Tough Pigs Anthology
The Decline and Fall of Gorch
Part One: The Decline
Come with us now... from the bubbling tarpits to the sulfurous wasteland... from the rotting forest to the stagnant mud flats... to The Land of Gorch!
For the next two months, Tough Pigs will be going where no fan has gone before, deep into the heart of one of the weirdest periods of Muppet history -- the days when Muppets had extramarital affairs, performed animal sacrifices, and sniffed at mind-expanding crater smoke. These, my friends, are the days of Gorch.
This is the deal -- it's 1975, and Henson is still trying to shop The Muppet Show to American networks. He's made two prime-time specials for ABC, but nobody seems able to shake the perception that Muppets are for pre-schoolers. How can Henson prove that he can do more than Sesame Street? Obviously, the only possible answer is to join the cast of the hip new late-night comedy show, and perform the grossest, most violent, most disturbing sketches he can come up with.
And that would be Gorch -- an alien planet populated by warty, foul-mouthed monsters, who appeared in weekly sketches for the first year of Saturday Night Live. Henson performed King Ploobis, the ineffectual ruler of Gorch -- that's the big green guy over on the right of this photo. The little guy perched at top left is Scred (Jerry Nelson), Ploobis' right-hand creature. Next to him is Queen Peuta (Alice Tweedy), Ploobis' charming wife, and the hairy guy is Wissss (Richard Hunt), their crater-head son. The babe next to him is Vazh (Fran Brill), Ploobis' maidservant and the object of his adulterous desires. Finally, last but never least, the statue at bottom left is The Mighty Favog (Frank Oz), the spiritual leader of Gorch.
From October 1975 to January 1976, these creatures fought, flirted and drank their way through ten bizarre, sometimes hilarious sketches. The characters were popular with some of the audience -- especially Scred, the surprise breakout star of the group -- but many people on the SNL staff thought the Muppets didn't fit in with the rest of the show. (Jim Belushi famously referred to them backstage as "The Mucking Fuppets.") When the Henson team went to England in early 1976 to shoot the first couple episodes of The Muppet Show, the SNL crew took it upon themselves to... well, maybe I'm getting ahead of the story.
For the first time ever in print, Tough Pigs is proud and slightly nauseated to present the full, complete history of The Decline and Fall of Gorch.
Part One: The Decline will run through June, with transcripts of the first seven Gorch sketches -- including the true story of Ploobis' addict son, Gorch's financial ruin, and Scred's mad crush on Lily Tomlin.
Part Two: The Fall, coming in July, will tell the whole, horrible story of what happens when you fire puppets on live TV... and the depths they'll stoop to in order to get hired back.
in which Ploobis and Scred are sent to The Mighty Favog for medical advice
(October 11, 1975 -- host George Carlin)
in which The Mighty Favog provides fiscal assistance
(October 18, 1975 -- host Paul Simon)
in which Ploobis and Scred say no to crater smoke
(October 25, 1975 -- host Rob Reiner)
in which Ploobis endangers a species
(November 8, 1975 -- host Candice Bergen)
in which Ploobis has a migrane
(November 15, 1975 -- host Robert Klein)
in which Scred falls for Lily Tomlin
(November 22, 1975 -- host Lily Tomlin)
The Decline and Fall of Gorch continues...
Want to see the Gorch sketches?
Don't bother writing to me for copies, cause I don't have most of them. I got my transcripts by visiting the Museum of Television and Radio -- an amazing resource for Muppet fans. The Museum has an enormous collection of old TV shows, available to the public at private screening booths. They have a huge amount of rare Muppet stuff in their collection, including a compilation of most of the Gorch sketches. If you're near or visiting New York or LA, the Museum is definitely worth a visit. Check out the MTR website for more info, and have fun!
Super big thanks
to Mark Pethick
for giving me missing sketches
and compiling the episode guide
for his fab illustrations
and Karen Falk
for answering my Gorch questions!