Zachary Kennedy – Hey Muppet fans, you know what last week was, right? That’s right! It was the 60th – lemme repeat that – SIXTIETH birthday of America’s most-adored amphibian: KERMIT THE FROG! Seeing as it was just the frog’s big day, it makes sense to take a look at Kermit’s best moments. That’d be a lot to cover (unless you’re a pig who’s tough), but thankfully there’s a home video of it: The Best of Kermit on Sesame Street.
Released in 1998 before Sesame Street’s 30th anniversary, it made sense to highlight their best & most recurring guest star. And among Sesame Street’s other “best of” videos, this was… decent. It’s better than Ernie & Bert’s and Cookie Monster’s, has the same premise as Grover’s and is just as good as Elmo’s and Big Bird’s.
The main story takes place live from Kingfisher Hall, at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Larks. Our star Grover (I’ll get to that) is going to present Froggy Baby with the biggest prize a frog can get: the American Frog Institute’s Frog of the Year Award! This proves to be difficult with the Three Little Pigs, claiming to be exclusive good friends of Kermit, causing mayhem & Pig Control, the Big Bad Wolf, constantly being called to stop them. Grover continuously reads a poem he wrote for the occasion, “What is a Frog”, with the aforementioned best moments being shown to the big K himself.
The Muppets (as a whole, not just Sesame Street) doing an award has been done plenty of times before, but it’s still a great concept. They always expand more to their cultures & to their worlds. The Fred Awards, the Fuzzy Awards, the Golden Flyer Award, the Nobel Prize for Counting; all are memorable in their own Muppety rights. This is no exception. The setting is really nice & there’s an interesting array of guests; some frogs, a fish, Little Red Riding Hood, Little Bo Peep & a rooster just to name a few. It’s peculiar, yes, but isn’t every Muppet production? Grover’s poem has some nice bits in it, the Three Little Pigs also get some enjoyable annoying moments (the good kind of annoying) & Peter Linz is a great Big Bad Wolf. His Theo-based voice fits the Wolf & I kinda wish he did him more often.
The moments featured are a great bunch, truly getting some of Jim Henson’s crowning achievements as Kermit; children’s television wise, of course. There are old school classics like his Alphabet with Joey or Bein’ Green; semi-modern moments like African Alphabet & Do Wop Hop; even moments that I never heard of (when I first saw this video as a kid), like Tadpoles & This Frog. There are some bits that are made into mini-montages, like Kermit getting angry and the Sesame Street News Flashes.
There are only 2 problems I have with this video. The first is there’s too much Grover in it. I know that’s strange considering that this is the best of KERMIT, but upon rewatching, do you know how many lines Kermit gets in the linking footage? Five. Grover actually gets more lines than the character we’re highlighting! Steve Whitmire was obviously there for the shoot (it doesn’t look like a dub-over), so why not use him more? In fact, Steve has more lines as one of the pigs than he does as Kermit! There are also new Muppet & Kid Moments – guess who’s talking to the kids? Grover! Okay, yes, they are at least talking about Kermit, but why didn’t they have Kermit talk to the kids? I get that Grover’s the host and Kermit’s the guest of honor, so he should just sit-back and enjoy the show. I also know that we got plenty of Kermit with the past footage, but even then, any skits that have Kermit with other characters are with Grover! He’s interacted with other characters, so why not a little variety? What about Cookie Monster? Herry? The Count? Elmo? On that note, wouldn’t it have been great to have other Sesame characters come up to talk about Kermit & not just Grover? They did it a couple years later in A Celebration of Me: Grover & it worked! Before anyone starts sending hate mail, I don’t hate Grover. He’s one of Frank Oz’s greatest & funniest characters; it just feels odd seeing him more than Kermit.
The second and biggest problem I have is the ending, which is hard to watch, even now as a 20-something-year-old. Take a look at the cover and what do you see? Kermit holding the supposed Frog of the Year trophy and it’s fairly small. False-advertising. After “This Frog” and Grover finishes his poem, he calls Kermit up to accept the award. There’s thunderous applause as Kermit grabs for the small trophy at the desk. It looks like a nice way to end the video, right? WRONG! Just as Kermit starts his acceptance speech, Grover stops him saying “Hold it! Hold it! I cannot give you this!” It turns out that the trophy that’s been at the desk this whole time isn’t the real prize. Where’s the real prize, then? The giant statue that’s been in the back, of course! After all, this is the BIGGEST prize a frog can get! So the pigs throw the statue onto Kermit, Grover sings one final song, Kermit is struggling & stumbling around to carry his prize in the background, Grover giving his own acceptance speech and ends with Kermit being crushed as we fade to black. The end! See the problem?
That ending horrified me as a child, to the point that I imagined Kermit ended up comatose in the hospital! The only other time I felt that uneasy at with Kermit sketch was his ice bucket challenge! We don’t even see Kermit get up, so wouldn’t you find that a little unsettling to a child? I get the “biggest prize” joke and maybe others who viewed this saw it differently, but for me, it comes off as unnecessary cruelty and mean-spirited. Did Kermit deserve to be crushed? Was there any indication that he was terrible? Judging by what we saw, I didn’t see anything! It’s also hard to see Kermit getting hurt, but that’s probably personal preference. It also goes back to the “too much Grover” problem. This ending essentially makes Grover win while the honored guest ends up battered and bruised. The only time Grover wins in Sesame sketches aside from Mr. Johnson is when he’s paired with Kermit. Why do “the status quo is God” troupe? Why not let Kermit just win for once on the Street? It’s his night and his video; he deserves it!
It actually haunted me during other Sesame home videos. I saw this before Monster Hits, and when I did see it, I thought that the same thing would happen! We see a giant replica of the mini statuette in the back! I started breathing heavily throughout the rest of the video. Thank God nothing happened with it… except Elmo climbing to kiss it at the end. At least it didn’t fall over! Even with A Celebration of Me: Grover, the thought of comatose Kermit came back! At least Grover got back up after he crashed into his trophy, so there’s an indication that he was fine. Kermit didn’t! With any other Sesame character, why do they just get their award & nothing bad happens? If I was Tony Geiss (who wrote the video), I would’ve just had Kermit accept the small award, have that be the real award, and either have the song be a duet with Kermit & Grover or have Steve do a rerecorded version of “My Pollywog Ways”. Those are much less painful.
In the end, The Best of Kermit on Sesame Street is a pretty good home video. It has a creative premise, selected perfect clips and despite a bad-tasting ending that’s hard to overlook, it was nice addition for Sesame St’s 30th. You can go ahead and give it a watch, but if you do so with kids, stop it when Kermit goes for the small award. Not the greatest “Best of” Sesame home video, but it’s close and better than others. And it’s also a great bring-up for Kermit’s 60th birthday. “Froggy wants to thank his mommy and daddy, the Sesame Street News, the Frogs in the Glen, the little people behind the scenes, the big people behind the scenes and someone called Jim.”