|The Muppet Show|
|Created by||Jim Henson|
|Theme music composer|
|Opening theme||"The Muppet Show Theme"|
|Ending theme||"The Muppet Show Theme" (instrumental)|
|Country of origin|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||120 (list of episodes)|
|Production locations||ATV Elstree, Borehamwood, England, UK|
|Running time||22–26 minutes|
|Original release||5 September 1976 –|
23 May 1981
|Followed by||Muppet Babies (1984–91)|
The Muppet Show is a sketch comedy television series created by Jim Henson and featuring the Muppets. The series originated as two pilot episodes produced by Henson for ABC in 1974 and 1975. While neither episode was moved forward as a series and other networks in the United States rejected Henson's proposals, British producer Lew Grade expressed enthusiasm for the project and agreed to co-produce The Muppet Show for the British channel ATV. Five seasons, totalling 120 episodes, were broadcast on ATV and other ITV franchises in the United Kingdom and in later first-run syndication in the US from 1976 to 1981. The programme was produced and recorded at ATV Elstree Studios, England.
The Muppet Show is presented as a variety show, featuring recurring sketches and musical numbers interspersed with plotlines taking place backstage and in other areas of the venue. Within its context, Kermit the Frog (performed by Henson) acts as showrunner and host, who tries to maintain control of the overwhelming antics of the other Muppet characters, as well as appease the rotating slate of guest stars. The Muppet Show is also known for its uniquely designed characters, burlesque nature, physical slapstick, sometimes absurdist and surreal humour, and parodies. As The Muppet Show became popular, many celebrities were eager to perform with the Muppets on television and in subsequent films.
The cast of performers over the course of the series included Henson, Frank Oz (credited as featured performer as well as creative consultant), Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Leo Sayer, Fran Brill, Eren Özker, Louise Gold, Kathryn Mullen, Karen Prell, Brian Muehl, Bob Payne, John Lovelady, Jane Henson, Peter Friedman, Betsy Baytos, and dancer Graham Fletcher. Many of the performers also worked on Sesame Street, whose characters made sporadic appearances on The Muppet Show. Jack Burns served as the head writer for the first season, before Jerry Juhl became the head writer from the second season. The music was performed by Jack Parnell and his orchestra.
The Muppet Show was produced by ITC Entertainment and Henson Associates. The series premiered in the UK on 5 September 1976 and ended on 23 May 1981. The rights to the series are currently owned by The Muppets Studio (a division of The Walt Disney Company), having been acquired from The Jim Henson Company on 17 February 2004.
Since its debut in 1969, Sesame Street had given Jim Henson's Muppet characters exposure; however, Henson began to perceive that he was becoming typecast as a children's entertainer. Subsequently, he began conceiving a programme for a more adult demographic. Two television specials, The Muppets Valentine Show (1974) and The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence (1975), were produced for ABC and are considered pilots for The Muppet Show. Neither of the two specials were ordered to series. However, the prime-time access rule was recently enacted, shifting the 7:30 to 8 pm ET slot from the networks to their affiliates. CBS became interested in Henson's series proposals and expressed intent to broadcast it weekly on its owned and operated stations. According to Henson's pitch reel, George Schlatter was originally involved.
Lew Grade, proprietor of the British commercial station ATV, was familiar with puppet television programmes, having underwritten the various works of Gerry Anderson, while also producing two specials with Henson: Julie on Sesame Street and a special on Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. Grade offered a deal to Henson that would result in the latter's programme being produced at the ATV Elstree Studios, England. ATV, as part of the ITV network, would broadcast the programme to other ITV stations in the United Kingdom, and its distribution arm, ITC Entertainment, would handle international broadcasts. Henson set aside his misgivings about syndication and accepted.
Meanwhile, Henson's Muppets were featured in The Land of Gorch skits during the first (1975–76) season of the American comedy television programme Saturday Night Live. Although they lasted for only that one season on Saturday Night Live due to conflicts with that show's writers and producers, Henson and his team learned a great deal from being involved with the production. They gained institutional knowledge about adapting and quickly creating a television programme within a seven-day period. Henson also gained valuable friendships with multiple celebrities through his work on Saturday Night Live. Henson and his team were later able to use these skills and relationships on The Muppet Show.
The Muppet Show first aired in September 1976. By Christmas 1976, the series in the UK saw around 14 million viewers tuning in on Sunday evenings. In January 1977, over 100 countries had either acquired the series or were making offers, which had resulted in over £6 million in overseas sales.
