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The Muppet Show on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3

"The Muppet Show" Season Three: 4-Disc Set DVD Review

Buy The Muppet Show: Season Three from Amazon.com The Muppet Show: Season Three (1978-79)
Show & DVD Details

Directors: Peter Harris, Philip Casson / Producer: Jim Henson

Writers: Jerry Juhl, Joseph A. Bailey, Jim Henson, Don Hinkley

The Muppet Performers: Frank Oz (Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Animal, Sam the Eagle, Marvin Suggs, others), Jim Henson (Kermit the Frog, Rowlf, Waldorf, Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth, Link Hogthrob, Newsman, others), Jerry Nelson (Floyd, Dr. Strangepork, Robin, Crazy Harry, Baskerville the Hound, others), Richard Hunt (Statler, Scooter, Beaker, Gladys, Wayne, Janice, others), Dave Goelz (Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot, others), Louise Gold (Annie Sue, Mary Louise, others), Steve Whitmire (others)

Guest Stars: Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, Leo Sayer, Roy Clark, Gilda Radner, Pearl Bailey, Jean Stapleton, Alice Cooper, Loretta Lynn, Liberace, Marisa Berenson, Raquel Welch, James Coco, Helen Reddy, Harry Belafonte, Lesley Ann Warren, Danny Kaye, Spike Milligan, Leslie Uggams, Elke Sommers, Sylvester Stallone, Roger Miller, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Lynn Redgrave, Cheryl Ladd

Running Time: 612 Minutes (24 episodes) / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Mono 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: May 20, 2008
Season 3 Airdates: September 21, 1978 - September 11, 1979
Four single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Four-sided fold-out Digipak with furry cardboard slipcover

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Disc 4, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

By Aaron Wallace

It's been nearly thirty years since "The Muppet Show" ceased production and yet the unlikely hit series that cultivated its audience via first-run syndication retains a stronghold on popular culture even today.
In 2005, "Mahna Mahna" played a prominent part in a Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper ad. Just this year, Jason Segel drunkenly performed the show's theme in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And to this day, the Muppets' various exploits on film and in theme parks are shaped by the idea of them as a motley crew of vaudevillians for a new generation -- a characterization introduced by "The Muppet Show".

The tone of humility that brazenly unsuccessful entertainment brings is exactly why "The Muppet Show" excels on the screen even as it fails miserably on the Muppet stage. As Kermit the Frog, the permanent emcee, runs haphazardly through the backstage dressing rooms to locate absent actors, put out fires, avoid explosions, and repair damaged sets, the audience is being treated to lackluster acts like Fozzie the wannabe comedian and Gonzo the out-of-touch weirdo. Meanwhile, resident hecklers Statler and Waldorf are quick to highlight and ridicule each of the many blunders.

"Oh, [guest's full name], [guest's full name], they're ready for you!" As the Muppet's gofer, Scooter opens most episodes by alerting the human star. Why, it's Big Bird! Kermit is surprised to see his PBS co-star peeking out from behind the red carpet. Can someone tell Big Bird how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?

That self-referentiality and self-deprecation is a hallmark of the Muppet brand of humor. Watching others make fun of themselves is always good for a laugh, as is the schadenfreude derived from earnest failure. But more importantly, the Muppets' insistence on taking themselves so seriously when nothing they do comes out as serious at all generates an empathy for the characters that runs deep with their audience. As if to say "don't worry, you're doing fine", the viewer comes back again and again to entertain the Muppets' efforts and applaud their frenzied face-saving upon the ensuing disaster that is always guaranteed to come.

In fact, the show's brightest moments often come with those characters who most value their own role in the Muppet Theater. The more highly you think of yourself, the further you have to fall when everything goes wrong. That's the magic of characters like moralistic Sam the Eagle, the easily flustered Swedish Chef, and of course, the one and only Miss Piggy. "The Muppet Show"'s third season sees the porky diva in her centric role as one of the Muppets' biggest stars for the first time. Previously, she had been a bit player whose stock began to rise with the second season's introduction of the recurring "Pigs in Space" segment. By the third season, however, Henson and his men realized there was greater Piggy potential than they had capitalized on and at that point she is given the kind of screentime that one would expect from her today.

Danny Kaye plays the Swedish Chef's uncle in this sketch from the middle of Season 3. When the show moves to a train station, the core Muppets gather with lesser-knowns to approximate the opening sequence.  Fourteen Muppets singing a song...

Of course, Miss Piggy is one of Hollywood's all-time greatest personas. Her increased presence therefore takes the third season of "The Muppet Show" to new heights. The same is true for the special guests, human celebrities who headline every individual episode. Each season of the show puts one less year between the then and now and as such, the number of recognizable stars increases. Because the series is so heavily dependent on musical performances and career-based puns, familiarity with the guest host can contribute immeasurably to enjoyment of a given episode.

