Original air date: April 25th, 1981
In an upcoming episode of our newly launched podcast To Introduce Our Guest Star (You can listen to the first episode right here – don’t forget to subscribe!) you’ll hear me tell a future guest that there are two songs I want played at my funeral. One is ‘Rainbow Connection’, and the other is Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’. This will come to a shock to no one who knows me personally, nor should it shock long time readers of mine who have probably noticed that I’ve snuck references to that song all over my articles since 2015. Case in point:
So, yeah. I really like that song, and I’m a big fan of Paul Simon. Both his work with Art Garfunkel and his work alone contain some of my favorite songs of all time – remember when Electric Mayhem did Kodachrome? I LOVE KODACHROME! So I’m super excited that I get to write a review of this episode, because if there’s one thing I like more than Paul Simon, it’s The Muppets. Those two together should equal greatness, right? I’m writing this before I’ve watched the actual episode, so gimme 27 minutes and let’s find out.
Okay, I’m back. That was pretty darn good.
Boring recap mumbo jumbo: The Muppets decide to do a show spotlighting the songs of Paul Simon, while Gonzo decides to become a songwriter too. Gonzo’s songs are bad. Paul’s songs are good. There are some babies. Etc.
Coming midway through the final season, The Muppet Show knew what it was by this point. It was a mixture of sweet moments, funny sketches, weird jokes, and a lot of heart. Those slow moments here, like Paul singing ‘Long Long Day’ in his dressing room with Pops, work well because The Muppets have earned it. It doesn’t feel out of place, it doesn’t feel forced. It feels sweet, but more importantly it feels natural. We love when The Muppets are funny, but that’s the thing about The Muppets – they don’t always have to be funny! Some of my favorite Muppet moments are in slow, quiet, solemn times. Gonzo singing ‘The Wishing Song’ in the Madeline Kahn episode. Gonzo singing ‘My Way’ in the Lola Falana episode. Gonzo singing ‘I’m Going To Go Back There Someday’ in The Muppet Movie… I’m sensing a pattern here, and believe me when I say I legitimately didn’t set out to make them all Gonzo pieces. Huh, interesting.
And Paul Simon works for these small quiet moments. He isn’t a zany comedic force whizzing through the theater showing what he can do. He isn’t a powerful voice singing to the back of the rafters. He’s softly spoken (even in the funny parts) and he’s a calming presence. Which is why he works well alongside Gonzo here, as our favorite weirdo sings weird songs and hatches asparagus from eggs. Too much of this energy would be too much, but these two balance each other out, which is prevelent in the scene where Gonzo pitches his songs to Paul, only to have Paul smash his guitar.
There are definitely some parts of this episode I could have gone without. I didn’t need bad ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ puns. And I certainly never need Bobby Benson and his babies. Is it weird that I’ve never liked them, at least on The Muppet Show? The babies themselves are fun in things like Muppets Most Wanted, and the hilarious Fozzie/Seth Rogen interview in Muppets Now. But singing poorly while being exploited by a smoking Bobby Benson just doesn’t do it for me. To each his own, I guess.
Best Joke: Miss Piggy puppeteers a weird puppet version of herself, only to throw it away. Is that puppet a reference to something, or did they specifically make it for this sketch?
Lamest Joke: See the ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ pun comment above.
MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): I’ve chosen Gonzo in the past 2 of these reviews I’ve done, and I’m gonna have to make it a hat-trick, because this episode belongs to him.
Coolest Puppetry Effect: There’s a Muppet walking on stilts constantly in the background, which isn’t necessarily a difficult puppetry trick, but at one stage Gonzo goes between his legs and THAT is impressive.
Musical Highlight: Floyd and Janice singing ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ backed up by Animal and Rizzo.
One More Thing…: Asparagus come from eggs and you can’t tell me otherwise.
Okay, One More Thing…: A man walks down the street and says ‘Why am I soft in the middle now? Why am I soft in the middle? The rest of my life is so hard’.
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By Jarrod Fairclough – Jarrod@ToughPigs.com