Muppets Tonight
GenreComedy
Created byJim Henson Productions
Based onThe Muppets
by Jim Henson
Directed byGreg V. Fera
Brian Henson
Tom Trbovich
Gary Halvorson
Starring
ComposerRichard Gibbs
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes22 (list of episodes)
Production
Production locationsHollywood Center Studios
Hollywood, California
Running time22–24 minutes
Production companyJim Henson Productions
DistributorJim Henson Productions
Release
Original networkABC
Disney Channel[1]
Original releaseMarch 8, 1996 (1996-03-08) –
February 8, 1998 (1998-02-08)
Chronology
Preceded byLittle Muppet Monsters (1985)
Followed byThe Muppets (2015–16)

Muppets Tonight is an American live-action/puppet family-oriented television series created by Jim Henson Productions and featuring The Muppets. Much like the "MuppeTelevision" segment of The Jim Henson Hour, the show was a continuation of The Muppet Show, set in a television studio rather than a theater.[2]

Unlike the original Muppet Show, most episodes of Muppets Tonight featured multiple guest stars. There would usually be one principal guest, but other celebrities would make small walk-on appearances. For example, the Garth Brooks episode features a cameo from Leonard Nimoy.[3]

It first ran on ABC from March 8 to July 14, 1996, with reruns on Disney Channel from 1997 to 2000.

Format

The premise of Muppets Tonight was that Clifford was the host of a variety/talk show on KMUP.[4] The show stuck closely to The Muppet Show format of various skits (mostly featuring the show's human guest star) interspersed with some sort of crisis occurring backstage.[5]

Characters

Main article: List of Muppets

Returning Muppets

New Muppets

Some of the Muppets introduced in Muppets Tonight went on to appear in later Muppet productions, particularly Pepe the Prawn, who has become a regular.

Recurring sketches

Among the regular sketches are:

Series run

The show ran from 1996 to 1998. There were 22 episodes produced in two batches. 13 episodes were ordered by ABC, though only ten of them were run in the 1995–96 TV season and was cancelled due to poor ratings. The program was then purchased by the Disney Channel, which led a further 8 episodes and aired these along with the three episodes ABC did not air, in the 1997–98 season. One of the nine newly produced episodes was a clip show compilation culled from the earlier episodes.

In the United Kingdom only the first thirteen episodes of the show were transmitted. BBC1 screened the first 11 episodes at 7pm on Friday evenings from 6 September[6] – 15 November 1996[7][8] with the last two going on 30th[9] and 31st[9] December at Lunchtimes. Sky One picked up the series in late December 1996 and continued to repeat episodes until Spring 1999. The BBC repeated 10 episodes in late August 1999.[10]

In Ireland the show was broadcast on TG4, eventually being dubbed into Irish Gaelic.

In Canada, the show originally aired on CBC, and later moved to Family Channel in conjunction with Disney Channel's airings.

Episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
110March 8, 1996 (1996-03-08)July 14, 1996 (1996-07-14)
212September 13, 1997 (1997-09-13)February 8, 1998 (1998-02-08)

Season 1 (1996)

No.
overall
No. in
season
Guest(s)Directed byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
code
11Michelle PfeifferGary HalvorsonDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneMarch 8, 1996 (1996-03-08)101

The show opens with Kermit welcoming the Muppets to their new TV studio. Gonzo The Great is reading out their new TV schedule, when they discover that there is nothing scheduled for that night. Kermit says that they have to put together a show, but no-one wants to host it. Clifford, who is on the phone in a corner of the room and has missed all the commotion, is chosen to host the show. Owing to the short notice, the organizing is very haphazard. They have no acts booked and have to find them at the last minute. They have to make do with a troupe of dancing cheeses, which doesn't suit Clifford. He wants a big name guest star. Miss Piggy agrees to be the guest star, in exchange for Clifford giving her bumbling nephews, Andy and Randy, a job on the show. Kermit, meanwhile, has roped in Michelle Pfeiffer to be the guest star. Clifford seems to forget about Miss Piggy, only remembering when Rizzo tells him that they now have two guest stars. They spend the rest of the show trying to keep Miss Piggy and Michelle apart. It doesn't work, and the two rivals end up singing the closing number- excerpts from The Sound of Music" - together. Sketches include "Muppet Match-Up", a blind date show, supposedly from 1975, with Michelle Pfeiffer as the bachelorette, who ends up dating Bachelor No.3 (Animal) - he leaves her no option. The show also includes "Great Moments In Elvis History"- three Muppet caricatures of Elvis Presley re-enact the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which is interrupted by Benjamin Franklin, who has just discovered electricity. The Elvises take out their electric guitars, and end the sketch with a parody of "Blue Suede Shoes". Miss Piggy also stars in the recurring Baywatch parody sketch, "Bay of Pigswatch", doing her trademark karate chop on flirtatious lifeguard Champ Schwimmer, when he admits he'd rather make out with beach babe Spamela than carry out his life-saving duties.