Even if the host is a complete stranger to the viewer, though -- as is sure to happen on occasion for anyone under 30 -- there's plenty to enjoy. The short and sweet skits are easy to appreciate and the presence of Muppet goofiness during the singing segments makes the songs more accessible than they might be otherwise. That's especially true during the third season.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment, the DVD/Blu-ray branch of the Walt Disney Company (which has owned the Muppet empire since 2004), releases "The Muppet Show": Season Three this week to DVD. As with the second season's release, the third season arrives free of edits or omitted content. Given the staggering number of musical performances, that's rather astounding and the studio's considerable efforts toward satisfying consumers with these releases is apparent. That's true for the presentation of each episode and, to some extent, the bonus features, too. For more on those, read on.

The 24 episodes are once again arranged in production order. Those episodes are listed and described below, where the original airdate refers to the original US broadcast. My ten favorite episodes from the season are denoted by a red star ().

An unbearded Kris Kristofferson is joined by Miss Piggy for a rendition of "Help Me Make It Through the Night." So enduring are the Muppets that even jazz era hippie-types still entertain. Disco may be dead but disco with creepy bird people never goes out of style.

Disc 1

1. Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge (25:44) (Originally aired November 23, 1978)
Country star Kris Kristofferson and then-wife Rita Coolidge host, performing both separately and together. Miss Piggy joins Kris on "Help Me Make It Through the Night", woodland creatures join Rita on "We're All Alone", and Rowlf joins Sam the Eagle for "A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go". Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem take on "New York State of Mind", followed by Fozzie and Rowlf performing "Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor's Life for Me)" from Walt Disney's Pinocchio. The show closes with a Kristofferson and Coolidge duet of "A Song I'd Like to Sing", accompanied by a Muppet mariachi band and Animal on drums.

2. Leo Sayer (25:44) (Originally aired December 7, 1978)
English singer-songwriter Leo Sayer kicks off the show with the up-tempo "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" in a ballroom filled with dancing animal creatures. He later returns to sing "The Show Must Go On" and "When I Need You", the latter performed in a tree while threatening forest animals gather below. Meanwhile, Miss Piggy grows increasingly jealous when Kermit gives a solo ("Carbon Paper") to a pig starlet named Annie Sue, prompting Kermit to schedule time for Piggy to recite "Daffodils". Gonzo also appears to sing "She Was One of the Early Birds".

3. Roy Clark (25:41) (Originally aired September 28, 1978)
Lubbock Lou and his Jughuggers join guest host Roy Clark for "Rocky Top". With the country legend leading the night, Kermit announces that the Muppets are "going country". A confused Fozzie sends the entire crew out to the country and an angry Kermit tells Fozzie that if anything goes wrong, he's fired. As luck would have it, the theater catches on fire. A cast of firemen arrive but are no help when all they want to do is sing "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire". Meanwhile, there's a hoedown rendition of the typical "At the Dance" segment, a "Pigs in Space" sketch, and Roy Clark performances of "Yesterday When I Was Young" and "Sally Was a Good Old Girl".

Pearl Bailey sings with some backup from a Muppet choir. As Miss Piggy gets more screentime in Season 3, so does her rival: Annie Sue. Sounding less shrill here than in the "All in the Family" opening, Jean Stapleton sings a tribute to the most dangerous Muppet: Crazy Harry.

4. Gilda Radner (25:42) (Originally aired December 14, 1978)
"Saturday Night Live" star Gilda Radner hosts, accompanying a walking and talking carrot on a medley from The Pirates of Penzance, most prominently featuring "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General". Radner then appears in the Muppet Labs, where Dr. Honeydew demonstrates a super adhesive that accidentally spreads throughout the Muppet Theatre and binds various cast members to one another. Meanwhile, Eskimo pigs sing "Lullaby of Broadway" and another porcine lot performs "The Bird on Nellie's Hat". The show closes with Gilda singing "Tap Your Troubles Away" with Beaker latched to her side.

5. Pearl Bailey (25:43) (Originally aired November 16, 1978)
Pearl Bailey lends her big voice to the show, starting things off with a big gospel number, "My Soul Is a Witness", complete with Muppets in the choir. She then duets backstage with Floyd on "In the Good Old Summertime". Fozzie and Rowlf's performance of "Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor's Life for Me)" reappears, exactly the same as seen in the first episode. The "Pigs in Space" run into Snacko Waves, causing everything on the ship to turn into food. This all leads up to the main event, which was purported to be a recreation of the jousting scene from Camelot. In true "Muppet Show" fashion, however, Kermit learns that they can't afford the rights. The grand finale therefore proceeds with a medley of songs from My Fair Lady, Hello, Dolly!, Guys and Dolls, Annie Get Your Gun, West Side Story, and Gypsy instead.

