Original air date: September 27, 1979

Well, we’ve finally come to it.  We knew it would come eventually, since we announced this 40 Years Later project over three years ago.  We have reached the very first episode of The Muppet Show that has never been commercially available on home video.

Season 4’s premiere episode – John Denver, which we covered last week – was released on the Time-Life “Best of the Muppet Show” DVDs.  And as I’m sure you know, most of the episodes from seasons 4 and 5 have never seen the light of day since The Muppet Show was in regular syndication on our TV screens.

Naturally, this is a damn shame. Practically unforgivable, given the capabilities of Disney and the promises they’ve made.  In my opinion, The Muppet Show is the apex of Muppet accomplishment, and the mere fact that its episodes are either difficult or impossible to find is a slap in the face to Muppet fans everywhere, and a missed opportunity for millions of potential fans.

And what an episode for people to miss out on!  Miss Piggy, in a rare moment of selflessness, decides to throw Kermit the Frog a birthday bash.  And because nothing goes off without a hitch, chaos follows.

For the first time since the Steve Martin episode, the show is “canceled”.  Instead, Miss Piggy replaces it with what she lovingly dubs “Kermit the Frog: This is Your Birthday”.  It’s sort of a mix between This Is Your Life, a drag show, and a nightmare where you dream that you’re in school without any clothes on.  Piggy learns the hard way that it’s not quite so easy to be a showrunner.

Speaking of our showrunner, Kermit is visibly uncomfortable with the attention he’s getting for his birthday.  A collection of cows, horses, and pigs don Kermit collars and eyes to sing a tribute to frogs.  He’s shoved up the tiers of a giant cake that takes up the whole stage.  He’s surprised by his old acting teacher and a few former employees (more on them in a bit).

Of course, the episode ends with Kermit revealing that it’s not actually his birthday, which is simply the perfect ending to a terrific episode.  (Why he couldn’t say this 24 minutes earlier, I’ll never know.)

Now, isn’t it a damn shame that most people don’t have access to this episode.  We’re missing out on some classic character moments, some wonderful songs, and Kermit the Frog’s (fake) birthday!  It’s absolutely something worth being angry about, and when the day finally comes when Disney makes this (and the other unreleased episodes) available, we’ll all get together and watch it over some birthday cake.  Even if it’s not anyone’s actual birthday.

Best Joke: It’s not a joke, but Miss Piggy is in fine form in the intro of this episode.  When Kermit says, “It’s going to be a wonderful show,” she deadpans, “Actually, it’s not.”  Then when he says that Zuzu Fitzwaller, the Hungarian water juggler (“the act is hard, the water’s soft”) is ready to go on stage, she deadpans again, “No, he isn’t.”  Okay, maybe you had to see it yourself.  And I hope you get to someday.

Lamest Joke: In the “Fifteen seconds to curtain” scene, Linda Lavin asks Scooter to make her a sandwich, so he uses magic (???) to turn her into a sandwich.  The joke is an oldie but… no, it’s just an oldie.

MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): It’s his birthday, so we’ll give it to the Frog!

Should-Be-Classic Moment: Statler and Waldorf sing “It Was a Very Good Year”, made famous by Frank Sinatra.  It’s a rare moment of melancholy and vulnerability from the two old coots, and it might very well bring a tear to your eye.

First Appearance Of…: Not a first appearance, but a first re-appearance by Wayne and Wanda!  They return to surprise Kermit, who claims he doesn’t remember why he fired them.  He gives them a chance to perform again, and after about five seconds of terrible singing, he rushes on stage and fires them a second time.  It’s hilarious.

Missed Opportunity: Did you notice how little I mentioned guest star Linda Lavin in this review?  She’s a really funny lady who just didn’t get a ton of screen time.  Thankfully, this was remedied in The Muppets Take Manhattan when Lavin appears in a classic scene as Kermit’s doctor.

Adultiest Content: After the song “Frog Kissin'”, Statler asks Waldorf if he’s ever kissed a frog before.  Waldorf says no, and then an old lady frog pops up and says, “No time like the present!” and kisses them both.  It’s pretty innocent, but I get the feeling it was a bit filthier in the joke’s conception.

One More Thing…: Kermit’s acting teacher, Mr. Dawson, hails from Leland, Mississippi, which is also where Kermit’s performer Jim Henson was born.  And both Mr. Dawson and Mr. Henson are responsible for Kermit’s arm flail (in very different ways).

Okay, One More Thing…: Kermit says that his birthday is “four months from now”.  According to the Muppet Wiki, Kermit’s birthday is on May 9th, which means that this episode takes place in early January.  Kermit’s a Capricorn!

Click here to have a happy unbirthday on the ToughPigs forum!

by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com

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