Muppet Retro Reviews: Muppets Tonight, Part 7

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Written by Abigail Maughan.

207—DENNIS QUAID

PLOT: While Kermit is forced to spend a disturbing evening with Gilbert Gottfried, Clifford feels unneeded when Dennis Quaid excels in all of his jobs.
GUEST STAR: We have actor Dennis Quaid, who gets to reference his previous movie roles and good-guy persona. Also present is Gilbert Gottfried, whose obnoxiousness is well-harnessed in a subplot that genuinely generates sympathy for Kermit.
COMEDY: This one hits physical, verbal, and parodical comedy from lots of different characters, such as the falling bowling balls, the knightly name “Sir Cumference of the Circle,” and the buildups and executions of the various “Great Balls of Fire” verses. Strangely, there is not a single recurring skit in this episode.
MUSIC: A very musical show that includes perhaps the most absurd of the show’s music-cue running gags. Two more fantastic songs are “Up on the Roof,” performed by Clifford, and “Dancing with Myself,” performed by Gonzo and his multiple clones.
LOWLIGHTS:

  • “The Mario-Nuts Show” goes on a little too long after the point has been established and drags down the otherwise crisp scene and episode.

HIGHLIGHTS:

    • Gilbert Gottfried: I made a shrine of you. It’s made of nothing but soda crackers and lemon juice!
    • (later) Dennis Quaid: And that, my friends, is how you make a four-tiered mock wedding cake using nothing but soda crackers and lemon juice.
  • The gags of Dennis Quaid being the best in the most obscure fields, such as squid-wrestling, rat taxes, and show-hosting, are perfectly silly.
  • All of the musical numbers are well done. The “Great Balls of Fire” running gag is energetic and funny in how outlandish it eventually becomes, Clifford’s song showcases one of Kevin’s Clash’s remarkable singing voices, and Gonzo’s “Dancing with Myself” is one of my personal favorite numbers in all of Muppets Tonight.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

  • Note the cameo by Leslie Carrara-Rudolph as Gilbert Gottfried’s… girlfriend?
  • Clifford proves to be a good choice for the series’ most central character. Aside from having previously-established roots in Muppet history, he has a Kermit-like way of being organized until snapping at the breaking point, without being too Kermit-like in his personality or ways of handling situations. Kevin Clash gives consistently impressive performances.

MY RANKING: 5/5 interpretive squid dances. Just plain solid! No distractions from sub-par recurring sketches, good use of Muppets and guest stars, and strong writing.

208—THE CAMEO SHOW

PLOT: Bobo accidentally poisons the guest star, Arsenio Hall, and has to go on the hunt for a new one. Meanwhile Clifford, Rizzo, and Zippity Zap try to keep their cover.
GUEST STAR: Many previous episodes have one major guest star and another celebrity making a cameo, but this is the first of a handful this season that has no headlined guest star, and instead various cameos. With the most exposure are talk show hosts Arsenio Hall, who dies twice, and Jay Leno, who gets irritated by Bobo. Also present are model Kathy Ireland, who inspires Bunsen and Beaker to don bikinis; attorney Chris Darden, who intimidates the Muppets; guitarist Kevin Eubanks, who Bobo adores; and singer Little Richard, who Beaker can impersonate rather well.
COMEDY: The story arc featuring the dead guest star hits all the right, irreverent notes. Regarding sketches, we have the last “Tubmans of Porksmith” skit (renamed “Boarshead Revisited” this season), the second and final “E-I-E-I-O-R,” a “Real World Muppets,” the only “Tales from the Vet” skit to feature a human, and an ad for “Johnny Fiama’s Pasta Playhouse.”
MUSIC: Not much, save for the fittingly wild “I Hear You Knocking,” by Little Richard and the rarely-seen- on-this-show Animal and Zoot.

LOWLIGHTS:

  • While still a clever concept, I think this “Real World Muppets” is the least creative of the three.
  • Per usual, another mediocre “Boarshead Revisited” simply makes one eager to get back to the real story.

HIGHLIGHTS:

    • Clifford: Don’t you think this whole thing is kinda weird?
    • Rizzo: Weird? Nah, this is just slightly bizarre. You want weird? I can tell you weird stories…
  • Beaker’s “impersonation” of Little Richard and the singer’s subsequent performance are just plain enjoyable.
  • It’s a fun group of guest stars who are not afraid to be as silly as needed, and mesh well with the story arc, propelling it to a strong finish.

