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Dogs and Frogs and Pigs and Chickens

My parents have pretty much given up with Christmas gifts. They buy them for their grandchildren but for the rest of us we get checks to spend on whatever we really want. They do the same for birthdays and each time I go on an Amazon spending spree and buy stuff I've been longing for, like red satin pajamas. Mostly I go for books and DVDs or Blu-Rays.

This particular spending spree I got the first three seasons of The Muppet Show. I haven't been binge watching them, precisely, but I've been playing them while drawing my flowers the way I do with RiffTrax shorts. Most RiffTrax shorts are basically riffers versus Authoritative Disembodied Voices, so I don't have to look up and watch them as much. The Muppets have more visual gags, so I have to pay more attention. I still get the flowers done, though it does take me a little more time.

Here are some observations about The Muppet Show in no particular order:

1. I figured the first episode would be a little weaker because they'd still be finding their feet. The first episode has "Manah Manah" in it, so no. They had found their feet and started running with them.

2. Miss Piggy didn't start speaking French beyond moi et vous until after the episode with Charles Aznavour, who made her swoon by whispering nonsensical French into her ear, like the phone number for the Paris garbage dump. Only after that episode did she start inserting so many French phrases into her conversation. He must have made quite an impression.

3. Speaking of Miss Piggy, her voice changes a lot in the first season because they hadn't quite settled on who her puppeteer was. It alternated between Frank Oz and Richard Hunt. Sometimes which puppeteer was Piggy depended on whether or not the other puppeteer was performing another role in the scene. In Veternarian's Hospital, Richard Hunt would be on Piggy duty when Frank Oz was handling the patient on the table, for example.

4. Animal had a girlfriend! Or at least a dance partner. During the At The Dance sequences, Animal would dance with the same girl most times. She was a perfectly normal looking redhead--white person skin, sculpted nose, none of the weirdnesses of a typical Muppet. Animal was fond of doing "1-2-3 dip!" with her, but she seemed to take it in stride. Eventually, they seem to have parted ways. In the At The Dance sequence, Animal was dancing with a more Muppety and assertive partner, who squeezed him until he collapsed. His former partner came up while dancing with someone new. "Call him a doctor!" she said to him. As would be expected, he responded by looking down at Animal and saying "Okay. You're a doctor."

5. Miss Piggy started out a little more assertive in her pursuit of Kermit, to the point that she would throw him down and start forcibly kissing him. It's a bit squicky now, because what she did we now call sexual assault. She eventually stopped, though, perhaps because of the squick factor.

6. I have lots of thinky-thoughts and feels about the Rudolf Nureyev episode in the second season, but I'll try to confine myself to one. I remember the steam bath sequence whereby Nureyev is trapped with an amorous Miss Piggy and is trying to avoid her. I don't remember them singing in it. I definitely don't remember what they sang--a gender-reversed version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside." (!!!) I about fell out of my chair laughing.

7. Kermit and Miss PIggy's love story is kind of a weird one as far as I've gotten. Through the first season, Kermit is firmly Not Interested, and says as much multiple times. Then in the Avery Schreiber episode, Miss Piggy recruits Scooter (by threatening him with grievous bodily harm if he doesn't comply) to spread rumors that she is having a torrid affair with Schreiber, in order to make Kermit jealous. And it works! Kermit declares that he's going to have dinner with Piggy, just the two of them, right after the show. However, a little later in the show, his ardent passion has cooled back to his usual indifference, because Scooter confessed the scheme to Kermit. (You bet there was some karate-choppin' action.)

8. Damn, but Elton John had some eye-searing outfits in the 70s. He made Liberace look dignified.

9. There are few puppet expressions quite as evocative of disgust and frustration as Kermit's crumpleface.

10. There's not a lot of episode to episode continuity. In one episode, the band threatens to leave because they're tired of playing the theme song. It even ends with the closing tune played by Rowlf on piano with the conductor directing him. The next episode? "It's time to play the music! It's time to light the lights!" Maybe they came back because they couldn't get another offer. (More likely, it was because the show was syndicated, and there were no guarantees it would be shown in order.)

11. Even if I'd never heard of the guest star, the show would still be entertaining because Muppets. (The Leo Sayer episode was pretty painful, though.)

12. The first season set has this nifty thing called "Muppet Morsels", which is kinda like a commentary track, only in subtitle form. I've been re-watching the entire set to see all of them.

13. When dealing with Muppets with multiple performers (such as the Swedish Chef) I can't stop wondering how close these people had to stand next to one another in order to pull it off.

14. Sweetums gets all the full-body Muppet attention, but Thog (the huge blue one) is adorable.

15. Gonzo the Great is right up there with Yoko Ono in the realms of performance art.

16. I can usually tell if Jim Henson is operating a Muppet by the sound of the voice. Ditto Frank Oz.

17. Some of the bits use stereotypes that are reeeeaaaaally problematic.

18. The fat-shaming of Miss Piggy is pretty wince-inducing, too.

19. However, it was the 1970s, and they had some quaint notions back then.

20. On the other hand, they also used Pigs In Space to make fun of male chauvinist, well, pigs. Link Hogthrob and Doctor Strangepork would often saddle Piggy with domestic duties or treat her as lesser because she was a woman and Piggy or fate itself would usually extract some kind of revenge.

21. Nearly everything I remember comes out differently than what I remember when I watch it again. And there are entire episodes I've completely forgotten.

22. For example, I never realized that Gonzo had a crush on Miss Piggy until I watched my way through three seasons. This is probably because his expressions of desire are so few and far between that you figure he's gotten over it and then WHAM, he's back to crushing all over her. He doesn't seem to be very loyal--he goes from swooning over Camilla the chicken to swooning all over somebody else RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER. At one point he asks a cow out on a date. A live cow, not a Muppet cow. (Occasionally the Muppets encounter actual live animals and don't seem to be sure what to do with them.)

23. Statler and Waldorf either bisexual or gay men with beards. They make reference to their wives, but they also dance together a couple of times in the At The Dance sequences. According to the Muppet Morsels, we eventually meet Waldorf's wife, Astoria, and she apparently looks exactly like Statler in drag.

24. By season three, Beaker still isn't going mee-mee-mee-mee. He makes some kinds of incoherent yelps, but no mee-mees.

25. Every time Kermit sings "It's Not Easy Being Green" I have to reach for the tissues.

By the time I've finished writing this, I've made it to season three, but there's a glitch in the Spike Milligan episode that cuts it off before the grand finale. So I'll have to send it back and watch it all over again to make sure it's defect-free.


Today I took pleasure in a reassurance from my mother.

Today I learned I'll have to reschedule my appointment with my psychiatrist. (Argh!)