a wonderful guest and his episode is a wonderful watch!
Since I first saw this episode over a decade ago, Pearl Bailey has been one of my favorite guests of the entire series! While all of the guests bring their own talents and special touches with them, Pearl has always struck me as just particularly passionate and unique. Through her voice, interactions with the characters, and just her overall self, Pearl is a perfect Muppet Show guest.
In her first number, Pearl sings “My Soul is a Witness” with a felt-covered gospel choir and it is glorious! There are many things I didn’t know I needed so badly in my life, and the Muppets singing gospel is one of them! Pearl’s voice is soulful and she clearly believes the lyrics she’s singing. You can feel the honesty in her joyful praises to the Lord for the life she has and how He has worked in it. And with the simple set of stained glass pillars and the choir stage, her worship and love for God gets to shine.
Next, we get a great bit with Pearl and Floyd. It’s rare when a member of The Electric Mayhem gets a solo moment with a guest and even rarer when said member of the band is not Animal. So, her having a private scene and song with Floyd is a real treat. They sing “In the Good Ol’ Summertime”, and they sound great together! Using only their voices and Floyd’s bass, it’s simple in the best way! They’re both having a ton of fun with the song and much like with her first number, you can just feel Pearl’s happiness shining through, and I can’t get enough of it!
Throughout the entire episode, the Muppets are planning to do the jousting scene from Camelot as that night’s finale. Of course, the Muppets can’t just remake another property’s scene without giving it their own special twists. So, there are many different Broadway hits featured throughout the scene. After the crowd about to watch the joust sing “Ascot Gavotte” from My Fair Lady, Pearl comes out and sings a variation of “Hello, Dolly!” from, you guessed it, Hello Dolly! And as you probably also guessed, she does a fantastic job! Gonzo and Floyd, playing the knights in the scene, come out and sing “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun (which you may remember Ethel Merman and Piggy singing back in season 1). After Piggy pops up and sings a snippet of “A Boy Like That” from West Side Story, the knights joust, and Pearl finishes the scene singing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy.
This is a great example of a guest fitting in seamlessly with a Muppet-heavy scene. This joust is clearly not a scene that is made to heavily feature the guest. It’s made to feature the wackiness of the Muppets and have them cover a bunch of Broadway songs. But Pearl fits in with all their craziness and, as with the rest of her episode, knocks it out of the park.
Pearl Bailey is clearly a woman with a big, beautiful voice and a soul to match and it’s all wonderful to watch in this episode. She is passionate and has a ton of fun with our cast of critters and it shows through every one of her performances.
Lesley Ann Warren
Lesley’s episode has always been a go-to for me when rewatching the show. She’s a great guest with an awesome line-up of well-rounded numbers. There’s hilarity, beautiful music, lots of dancing, and I think it’s actually one of the best episodes to show off the series to newcomers.
Akin to Rudolf Nureyev’s interpretation of Swan Lake in season 2, Lesley gives us her own Muppet-ified take on Beauty and the Beast. She dances with Doglion, the Beast in this scenario if you couldn’t tell, and if you somehow have gone your whole life without seeing a version of Beauty and the Beast before this one, you’d be very, very confused as the whole bit is performed wordlessly. However, if you have seen it, you get the gist. They dance, Lesley is unsure about the monster, and after getting closer with him through the dancing, she yearns to leave the castle. The Beast allows it, collapsing once she’s gone. She returns to the castle to find him seemingly dead, professes her love, reviving him, and instead of the Beast turning into a prince, she turns into a beast herself, nearly 25 years before Dreamworks pulled this same twist with Shrek. The Muppets have always been ahead of their time!
A while later, Lesley heads on stage and meets the infamous Marvin Suggs and calls him out on his cruelty toward his living instrument. It’s moments like these where we’re reminded just how bizarre a lot of the Muppets and their concepts are. You just get used to it after a while! Thankfully, Rowlf comes to the rescue and boots Marvin and his abused puffballs off of the stage. He calls for stars in the background and his piano to be brought in to settle things down, and he plays while Lesley sings “Just the Way You Are”. Any excuse for an intimate moment with Rowlf is always welcome, and this is one of the best. Lesley has a lovely voice that matches the quiet simplicity of the moment to a T. The entire scene embodies the comedy and the heart of the show fantastically, and I think it really showcases the best it has to offer.
While both of Lesley’s segments have been totally great so far, they’ve been a bit subdued. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as I really enjoy both segments! But, her final moment is positively boisterous and exuberant! After flirting with Link Hogthrob in a disco (this show did take place in the 70s after all) for a few minutes, Link tries to get away when Lesley implores him to stay with her for the last dance. She then goes on to sing the song “Last Dance”, and it’s extremely fun! She’s able to sing a fun, upbeat number just as well as she was able to sing a sweet, soft song earlier, and it shows off her versatility.
Between dances, discos, and soft piano ballads, Lesley really shows how talented she is throughout her entire episode. She’s funny, has a wonderful voice, and can dance both with a beast and with a pig, and I think that sums up the best of the show pretty darn well!