MY RANKING: 4/5 drums of explosives, for creatively handling so many diverse guest stars while still keeping the Muppets center stage. Of the Muppets Tonight cameo shows, “The Cameo Show” is the strongest and most cohesive.

209—THE BEST OF MUPPETS TONIGHT

PLOT: Gonzo and Rizzo are forced to piece together a Muppets Tonight clip show, showcasing  the best of their sketches, songs, guest star scenes, and parodies. Because this episode is so different in format than the others and full of bits we’ve seen or will see elsewhere, I won’t be going too in-depth in reviewing it. Besides, who wants to read my exact same reviews of various skits all over again? (Cue Statler and Waldorf: “Who wanted to read them all the first time? D’oh-ho-ho!”) I’ll just say that the clip selections are very well made indeed, especially music and guest star clips.
HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Rizzo: Wait a second, Gonzo, what are you doing here? I thought Clifford gave everybody the week off.
  • Gonzo: Oh, he did, I just came to pick up my nasal floss.
  • Rizzo: Of course you did.

MY RANKING: N/A. This episode really can’t be ranked against the others, but it’s hard to go wrong with Gonzo, Rizzo, and tons of skits.

210—THE GARY CAHUENGA EPISODE
PLOT: In the studio basement, Clifford and Rizzo discover a trunk housing Gary Cahuenga, a sentient ventriloquist’s dummy hidden away since 1956. Meanwhile, Gonzo hosts the Lollapalosers festival.
GUEST STARS: Another episode full of rapid-fire cameos that includes magicians Penn and Teller, boxer Evander Holyfield, actress Kathy Najimy, and American Gladiators Ice and Zap, in scenes written specifically for each of them. “The Cameo Show” worked better because the celebrities were all characters in a story, whereas this one, while entertaining, plays more like a series of skits.
COMEDY: Gonzo’s parade of delightful nonsense brings us crisp band parody puns and over half of the guest stars, plus a running gag about whether or not the show has a script. Kathy Nijimy’s irritated nonchalance in the final “Thor, God of Thunder” makes it the best segment of the recurring skit.
MUSIC: The parody acts of “The Benedictine Monkees” and the literal “Smashing Pumpkins” are just as imaginative as they sound.

LOWLIGHTS:

  • The lack of ending to Gary Cahuenga’s story is abrupt and disappointing. After a funny sequence in which various Muppets failingly audition to be Gary’s new comedy partner, the show makes an awkward cut to a long and meandering segment with Johnny, Sal, and boxer Evander Holyfield that lasts the entire rest of the episode. It’s odd and non-resolving, and makes the show feel unfinished.
  • And speaking of the long and meandering segment with Johnny, Sal, and boxer Evander Holyfield, it was easily the weakest skit of the bunch, with no real punchline.

HIGHLIGHTS:

    • Kermit: Gonzo, you are not all the way across the country, you are right here on our stage.
    • Gonzo: I know. My mom wouldn’t let me go.
    • Kermit: What?
    • Gonzo: She said there were too many weirdos. Might be a bad influence on me.
  • I found the segment with magicians Penn and Teller highly entertaining despite the lack of Muppet characters.
  • The idea of Gary Cahuenga is a good one. An interloper from another age of puppet-based entertainment now forced to live in the current age of puppet-based entertainment is an intriguing concept. It would have been interesting to see if, had the show run longer, he’d ever do anything more than his conversation with Prince in the season premiere.
    • Gary: Wait a minute, this isn’t 1956?
    • Rizzo: Not unless you go by my paychecks.

MY RANKING: 2.5/5 trap doors. I would have ranked this higher if the ending didn’t leave things hanging so far out. Both plots have bright points, but overall the episode stumbles just short of the finish line because of the flat ending.

We’re almost done with the show—next week, in fact! In the meantime, we invite you to vote in another poll. What is your favorite episode of Muppets Tonight’s second season?

What is the Best Episode of Muppets Tonight Season 2?
201 – The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
202 – Rick Moranis
203 – Heather Locklear
204 – Pierce Brosnan
205 – Coolio & Don Rickles
206 – Paula Abdul
207 – Dennis Quaid
208 – The Cameo Show
209 – The Best of Muppets Tonight
210 – Andie MacDowell
211 – Johnny Fiama Leaves Home

Poll Maker

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