Turn Back Time: The Muppets on The Cher Show, part 2

Published: April 29, 2015
Categories: Feature, Fun Stuff

Part 1Part 2

Welcome back, Cheratics!  (Is that what they call Cher fans?  Well, it should be.)  We’re ready for the second segment of our coverage of the Muppets’ appearance on The Cher Show in 1975!

Die-hard Muppet fans will recognize two of the segments from this episode: Kermit shamelessly flirting with Cher, and Kermit and Ray Charles singing “Bein’ Green”.  Thankfully, there’s a whole lot more than just those, although that would certainly be enough to solidify it as a classic.

After we posted part 1, Jim Henson biographer Brian Jay Jones wrote to us to tell us a little more about the significance of the episode.  He said that it’s notable for two reasons.  First, when producer David Lazer saw Jim talking to Cher, sweaty and exhausted from wearing the heavy Sweetums costume in between takes, Lazer decreed, “That’s it. No more. Jim is their equal, he shouldn’t be getting hot and sweaty inside that costume.” Henceforth, Jim rarely performed full-bodied Muppets with big-name celebrities.  The second reason is that Jim met George Schlatter on the Cher Show set, and Schlatter encouraged Jim to create the fantastic Muppet Show pitch reel (which featured segments from this episode!)

Enough talking about history, let’s look at some real history!  The second episode of the Muppets on The Cher Show is here!


Our episode begins as Cher croons a soft version of “Happy Together”, which segues into a high energy “Love Will Keep Us Together”.  After her song, she delivers a monologue in which she mentions Kermit the Frog as one of her guests.  She says Kermit was so nervous on stage with her, he had butterflies in his stomach.  He wasn’t nervous, it’s just what he had for lunch.  Cue the laugh track.  Chastity said it was so great being with someone so great and talented, but then Cher realized she was talking about Kermit.  Laugh track again.


The show continues with special guest Ray Charles, who sings “Living for the City”, which was originally sung by that other blind singer, Stevie Wonder.  Then Cher shares a memory of seeing Ray Charles sing “Georgia on My Mind” on American Bandstand and asks him if they can sing the song together.  It’s a great number, but it is severely lacking in Muppets.


Ah, here we go!  Kermit, wearing a tri-corner hat, finally appears to make one of his patented lectures.  He wants to educate the Cher Show audience in the importance of frogs on American history.  Show us some historical love, Kermit!

Kermit: Kermit the Frog here with a Bicentennial Frog Minute!  As we take a look at the major role frogs have played in American history.  It began with the Boston Frog Party when a tax was levied on every frog’s head, and thousands of us were dumped in Boston Harbor.  Which is where we wanted to be anyway.

Then came another historic moment when George Washington Frog leaped across the Delaware.  Which kept us frogs one step ahead of the British.  Of course it was easy to spot the British frogs because they always hopped down the wrong side of the street.  And who could forget Paul Revere, as he rode a frog through the streets of Boston!  He got a terrible case of saddle warts.

Anyhow, frogs were such an important part of American history, and nobody ever mentions that Abe Lincoln’s first wife was a frog.  Sure.  Who do you think left the wart on his face?  Anyhow, when the teems of harnessed frogs carried the settlers west, and they were attacked by Indians, they had to pull their frogs in a circle.  Those were the days when General Custer fell at the hands of Sitting Bullfrog.  And you’ll find it all in this book here, which is called “Great American Frogs”.


(Cher enters)

Cher: Wait, just wait a minute.

Kermit: Wait a minute?  Wait a minute, what?

Cher: I’ve been listening to all this and I think you’ve gone a little too far.

Kermit: I’ve gone too far?  Well frogs have always gone too far!  Well beyond the call of duty!  Great frogs!  Heroic frogs!  Important frogs!

Cher: Like who?

Kermit: Well to find that out, you’ve gotta buy the book here.

Cher: Alright, let me see this book.  (Cher picks the book up.)

Kermit: Just, uh, take a look at that.

Cher: (Cher reads from the book.)  Ribbit.  Ribbit.  Ribbit ribbit.


Kermit: Fascinating!

Cher: Ribbit!

Kermit: (Deadpans to the camera) Meaningful.

This was obviously Kermit’s scripted scene, but what came next seems much more off-the-cuff, almost as if they didn’t know the cameras were running.  Cher and Kermit stand on stage as if they’re waiting to be cued by the director, and the flirting begins.


Kermit: I love your nose.

Cher: You have nice, uh, legs.

Kermit: How do you mean that?  People eat those things, you know.  You’ve got nice… arms. And elbows and everything.


Cher: Do you have a belly button?

Kermit: I haven’t looked recently.

Cher: Where do frogs keep those things?

Kermit: I don’t think so.  There’s a lot of stuff I don’t have.  I’m just a puppet.

(The audience finds this hilarious and bursts into applause.)