"The Muppet Show Theme" (written by Henson and Sam Pottle in 1976) is the show's theme song.
During the first season, the theme song contained a joke from Fozzie Bear and featured Kermit introducing the guest star ("To introduce our guest star, that's what I'm here to do, so it really makes me happy to introduce to you..."). At the song's end, Gonzo the Great appeared in front of the "Muppet Show" banner, attempting to play the "O" in "Show" like a gong, with various comical results.
From the second to fourth seasons, the joke and Kermit's introduction were replaced by a short quip from Statler and Waldorf, then a shot of the audience singing "Why don't they get things started?" The fifth season version featured an extra verse from the hecklers ("Why do we always come here? I guess we'll never know. It's kind of like a torture to have to watch the show!"). At the end of the song, Gonzo appeared inside the "O" in "Show" to play the final note on a trumpet; again, with various comical results.
|The Muppet Show theme|
|Sample [0:18] via|
Each episode ended with an extended instrumental performance of "The Muppet Show Theme" by the Muppet orchestra before Statler and Waldorf gave the last laugh of the night, followed by Zoot playing an off-key final note on his saxophone. Some last-laugh sequences featured other Muppets on the balcony. For example, in one episode, the Muppets of Sesame Street appeared behind Statler and Waldorf, who told them, "How should we know how to get to Sesame Street? We don't even know how to get out of this stupid theater box!"
Every season, the TV version of the song was presented with re-worked lyrics. While the opening sequence evolved visually over the course of the show's five seasons, the musical composition remained essentially the same. Throughout the years, the song has become a staple of the Muppets franchise as a whole.
The Muppet Theater is the setting for The Muppet Show, a grand old vaudeville house that has seen better days. In episode 106, Kermit identifies the name of the theatre as The Benny Vandergast Memorial Theater, although other episodes merely identify it as "the Muppet Theater". It is also identified as simply "Muppet Theater" in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. It is then that the theatre becomes registered as a historical landmark, and it cannot be shut down. In the film, the theatre is shown to be in New York City.
According to The Phantom of the Muppet Theater, the theatre was built by a stage actor named John Stone in 1802. At some point, a production of Hamlet ran in the theatre, with Stone playing the title role. An alternative exterior is also shown in the book.
Locations seen in the Muppet Theater include backstage right (which includes Kermit's desk), the dressing rooms, the attic (featured in four compilation videos released in 1985), the canteen, the prop room, the stage, Statler and Waldorf's box, the auditorium, reception, the recording studio, the stage door lobby, and the back alley. Some of these sets were later re-used as the Happiness Hotel in The Great Muppet Caper. A replica of the theatre serves as the setting for the Muppet*Vision 3D attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Scooter's uncle J.P. Grosse owns the theatre, and rents it to the Muppets. In a deleted scene from It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Kermit reveals that J.P. has died and left the theatre to the Muppets in his will. This would have taken place some time after 1996, as J.P. can be seen (and referred to as such by the head of the KMUP network) in episode 107 of Muppets Tonight, the 1990s reworking of The Muppet Show.
In the film The Muppets, a badly deteriorated version of the Muppet Theater is located next to Muppet Studios in Los Angeles. The Muppets reunite in hopes of raising enough money to buy the theatre from oil magnate Tex Richman before he can demolish it and start drilling for oil on the site.
See also: List of Muppets
Many of the characters who appeared on The Muppet Show have appeared in previous and subsequent Muppet productions.
No guest star ever appeared twice on The Muppet Show, although John Denver appeared both on the show and in two specials (John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together and John Denver & the Muppets: Rocky Mountain Holiday), while Dudley Moore reappeared in the special, The Muppets Go to the Movies. Additionally, several guest stars from the series had cameos in the first three Muppet theatrical films, and season four guest Alan Arkin cameoed in The Muppets. Originally, the producers had to call on their personal contacts to appeal to them to appear, especially considering that doing so required an overseas trip to Britain. However, the situation changed when the renowned ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev offered to appear; his performance on this unusual TV programme produced so much favourable publicity that the series became one of the most sought after for various celebrities to appear in.
