The Muppet Show: Nostalgia
What's Old is New
Recently it has been announced that The Muppets, the puppets from the 1950s created by Jim Henson, would receive its own series in 2015. And while The Muppets have been around for a long time and have become quite famous for its brand of comedy, one should not forget one of the most well know incarnation of The Muppets franchise. The Muppet Show. Airing in 1976, The Muppet Show was essentially all of The Muppets coming together to create various episodes where all of the characters engaged in different theatrical shenanigans. But with the interesting addition of famous celebrities acting alongside the Muppets. In an attempt to differentiate itself compared to other programs at the time aimed for children. Namely the fact that some of the guests and skits were not necessarily based on material that was made for children. First and foremost was an episode where Alice Cooper was a guest, and the entire episode took on a scary aesthetic that referenced subject matter that most parents would not normally let their children watch. Some of the guests were also well known comedians with their own franchises. One example would be John Cleese of Monty Python's Flying Circus fame. And as a foreshadowing of the movies that would be produced using the Muppets as characters, Vincent Price was another interesting celebrity guest to appear on The Muppet Show. The Muppet Show was one way younger viewers could see celebrities of different forms of media, but in different scenarios that were funny in different ways.
The main thing that made The Muppets fascinating as a franchise was that it was able to include mature themes and aesthetics into its acts and still retain its image as something wholesome for the kids. This idea was also used in The Muppet Show when it came to its celebrities. Like the singer Alice Copper. Who, at the time, was well known for making some very controversial songs. So it should come as no surprise that Alice Cooper would bring a more frightening aesthetic for his time as a guest on The Muppet Show. Especially with the monsters that he brought with him during his introduction before the theme song played. Even the introductory skit, which consisted of Alice Cooper dressed as Count Dracula singing Welcome to My Nightmare in a haunted castle was scary. Although some of the more questionable lyrics were left out, which made sense for the time this episode aired. Of course, after Alice Cooper's first act, Kermit the Frog interacted with Alice, which basically had Alice attempt to get Kermit to sell his soul to The Devil, which most likely helped support Alice Cooper's extreme persona at the time of this episode. In a continuation of this sub-plot, while Kermit refused to sign said contract, Gonzo wanted to sell his soul for all the wealth that he would receive. Of course, when Alice Cooper's controversial image was brought into question, Alice managed to subvert the argument by saying that his enjoyed the strangeness that was associated with how he presented himself musically. And after a short version of the song School's Out, Alice Copper managed to help make one of the more surprising episodes of The Muppet Show. Although the bill for special effects was supposedly very high.
One good thing about The Muppet Show was that depending on the age of the viewer, all of the celebrities were famous for other form of theatrics. On celebrity, John Cleese, was of course famous for the series Monty Python's Flying Circus. For viewers of Monty Python's Flying Circus, having two forms of comedy coming together would ensure a fairly humorous experience. Especially since John Cleese worked with the writers of The Muppet Show to make his appearance on the show ironically show make trying to get out of hosting the show. Which the opening scene of him being tied-up and gagged helped establish. Humorously, most of John's methods of protest were either ignored, came too late to prevent anything, or eaten. Even acts where John was a willing participant had him do something that was unsuited for the skit. Like dressing up and acting like a pirate during a skit set in outer space. Of course, the absurdity of John Cleese getting two different genres wrong was apparently so funny that even two characters famous for insulting all of the skits from The Muppet Show found this particular skit funny. Other amusing skits included an intermission between skits where he attempted to fix one of Gonzo's elongated arms by elongating the rest of his limbs, arguing with Kermit about how he does not sing any type of song, and ending with being a very unwilling participant for a song. Comedy can take a wide variety of fomrs, and John Cleese made the idea of an ironically unwilling guest for a show very funny for viewers.
As shown in the episode where Alice Cooper was a guest on The Muppet Show, this show was not afraid to expose viewers to people who were famous for content that was not for children. So while Alice Cooper was a fairly recent celebrity who was famous for making music that was deemed unfit for children, Vincent Price was was famous for starring in movies that were deemed unfit for children. Even Kermit the Frog acknowledged the scariness hat was associated with Vincent Price when he first introduced him to the audience. In fact, the first act in this episode involved one particularly monstrous Muppet eating another smaller Muppet and singing a song about it. And as a reference to Vincent Price's contributions to the Horror genre, the first skit where Vincent Price played Count Dracula while trying to find a room for the night because his horse was experiencing a flat tire. While the skit itself was somewhat comedic towards the end, younger viewers were most likely terrified of some of the visuals. A more frightening skit occurred later where Kermit the Frog and Vincent Price had an intellectual discussion about gourmet dining with two other Muppets. One of the world's best cooks and one the world's best eaters. The thing about the Muppet who was good at eating things was that he literally started eating random things in the skit. First the props, then the chef, and eventually Kermit himself. A scary episode, but nothing too scary for younger viewers.
As a show, The Muppet Show managed to appeal to both young and old viewers. Mostly because it combined the celebrities that older viewers might be familiar with and the childish whimsy of The Muppets for younger viewers. And while some celebrities, like Alice Cooper and Vincent Price, were known to make or participate in content not suitable for children, The Muppet Show managed to make these people acceptable to watch by youngsters by making situations where including comedic moments with the scary moments. And even if most of the skits were relatively questionable for its time, The Muppet Show was still a fun show.