The Muppet Show: 40 Years Later – Buddy Rich

Published: May 14, 2021
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Original air date: May 16, 1981

Recently, we here at ToughPigs compiled a list of each of our favorite Muppet Show episodes. Most of us chose episodes from Seasons 1-3, which makes sense. For a long time, these were the only ones available to us on DVD. And certainly, there were a lot of really good episodes in those seasons. Like, check our old reviews. Did you know Elton John was there once? They’re pretty good!

When we made this list though, I was one of the only ones who chose several Season 5 episodes. Despite the fact that they’ve only recently become widely available, I watched a lot of Season 5 as a kid thanks to my dad’s extensive VHS collection. Since he was a big Muppet fan, he had taped a bunch of reruns off of the TV, and my sister and I watched them all the time.

One of my favorite Season 5 episodes was this one, starring Buddy Rich. I could talk a lot about why this episode is so good, but I really only need to discuss the opening number. Here, Fozzie leads the gang in a medley of The Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine” and “Dancing in the Dark” from The Band Wagon. And if you ask me, it’s the best sketch in the entire run of The Muppet Show.

Why is this the case? Well, let’s break it down. First of all, it’s got a Beatles song, so that’s good. Every time the Muppets perform a Beatles song, it’s enjoyable. I’ve written about “Octopus’s Garden” in the past, and we can’t say enough about Floyd’s version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

It’s also got the full gang, revealing just how large the core Muppet cast had become by this point. Fozzie is joined by everyone from Gonzo to Lew Zealand to Rizzo, reminding us all of the wild road we’ve taken since Season 1.

And of course, it’s hilarious. You see, this episode has a running thread that the lights in the theater keep going in and out. This affects some of the sketches and scenes, most of all this one. Originally, Fozzie and co. are singing “Good Day Sunshine,” but when the lights go out, Fozzie points out that they can’t sing that anymore and have to switch to “Dancing in the Dark.” The premise is funny enough, but the Muppets make it even better by completely messing it up, bumping into each other and waving around flashlights. My family references this sketch all the time. To this day, whenever the lights go out, or someone plays Revolver, we have to make jokes about this routine.

Because in a lot of ways, this medley is the quintessential Muppet thing. They’re all messing up together, but they’re all trying their best. They all want to succeed, they all want to entertain, they’re all loving it, but it’s just not working out.

The Muppets are really best defined by their “the show must go on” mentality. But in a lot of newer material, the Muppets just give up, or try to stop each other from succeeding. That’s not what’s going on here. They’re working together to do their best, even when it just isn’t good enough. Even a power outage can’t stop the Muppets, and that’s what I want to see.

Best Joke: The entire scene where Buddy Rich “consoles” Beauregard about breaking the fuse box is hilarious. I’m partial to this exchange.

BEAUREGARD: Could I use your window?

BUDDY: Well, I know it’s bad, Beau, but don’t jump.

BEAUREGARD: Jump? I was just going to take a nap on the fire escape. That is, unless you know any inspirational songs.

Worst Joke: You know, Buddy Rich talking about lard around Miss Piggy because we gotta have some fat jokes in here.

MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): It’s gotta be Beauregard, who really didn’t mean to destroy the Muppets’ electricity. The only issue is he couldn’t see the fuse box with all the wires in the way.

Most Classic Moment: Buddy Rich’s drumming. That guy’s no slouch (obviously), and his two big routines–playing the theater and a drum battle with Animal–are both iconic scenes.

Musical Highlight / Should-Be Classic Moment: This whole episode, man. You all don’t respect “Good Day Sunshine / Dancing in the Dark” enough.

Obscure Character Watch: Butch the Tiger, who chases Beaker in this episode, is one of the few Muppets to appear on both Sesame Street and the Muppet Show. He’s appeared as recently as the quarantine special “Elmo’s Scavenger Hunt,” where he menaces Bert in a similar fashion.

One More Thing: I’m so glad Season 5 is available to people whose dads didn’t tape a bunch of reruns back in the 80s. You’re all going to love it.

Click here to wave around flashlights on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Evan G

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