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The Muppet Show: Season 1 Introduction
For new and old fans alike, we're pleased to present our extensive episode guide of the classic series. Our goal with this guide is to provide a detailed overview and analysis of The Muppet Show while striking a balance between the scholarly and the silly. Hopefully the final result is one that provides extensive information and commentary about the series while not giving away all the gags and fun surprises to those who may see the episodes after reading the guide.
This endeavor has been entirely fan-based and what you see here is a result of years of work chasing down copies of complete episodes (not an easy task when several countries and various markets have edited them in different ways). As new information is made available, it will be incorporated into the text.
Debuting in syndication in 1976 (with two pilots having aired previously on network television which are both included within the guide), the little show done in England through the graces of Sir Lew Grade would eventually catapult into one of worldwide television's greatest success stories over the course of its five year run.
These first 24 episodes though, while large accomplishments on their own for its time, are rough gems in comparison with the seasons to follow. Many of the classic characters have a raw look to them before being redesigned and a large number of characters and sketch ideas are thrown out to see what works and what doesn't. The cast is quite large due to the benefits of being puppets. Hundreds of characters can be played by just over half a dozen performers.
Jim Henson had the opportunity to fill these first episodes with ideas he's had over the course of his career. Some classic sketches previously seen on variety shows are included alongside ideas he's had for television and stage shows but not yet seen by the public. All new characters are mixed with puppets created from various Muppet projects from earlier. Some of these new characters were created for the pilots and yet others were brand new to the series proper.
With Jack Burns as head writer, the first year is very much gag-centered. Season two will later see longtime Henson writer Jerry Juhl replace Burns and under his guidance, the outline of the first season will be tightened into a more character-based effort. Still, the first season is a great accomplishment and notable experiment, a huge triumph for Jim Henson and company. Despite its humble beginnings, Season one was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series.
CHARACTERS AND PERFORMERS
Concerning character names, we've provided names for all characters and use them consistently throughout the guide whenever one is made available from within the context of the show or an outside source. For example, a Muppet like "Shaky Sanchez" was not named until his appearance in the show's final year, but is referred to by name as early as his first appearance in season one's Vincent Price episode (where he's referred to in the script as "Small Monster"). Whenever a name is open to debate or discussion, that will be noted as the individual characters come up.
In reference to performer's credits, we've assigned roles played by a puppeteer in each episode based on the voice even though in some instances (usually when two regular characters played by the same puppeteer appear together in the same scene), the person manipulating the puppet might be different than the puppeteer providing the voice.
Unfortunately in the late eighties, Henson began reworking the first season episodes with later version of the theme song, replacing the original in it's entirety with a later version for television and subsequent video releases. The original version of the theme is described in detail below with each guide including information on the theme that changes with each episode (like "Fozzie's joke" and "Gonzo's gong"). The original opening themes were finally thankfully restored in Disney's The Muppet Show Season One DVD Box Set released August 2005.
The viewer sees an opening shot of "The Muppet Show" logo. The letter "O" opens to reveal emcee Kermit the Frog (from "Sam & Friends" and "Sesame Street") who announces tonight's guest star. The "O" closes and we see the logo is a huge flat rising up on a vaudeville theater stage with Muppets playing the theme in the orchestra pit. Among them are conductor Nigel (host from the pilot The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence), drummer Animal, a female Whatnot trumpet player, Rowlf (from "The Jimmy Dean Show") on piano, and Crazy Harry on the triangle!
A chorus girl kickline (including Janice and Miss Piggy both wearing brown curly wigs) enters from stage right singing: "It's time to play the music / It's time to light the lights / It's time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight". From stage left enters a male chorus (a Whatnot, a pig, plus Boppity and Gloat, two Frackles from "The Great Santa Claus Switch") singing "It's time to put on make-up/It's time to dress up right/It's time to raise the curtain on The Muppet Show tonight".
The stage curtain opens to reveal comedian Fozzie Bear who tells a different joke each week. The curtain closes and Kermit comes back on singing: "To introduce our guest star / That's what I'm here to do / So it really makes me happy to introduce to you". Kermit announces the guest star and the curtain opens to a shot of the guest. Cut to Kermit seated on a riser on stage who sings "But now let's get things started".
Behind Kermit other risers move up with Fozzie, the chorus members, some more Whatnots, the green Snake Frackle from "The Great Santa Claus Switch" (sometimes referred to by fans as "Hunchback Frackle"), and singers Wayne & Wanda. As they rise, everyone is singing: "On the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational / This is what we call The Muppet Show". On the very top riser is daredevil, performance artist Gonzo the Great (previously seen as one of the Frackles, Snarl, in "Santa Claus Switch") in front of another "The Muppet Show" logo. Gonzo then hits the white area of the letter "O" as if it's a gong and a funny gag ensues each episode (a homage to Donald Duck's gags at the end of the Mickey Mouse Club theme).
Also note that the first season opening theme appears on the original Muppet Show Soundtrack, Muppet Favorites, and Muppet Hits. Fozzie's joke comes from the Avery Schreiber episode with a new introduction from Kermit. "To introduce this record, that's what I'm here to do. So it really makes me happy to introduce to you... The first original, genuine, no-money-back guaranteed Muppet Show cast album."
THE CLOSING THEME
Shots of Nigel in the pit conducting the Muppet orchestra (now joined by Sgt. Floyd Pepper on bass guitar.) In a great bit of subtle humor, Crazy Harry looks anxiously at Nigel with his triangle poised and then looks around at the other musicians as he realizes there is no triangle dings in the closing theme. Towards the end of the theme song, Statler and Waldorf give a final comment on what they've seen each week. The theme concludes with a single blurt from Zoot's saxophone.
1 Intro Written by
Special thanks to Karen Falk at Henson.com for providing assistance