|The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence|
|Created by||Jim Henson|
|Directed by||Dave Wilson|
|Theme music composer||Joe Raposo|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production company||The Jim Henson Company|
The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence is the second of two pilots for The Muppet Show, airing on ABC on March 19, 1975. The other pilot, The Muppets Valentine Show, aired in 1974.
In this half-hour variety special, the Muppets parody the proliferation of sex and violence on television. Nigel, Sam the Eagle and hippie bassist Floyd Pepper prepare for a pageant based on the seven deadly sins.
The special introduced several new Muppets, including Nigel (who acts as host, but would eventually play a minor role as an orchestra conductor on The Muppet Show), Sam Eagle, Dr. Teeth, Janice, Floyd Pepper, Zoot, Animal, Swedish Chef, Statler and Waldorf and an early version of Dr. Julius Strangepork (named Dr. Nauga). Popular Jim Henson characters, such as Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog and Frank Oz's Bert have cameos. Several holdovers from the previous pilot, The Muppets Valentine Show, appear, such as Crazy Donald (now called Crazy Harry), George the Janitor, Mildred Huxtetter and Brewster. The special also includes early versions of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Gonzo the Great.
Additional Muppet performers include Caroly Wilcox and Jane Henson.
In August 1974, Jim Henson and ABC reached an agreement granting the network exclusive broadcast rights to the Muppets and greenlighting several specials, including an after-school special, a TV movie and a second pilot episode; the first had been The Muppets Valentine Show in 1974. The new pilot, which Henson informally called "The Muppet Nonsense Show", was to strike a different tone than that of the first effort, with recurring gags and a zanier tone.
Henson also wished to demonstrate that the Muppets appealed to adult audiences, saying: "A lot of our work has always been adult-oriented. So we'll be working a lot with those aspects of the Muppets. Through this pilot, we hope to be able to demonstrate that puppetry can be very solid adult entertainment."
The special featured 70 Muppets manipulated by 10 puppeteers, including several new characters. Dr. Teeth was designed by Michael Frith from a drawing provided by Henson that was inspired by singer Dr. John. The Swedish Chef, a character first conceived in the 1960s, debuted as Järnvägskorsning (Swedish for "railway crossing"), a name that Henson soon abandoned, believing it too difficult to remember or pronounce. Sam Eagle was another new character created by Henson that "represents the older establishment values." Miss Piggy had first appeared on the 1974 ABC special Herb Alpert and the TJB.
At Henson's request, Kermit the Frog was relegated to a brief cameo appearance in a dance sequence, with the emcee role given to a new Muppet character named Nigel. According to Sesame Street writer and director Jon Stone, Henson wished to establish another lead character in order to free himself to pursue other creative opportunities. However, when Henson realized that the Nigel character was a mistake, it was too late to make any changes.
Taping for the pilot commenced in November 1974, and a rough edit was sent to ABC in January 1975. The network suggested several changes and expressed its concern over Henson's proposed title, but Henson insisted that the title remain. He later said: "The special's title was a humorous hook. While the show depicted some of the current attitudes toward sex and violence, our purpose was to poke fun at them."
Henson did accede to several of ABC's requests, which included the deletion of an introductory segment featuring Henson on camera as himself and the shortening of a Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem musical number.
When the special aired, its title appeared in television listings as simply The Muppet Show (billed in some listings as The Muppets Show) in the wake of the recent commitment by all three major networks to comply with the Family Viewing Hour rule in the 1975 season.
Contemporary reviews following the special's nationwide broadcast on March 19, 1975 were mixed.
Arthur Unger of The Christian Science Monitor wrote:
Much of the broad humor was so broad that it was flattened out and some of it is so subtle it would have had to run in slow-motion for the uninitiated to catch. And there was an elitist quality to the show—designed to make you shake your head sadly and laugh, too, because you know the cultists just adored it. The you-may-not-get-it-but-I-do humor may have made you feel guilty when only the easy sight gags seemed at all funny while all around you the cognoscente were busy appreciating the intellectual content. This kind of rarified humor is totally missing in the "Sesame Street" Muppetry—there the humor is complex enough to appeal to the kids and yet simple enough for us adults to appreciate as well. In this special, the quality of lovableness was somehow missing—where, oh where, was the endearing humanness of Cookie Monster and Big Bird? ... Please, Mr. Henson, try again.
In a positive review for the The Arizona Republic, critic Thomas Goldthwaite called the special "hands down the most original, innovative thought that ABC has ever had" and "[a] surrealistic romp full of menacing ogling, jerky energy and such intensive fun-making that it's bound to wipe every other show off the charts with the thoroughness of a Cookie Monster."
The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence was released on DVD in 2005 as an extra feature on the Muppet Show: Season One box set. On the box and within the DVD menus, it is called The Muppet Show Pilot.