The Muppet Show: Season Three

I’ve been in a nostalgic mood lately. So many things have been coming back from my childhood – from the new Indiana Jones movie to the upcoming releases of The Incredible Hulk television show on DVD. As a child who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, there is so much to love about the film and television from that era.

Another part in my nostalgia has been the release of Season Three of The Muppet Show on DVD. I was a young child when The Muppet Show started, so I remember watching many of these episodes on television when they were first run.

Season One was brilliant, delivering some of the best variety show material along with clever comedy and great slapstick. Season Two, which came out about a year ago, was good as well but not as sharp as the first season. In the second year, the show put too much weight on the variety show elements and presented too many musical numbers without the special Muppet zaniness to go along with it.

Fortunately, things get back on the right foot with Season Three. It’s no wonder there’s prevailing wisdom among television professionals that a show usually needs to get to its third year before it really gels.

While the first season was innovative and fresh, Season Three is much more polished, and the character have really taken form. Miss Piggy and Kermit are officially an item. Gonzo has blossomed into a chicken playa’ and new characters like Beauregard and Lew Zealand have been introduced.

The guest stars have become more diverse as well. Where earlier seasons featured friends of the producers, mostly due to the fact that The Muppet Show hadn’t reached its full level of credibility, these 24 episodes have a wide range of bone fide stars. And the guests come from more than just the variety show circuit.

The Muppets join forces with rock stars Leo Sayer and even Alice Cooper. They also welcome in some very high-profile guests like Sylvester Stallone and Cheryl Ladd. Like any season, though, there’s a slate of guests that time has forgotten (like Spike Milligan, Marisa Berenson and Leslie Uggams), and unfortunately also represent an obit list from Variety (like Gilda Radner, Pearl Bailey and Danny Kaye).

Season Three also features some of the more classic moments, like Harry Belafonte singing “Turn the World Around” with the cast and Alice Cooper’s horror-theme sketches.

But beyond the guest stars, I love the Muppets more. Sure, Kermit’s the anchor, but plenty of screen time is given to others, including Fozzie Bear who is given some room to grow. Classic running sketches like Pigs in Space, Muppet Labs (featuring Beaker, one of my favorite Muppets) and my all time favorite, the Swedish Chef, are just as funny – if not funnier – than when they first aired.

Few DVD box sets come along that I watch with such voracity as I do The Muppet Show. Sadly, there were only five seasons… but that means I can enjoy two more sets again in the near future.

THE UPSIDE: As funny and clever as the first season.

THE DOWNSIDE: Some of the forgotten stars get too much screen time.

ON THE SIDE: One of the best forgotten moments… in one episode, Animal and the Swedish Chef serenade Helen Reddy. Hilarious!

Grade: A


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