The Muppets have made 8,001 Christmas specials, which means by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, they’re usually too tired to go on TV and perform. But the Muppets have celebrated the changing of the calendar on television and the internet a few times over the years, and today is the perfect day to revisit those celebrations. I first compiled this list of clips back in 2011, and the Muppets have observed the holiday a few more times since then, so put on your party hat and novelty glasses and enjoy this updated version.
In 1993, Sesame Street did an entire special devoted to New Year’s Eve. It aired with the title Sesame Street Stays Up Late, and it would be released on video later as Sesame Street Celebrates Around the World. It’s a pretty nifty special. It was made in the show’s “Around the Corner” era, and it makes good use of the super-sized street set. Here’s Big Bird and the gang anticipating the New Year’s party in song:
As you can see, Telly is characteristically uncertain about the whole “New Year” thing. He displays incredibly poor judgment by sharing his misgivings with Oscar, who, also characteristically, makes no attempt to quell Telly’s fears. Thoroughly freaked out, Telly then attempts to prevent the new year from coming, so that nothing has to change.
And then some other stuff happens, and Gina has a lovely, heartfelt talk with Telly, and long story short (SPOILER ALERT!), he learns to accept the new year as nothing to be afraid of. They make it out to the courtyard just in time for the countdown. The grown-ups also emerge from the subway at this precise moment, having departed early from their party across town, and having arrived back on Sesame Street with really amazing timing. So everyone gathers to watch the ball drop… from Wolfgang’s nose.
Is there anything more exciting than the promise of a new year, ushered in by a seal?
A few of the human characters glimpsed here, like Jamal, Ruthie and Celina, would be erased from existence when the Around the Corner set was eliminated a few seasons later, so they would cease to have any new years at all. But as of this special, they’re all blissfully unaware of that. So — Happy New Year, everyone on Sesame Street!
This wouldn’t be the last time Sesame Street would acknowledge New Year’s Eve, although about 25 new years would pass before they did it again. In the still-recent 49th season, they did an episode of the show that takes place on the date in question. By this time, Telly is an old pro at ushering in the new year, and much of the action involves Elmo’s efforts to stay awake until midnight. If it weirds you out when Muppets grow eyelids, this might be one for you to avoid.
And now, just as smoothly as we transition from the old year to the new, let’s transition from Sesame Street to the Muppet Show guys.
Way back on the first day of 1998, Miss Piggy appeared on The Today Show with then-cohost Matt Lauer. Much of the comedic tension in this segment revolves around Piggy being upset about Lauer’s inappropriate behavior, which seemed funny enough back then. Today we all know Matt Lauer is actually a big creep, so this clip plays pretty differently now.
So that happened. Now let’s jump back from the Clinton era to the Reagan days, when Kermit appeared on CBS’s New Year’s countdown special alongside Al Jarreau to celebrate 1985 turning into 1986.
Three things about this:
1. Kermit wears two different fancy top hats!
2. That’s a big apple.
3. Isn’t it funny that they just call him “Kermit” and not “Kermit the Frog?” I guess there was no danger of anyone assuming it was professional golfer Kermit Zarley guesting on this show.
And now we jump forward in time again.
In recent years, the Muppets have often marked holidays by taking to YouTube with quick, pleasant greetings that are easy to share on social media. They’ve noted the coming of the new year a few times now.
In 2011, right around the time The Muppets (the movie) was in theaters, the Muppets (the characters) counted down to midnight in this video:
A few years later, when the calendar was changing from 2013 to 2014, Disney was beginning its big marketing push for Muppets Most Wanted, which included the release of this somewhat confusing video:
Just before we crossed over into 2018, Kermit delivered this new year’s greeting:
And as 2019 was winding down, Kermit quietly wished us a happy 2020:
I have one more clip, which requires us to jump back to the 1990s. You may get temporal whiplash, but I think you’ll see why I saved this one for last. When 1996 gave way to 1997, Miss Piggy appeared on a live broadcast of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, reporting from the roof of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. The running theme here seems to be Piggy’s misery at being stuck outside in the freezing December weather, and I don’t think it would be a huge leap to conclusions to assume that what we’re really hearing is Frank Oz’s own delightful crankiness shining through.
Happy 1997, everyone! And happy 1986, happy 1998, happy 1994, happy 2018, and happy 2020. And whether you’re a monster, a giant bird, a frog, a pig, or a talk show host, best wishes for a happy 2021 (or whatever year you’re reading this in) from your pals at Tough Pigs!
Thanks to taurinecat, The1980sGuy, Jimmy Greenfield, the Muppets, PrawnRR, and Muppet Wiki for uploading this cool stuff! And special thanks to Tough Pigs’ own Staci for suggesting the article title! Click here to stay awake until midnight on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com