Note: Polly Lobster and Clueless Morgan from Muppet Treasure Island make their first appearance in At the Bar sketch.
22Garth BrooksGreg V. FeraDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneMarch 15, 1996 (1996-03-15)104
Everyone expects Garth Brooks to sing one of his hit country songs for the show, but he insists in pursuing different styles of music such as Kabuki, the theme song from Fiddler on the Roof and a Tom Jones number.
33Billy CrystalGary HalvorsonDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneMarch 22, 1996 (1996-03-22)105
The comedian features in parodies of When Harry Met Sally... and City Slickers. We are also introduced to the security guard, Bobo The Bear, who will not let anyone into the studio who is not on his list. He stops Larry King from entering the studio, only to discover that his name is on the list when it's too late. We also see the first episode of "The Eagle's Nest", a political commentary show hosted by Sam Eagle. The first topic is taxes. It doesn't go according to plan, because Sam's guests are Andy and Randy Pig, who fail to understand a word he says. The first episode of "The Tubmans of Porksmouth", a show which follows an obese pig's futile attempts to lose weight and was only shown in Britain, also aired on this show. Howard Tubman, the main character, tries to lose 200lb in order to claim a fortune left by his deceased Aunt Polly. He fails miserably, but it turns out she wasn't dead after all. A group of jungle animals sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", but are interrupted when the lion in question chases them off the set for disturbing his rest. The closing number is a jazz number performed by Billy Crystal and the entire Muppets Tonight cast, when Billy's all-star band doesn't turn up. We learn that this is because Bobo won't let them in, even though they include President Bill Clinton, President Boris Yeltzin, Clint Eastwood, and even Queen Elizabeth II.
44John GoodmanGreg V. FeraDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneMarch 29, 1996 (1996-03-29)106
John Goodman wants a relaxing show, but any hope of that goes out of the window when Andy and Randy Pig assign themselves to be his personal slaves, after he saves them from being electrocuted. The first episode of "Tales From The Vet", sees Dr. Phil Van Neuter, explaining in song (Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science"), how he met his wife, Composta Heap, sister of his assistant, Mulch. Clifford rolls a clip of John Goodman in a Muppet sitcom, supposedly made to commemorate the first landing on the moon, called "The Lunar-Mooners", with Miss Piggy as his wife and Fozzie Bear as his next-door neighbor. Johnny Fiama, a rat-pack singer, attempts to wine and dine a member of the audience, but his assistant picks a woman who doesn't like his music, and, consequently, it ends in disaster. Later, Andy and Randy Pig give John Goodman a scalp massage using glue, and he finally ends up in a truckload of mousetraps and in hospital. He still does the closing number, however- Joe Cocker's "Feelin' All Right". Unfortunately, when he goes back to the set of Roseanne, he discovers to his horror that Andy and Randy now work on Roseanne.
55Cindy CrawfordGreg V. FeraDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneApril 5, 1996 (1996-04-05)107
The glamorous supermodel steals Bobo's heart. Rizzo tries unsuccessfully to help him win her. The show also includes a clip from "The Kermit The Frog Club", with a young Cindy as one of the Frogketeers, and an episode of Swift Wits, the fastest game show on TV, in which the two over-enthusiastic contestants refuse to listen to the host's clues to help them identify the mystery object and consequently lose the game. Winky, a happy little Beaver, loses his life, as he is devoured by Carl, the Big Mean Bunny. Finally, Bobo interrupts Kermit and Cindy's closing number, "I Remember It Well" from the musical Gigi, and finally wins Cindy's heart, and they finish the show in grand style, dancing the tango.
66Tony BennettGary HalvorsonDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneApril 12, 1996 (1996-04-12)109
