Ryan Dosier – Here we go again, with our rundown of the best of the best episodes of The Muppet Show. At this point, we delve into Season 4, which as you all know is not available on DVD or any legal form of viewing… so I won’t exactly tell you how I watched these episodes, but you’re smart enough to figure it out. Right? Good. (There’s nothing to see here, Disney. Move along!)
Anyway, as impossible as it may seem, The Muppet Show only gets better as the seasons go on. Season 4 is one of the most expertly crafted of the five seasons, and has perhaps the most consistently incredible roster of guest stars. Practically every episode this season is great, and this was definitely the hardest season to choose only six favorites. The fact that both the Christopher Reeve and the Lynda Carter episodes didn’t make the list says something about how incredible this season is. Let’s get into it, shall we?
Episode 401: John Denver – John Denver worked with the Muppets so many times, it’s almost easy to forget that he was a guest on The Muppet Show before doing anything else with them. In this episode, John and Kermit decide that they should take the whole gang camping. This is a novel idea to the frog and the folk singer, but all the other Muppets are horrified. Miss Piggy especially is turned off by the thought of walking amongst snakes and alligators in a swamp. The comedy is brilliant, the music of the episode is excellent, and it’s one of those classic backstage plots that makes you realize why The Muppet Show works so well.
Episode 406: Linda Lavin – This is one of those episodes where the guest star is completely overshadowed by the goings-on of the Muppets. In this episode, Miss Piggy turns the show into a raucous birthday celebration for Kermit. The show turns into a “This is Your Life” style ordeal with appearances from Kermit’s old acting coach and the fired Wayne and Wanda. The rest of the show is packed with great bits, including Robin singing “Be a Frog” and becoming a patient in Vet’s Hospital, Statler and Waldorf singing “It Was a Very Good Year,” and many more wonderful moments. This is as hilarious and classic a birthday party for Kermit as any Mupept fan could ask for.
Episode 410: Kenny Rogers – In this episode, we get a stellar turn in comedy by country legend Kenny Rogers. His moments with the Muppets are spectacularly fun. Plus, his musical numbers, especially “The Gambler,” are exceptional. But the aspect of this episode that makes it one of the best is the constant physical pain Kermit endures. He is flung into a wall from the trapeze, flung from a bed, pushed down stairs, hit by a stage light, and shot from a catapult. Seeing Kermit in such dire straights is rare for Muppet productions, but it’s always comedy gold. Plus, we get the dynamite “Coconut” song from Kermit’s pain… so it’s worth it.
Episode 411: Lola Falana – High in the running for my favorite episode of The Muppet Show, this is the episode where Gonzo decides to leave the show for a career as a movie star in Bombay, India. Of course, midway through the episode we find out that he isn’t actually leaving, but not before some great numbers by the Muppet chickens and Gonzo’s perfect rendition of “My Way.” Guest star Lola Falana helps remind the Muppets and Gonzo why he’s so irreplaceable as part of the cast, but it’s Gonzo who shines the brightest here. His emotional journey is brilliant and shows why he is such a successful character. Sure, he’s weird and a bit insane, but deep down he’s the most heartfelt and passionate Muppet around.
Episode 414: Liza Minnelli – A brilliant murder mystery parody sets the show off on a crash course for comedy. Dr. Julius Strangepork’s director character is “murdered” early on, and is joined by a troupe of other “murdered” Muppets as the episode goes on. Liza Minnelli is fantastic in the episode, but what makes it one of the best is how hard the Muppets all commit to the storyline. Kermit plays a private eye brilliantly and it never feels like you’re part of a regular episode of The Muppet Show, it’s something more. It’s a play with the finest comedic actors to be found. The reveal of the “murderers” is hysterical, the musical numbers are spectacularly put together, and everything coalesces to make one of the greatest episodes of The Muppet Show almost effortlessly.
Episode 417: Star Wars – My favorite episode of Season 4, and one of my top 5 favorite episodes period, sees the stars of Star Wars (plus Mark Hammil) invading The Muppet Show. Chaos ensues throughout the entirety of this episode, with Mark Hammil trying to do impressions (“Who do you do?”), the S.S. Swinetrek being overrun by Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, and R2-D2–not to mention the nefarious Dearth Nadir, and Kermit still trying to put on a show. Amdist the chaos, Scooter performs “Six String Orchestra,” some sheep perform “Ram-a-Lam-a-Ding-Dong,” and Angus McGonagle, the Argyle Gargoyle, gargles Gershwin (gorgeously). It’s a riot throughout, and showcases The Muppet Show at its most unhinged, yet oddly its most approachable, point.