Many episodes featured actors, such as Steve Martin, Harvey Korman, Sylvester Stallone, Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett, Liza Minnelli, Christopher Reeve, Raquel Welch, Joel Grey and Dom DeLuise; some featured veteran performers like Ethel Merman, Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Don Knotts, Liberace, Peter Ustinov, James Coburn, Lena Horne, Zero Mostel and Vincent Price; some featured well-known pop singers, including Elton John, Diana Ross, Harry Belafonte, Kenny Rogers, Linda Ronstadt, Alice Cooper, Paul Simon, Debbie Harry and Leo Sayer. Sayer's show used his hit "The Show Must Go On": he changed the lyrics in the second verse slightly, from "I wish I could tear down the walls of this theatre" to "I wish I could tear down the walls of this Muppet Theatre". Some guest stars, such as Monty Python star John Cleese, co-wrote much of their own episodes. The second to last episode, in 1981, featured then-James Bond actor Roger Moore, while the final episode to be taped guest-starred actor and dancer Gene Kelly. Mark Hamill appeared in one episode as both himself and Luke Skywalker, his role in the Star Wars film series. Two of Jim Henson's childhood idols, Edgar Bergen and Milton Berle, also guest-starred during the second season.
In 1977, Rita Moreno won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for her appearance. The next year, Peter Sellers—who chose not to appear as himself, instead appearing in a variety of characters— and Bernadette Peters earned nominations for the same award. One episode featured staff writer Chris Langham (who wrote some episodes of this show, starting in the third season) guest-starring due to Richard Pryor being unable to make the taping of the episode at the last minute.
An early tradition was to present the guest star with a Muppet likeness of themselves as a parting gift at the end of the show, but this only lasted for the first two episodes produced, featuring Connie Stevens and Juliet Prowse. The high cost and effort of creating these unique Muppets, scheduling conflicts, and potential legal issues contributed to the decline of this practice, although Muppet caricatures and parodies would continue to appear. The practice did however take place for actors Michael Caine and Tim Curry, who were the lead performers in The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, respectively.
Main article: List of The Muppet Show episodes
The Muppet Show ran for five seasons, with minor alterations taking place each season.
The Muppet Show was nominated for nine BAFTA Awards during its run, winning three. It was nominated for twenty-one Primetime Emmy Awards, winning four, including the 1978 award for Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series. It was presented with a Peabody Award in 1978. Also in 1978, the show received the Television Award of Merit by the Mary Washington Colonial Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The series also won the top Variety Prize in Golden Rose of Montreux international Contest in May 1977.
|1977||Outstanding Comedy – Variety or Music Series||The Muppet Show||Nominated|
|Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series||Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, Jack Burns, Marc London,||"Paul Williams"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in Variety or Music||Rita Moreno||"Rita Moreno"||Won|
|1978||Outstanding Comedy – Variety or Music Series||The Muppet Show||Won|
|Outstanding Directing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series||Peter Harris||"Elton John"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series||Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, Don Hinkley, & Joseph A. Bailey||"Dom DeLuise"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in Variety or Music||Peter Sellers||Nominated|
|1979||Outstanding Comedy – Variety or Music Series||The Muppet Show||Nominated|
|1980||Outstanding Comedy – Variety or Music Series||The Muppet Show||Nominated|
|Outstanding Directing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series||Peter Harris||"Liza Minnelli"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series||Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, Don Hinkley, & David Odell||"Alan Arkin"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Video Tape Editing for a Series||John Hawkins||"Liza Minnelli"||Won|
|Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program||Malcolm Stone||"Beverly Sills"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design for a Series||Calista Hendrickson||"Beverly Sills"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement – Creative Technical Crafts||Leslee Asch, Edward G. Christie, Barbara S. Davis, Faz Fazakas, Nomi Frederick, Michael K. Frith, Amy Van Gilder, Dave Goelz, Marianne Harms, Larry Jameson, Mari Kaestle, Rollin Krewson, Tim Miller, Bob Payne, Jan Rosenthal, Don Sahlin, Caroly Wilcox||"Alan Arkin"||Nominated|
|Edward G. Christie, Barbara S. Davis, Faz Fazakas, Nomi Frederick, Michael K. Frith, Amy Van Gilder, Dave Goelz, Larry Jameson, Mari Kaestle, Rollin Krewson, Tim Miller, Bob Payne, Jan Rosenthal, Don Sahlin, Caroly Wilcox||"Kenny Rogers"||Nominated|
