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Buena Vista Home Video presents
The Muppet Show: Season One (1976)

"Thank you, thank you, thank you, and welcome to The Muppet Show!"
- Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: August 07, 2005

Stars: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Other Stars: Jim Nabors, Joel Grey, Rita Moreno, Florence Henderson, Paul Williams, Harvey Korman, Peter Ustinov, Candice Bergen, Vincent Price, Twiggy
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 10h:04m:00s
Release Date: August 09, 2005
UPC: 786936285833
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+B+B- B-

DVD Review

Growing up a huge fan of The Muppet Show, I had a feeling that I would still be able to enjoy the show after all of these years. This is a bit ridiculous, though, as after five minutes of the first episode in The Muppet Show: Season One, I knew I was in for a long evening. I just couldn't get over how downright hilarious these sketches were, and it was nearly impossible to take my eyes off the screen during 24 straight episodes. When the first sketch of the first episode in the set is "Mahna Mahna," I knew I was in for a treat, and it was minute-after-minute of laughs from there on out.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let's reflect on Jim Henson's genius and what it meant to the children of a few decades past, and what it could mean to today's kids if parents share this show with them. Henson introduced his revolutionary Muppets creation to the world in 1969 on Sesame Street. People everywhere were in awe of these life-size hand puppets and their uncanny ability to blend in with the humans in the show, making us forget that they weren't exactly like us, not at all living, breathing creatures.

Henson took his new-found popularity and saw his dream become a reality when an British producer financed The Muppet Show. The series began airing in 1976, but was never carried by a major network, despite its success. Always in syndication, each episode featured a different celebrity guest star. Asking these humans to work strictly with Muppets could have been a disaster, but having guests in the first season that were obviously more than willing to play along was integral to the show lasting for five years.

While the caliber of the guest stars definitely improved through the years (Mark Hamill and Christopher Lee would appear in future episodes, for example), there are some great appearances by the likes of Jim Nabors, Sandy Duncan, Vincent Price, and Twiggy, to name a few. Regardless of the guest star, the Muppets are the focus and they rarely disappoint, appealing to youngsters with their cuddly looks and zaniness, but keeping adults laughing nonstop with their borderline racy, always intelligent style of humor.

Among the best shows in the first season is the very first show on Disc 1, featuring guest star Juliet Prowse. The aforementioned Mahna Mahna song leapt into pop culture lore thanks to this episode, and this sketch is just downright funny. We also get to see Gonzo almost blow himself up, and Fozzy's rendition of a song that Skeeter's dog was pitching to Kermit is priceless. What a way to kick this set off, and it would only get better.

Gomer Pyle himself (Jim Nabors) shows up in a very funny show that featured another great performance by Fozzy the Bear, but throughout the course of the season, all of your favorite Muppets are here, from the Swedish Chef, to Beaker, to the all-time greatest Muppet ever to sport fur, Animal. Animal could just be Animal on any show, regardless of the subject and it would be great, but his place on The Muppet Show is fantastic. There are episodes where he's limited to playing drums in the orchestra pit, but there are other times where he's on the loose and keeping a smile on viewers' faces. My theory about Animal's popularity is that there's a part of everyone that wants to be just like him. Running around feverishly, yelling pure gibberish, and causing trouble everywhere he goes. It's hard to argue that he lives a great life, well, aside from being chained-up, that is.

Those of you who feel a certain level of disdain for Miss Piggy (and don't we all?) have that rare chance to enjoy episodes of The Muppet Show without Miss Obnoxious taking over the show. Sure, she still appears in most of the shows, but, mercifully, her appearances are brief and low-key. Her first appearance in Disc 1's first episode is actually rather scary, with her Muppet snout looking as if it was going to split open so she could eat the other Muppets. Just trust me, you'll know what I'm talking about when you see it.

The strange thing about this set is that the episodes are presented in a fairly random order for some reason. For instance, the first episode on Disc 1 (the Juliet Prowse one) is actually the last one to air during the official first season. Not that there's any linear storyline to follow, but there seems to be no reason why these shouldn't have been shown in the order in which they originally aired. Perhaps BVHE just wanted us to enjoy the Mahna Mahna song as soon as possible.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: These brand new full-frame video presentations not only improve upon the original broadcast quality of the show, but they are also much better than the random Muppet Show DVDs that have come out through the years. There was no improving the overall soft look of these shows, but there was really no way that could have happened given the age of the source material. Every other aspect has been cleaned up, including an improvement in the range of colors that are on display. Vastly improved image detail is the main plus, as each Muppet's features are easy to see, and minimal print flaws help out as well.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The shows can be heard in a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that isn't as impressive as the video, but is still perfectly suited for the material. There's hardly a whimper from the surrounds and the subwoofer, but the music and dialogue are blended together well, making reliving these wonderful episodes a treat for the ears.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Valiant, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, The Muppets Wizard of Oz, Kermit's 50th Anniversary, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Aliens of the Deep, Old Yeller: Special Edition, According to Jim
Packaging: Cardboard Tri-Fold
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Muppet Morsels - Pop-Up trivia track.
  2. Original Pitch Reel - Short clip intended to initially sell the show.
  3. Season One Promo Gag Reel
  4. Original Pilot - First televised appearance of the show.
Extras Review: There aren't a ton of extras, but there are quality ones, most of which are on Disc 4. Each disc has the option to activate Muppet Morsels, a Pop-Up trivia track that provides on-screen facts about the Muppets during each of the episodes. The only other extra on the first disc is a collection of Sneak Peeks for other Buena Vista projects.

Discs 2 and 3 only feature the Muppet Morsels, but Disc 4 also has the Original Pitch Reel, a three-minute segment that was shown to CBS executives. We see a Muppet in a suit behind a desk, going over how Jim Henson came up with his ideas for the show.

There's a Season One Promo Gag Reel that runs for almost two minutes, and isn't the series of bloopers that you would usually associate with a "gag reel." Instead, it's a collection of promos for future installments of the show.

The last extra is the Original Pilot, subtitled Sex and Violence. This Kermit-less, 25-minute episode features an early Animal that sounds like Fozzy, and a few of the other regular Muppet characters. This show originally aired in 1975 on ABC.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has made me very happy that I waited to buy The Muppet Show on DVD until these full-season sets. Even if you bought the various collections of the show over the last few years, the wonderful restoration work that's been done makes this first season set well worth the purchase. Given the age of the show, fans will be more than happy with the extras that this set offers, even though there aren't very many. High quality supplements make up for high quantity ones any day, though.

 


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