Season 5 is probably the best The Muppet Show has to offer. If the DVD releases had been based on merit rather than chronology, it should have been the first. Then everyone could enjoy it without having to offer up a pound of flesh to Disney per month in perpetuity.
It makes me a little sad that Henson and Co. stopped making The Muppet Show just as they got really good at it. Nevertheless, this season has its uncomfortable moments just as the other ones do. Furthermore, ceasing production on the Muppet Show freed them up to do Fraggle Rock. And as good as The Muppet Show can be at times, (the original) Fraggle Rock is infinitely better. Yeah, I said it, and I’ll stand by it.
I’m classifying The Muppet Show Season 5 episodes according to the same system that I used in mySeason 4 Viewing Guide:
However, because there are a couple of episodes not readily available for viewing, I’ve had to add a couple of special categories.
“Rainbow Connection” is the greatest song from one of the greatest Muppet productions ever made. Because of its popularity, there are a lot of different versions of it, and this is a good thing because it means that everyone can pick the version that best suits their preference.
However, many members of the Muppet fan conglomerate think it gets played too often, and it makes them mad as hell. If they had their way, “Rainbow Connection” would get locked in a vault and only taken out every 15 years or so, like a lot of other Disney content.
And although I take verbal jabs at them for what I consider to be their misplaced vehemence over something that is relatively inconsequential, I have to admit that I sort of understand where they’re coming from. “Rainbow Connection” is a beautiful song, but there are other absolutely lovely Muppet songs, and it might be nice if some of them had more exposure.
And while I don’t get tired of “Rainbow Connection” itself, there are some versions of it that I like much better than others. For example, while I have listened to Matt Vogel sing it a few times, I am convinced that I could live out the rest of my life quite happily without hearing it him sing it again because I know now that he will never be Kermit to me. That sounds like a critique of his performance, and to some extent it is, but to a greater extent, it is a deliberate decision on my part. But that’s a topic for another time.
But I don’t get tired of the song itself. Ever. At least, I haven’t yet, and it’s been decades since I first heard it, so if it was going to happen, you’d think it would have occurred by now. Nevertheless, there are songs, including Muppet songs, that I DO get tired of hearing. In my opinion, the following Muppet songs are much more deserving of the fandom’s contempt due to overexposure than “Rainbow Connection.”
I didn’t really know what to do this year because, although it’s your birthday, I feel like we’re the ones who have gotten the gifts: Cave-in and the community that’s grown up around it, the talks you’ve given, and your engagement with the fans.
Ultimately, I decided that what I wanted to give you for your birthday this year is a three-fold promise:
I will always support you as far as I am able.
I will always respect your point of view, even if I disagree with it.
If I do criticize you, it is always with the intention of being constructive.
Assuming that nothing has changed since I cancelled my subscription last month, there are two Henson-related series original to Disney+ currently streaming. Muppets Now was originally meant to be a series of shorts but was instead expanded into a series of full-length episodes for some inexplicable reason. Earth to Ned is a Creature Shop production made in association with the Walt Disney Company. Each sounded at least vaguely interesting to begin with. Having seen them both, the former is worse than I expected, and the latter is far better.
Muppet Show episodes run the whole gamut, from the delightful to the disturbing. If you’re new to Seasons 4 and 5 like I am, you may wonder where each episode falls. TheDisney+ content warningshelp a little but don’t give you any specifics and are sometimes esoteric.
Back in the days before there were streaming services, or even video recorders, there wasn’t a way to skip over the parts of The Muppet Show that were less than stellar. You just had to sit through them and wait for the good stuff to come back.
Now, however, between DVDs, YouTube, and streaming, it’s easier to skip over the bad parts and enjoy the good parts. It’s just a matter of knowing what to expect and where to look. Well, I “took a chance on the crap” so you don’t have to, and I can tell you the highlights and the lowlights.
I’m organizing the episodes into four categories:
Delightful: Sit back and relax; you shouldn’t see anything offensive or objectionable in these episodes at all
Mostly Harmless: There are a few uncomfortable moments, but these episodes are enjoyable for the most part
Cringeworthy: There are a few bright spots, but these episodes are mostly dull or upsetting.
Horrific: These episodes are almost completely demoralizing. Even the few good numbers aren’t enough to save them. Skip the episodes altogether and look up the few good parts on YouTube instead.
Thank you for waiting for the culmination of this analysis. It’s tempting to say that it’s long overdue after I published thefirst part nearly two years ago. At the same time, however, I believe that things tend to happen when they are supposed to happen, and now seems like an opportune moment to revisit this important issue.
If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am not a fan of the Walt Disney Company, and I do not hesitate to call out its greedy or amoral behavior, especially when it has the potential to ruin individual lives or undermine our already fragile system of government. However, calling out bad behavior is only one side of the accountability coin. The other side is praising individuals or corporations when they do something good.
At first, when I heard that Dinosaurs was coming to Disney+, I wasn’t that excited because I didn’t intend to still be subscribed to it that that point. But now it appears that the only way to watch the last two seasons of TheMuppetShow may be on Disney+, so I’m going to hold out on cancelling my subscription until I’ve watched all the episodes I haven’t seen.
With the purported MuppetShow release still being several weeks away, I’ve been revisiting Dinosaurs. It’s been a real treat, first, to remember how much I loved it in the first place and, second, to get all the jokes that went over my head when I watched it as a kid during its original run.
