Muppet Show Viewing Guide: Season 5

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 my Season 4 Viewing Guide:

  • Delightful
  • Mostly Harmless
  • Cringeworthy
  • Horrific

However, because there are a couple of episodes not readily available for viewing, I’ve had to add a couple of special categories. 

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5 Muppet Songs More Overplayed Than “Rainbow Connection”

“Don’t you like music?” Franz asked. “No,” said Sabina, and then added, “though in a different era…” She was thinking of the days of Johann Sebastian Bach, when music was like a rose blooming on a boundless snow-covered plain of silence. 

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

“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.”

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A Birthday Promise

Happy Birthday, Steve!

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:

  1. I will always support you as far as I am able.
  2. I will always respect your point of view, even if I disagree with it.
  3. If I do criticize you, it is always with the intention of being constructive.
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Cave-In 2nd Annversary Show

This month marks the 2nd anniversary of Cave-In. Ordinarily, this month’s episode would be on this Friday. However, I have it on good authority from Trollbot 9000 that this month’s episode will actually be on the exact anniversary, which is Tuesday, August 31st.

If you notice, Steve has done something very clever in this Instagram post: It says, “Cave-In This Week.” Technically true, but misleading. It’s not happening this calendar week, but it is happening within seven days.

So, to reiterate, no Cave-in on Friday, but tune in next Tuesday for a special anniversary show. That’s all I know about it.

Muppet Show Viewing Guide: Season 4

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. The Disney+ content warnings help 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.

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We Need To Talk About Piggy (Part Two)

Thank you for waiting for the culmination of this analysis. It’s tempting to say that it’s long overdue after I published the first 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. 

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My 5 Favorite Dinosaurs Episodes

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 The Muppet Show 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 Muppet Show 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 Episodesand 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.

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Fraggle’s Original Sin

“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.

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Hindsight

I’m always impressed and a little embarrassed when I find that someone has been able to express a point in less than 10 minutes that I have spent literally hundreds of hours and thousands of words trying to explicate. Such was the case when I found this incredibly succinct, accurate, and fair-minded assessment of the Schism on YouTube a couple weeks ago (Warning: It contains NSFW language):

Apart from a few minor quibbles, I agree with everything said in this video, which does a really good job of calling out the responsible parties without being unfair to the puppeteers. But there’s one point that I really want to emphasize:

“We’ve now seen what’s come to pass. We’ve now got hindsight on this matter. Kermit the Frog no longer sounds consistent. He no longer really sounds like Kermit the Frog.”

Admittedly, not everyone agrees with this opinion. But it seems to me that most everyone who thinks Matt’s Kermit voice sounds like Kermit are people who accepted the recast with little question. The casual fans don’t seem to be buying it, which strongly suggests it is yet another example of belief affecting perception. In other words, people who believe that the recast was justified and/or who need it to be okay, are more likely to hear Kermit when Matt speaks, whereas casual fans with no preconceived notions think he sounds off. With that said, if there are casual fans who didn’t already know about the recast and don’t notice it, they are unlikely to comment on it, which means there’s no way of ensuring an accurate data pool.

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Cave-In Episode 13: Happy, Crappy, Scrappy Anniversary

I don’t really know what to say about this episode, other than that I can’t think of a better way for Weldon to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Cave-In. I’m especially happy about outcome of the Gimme Award. I still think there should have been another category specifically for musical numbers, but maybe that’s something to save for next year.

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Some Thoughts on the Short-Form Fraggle Rock Series

Back in the spring, the Henson Company released the clunkily titled short-form series “Fraggle Rock: Rock On!” I reviewed the first episode and didn’t expect to watch any more, but someone kept posting bootleg copies on the Cave-In Discord server. Curiosity got the best of me, and since each episode is less than 10 minutes long, I thought, “What the hey?” and watched them all.

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Weldon ne parle pas français (Cave-In Episode 12)

 

You know what? Let’s skip ahead to the musical insert: 

 

So, Weldon’s fingers can suddenly move on the neck of his guitar, and I didn’t notice it at first because I expect people’s fingers to move when they play the guitar. Then I remembered that Weldon is a puppet and usually his fingers don’t move, and then I got freaked out. It was exactly the feeling I had the first time I noticed Lips’ fingers moving on the valves of his trumpet. 

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FAQ About the Disney/Whitmire Schism

Well, folks … here we go again. 

I don’t think Disney purposely timed its promotion of the new streaming Muppet series on Disney+ to coincide with the anniversary of the kerfuffle over the Schism three years ago. Nevertheless, a lot of casual fans are somehow still confused over the recast, and so the story is getting rehashed again in the press, sometimes fairly accurately and other times considerably less so.

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