Muppet Retro Reviews: Muppets Tonight, Part 5

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Abigail Maughan – Thanks for voting in the poll last week, everyone who voted in the poll last week! The episodes with Sandra Bullock and Cindy Crawford seem to be the overwhelming favorites, with Whoopi Goldberg and Garth Brooks close behind. You can see the results here. Now, on to Season 2!

201– THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE
PLOT: One of few where the guest star doesn’t have anything to do with it, Johnny becomes disgruntled when Sal wants to pursue osteopathy.
GUEST STAR: Acting doesn’t appear to be pop singer Prince’s strong suit, as he mostly sounds bored when talking to bears, rats, and ventriloquist dummies, but many good jokes come from the Muppets trying to say his name or referring to his past works.
COMEDY: Notably, we get the “Hee-Haw” parody “Muppet Hoo-Haw” and a “Tales from the Vet.” Osteopathy subplot aside, I don’t feel like the comedy is as sharp as it has been in the past, particularly in backstage guest star banter.
MUSIC: Two full numbers courtesy of Prince. One is the strange, elaborate, but not unpleasant “Starfish and Coffee” music video. The other is the dull closing number “She Sent Her Angels,” which is one of the few slow song on the entire show, and I believe the only one without Muppet characters singing along.
LOWLIGHTS:

  • This one’s “Tales from the Vet” has amusing moments, but the drunken shouting and rambling of Dr. Phil gets rather tedious, as it would in real life.
  • I have nothing against non-energetic songs on Muppet shows, but the finale bores me. This guy’s music is a genre I wouldn’t normally listen to, and unlike in “Starfish and Coffee,” there aren’t any Muppet personalities to enhance it; just some uninteresting angel puppets. It isn’t too long, though, and the episode does end on a more lively note.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • This is my favorite of Bobo the Bear’s openings. “Pretty mouthy for a guy with no name.”
    • Prince: I’m the Artist formerly known as Prince.
    • Bobo: And I’m the Bear currently known as Not Amused.
  • The “boniologist” plot has some clever dialogue and results in various hilariously contorted Muppets. I approve.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

  • In this season, Statler and Waldorf no longer dispense snarkiness from a nursing home. Much less depressingly, they appear in a different exotic location every episode, which I think is a clever and much better idea.
  • Seymour says “swordfish, eggs, and coffee” is on the menu, but the song the guest star sings is called “Starfish and Coffee.” Am I just mishearing Seymour’s line?

MY RANKING: 2.5/5 Pop-Up Acupuncture books. I don’t think it’s among the best of what the show has to offer, but it is pretty darn memorable, what with the funky music and distorted Muppets.

202—RICK MORANIS
PLOT: In their only feature episode, Pepe and Seymour’s cooking show, “Hey, What Smells (So Good? It’s Time to Cook with Seymour and Pepe),” gets in the way of Rick Moranis’s big closing number.
GUEST STAR: Actor Rick Moranis, as it turns out, is a wonderful straight man to Seymour and Pepe and is apparently in league with devils. Who knew?
COMEDY: This episode contains not one, not two, but three well-done parody skits: the incredibly goofy “Muppet Odd Squad,” “Co-Dependence Day,” and “Lash Holstein: Space Cowdet,” which is hilarious in its intentional hamminess from the writers and Muppet performers. Everything else, including my favorite of the “Tubmans of Porksmith” sketches and a running gag using the song “Whip It,” is not half bad either.
MUSIC: Rick Moranis casually sings his “Salute to Late Fifties Crooners, Obscure British Bands, and Bill Withers” to the backdrop of Seymour, Pepe, Bunsen, and Beaker fighting a losing battle against a gigantic monster made of dough. Don’t you just love the Muppets?
LOWLIGHTS:

  • If I had to choose a lowlight, which is hard for this episode, it’d be Andy and Randy in the “Muppet Odd Squad” skit. Literal interpretations of simple instructions, their primary comedic defense, pale in comparison to the much sharper comedy of the rest of the episode.
  • Even though I don’t mind the “Muppet Odd Squad” skit in particular, I think it is fair to call it the weakest of the bunch.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • From beginning to end, I love that scene with Pepe, Seymour, and the guest star in the commissary. Seymour’s ruining of the musical number, the final installation of the “Whip It” running gag, and the conversation itself keep me laughing.
    • Rick Moranis: Let me tell you a little story… (music starts)
    • Pepe: You have to?
    • Rick: I’m afraid so. (starts to sing “High Hopes”)
  • I love Seymour, Pepe, and their naïve ambitiousness. I do think they were used perfectly on the show, especially here in season two, with various funny spotlights throughout and one feature episode. They were never overused and always funnily written. I think their move from the elevator to the commissary was a good one, because it’s much easier to interact with guest stars there.
  • It’s nice to see so much of Jerry Nelson here. His performances of the “Lash Holstein” villain Moo-ing the Merciless, the President, and one of Rick’s devil agents are perfect.
  • The special puppetry tricks in this one are impressive, namely Beaker’s shrunken head, the ants, and of course the Bread Monster.

MY RANKING: 5 out of 5 smashed ants. This episode is continually funny and weird in a good, unique way, and the unfunny is quickly overshadowed.

203—HEATHER LOCKLEAR
PLOT: Heather Locklear undergoes extreme personality shifts after eating Bunsen Honeydew’s Mood Meals.
GUEST STAR: Actress Heather Locklear is pretty believable and just a little bit scary as she gets to act annoyed, ditzy, affectionate, and murderous all in the same episode.
COMEDY: Much of it comes from the scenes with Heather in a mood extreme, saying things like “Don’t you love the way babies’ heads smell?” in one segments, and beating up bunny rabbits in the next. We also get a “Tales from the Vet,” the final “Fairyland PD,” and something called “21 Muppet Heights,” all of which are tightly-written and clever.
MUSIC: We get “The Coffee Song,” and a finale that sees more Muppet abuse from the guest star behind Kermit’s attempt to sing “Strolling through the Park One Day.”
LOWLIGHTS:

  • In the closing number, I think it would have been funnier if Heather had done something to demonstrate the “nice” mood shifts before swinging into the evil ones instead of just sort of waltzing around doing nothing in particular.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Rizzo: (as Evil Heather pummels rabbits onstage with her umbrella) We’re gonna hear from people…
  • The opening number of “The Coffee Song” is fun and crazy, and a fantastic performance by Leslie Carrara-Rudolph. I like how much she’s used in the second season.
  • I appreciate, and rather enjoy, the silliness of the “Jungle Bee-Woman” skit.
    • Heather: Your script is based on a Jane Austen pizza?
    • Andy and Randy: It is?!
  • It’s interesting how frequently Bunsen and Beaker were used in the second season. Over a third of the episodes involve them in the plot. Using them is a good way to incorporate elements that are completely outlandish and only make sense because of them, such as the mood-altering food.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

  • The multi-talented Brian Henson sure is one skilled performer, and this episode, featuring Sal, Dr. van Neuter, and Nigel is one of many that show it.
  • “Green boy” is not a very good insult to a frog, especially one who finds it easy being green.
  • It’s funny, but in context of the Muppet universe, why would Clifford, Nigel, Kermit, or whoever was in charge of acts possibly allow the “Hardy Pig Boys” sketch to exist?

MY RANKING: 4 out of 5 trout to the face. An even mix of verbal and physical comedy makes it hard to find something to dislike about this episode.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

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