Guest star Tony Bennett appears on Johnny Fiama's talk show. Tony wants to sing a duet with Johnny, who has idolized him for years, but Johnny is overcome with nerves and faints. Johnny is in a terrible mood afterwards and cruelly sends his assistant, Sal the Monkey, packing. Sal and Tony discuss how they can make Johnny feel better, and Sal dreams up an idea. Johnny has constructed his own Tony Bennett robot. Unbeknown to Johnny, Sal and Tony remove the robot from its case and Tony stands in its place. Johnny turns the robot on to sing with it instead and finds himself fulfilling his lifelong dream: a duet with the real Tony Bennett. They end the show with "Shakin' The Blues Away".
77Sandra BullockGary HalvorsonDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneJune 23, 1996 (1996-06-23)108
Guest star Sandra Bullock. A mad bomber man threatens to bomb the theater unless the Muppets Tonight's rating is 50 or higher. So Andy, Randy, Rizzo, Clifford, and Sandra try to keep the rating up and track the bomber down. They barely manage to keep the ratings up. After the demise of two of their most popular acts, Clifford and Rizzo resort to a series of lower profile acts- Frankie the Yak is pulled from the stage thirty seconds into his polka number, and Johnny Fiama's rendition of "Mack The Knife" is interrupted when a shark charges onto the set and chases him off the stage. Seymour the Elephant and Pepe the Prawn attempt to salvage the situation with a vaudeville comedy number, but no-one in the audience gets the joke. They attempt to explain it using visual aids, but are unsuccessful, and they resort to singing the song again- they are dragged off the stage halfway through. Andy and Randy capture the mad bomber, who turns out to be Sandra herself, who was nervous about the show. She ends up playing a one man band after the show. This episode was originally set to air on ABC on April 19, 1996, but executives pulled the episode from TGIF's lineup at the last minute so as not to coincide with the 1st anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. The episode would have aired that day had it not been about someone making a bomb threat. The episode was re-aired in its entirety two months later.
88Jason AlexanderGreg V. FeraDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneJune 30, 1996 (1996-06-30)112
Gonzo is very excited that his old school chum, Jason Alexander, is starring on the Muppet Show. They agree to perform a medley from their hit musical, "Bats", but things don't go according to plan during the warm-up, and they end up falling out. Jason refuses to work with Gonzo ever again, but Clifford, after a LOT of effort, finally manages to persuade him to reconsider- although even then, he only agrees in order to get "this stupid elephant" (Seymour) off his back! The show also featured a parody of "Agatha Christie's Poirot", with Jason in the title role, and the Muppets mistaking him for Hercules, the Ancient Greek hero, causing him to lose patience and storm out of the carriage, falling off the train in the process. We also see an episode of "Thor: God of Thunder". Thor tries to borrow some books from a library, but fails because he does not have a library card (or, for that matter, any form of I.D.). The scene ends with an inexplicable lightning fight between Thor and the Greek god Zeus, much to the despair of the long-suffering librarian.
99Whoopi GoldbergGary HalvorsonDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneJuly 7, 1996 (1996-07-07)110
Whoopi Goldberg is such a big hit with the audience that when Miss Piggy gets lost in the desert, it is decided that Whoopi will perform the closing number instead of her. On hearing this, Miss Piggy redoubles her efforts to return to the studio, and she finally storms in midway through "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend". They finish the song together. We also see a courtroom sketch involving Whoopi Goldberg as the Plaintiff and Miss Piggy as the Defendant- Miss Piggy loses the case and is dragged off stage. Whoopi teaches a group of rats how to sing reggae, and they sing "No Woman No Cry". At the end of the show we find miss Piggy in a plane re-enacting a scene from Nightmare at 20,000 Feet where a gremlin has appeared on the airplane's wing. William Shatner is seen sitting next to her promoting one of his books as he mentions that he's been complaining about the gremlin for years and nobody is doing anything about it..
1010Martin ShortGary HalvorsonDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneJuly 14, 1996 (1996-07-14)102
Martin Short gets the short end of the shtick when Seymour and Pepe take him on an elevator ride that nearly flattens his chances of performing in the big dance number.

