The Muppet Show: 40 Years Later – Hal Linden

Published: February 5, 2021
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Original air date: February 7, 1981

Until today I had no idea who Hal Linden was. Now I’m wondering why he isn’t in more things, even at his old age, because that dude could sing, could dance and do comedy as well as Dick Van Dyke. I don’t know who we have to call to get him back on the A-list (maybe Tom Hanks?), but it’s about time the world recognizes him for the talent he is! And all we need to do is show them this episode of The Muppet Show.

And what a weird and wonderful episode it is, as Kermit introduces the show from the balcony where those two old guys sit. Statler and Waldorf will be running the night’s show as a one off after years of saying they could do better, so Kermit and Fozzie are taking on the heckling role.

We start with Geri and the Atrics, originally booked to sing a song by composer Sigmund Romberg, but who sing the upbeat, silly “Who Put The Bomp”, much to Kermit and Fozzie’s delight, and Statler and Waldorf’s dismay. But that’s okay, because now the Berlin National Opera Company is here to sing the first act finale from the 1976 opera Siegfried. Only they were busy, so they send The Salzburg Sauerkraut Singers to perform “The Drinking Song” and make a mess everywhere. But don’t worry, because Hal Linden is going to do a salute to the Fourth of July! Except Waldorf thought it was a salute to Christmas so Gonzo and some penguins are here to interrupt. No stress, because Indian sensation Indira Mahajira is here to sing a medly of Urdu songs. Except Miss Piggy is doing it instead. Thankfully the final number is here, and Hal Linden is going to do “When The Saints Go Marching In” with The Electric Mayhem! Unfortunately Beauregard has decided to test the on-stage trap doors at that very moment.

All of this is to say that; had nothing gone wrong – yeah, Statler and Waldorf kinda would have pulled off an excellent show. Besides the Fourth of July/Christmas mixup, nothing else that went wrong was their fault. Planned was classical music, theater, multi-cultural numbers, patriotism and Dixieland music. If that kind of thing is your jam – that show would have been incredible. So we’re left wondering – should Statler and Waldorf have been given more input into what the Muppets were doing in that theater, and should Kermit have been listening to their heckles the past five years? Hell, look back at the Beverly Sills episode, as they open the show with ‘Take Ten Terrific Girls”. Sure, it’s vaguely problematic in the post-Me Too world, but it’s extremely well produced, and very funny, and arguably one of The Muppet Show‘s best numbers.

Hal Linden is a great guest star. He’s witty, he’s talented, and he’s great at matching the tone of the Muppets without going over the top. He would have been a great Muppet movie star, had someone like Charles Durning or Charles Grodin not been available. In fact he’s still acting at 89, so it’s not too late to get him a Muppet villain role! Get #HalLindenMuppetMovie trending. Or something way more imaginative.

Best Joke: As Kermit begins to explain where Statler and Waldorf are, Fozzie interjects, claiming they’ve died. It was dark, sudden, and very funny.

Lamest Joke: I know this is a Muppet show, but the trap door bit had no stakes to it. Sure, they all fell down a trap door, but then emerged unscathed 2 seconds later.

MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): Gonzo is all over this episode, with his pineapple and his Santa costume. Oh, and his fascinating edible clothes idea.

Most Classic Moment: I feel like every hardcore Muppet fan has some memory of seeing Kermit and Fozzie in the balcony, even if they can’t place the episode.

Should-Be-Classic Moment: The Fourth of July/Christmas mashup works perfectly, and it should be the theme to everyone’s Christmas in July parties this year.

Most Dated Joke: Statler references not hearing from The Beatles, because at this point they were all still alive.

First Appearance Of…: While Geri and the Atrics had debuted earlier in season 4, this was the first time we saw the new improved Geri puppet, who looked nothing like her previous version.

Coolest Puppetry Effect: I’ll say now, even 40 years later, anytime I see Lips’ fingers move on his trumpet, I’m amazed. How do they do that!?

One More Thing…: Statler and Waldorf promise Kermit that they’ll never say anything bad about the show again. I wonder how long that’ll–

Okay, One More Thing…: Nope, never mind, they immediately criticized the theme music after the credits.

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by Jarrod Fairclough

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