The Muppet Show: 40 Years Later – Lynn Redgrave

Published: May 24, 2019
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Original air date: May 24, 1979

British sopranos of the 70s (especially those with short hair) are at a major disadvantage with me because–whether I plan to or not–I will compare them to the inimitable Julie Andrews. I was not familiar with Lynn Redgrave before watching this episode, and while she’s perfectly lovely and entertaining, the legendary dame she is not. 

Even still, Lynn has enjoyable chemistry with the Muppets in an episode that really stands out for being committed to a single storyline from beginning to end. In true musical-theatre style, the entire episode is devoted to the story of Robin Hood and is thus one cohesive story instead of disjointed sketches. The scenery is impressive — there’s a fun set for the woods, and a pretty elaborate one for a scene that takes place in the dungeons of the castle. The end of the episode features a curtain call to boot! 

The drama is even continued in scenes backstage, something Lynn acknowledges: “shouldn’t we be doing this onstage?” Both on and offstage this is a fun episode for those of us (most of us?) who believe nearly every musical could be enhanced with performances by Muppets.

Best Joke: Kermit is talking about what a great job Lynn Redgrave is doing playing Maid Marian and how it’s such a demanding role. Piggy replies, “Hmm, speaking of a demanding role, I do not have a role in this pro-duc-see-un and I am demanding one.” I’m sure this play on words has been done before, but it seems like it was made for Miss Piggy!

Lamest Joke: In the opening Robin Hood scene, Fozzie complains that the company members are not cavorting correctly. He goes on to show them what he’s looking for by just singing the word “cavort” over and over. It’s played for a laugh, but it is not particularly funny. To make matters worse, there’s a callback to this lame joke when Kermit refers to the cavorting and Fozzie reiterates that everyone was cavorting wrong. To make matters better, the joke is referred to yet again, but this time by a Jerry Nelson-performed merry man who delightfully says to Kermit (who has just complimented the cavorting), “You like the cavorting? You should see us in a full frolic!”

MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): This goes to the Newsman, who delivers the only sequence that caused me to truly laugh out loud. He’s playing the town crier (because of course he is!) and bellows, “5 o’clock and all’s well! 5 o’clock and all’s well! Except that Maid Marian has been kidnapped, the sheriff’s up to no good, that dog is stealing the cheese, Kermit’s mad at Piggy and it’s really only 4:30.” The sequence ends with a potted plant falling on his head. Genius!

Most Classic Moment: Gonzo planning to torture Maid Marian in order to get information from her about Robin Hood’s whereabouts but instead torturing himself in attempts to show off to Marian how the equipment works.

Should-Be Classic Moment: Sweetums trying to bring Marian to the dungeons and exasperatingly shouting to her, “please, woman!” If there’s anyone on The Muppet Show who seems like he doesn’t have the time or patience for a meltdown, it’s Sweetums!

Most Dated Joke: When Robin Hood is about to duel with some guards, he eye-rollingly riffs off Muhammad Ali’s old mantra with, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a frog.”

Coolest Puppetry Effect: While one of the archers was a live hands puppet, one of them was not, and yet he still looks like he’s convincingly shooting an arrow. How’d they do that?

Musical Highlight: This episode stuck out musically because there weren’t any pop songs, covers, or established show tunes. The music consisted of a pastiche of an English folk song, and an entirely original song called “I Still Love You” by Jerry Juhl and Larry Grossman. This song is pure gold—er green! It’s a duet about loving someone in spite of their flaws (which in this case is not being a frog). The melody is really sweet and the lyrics clever. There’s even harmony! It’s definitely worth a listen, and I could see it being performed in a cabaret (perhaps by yours truly)!

Missed Opportunity: In the UK spot, Sam the Eagle talks to William Shakespeare. Or at least, he talks to a William Shakespeare about Henry VII by the William Shakespeare, and when he says Shakespeare died without finishing it, Sam says “that’s a tragedy,” to which William replies “well it’s certainly not a comedy.” I feel like the joke would have been a few degrees better were they talking about one of the comedies in some context and then when Sam says “that’s a tragedy,” William would correct, “No—that’s a comedy.” Wocka, wocka.

Obscure Character Watch: Speaking of William Shakespeare, I’m sure he was a one-off character, but I really enjoyed Richard Hunt’s portrayal of him.

Adultiest Content: This episode would probably be rated G. I guess the concept of Medieval torture devices might warrant a little bit of explaining to a child, but otherwise, this episode is pretty tame.

One More Thing…: If you don’t watch Game of Thrones, 1) watch it, and 2) you’ll appreciate that there’s a scene where Robin Hood is fighting with a stick and it’s totally reminiscent of Syrio Forel (if only Kermit had been wearing his Boffo Lenny/Socko Lenny “tupe”). Then it blew my mind when I saw their sigil and realized THOSE PIGS HE’S FIGHTING ARE CLEARLY LANNISTERS:
Okay, One More Thing…: I really want that ornately framed photo of Sam the Eagle that’s visible in the opening shot of the episode.

Click here to demand a role in the pro-duc-see-un on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Staci Rosen

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