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The Muppet Show: Season 2 Introduction
Renewed for a second year with the knowledge that this is a project that has some potential longevity, the second season has a more elaborate, bigger feel to it - most evident in the new opening theme.
Instead of a quartet of chorus members dancing across the curtains, the curtains now open to reveal an arched set that extended chorus lines dance behind and finally revealing five rows of Muppets at the climax. Fozzie's joke is replaced with a brief comment by Statler and Waldorf. Instead of hitting the "O" in the Muppet Show logo as a gong, Gonzo puts the final touch on the opening theme by appearing inside the "O" and attempting to blow the theme's final notes on a trumpet - just about almost unsuccessfully.
Also for the first time, before the opening theme begins, the show starts with a "cold opening" which features Scooter alerting the week's guest that the show's about to begin. The dressing room cold openings will last through season four and will be replaced with a different cold opening in season five featuring the guest entering the theatre and checking in with Pops the doorman.
The dressing room itself is featured more during the second season and beyond. The set is rebuilt into a more immediately recognizable design and with an overall higher focus on the show's backstage drama. The dressing room will be an increasingly important place for the guests and the Muppets to interact offstage in ways they couldn't previously. The dressing room sequences will slowly replace the "talk spot" section of the show common from season one.
CHARACTERS AND PERFORMERS
Many of the puppets themselves are given an overhaul - some of the main cast that had some weak designs are rebuilt (such as Fozzie, Gonzo, and Miss Piggy). Supporting cast members also have some tweaks. Floyd is able to blink, for example.
The puppeteer cast is reduced to Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Dave Goelz (with John Lovelady and Eren Ozker gone). Because this would leave the cast without a female performer, auditions are held to fill the open slot and Louise Gold wins the part. She lends a major presence to season two, especially in music numbers, but she wouldn't actually be listed in the credits until next year.
The other main personnel change is in the writing team. Jerry Juhl replaces Jack Burns as headwriter and they're joined by Joseph A. Bailey and Don Hinkley. A strong emphasis is placed on character development and the characters are rounded out as more three-dimensional and there's a stronger focus on backstage narrative.
In between the writing and cast changes, the puppet cast is affected as well. With the absence of two puppeteers, some characters would have to be dropped or recast, but with the new focus on keeping the successful elements on the first year and cutting some of the things that weren't working, several pieces and characters that weren't necessarily affected by the puppeteer changes are dropped or reduced as well. Because the cast was so large after 24 episodes, it was easy to phase various characters out before the viewing audience noticed since each episode could only feature so many characters regardless...it's only after months go by that one pretty much can tell that Wanda's gone as is Hilda, the Talking Houses, etc.
However the audience was still kept guessing because several of the characters would show up in surprise cameos so one never knew what or who to expect to see on the screen. For example, once it seems like George the Janitor is gone, he pops up later in the season in a couple numbers. Even a character that had only been seen once like Marvin Suggs makes a welcome surprise reappearance. Add to this the new characters and puppets that would continue to be introduced and the result is a strong cast of major, supporting, minor, and cameo/background characters.
Because of the growing success of the show, guest stars would be easier to attract and several big names are included such as Milton Berle, Steve Martin, Elton John, and John Cleese. Like season one, some of the guests are stars the Muppets already have enjoyed a good working relationship with like Julie Andrews and Madeline Kahn while other big names that had never worked with The Muppets before were included and viewers tuned in to see what kind of craziness a Bernadette Peters or a Teresa Brewer would be involved with. The season's biggest surprise came when Russian ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev put in an appearance and true to form didn't disappoint! In the grand tradition of Muppet Show guests displaying surprising talents, the ballet star engages in some comedic acting, tap dancing, is thrown out by Sam the Eagle (mistaking him for a hippie), and even gets to share a sauna scene with Miss Piggy, both in towels!
Miss Piggy continues her rise to stardom (complete with gradual refurbishments and a growing wardrobe) while Fozzie becomes more of an important figure in the backstage action. Gonzo also becomes featured more heavily and the main cast from here on out seems to headline Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, and to a slightly lesser extent, Scooter. Rowlf and the musicians of The Electric Mayhem are featured more as is Sam the Eagle and even characters like The Swedish Chef, usually only seen in his particular sketch is seen backstage and showing up in surprising places. Muppet Labs is brought back with a new lab assistant, Beaker, who would become one of the show's most loved characters despite his limited vocabulary. (Bunsen and Beaker are featured as part of the backstage plot towards year's end in the Peter Sellers episode.)
A particular element that the 1977-1978 season experiments with is the use of live animals. While it's not uncommon for a small dog to substitute for either Muppy or Foo-Foo throughout the show's run, this year includes appearances by several live chickens, a cocker spaniel, a piglet, a goat, and even a cow!
As the show continues to grow and strengthen, its popularity with fans of all ages takes off as the program becomes a "must-see" hit. At the same time, the critical acclaim also increases with The Muppet Show winning the Emmy for Oustanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series.
THE OPENING THEME
This is the only year the theme is redone with all-new footage. Many of the shots are carried over in future seasons' themes with just some occasional tweaking each year to make that season's version distinctive.
After Kermit makes his introduction from the "O" in the "Muppet Show" logo, instead of closing the door before it rises, the flat flies back up with Kermit still caught in it! Behind this, the curtains open to reveal the arches.
The orchestra pit shots of Animal and Crazy Harry next to Zoot are replaced with a shot of Rowlf and Zoot. (Crazy Harry is no longer part of the band in the opening theme.)
The full-size Monsters - Timmy, two Mutations, Thog, and an eyebrow-less Sweetums cross through the bottom row of arches and motion up to the row above them.
The camera cuts to this row of arches that female Muppets cross behind singing the first verse. The females include Miss Mousey, two chickens, some female Whatnots, Janice (appearing as she regularly does as opposed to her brown-wigged chorus girl outfit appearance in season one), Mildred, and even Lydia the Tattooed Lady!
In another arch, male Muppets cross on their verse from the opposite side of the stage. This row includes Dr. Julius Strangepork, Swedish Chef, Sam Eagle, George the Janitor, some Whatnots, Boppity, Link Hogthrob, and Gloat.
A Statler & Waldorf gag from the balcony follows. Their joke unique to each episode
Kermit leads off the closing verse as the camera cuts/pans back to where we see five rows of arches populated with Muppets. Kermit is in the center of the third row with more of the "main" characters in that section. The male chorus are above that row while the female chorus is below it. The top row contains various minor characters as does the bottom row (replacing the full size Monsters who apparently were in this row at the beginning). "The Muppet Show" logo lowers in front of the arches with Gonzo inside the "O". Camera cuts to close-up of Gonzo attempting to blow his trumpet (different gag each episode.)
This is a much more impressive, splashier opening than the previous season where almost all the opening took place in front of the unopened curtain. Kermit's verse about introducing the guest star is cut (since the show now opens with a cold opening with Scooter and the guest in the dressing room, it would be redundant.)
The arches are a nice effect, and an image that would come to be associated with The Muppet Show although there is some inconsistency. When we get a full shot of the stage, all that's visible are three rows of arches (and even then most of the top row can barely be seen.) Yet the final image (which was composited of several shots matted together - one row at a time was taped) is of five rows, a bit of a "cheat" for an effective final image.
THE CLOSING THEME
The closing theme is the exact same one used in season one with only one difference. Floyd's close-up is replaced with one showing this year's new blinking Floyd. Unfortunately, Floyd also wears his hat in this shot - even though all the other shots with him from last year's footage are hatless. This missing hat is subtle, but you will definitely notice it if you look for it.
2 Intro Written by
Special thanks to Karen Falk at Henson.com