6. Jean Stapleton (25:42) (Originally aired October 5, 1978)
Jean Stapleton of "All in the Family" fame hosts and translates the Swedish Chef's mumbling for Sam the Eagle. She also sings "Play a Simple Melody" with Fozzie and "I'm Just Wild About Harry", the latter while her favorite Muppet (Crazy Harry) plays the "explodaphone". Annie Sue also returns and sings "Tico-Tico" and "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow-Wow".

No, that isn't Count von Count guest-starring; it's Alice Cooper. Country legend Loretta Lynn sings in a train station, the temporary home of the "Muppet Show" while the usual theater is fumigated. Liberace glitters while making eyes at a seductive candelabra.

Disc 2

7. Alice Cooper (25:41) (Originally aired November 2, 1978)
In a "Muppet Show" episode that would never have aired in the 2000s or under Disney ownership, rocker Alice Cooper hosts and tries to persuade Kermit to sell his soul, chats via radio with the Devil, and wears a red suit with a pointed tail. Spooky effects abound as Cooper sings "Welcome to My Nightmare", "You and Me", and "School's Out".
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A group of monsters sing "Once a Year Day". There are also skits from the Muppet Labs and "Pigs in Space" and a performance of "Over the Rainbow" by Robin the Frog.

8. Loretta Lynn (25:41) (Originally aired October 26, 1978)
Because the Muppet Theater is being fumigated, the entire show takes place at a railroad station, leading to a humorous series of necessary adaptations for the Muppets. Kermit and Gonzo are accidentally carried away on a train, singing "Sentimental Journey" on their return trip. Host Loretta Lynn sings "You're Lookin' at Country" (with Lubbock Lou and his Jughuggers), "Oh, Lonesome Me", and "One's on the Way". Additionally, Miss Piggy's "All Alone" solo and Fozzie's winning stand-up routine are frustrated, the specialists in "Veterinarian's Hospital" operate on a train conductor, and the Muppets fail to rhyme in "The Rhyming Song".

9. Liberace (25:42) (Originally aired October 19, 1978)
This Piggy-heavy episode features the diva singing "Never on Sunday" and "I Want to Sing in Opera" and co-starring in a "Veterinarian's Hospital"/Swedish Chef crossover. Famously flamboyant pianist Liberace doesn't do much as host until the end, when he provides a lengthy piano recital, dedicated to birds, including "Chopsticks", "Misty", "Chopin's Nocturne No. 5", and "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue" (the latter part featuring Liberace's singing voice too).

Miss Piggy tries to pull a fast one on Kermit with a wedding in disguise. Raquel Welch shows more skin than fabric in her racy opening dance number, "I'm a Woman." Helen Reddy is distracted in the recording studio by Animal's ferocious drumming.

10. Marisa Berenson (25:40) (Originally aired December 21, 1978)
The host dances to "Dance" and later sings "You're Always Welcome at Our House"; meanwhile, a group of pigs sing "Red Pigs Dance" and Robin the Frog croons on "Someone to Watch Over Me". A group of the Muppets also sing The Sound of Music's "Do-Re-Mi". This all leads up to Miss Piggy's much-hyped finale, a wedding sketch starring Kermit and herself in which the man she's hired as minister is more theologian than thespian.

11. Raquel Welch (25:40) (Originally aired November 30, 1978)
'70s sex symbol Raquel Welch flaunts her stuff in "Baby It's Me", returning later to cheer up Fozzie with "Confide in Me" and share the spotlight with a jealous Piggy in "I'm a Woman".
Also, Kermit sits down with Marvin Suggs and his Muppaphone, The Swedish Chef cooks, jokes are quickly dispensed "At the Dance", and Gonzo sings "Jamboree".

12. James Coco (25:41) (Originally aired October 12, 1978)
Kermit and his nephew Robin duet on "Octopus' Garden", host James Coco is joined by several Muppets for "Danny Boy", Rowlf performs "Eight Little Notes", and Wayne at least begins to sing "Catch a Falling Star". Coco returns to finish the show with Randy Newman's "Short People".

13. Helen Reddy (25:42) (Originally aired September 21, 1978)
In an unforgettable show-opener, Miss Piggy sings the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" while playing the part of Marie Antoinette and accompanied by many of her pig kin. Helen Reddy then records "Blue" with Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem and later duets with Kermit on her hit, "You and Me Against the World". Rowlf plays some Beethoven, Fozzie dances, and "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" is performed. Reddy returns to end the show with her then-current single, "We'll Sing in the Sunshine". Unfortunately, she doesn't sing "Candle on the Water", her Oscar-nominated song from the previous year's Pete's Dragon.

Scooter falls victim to "cluckitis". Judging from her big smile, "Saturday Night Live" comedienne Gilda Radner is thrilled to stand next to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew in a Muppet Labs sketch.

Order The Muppet Show: Season Three DVD from Amazon.com

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Continue to Page 2 >>

Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Disc 4, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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The Muppet Show on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3

Reviewed May 23, 2008.