KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (18)
May 30, 2022
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite TV shows of the Seventies (1974–1983).
THE MUPPET SHOW | 1976–1981
The original Muppet Show perfectly aligned with my increasing childhood need to be entertained in a quality way. Sesame Street had previously set me up to accept Muppets as both educators and friends. They were not people and they were not cartoons, they resided somewhere in between — taking the forms of animals, monsters, inanimate objects and vaguely human, multi-hued personalities. Kermit the Frog was just a street reporter at this point, but as Walter Cronkite did for so many in the same period, he gained my trust. By the time he was ready to lead a new crew into the world of showbiz via a seemingly slapdash variety show, I was a little older and hungry for insider laughs, behind-the-scenes chaos, and acts that often entertained the audience through failure.
The guests were great, though I knew who very few actually were. They played along well and seemed to accept this world as much as I did. But what I was taking in was also a sense of how much effort went into the production of The Muppet Show. The insults, the breakdowns and missteps that happened during the acts and in the wings, were red herrings. The inventiveness and attention to detail, the writing and the performance, the honoring of the past while parodying the contemporary, was all planned out so well that I could not help being absolutely bewitched on a weekly basis.
The show could have had a smaller cast. It could have repeated the standard acts more often. It could have completely done away with the entire behind-the-scenes storyline that took place during each show. But all of the elements remained, week after week. We would see one-off muppets, rare acts and weird experimental stuff. We would swing from cold opens to daredevil acts, from cooking shows to science shows, from full-on rock performances to moving ballads sung as duets between a celebrated talent and a pig, staring deeply into each other’s eyes. Jim Henson, Frank Oz and the rest of the creators and performers always gave us our money’s worth, as if we’d paid our 2 bits to actually see a performance in this ramshackle yet earnest vaudeville theater.
Even as a kid, I recognized — thanks to old Warner Brothers cartoons, say, or Disney movies — that painstaking effort and quality control would nearly always deliver a superior production. I saw right through Fred Flinstone with his repeating backgrounds and lazy animation. Hanna-Barbera characters couldn’t hold a candle to Bugs or Mickey. That appreciation for the “work” took root in me early on, and I would later recognize it in things like Chris Ware comics and Miyazaki movies. The Muppet Show enthralled me through its sheer need to do something that had never really been done before, and to do it well.
KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Lynn Peril on ONE DAY AT A TIME | Dan Reines on THE WHITE SHADOW | Carlo Rotella on BARNEY MILLER | Lucy Sante on POLICE WOMAN | Douglas Wolk on WHEW! | Susan Roe on THE LOVE BOAT | Peggy Nelson on THE BIONIC WOMAN | Michael Grasso on WKRP IN CINCINNATI | Josh Glenn on SHAZAM! | Vanessa Berry on IN SEARCH OF… | Mark Kingwell on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA | Tom Nealon on BUCK ROGERS | Heather Quinlan on LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE | Adam McGovern on FAWLTY TOWERS | Gordon Dahlquist on THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO | David Smay on LAVERNE & SHIRLEY | Miranda Mellis on WELCOME BACK, KOTTER | Rick Pinchera on THE MUPPET SHOW | Kio Stark on WONDER WOMAN | Marc Weidenbaum on ARK II | Carl Wilson on LOU GRANT | Greg Rowland on STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES | Dave Boerger on DOCTOR WHO | William Nericcio on CHICO AND THE MAN | Erin M. Routson on HAPPY DAYS. Plus: David Cantwell on THE WALTONS.
JACK KIRBY PANELS | CAPTAIN KIRK SCENES | OLD-SCHOOL HIP HOP | TYPEFACES | NEW WAVE | SQUADS | PUNK | NEO-NOIR MOVIES | COMICS | SCI-FI MOVIES | SIDEKICKS | CARTOONS | TV DEATHS | COUNTRY | PROTO-PUNK | METAL | & more enthusiasms!