|1981||Outstanding Comedy – Variety or Music Series||The Muppet Show||Nominated|
|Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series||Jerry Juhl, David Odell, Chris Langham||"Carol Burnett"||Won|
|Outstanding Video Tape Editing for a Series||John Hawkins||"Brooke Shields"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program||Malcolm Stone||"Brooke Shields"||Nominated|
|1977||British Academy Television Awards (BAFTA)||Best Light Entertainment Programme||The Muppet Show||Won|
|'Harlequin (Drama/Light Entertainment)||The Muppet Show||Nominated|
|1978||Most Original Programme/Series||Jim Henson||Won|
|Best Light Entertainment Programme/Series||Jim Henson||Nominated|
|Best VTR Editor||John Hawkins & Tim Waddell||Nominated|
|Best Design||David Chandler & Bryan Holgate||Nominated|
|1979||Best Light Entertainment Programme/Series||Jim Henson||Nominated|
|Best VTR Editor||John Hawkins||Won|
|1980||Best Light Entertainment Programme/Series||Jim Henson||Nominated|
|1979||Grammy Awards||Best Recording for Children||Jim Henson||Won|
|Peabody Awards||Henson Associates||Won|
|Golden Camera||Best Entertainment Show||Jim Henson||Won|
|1977||Rose d'Or Light Entertainment Festival||Golden Rose||Won|
|1981||Young Artist Awards||Best TV Series for Family Entertainment||Nominated|
In 1985, Playhouse Video released a collection of video compilations under the Jim Henson's Muppet Video banner. Ten videos were released, featuring original linking material in addition to clips from the show.
In 1993, Jim Henson Video released two compilations under the It's the Muppets banner, Meet the Muppets and More Muppets, Please! Later, three volumes of The Very Best of The Muppet Show were released on VHS and DVD in the UK (volume 3 was a release of full episodes as opposed to compilations). Unlike the Playhouse Video releases, It's the Muppets and The Very Best of The Muppet Show did not include any original footage or guest star clips, but all compilation collections did include material cut from the original US broadcasts.
In 1994, Buena Vista Home Video under the Jim Henson Video imprint released The Muppet Show: Monster Laughs with Vincent Price, featuring the episodes with Vincent Price and Alice Cooper. Both episodes were edited. In addition to replacing the first series opening and the ending logos with Zoot, the Vincent Price episode was edited to remove the songs "I'm Looking Through You" and "You've Got a Friend" (the latter of which would be cut again when released on the first series DVD) as well as a sketch with the talking houses, while the Alice Cooper episode removed Robin's performance of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".
Time-Life and Jim Henson Home Entertainment began marketing "best of" volumes of The Muppet Show for mail-order in 2001, with six initial volumes with three episodes on each VHS and DVD. Unique to each episode was an introduction by Jim Henson's son, Brian. Nine more volumes were added for 2002, the Muppets' 25th anniversary. The collection was available for retail in 2002 via Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment and Jim Henson Home Entertainment by which time Time-Life had released its tenth volume.
Buena Vista Home Entertainment released the three seasons on DVD in Region 1 in 2005 and 2008. The rights to the episodes and characters used in The Muppet Show, and subsequent film outings, were bought in February 2004 by The Walt Disney Company.
Several songs were cut from the series 1 DVD release due to music licensing issues. There have also been some cuts in the intro sequence, and backstage scenes leading up to these songs. However, episodes that used Disney music remained unaltered (for example, episode 14 of series 1 used "Never Smile at a Crocodile" from Peter Pan).
The only uncut release of Season 1 on DVD so far is the German DVD release by Buena Vista Home Entertainment Germany in 2010 (which also contains English audio). However, the intro and end credit sequences on this release are in German. In addition, the Paul Williams episode is missing a scene following "All of Me" wherein Fozzie and Scooter first discuss the "Old Telephone Pole bit". This scene does appear (albeit slightly abridged) in the international release. The German version also lacks the song "In My Life" performed by Twiggy, instead substituting it with a performance of "Lean on Me" by German singer Mary Roos.
|DVD name||Ep #||Release date||Content|
|Season One (1976–1977)||24||9 August 2005|
|Season Two (1977–1978)||24||7 August 2007|
|Season Three (1978–1979)||24||20 May 2008|
The Muppet Show was released for streaming on Disney+ on 19 February 2021. However, two episodes featuring guests Brooke Shields and Chris Langham are omitted from the streaming service. In several European countries, the episode featuring John Denver is omitted as well. A content advisory was attached to several episodes describing outdated cultural depictions.
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