The Muppet Show: 40 Years Later – Bernadette Peters

Published: November 10, 2017
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Original air date: November 4, 1977

Robin the Frog isn’t always a character we get to see a lot of these days. In fact, the average Muppet fan might wonder if he’s been retired. We saw him a little in the short-lived Muppets TV series from a few years ago, and he was shoved so much into the background of The Muppets (2011), that the sequel made a joke about how he’s not around a lot anymore. Although that joke was pretty funny, the context of it is a shame. Robin is so integral to the Muppets, not only because he is a smart and adorable and identifiable character for younger viewers (or, younger at heart), he also brings out a side of Kermit that we often don’t get to see. Although Kerm is always putting out fires, often acting as a reasonably stern caregiver for his troupe of loonies, with Robin, Kermit is usually quieter, more introspective and sweeter without being saccharine.

That’s what makes this episode such a winner. We get into the dynamics of the whole Kermit/Robin thing, while still leaving enough time for some Kermit/Piggy shenanigans and our special guest star, the incomparable Bernadette Peters as well! Ms. Peters may not need any introduction for our older readers, but for anyone born after 1990, here ya go: Bernadette Peters is a Tony-winning Broadway legend, and she was in The Jerk with last episode‘s special guest, Steve Martin. Unsurprisingly, like everything else she does, she gives her Muppet Show appearance a lot of warmth, and Bernadette Petersesque brassiness, regardless of whether she’s dancing with a bunch of big Muppet monsters or singing a downhome song with the Muppet jug band.

Also very notable is the first Henson/Muppet appearance of the gorgeous song, “Just One Person,” from 1975’s Snoopy: The Musical. This song, with its gentle and enduring message of our belief in one another being able to change the world, ended up being an anthem for the Muppets and for Henson himself. It was most notably sung during a very emotional moment from Jim Henson’s memorial in 1990.

But it’s not all nostalgic Muppet sentimentality, here. In fact, most of this episode is laugh-out-loud funny. Our opening number is a duet between Kermit and Miss Mousey, of all characters. They sing the ol’ Fred Astaire classic “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life” (that’s a mouthful), much to Miss Piggy’s chagrin. To be honest, I don’t know why she’s so upset, the song is basically about how Kermit is a liar when it comes to matters of the heart. Regardless, Piggy doesn’t let Statler applaud the song. Instead, she puts him in a headlock and forces him to boo. Later on in the episode, Sam the Eagle also travels up to the balcony to heckle our favorite hecklers, and unsurprisingly, they are not into the extra attention.

Next up in the episode is a wonderfully shot sequence with Robin, who looks positively miniscule amongst a beautifully art-directed set filled with old Muppet Show theater props. Robin is trying to get up the nerve to convince his uncle Kermit to sing a song in the show.  I can empathize with Robin as a smaller performer myself. Sometimes we’re overlooked for those that have the physically larger stature or broad personality. However, when chaos ensues, as it inevitably does on The Muppet Show, Kermit flat-out ignores his little nephew.

This scene leads to the aforementioned cover of “Just One Person” by Peters and Kermit acknowledging the error of his ways and offering Robin a spot on the show. Robin eagerly wants to sing the grandiose “They Call The Wind Mariah,” but Kermit wants him to sing something cute instead.

What follows reminds us that Robin and Kermit’s relationship isn’t all saccharine. Robin proceeds to threaten Kermit with a lawyer and agent, Kermit counters with threatening to fetch Robin’s father (Kermit’s long-lost brother?)! There’s something that feels real in this interchange. Kermit is the consummate show-runner even with a small family member.

It all ends well for Robin when he agrees to sing “I’m Five,” an adorable number (see what I did there?) popularized by Danny Kaye in the 1950s.

This episode of The Muppet Show has it all: genuine laughs, a great guest star and some heart peppered with some Muppety cynicism too. It’s a shame we don’t see more of Miss Mousey in later Muppet projects, she can rock a bonnet like no other! It’s also a shame we’re not seeing more of Robin these days either. This episode proves how great he can be if you balance his sweet nature with a saltiness that can only come from our favorite troupe of weirdos.

Best Joke: The button on a sketch featuring Sam the Eagle reading the fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper is so funny and Muppety that I can’t possibly spoil it here.

MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): Miss Mousey. I want me more Mousey!!! Twelve seasons of Mousey and a Mousey movie!

Most Classic Moment: This has to go to “Just One Person,” a song that, although it was meant for the Peanuts, is now inescapable from Jim Henson’s legacy.

Should-Be-Classic Moment: Uh, Veterinarian’s Hospital does a whole sketch opposite a shoe. And it’s awesome.

One More Thing… I. Want. More. Miss. Mousey.

Okay, One More Thing… DID I MENTION MISS MOUSEY????

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by Louie Pearlman

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