I recently found a YouTube video about the “Top 10 Dinosaurs Episodes” and was surprised to find that only one of them was one that I find particularly memorable and enjoyable (and one is an episode that I actively dislike after watching it again with the benefit of an adult perspective). So I decided to write my own post about my favorite Dinosaurs episodes. Between the time that the original run ended and the series’ streaming release, I haven’t seen much of it since. Therefore, my list is limited to five favorites. These are not all the episodes that I find memorable, but the memories I have of these episodes give me the most enjoyment.
At first, I never intended to subscribe to Disney+, but I decided otherwise when I thought it might be the only way that I would ever get to watch Hamilton. So I finally gave in, and that allowed me to watch new Muppet content, including the first two seasons of Muppet Babies 2018, which I really love. Not only is the humor more Muppety than anything the main Muppet troupe has done in the last four or five years (despite the performers’ best efforts), but it does a really good job of talking about important life lessons in a way that’s accessible to toddlers without being too heavy-handed or condescending.
(Scooter and Skeeter)
There’s one episode from the second season that really touched my heart and made me wish that this show had been on when I was a kid. It’s called “A Tale of Two Twins.” The twins in question are Scooter and Skeeter who, though not main characters, were introduced in the second season and have gotten to visit the playroom a handful of times now. In this episode, they challenge gender norms and learn to be assertive in not letting others define who they are.
I want to try to avoid off-topic posts from now on, but now that the election is over and the results are known, I do want to take a moment to thank everyone who voted. I don’t know how many, if any, of you were persuaded to vote because of me and my story, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that you voted is the important thing. Thank you.
If there are those of you who didn’t vote, for whatever reason, it’s okay. Fortunately, thanks to the outcome, I feel confident in saying that you will get another chance someday. I hope you’ll take it.
If there’s one lesson I hope all of us will take from this election, as well as the one before it, it’s that we cannot take our democracy for granted. It can’t just coast on cruise control; we need to take the wheel and steer, or it will go completely off the road and into a ditch.
“I had a professor one time […] and he said, ‘You know, Fred, there’s one thing that evil cannot stand, and that is forgiveness.'” —Fred Rogers (my emphasis)
Dear John Tartaglia,
I first want to congratulate you on the recent Fraggle Rock short-form series that you and your colleagues created in response to the pandemic. Fraggle Rock is exactly the right content for this peculiar moment in history, and I appreciate you bringing it back into the public consciousness. Because re-imaginings of existing properties tend toward self-parody, I initially had some misgivings about it, but the new Fraggle content mostly seems organic and consistent with what came before.
Nevertheless, there is one aspect of the whole endeavor that rings false for me. I have heard you invoke the Trash Heap from the last episode of Fraggle Rock when she tells the Fraggles, “You cannot leave the magic.” Even if that is true, it appears that someone can be barred from the magic pre-emptively. I refer, of course, to Steve Whitmire.
To keep the focus of the blog consistent, I try never to post content on the main page that doesn’t relate in some way to the Muppets or the Jim Henson universe. If I can’t find a way to relate it, however obliquely, I put it under a separate tab.
Unfortunately, however, it seems that the pages I post under a separate tab don’t go out to subscribers, so most of you didn’t see my voting story. I linked to it in a recent post that related it loosely to Sesame Street, but that didn’t get the attention that I hoped for either.
It’s really important to me that you see this, take it to heart, and learn from my mistakes, especially if you are an American who is eligible to vote but thinking about not doing so. So I’m making an exception to my rule and posting this completely off-topic post on the main page where it will remain, pinned to the top, until after the election.
The first presidential election I was eligible to vote in occurred in the year 2000. I had taken government class in high school but ended up getting a C and didn’t glean much from it. In the year 2000, which was two years later, I was excited about the primary, but when my chosen candidate was not nominated, my enthusiasm waned following the conventions.
I remember this sketch from my childhood. Apparently there was a series of these sketches about the American Revolution, but this is the only one I remember seeing back then.
Watching it as an adult, it took me a while to figure out that the point of it was not to give an accurate account of history but to illustrate the democratic process in a concrete, relatable way.
I recently wrotea piece about why I think voting is important, about how I didn’t vote in the 2000 election and why I’ve regretted it ever since. It has nothing to do with Muppets, but I think it’s important to share.
Today, October 6th, is Matt Vogel’s 50th birthday. I want to wish him good health and happiness, and I want to let all of you know that I’ve been listening to his new “Below the Frame”podcast, andI enjoyit very much.
New episodes drop every Wednesday and feature usually one but sometimes two people from the Muppet/Henson universe. The conversation delves really deep not only into the interviewees’ Muppet/Henson work but their background and life in general. Then there are also puppetry tips and little short tidbits and an ongoing tribute to Jerry Nelson.
I haven’t listened to all the episodes yet, but I have enjoyed all the ones that I’ve listened to so far. If I had to pick favorites, I would name the one with Cave-In’s own Jim Lewis and the one with Bill Barretta, who says some very nice things about Steve.
Maybe it’s because he’s talking to his friends, but Matt has a very engaging interview style that makes me wonder what other career avenues he might have explored if he hadn’t been such a gosh-darn good puppeteer. There are a lot of Muppet and/or puppet-related podcasts out there, but this is one that I can recommend unreservedly. I sincerely hope you will check it out if you haven’t already.