Season 2 (1997–98)

No.
overall
No. in
season
Guest(s)Directed byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
code
111The Artist Formerly Known As PrinceBrian HensonJennifer Barrow, Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Bernie Keating, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneSeptember 13, 1997 (1997-09-13)206
The Artist Formerly Known As Prince comes to guest star and gives some song suggestions.
122Rick MoranisBrian HensonJennifer Barrow, Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Bernie Keating, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneSeptember 14, 1997 (1997-09-14)207
Rick Moranis is doing a medley on the show, but gets interrupted when he helps Seymour and Pepe with a cooking show.
133Heather LocklearGary HalvorsonDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneSeptember 21, 1997 (1997-09-21)111
Heather Locklear assures the Muppets she is perfectly normal. But when she eats some experimental food from Bunsen and Beaker, things go crazy.
144Pierce BrosnanGary HalvorsonDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Dan McGrath, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneOctober 12, 1997 (1997-10-12)113
Pierce Brosnan doesn't seem to be a smooth as his character James Bond. He's going to leave the show, until the Rock Lobsters come to take over the show.
155Coolio & Don RicklesGary HalvorsonJennifer Barrow, Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Bernie Keating, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneOctober 19, 1997 (1997-10-19)202
An un-cultured CEO buys Muppets Tonight, and makes too many changes, causing Kermit to quit.
166Paula AbdulGary HalvorsonDick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneNovember 2, 1997 (1997-11-02)103

Paula Abdul guest stars. However, an Abraham Lincoln robot is out of control. Meanwhile, Clifford will do anything to get a kiss from Paula.

Note: Polly Lobster and Clueless Morgan from Muppet Treasure Island made their last appearance in At the Bar sketch.
177Dennis QuaidTom TrbovichJennifer Barrow, Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Bernie Keating, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneNovember 16, 1997 (1997-11-16)203
Clifford feels unappreciated when Dennis comes along and makes everyone else happy. Meanwhile, Kermit goes on a date with the winner of a sweepstakes. The good news: it's not Miss Piggy. The bad news: it's a very annoying Gilbert Gottfried.
188The Cameo ShowGreg V. FeraJennifer Barrow, Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Bernie Keating, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneDecember 7, 1997 (1997-12-07)201
When Bobo "kills" Arsenio Hall (who was to be their guest star) it's up to the Muppets to find a new guest star.
199The Best of Muppets TonightTom TrbovichJennifer Barrow, Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Bernie Keating, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneDecember 21, 1997 (1997-12-21)209

Gonzo and Rizzo host this week's show giving some of the best segments from the show.

Note: This is the last episode to be taped in production order. Series finale.
2010The Gary Cahuenga ShowTom TrbovichJennifer Barrow, Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Bernie Keating, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneDecember 28, 1997 (1997-12-28)205
Clifford and Rizzo find a ventriloquist dummy in the studio basement named Gary Cahuenga. But his ventriloquist is long dead and Gary must find out what to do in this strange new world.
2111Andie MacDowellGreg V. FeraJennifer Barrow, Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Bernie Keating, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneJanuary 4, 1998 (1998-01-04)204
After Beaker goes on vacation, Bunsen feels like he needs to change his image and seeks the help of Johnny Fiama. And meanwhile, on his Star Trek vacation, Beaker meets George Takei who talks to him for hours.
2212Johnny Fiama Leaves HomeTom TrbovichJennifer Barrow, Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Bernie Keating, Kirk Thatcher & Patric VerroneFebruary 8, 1998 (1998-02-08)208
After Johnny's mother throws Daryl Hannah, Page Hannah, and Sal out of his house, Johnny moves out.

Credits

Reception

The reception from critics was mixed.[5][11] Among the staff at other TGIF shows, reception was negative; Jaleel White, star of Family Matters, blamed Muppets Tonight for Family Matters' own cancellation: "[S]omewhere along the line, Winnie the Pooh and the Muppets started emerging around us and it [TGIF] became kids' night. And we lost a lot of credibility."[12]

References

  1. ^ Verrier, Richard (May 8, 2003). "Henson Family Buys Back Muppets For $78 Million". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
  2. ^ King, Susan (March 10, 1996). "The Muppets Put On a Show, Again". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  3. ^ "TV NOTES;High Hopes for Aliens". The New York Times. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  4. ^ Mifflin, Lawrie (March 10, 1996). "Following in the Frog's Footsteps". The New York Times. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Muppets Tonight! Means the Return of Cuddly Chaos". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". www.bbc.co.uk. Archived from the original on November 29, 2004. Retrieved June 30, 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "BBC One London - 15 November 1996 - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
  8. ^ 6.00am Business Breakfast (49757) 7.00 BBC… Date: Friday, Nov. 15, 1996 Publication: The Times (London, England) Issue: 65736 "Heather Locklear is the guest in the last of the present series
  9. ^ a b "BBC One London - 31 December 1996 - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
  10. ^ "Search Results - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
  11. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: Muppets Tonight!". People. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  12. ^ Hal Boedeker (July 18, 1997). "He's A Goober But CBS Has A Lot Riding On Urkel TV". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 18, 2012.