Kermit: Listen, do you, uh.  Fool around?

(Cher playfully slaps Kermit.)

Kermit: I didn’t think so.

Cher: What did you have in mind?

Kermit: I thought we could…

Cher: Go with you to the hop?  If you’re going to talk big, you have to come up with some action.  You’ve heard about me, don’t you read fan magazines where you come from?


Kermit: Sure, I’ve read about you. (Kermit strikes a confident pose.  Once again, the audience goes nuts.)


Next up, Cher sings “That Old Black Magic”, which would’ve been more than enough to warrant a Muppet fan’s excitement, since it’s been used several times in Henson history. But then Sweetums wanders on stage and they sing the song as a duet!  Once again, Sweetums here is performed by Richard Hunt.  This is the Sweetums we know today.  He’s brash, but slightly shy.  Richard gives a physical performance, disco dancing and flopping around on the ground.  It’s a great number, and exactly like the sort of thing they’ll do just a year later on The Muppet Show.


After a commercial break, we find Kermit and Ray Charles on stage together: Kermit sitting on a rainbow while Ray Charles sits next to him.  The duo sing “Bein’ Green”, and it’s truly a moving experience.  Ray brings the house down, while Kermit provides the sentimentality.  However, it’s a little distracting when you realize that Ray is looking directly at Kermit while he sings.  Think about that, folks.


The next sketch, another one without any Muppets, stars Cher and Ray Charles.  Cher is a teller at a bank, and Ray enters with a gun to rob the place.  Now, this part is important to the sketch: Ray is blind.  He points the gun in the wrong direction, he doesn’t know if her hands are up or not, he is just all-around ill-suited for this job.  The sketch ends as Cher convinces him to give her his gun just as the police arrive and mistakenly arrest her.  Waaaaacky!


Next up, the Muppets star alongside Cher in a spoof of a PBS donation drive.  They’re on a mission to save Channel 103.  The Muppets present are Kermit the Frog, a snarky Sam the Eagle, Waldorf (as performed by Jerry Nelson), and Mildred (performed by Richard Hunt).


Cher: Welcome again to our Save Channel 103 auction.  Our switchboard is open to take your calls, and we still have a few unsold items like the bust of Robert Cummings.

Sam: Oh yes.

Waldorf: Anybody out there need a doorknob warmer?

Mildred: Open up your hearts out there!

Waldorf: And how about the beautiful clarinet lamp?

Kermit: It’s perfect for those of you who like light music.  Get it? Light music?

Cher: We also have a sterling silver asparagus holder.

Sam: Yes, and we haven’t sold the neon crowbar or the electric meat stretcher yet.

Cher: That’s right, Sam.


Kermit: Remember folks, the money goes to a good cause.  Keep Channel 103 on the air!

Mildred: Please, please!

Sam: I have an idea!  It might help if we gave out the number to call.

All: Ohhhh! Yes! Hear hear! Very good idea!

Sam: Hold on, the frog talks!

Kermit: Does anyone remember the telephone number?

Waldorf: I forgot.


Mildred: I think it’s 3-8-something.

Cher: Folks, if anyone out there has our number, can you call us and tell us what it is?

Sam: Good idea.

Mildred: So, open up your hearts out there.

Waldorf: Remember, charity begins at home.

Cher: Here’s the number: Just dial “SHOES”.


Sam: It’s upside-down!

Mildred: Oh, silly.  Silly.


Cher: Please, Channel 103 needs your support, so grab your phones.

Kermit: And grab your wallets.

Mildred: And grab your scenic checkbooks.

Waldorf: And grab your coat.

Sam: Grab your hat.

All: (Sings) And leave your worries on the doorstep…


Kermit: (Stops the singing) Listen, time is valuable, folks!  We haven’t had a phone call in over 72 hours.

Sam: Yes.  For every eagle who donates, I will donate an equal amount.

Kermit: For every frog that donates, I will double the donation.

Cher: That’s the spirit!

Sam: That’s easy for Kermit to say, frogs are notorious cheapskates.

Kermit: They are not!

Sam: They are too!

Kermit: They are not!

Sam: They are too!

Cher: That’s a cruel thing to say, Sam.

Sam: Cruel, but it’s true.


Mildred: Yes, it’s cruel and it’s true, but I’ve never ever seen a frog put any money in a collection plate at church.

Sam: You’re right, you’re right!

Waldorf: I never saw a frog buy any girl scout cookies.

Cher: Now let’s not bicker amongst ourselves!

Sam: The only thing a frog ever gave anybody was a wart.

Kermit: That’s a racial slur!

Sam: I’m glad I said it!

Kermit: Listen, how much money would it take to keep this whole educational station on the air for an entire year?

Cher: Let’s see.  There are the plays, the documentaries, the public service programs, the news… Kermit, I think five dollars would take care of it.


