tms01forsythWell, The Muppet Show pulls another bait and switch on me today, but luckily, I don’t have to take it. Following yesterday’s excellent episode with Peter Ustinov, today they head back down the drain with Bruce Forsyth.

There’s not a lot I can say about Bruce Forsyth except that if this is the kind of celebrity that England was producing in 1976, then it’s no wonder the United States spent the whole year celebrating its independence.

But I don’t want to talk about Bruce Forsyth today, and you can’t make me. This was gonna be a tough one — another season-one runaround with a bad guest star and a couple of running gags. I could’ve spent this whole episode cowering in my chair, knocking back double whiskeys and trying to figure out how I was gonna spin a whole My Week piece out of this episode without just repeating the same tired old season-one critique.

But I do have something to write about. I can write about the Duck.

Muppet fans have uncovered a lot of weird little bits of trivia over the years. We like peeking into the corners and finding out arcane little facts, like the names of all the Frackles, or who performed the Swedish Chef’s hands. But so far, no Muppet fan has ever really figured out what was up with Cynthia Adler.

Cynthia Adler appeared in two episodes of The Muppet Show and then, as far as I know, never worked with the Muppets ever again. She appeared in the discussion panel sketch in the Peter Ustinov episode, performing Cynthia Birdsley, a one-time character who mostly distinguished herself by not sounding at all like any of the other Muppet performers. She has a kind of Joy Behar, tough-talking New-York-dame rasp. She’s fun, and she sounds more like a real woman than anyone else on The Muppet Show.

Then, in the Bruce Forsyth episode, she plays the Duck.

The Duck appears backstage right after the first number, and she approaches Kermit with a kind of whiny persistence. “Oh, Kermit… I finally got the punchline down for the act tonight, wanna hear it?” Kermit says okay. “Good,” says the Duck, and she takes a deep breath. “QUAAAAACK!”

Kermit is nonplussed. “Fine, fine,” he says, “but, uh, keep working on it, okay?” The Duck walks away, shaking her head: “Oh, sure, thanks a lot. Put me down, like everybody else. Yeah, that’s fine… put me down…”

Kermit does a take to the camera. “Bitter duck.”

I love the Duck. The Duck is my new favorite character.

She appears again halfway through the show, in the talk spot with the guest star. (Don’t talk about the guest star, Martha!)

Then she makes her final triumphant appearance as the patient in the Vet’s Hospital sketch, where Dr. Bob persists in calling her a chicken. “I’m not a chicken, I’m a duck!” she shrieks. They pay no attention and say they’re going to treat the chicken. “DUCK!” yells the Duck, and they duck. They do this about six times. Finally, Dr. Bob says to the Duck, “What kind of doctor do you think I am?” The Duck says, “QUACK!” and that’s pretty much the end of Cynthia Adler’s career with the Muppets.

After that, according to her Internet Movie Database entry, Cynthia Adler did some voices for the Rankin-Bass special Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, and for an animated Coneheads TV special. She did a couple of seriously minor movies, and her most recent entry is for playing Louella Hopper in a Carmen Miranda biopic called Bananas Is My Business. Who was Cynthia Adler, and why did she cross paths with the Muppets for two weeks? And once they had her, why did they let her go?

It’s a minor Muppet mystery that may never be solved. But for Cynthia Birdsley and the Duck, Ms. Adler, thank you. You saved me from writing about Bruce Forsyth today, and for that, I am eternally in your debt.

by Danny Horn

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