The Muppet Show: 40 Years Later – Linda Ronstadt

Published: October 30, 2020
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Original air date: November 1, 1970

Story isn’t really the Muppets’ strong suit. They’re very funny, and creative, and make us all feel warm and fuzzy, but they aren’t really known for deep, compelling narratives. 

OK, The Muppet Movie is an amazing work of metatextual fiction but you know what I mean. We’ve watched over four seasons of The Muppet Show by this point, and we know the plot can sometimes be as simple as “Fozzie Bear gets three silly phone calls.” 

So jumping into the Linda Ronstadt episode – the first season 5 episode I’ve watched in a long time – I was shocked that suddenly, the story was taking the forefront.

You see, when this episode begins, there isn’t even a full opening number. Kermit introduces Bugsy and His Hypnotized Horse, and then the camera immediately cuts away. Why? Because we have to see Gonzo and Scooter, trying to move the former’s fungus collection. We also learn that Kermit has a huge crush on Linda Ronstadt, and Miss Piggy is deeply jealous of this fact. 

In earlier seasons, we’d set up an episode by hearing a song about how gingerbread men were all tasty and tan or about rag mops. Now, we have to put the pieces in play for a genuine story!

So Miss Piggy obviously locks Kermit in the trunk and tries to distract the very cute Linda Ronstadt to keep these two apart. Kermit gets out, Ronstadt sings a love song to him, then Piggy throws him back into the moldy trunk.

But this goes even further, because Linda Ronstadt tries to get Piggy to explain why she’s doing this, and Piggy admits that she’s deeply in love with Kermit. This admission is treated like a revelation. Whether or not you feel like Piggy’s love of Kermit is crucial to the Muppets’ overall dynamics, it’s amazing how important character dynamics feel to the plot of this episode. There’s honestly not much else to this episode beyond the Kermit-Piggy-Linda Ronstadt love triangle and Ronstadt musical numbers, because we’re fully in plot land now.

Don’t believe me that this episode is a crucial moment in Muppet Story History? Well, what if I told you that this episode is one of the only unquestionably canonical Muppet moments? 

You might say the Muppets don’t have a canon. They do have a cannon, of course, because they shoot a cat out of it in one of this episode’s better numbers. But they don’t have a series of consistent backstories and life events that move from one episode to the next. Or do they?

I present Kermit Unpigged, a 1994 album with the plot (you know, all albums need a plot) that the Muppets are wandering around a recording studio looking for each other but instead keep finding the hottest celebrities like Jimmy Buffet and Vince Gill. At one point in this musical epic, Kermit finds Linda Ronstadt. She tells him it’s “so great to see him again,” and it’s clear the two are still carrying torches for each other.

And all this happens while Kermit is un-pigged.

Yes, that’s right: it is clearly canon that Kermit never got over his crush on Linda Ronstadt,

Guess we’ve got a real story after all.

Best Joke: There are a lot of real groaners in this episode, and folks, I love real groaners. Here’s a good one:

WALDORF: Oh, I thought that bayou number was okay, didn’t you?
STATLER: Well, it’s okay by me if it’s okay bayou!

Worst Joke: After Rowlf and co. perform “The Cat Came Back.”

SCOOTER: Well, I see the cat came back.
ROWLF: Well, we all came back. That’s ’cause the number’s over.

Hilarious. I love explaining jokes.

MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): Sure, it starts with the same old jealousy stuff, but I like Piggy being honest about herself and changing her thoughts on the guest star. Way to go, Miss Piggy! Wish you could be this three-dimensional in a newer production.

Most Classic Moment: “The Cat Came Back” is a really fun number, the kind of old-school standard song that Rowlf excels at singing. Plus, lots of Gaffer content! I love that cat!

Should-Be Classic Moment: The UK spot, “I’m So Happy,” is a real 2020 mood.

Musical Highlight: Linda Ronstadt is a really talented singer, did you know that? I love her and Janice belting out “It’s in His Kiss.”

Obscure Character Watch: As mentioned earlier, this episode is one of the most prominent appearances of Gaffer the Backstage Cat, the adorable orange tabby who hangs around the Muppet Theater. You love Gaffer! Palisades made a toy of her! Well here she is, getting launched out of a cannon.

One More Thing: It’s really cute seeing Rizzo start weeping when Miss Piggy confesses her love of Kermit. I really like season 5 Rizzo, always just mugging and upstaging the other characters from the background.

Okay, One More Thing…: Muppet Wiki claims that when Link thanks Dr. Strangepork for sending a robot to the fifth dimension, Strangepork responds “Don’t mention it!” I am here to argue he is clearly saying “Don’t di-mention it!” Please help us settle this bitter war.

Click here to get locked in a trunk on the ToughPigs forum!

by Becca Petunia

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