Kermit: Okay, here.  (Hands Cher a $5 bill.)

Cher: Aw, Kermit, you’re the credit to the frog race.

Mildred: Channel 103 is in your debt.

Waldorf: My good frog, no man will ever again call you a cheapskate.

Sam: But an eagle will.  Cheapskate.  Big frog spender, huh?

Cher: Kermit, for your generosity and your kindness, Channel 103 has asked me that you be the guest star on the first program of their new season.

Kermit: I graciously accept.

Sam: Since he’s too broke to go anywhere anyway.

Kermit: What’s the name of the program anyway?

Cher: The French Chef.

Kermit: Uh, no good.  I don’t know how to cook.

Mildred: You don’t have to cook, you’re the guest!

Sam: You’re also the main course!

Cher: That’s right Kermit, they’re serving… frog’s legs!

(Calamity ensues.  Kermit takes his $5 back.)


Cher then sings the Neil Diamond song “I Am, I Said” while dressed in the same pattern as the backdrop.  Or she’s just a floating head and arms, which would be far from the strangest theory about what Cher really is.


Our next classic Muppet moment features Kermit and Cher’s daughter, Chastity.  Chastity is at that perfect age when a kid can have fun with a Muppet while being clever and precocious without the self-awareness that makes older kids think they’re too cool to talk to a puppet.  Chastity is a little shy, but Kermit makes up for it, as you’ll soon read.


Kermit: What do you think of your mother singing songs? Do you like her as a singer?

Chastity: Mm hmm.

Kermit: Do you like the songs she sings?

Chastity: Yeah.

Kermit: What’s your favorite song?

Chastity: I don’t really have a favorite song.  I can’t say I like them all because I don’t like them all. I like most of them.

Kermit: Hey, do you want to play a game? I got a game for you.  The game is: You look and me and I look at you, and the first one that blinks or looks away loses.

(The audiences cracks up, Chastity doesn’t get it.)


(They stare at each other, Chastity breaks.)

Kermit: Ha ha!  I got you!  I won the game!  That was one round of the game, want to play another one?  On your mark, get set, go!

(They stare.  Kermit takes a fighting pose.  Chastity lasts longer than expected.)

Kermit: Be careful. Sometimes I don’t blink for two years.


(Chastity tickles Kermit’s stomach.)

Kermit: Augh!  Don’t tickle my stomach! The one place a frog is most ticklish is on his tummy.  The one thing you really shouldn’t do is tickle a frog’s tummy.

(Chastity tickles his feet.)

Kermit: Augh! The only other place a frog is ticklish is on the bottoms of their feet.

(Chastity tickles his elbow.)


Kermit: Yaahh!  And the elbow, that too is ticklish too.  I forgot to tell you about that.  That’s three places, and the only three places where a frog is ticklish.

(Chastity tickles his back.)

Kermit: Aaaah!  And the back!  The back too.  That’s four.  Four places where a frog is ticklish, and the only four places where you really shouldn’t touch a frog, you see.

(Chastity sits patiently.)

Kermit: Thank goodness, I think that’s over with.  Will you, uh, give me a little kiss?


Chastity: Well, okay.  (Chastity kisses him on the top of his head.)

Kermit: Ah, that feels very nice.  I’ll give you a little kiss too.  (Kermit kisses her cheek.)  That’s a bona fide frog kiss.  Now sometimes, you kiss a frog and it turns into a handsome prince.


Chastity: Yeah.

Kermit: Didn’t happen that time.


Cher and Ray Charles wrap up the episode with a medley.  They sing “Look What They’ve Done to My Song”, “Hit the Road, Jack”, “Country Roads”, “Cherry” (which Ray sings as “Cher-y”), “Just for a Thrill”, and finally “What’d I Say”.  It’s a great spotlight for both singers.


And now our episode is finished.  Sweetums and Jim Henson join Cher and Ray Charles on stage, as Ray sings “What’d I Say”.  Jim’s looking spiffy in a tuxedo with Kermit on his arm, and Sweetums dances around the stage as the credits roll.  This time, the voiceover during the credits acknowledges Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Dave Goelz as the performers of the Muppets.

After watching the Muppets on The Cher Show, I’m left wondering why Jim Henson wasn’t able to wrangle any of the big celebrities he met there for The Muppet Show, especially since they were begging and pleading for celebrity guests during their first season.  Cher was announced as a guest star in The Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter for the fourth season, but it never panned out.  Bill Cosby, The Smothers Brothers, and Ray Charles all would’ve made exemplary guests too.

In any case, these two episodes of The Cher Show are pure 1970s variety show fun, and a great spotlight for the Muppets.  I’m baffled that any network wouldn’t have bought The Muppet Show after seeing these, as Jim’s genius and creativity really shone through every sketch.  And now we have this great piece of Muppet history to look back on!  Here’s hoping more discoveries fall in our laps soon.

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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com


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