Original air date: October 25, 1980

Even though this episode has only ever been released on home media once (The Best of The Muppet Show Volume 13) it’s one that many fans remember for one thing and one thing only – Stone Miss Piggy. I couldn’t have told you a thing about this episode before I watched it recently, except that when guest star Tony Randall brings out the magic spell book, I immediately thought “OH, THIS IS THAT STATUE ONE!”. I didn’t say it out loud, obviously. That would have confused the heck out of my neighbors.

I wonder why so many people remember it, though? Is it just because of the memorable vision of a Piggy statue? Because it’s a fun episode, sure, but nothing overly iconic happens. There are no sketches that have become fan favorites on YouTube. There’s no introduction of a character that would later go on to be that one puppet on Fraggle Rock. It’s just… an episode of The Muppet Show. Not that that’s a bad thing by any stretch – even a bad episode of The Muppet Show (cough Rich Little cough) is still better than no episode of The Muppet Show, and this one certainly isn’t bad.

The episode starts with some pigs singing “Yakety Yak”, which isn’t the Benny Hill theme you’ve definitely started singing in your head (that’s “Yakety Sax”), and this is what new Muppet content seems to be missing – totally one-off characters singing old staples for no reason other than it’s funny. Like, who on the writing team heard this song and went ‘…cave pigs’? Because that person needs a raise. The closest thing I can think of in the past decade was Big Mean Carl singing “Stand By Me” and eating bunny rabbits, because why not? That’s where the Muppets work best – when the answer to why they’re doing something is ”Why not?”

Piggy becomes a statue. Why? Because why not. Tony Randall does a wonderful job not just in his first scene with Piggy, but throughout the episode. He finds that perfect line of Muppety but not cartoony, something not a lot of actors have been able to do over the decades. Sure, some actors play it totally straight, but some actors choose to dial it up to 11, often times very poorly (see: every human in Kermit’s Swamp Years). I’m glad to say Randall is a rare exception.

The scene with Scooter and Randall attempting to cure Piggy might be the best part of the whole episode, with some impressive-for-the-times special effects. I genuinely can’t tell if part of the screen was “duplicated” so that they could insert the various Scooter’s, or if Randall actually had to stop and hold position while they changed them out. Because if it was the latter, he did an incredible job of not losing momentum and deserved an Emmy for that performance. (Note: they didn’t do Guest Star Emmy’s in 1981, though The Muppet Show did win for Best Writing, so take that AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Fred Astaire!)

Best Joke: Piggy falls off the backstage balcony, and Tony asks if she broke anything. Kermit replies “Yeah, a couple of floorboards”. Heh.

Lamest Joke: Tony Randall calls the show crummy then everyone cheers. Am I missing the joke? They’re happy to see him, I guess?

MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): Scooter/Gonzo. Not Scooter AND Gonzo. But Scooter when he turns INTO Gonzo. Simple gag. Big laughs.

Most Classic Moment: Again, everyone seems to remember Statue Piggy, even if they don’t remember the episode. So let’s go with the moment she’s turned into a statue.

Should-Be-Classic Moment: Dr Teeth singing “Poison Ivy” and getting destroyed by Poison Ivy.

Most Dated Joke: There’s a lot of jokes about Miss Piggy being fat. Yeah, I know, it’s a 40 year old puppet show. But it feels a little icky.

First Appearance Of…: The Brontosaurus from “Yakety Yak” would turn up again in the Gladys Knight episode and in the home video Neat Stuff To Know & To Do, and I definitely knew that and didn’t have to go on Muppet Wiki

Coolest Puppetry Effect: Scooter’s changes, mentioned above.

Musical Highlight: “Yakety Yak” was upbeat and fun. Randall’s number “Ti-Pi-Tin” was meh.

Missed Opportunity: Only one “Rock and Roll” gag in a show that relies heavily on music.

Obscure Character Watch: The father pig in “Yakety Yak” would later be the ‘Fine Breakfast / What now? / Lunch’ pig at the start of Muppet Christmas Carol.

One More Thing…: There was a lot of actual fire through this episode. In “Yakety Yak”, and when Floyd lights a match on Piggy. Nowadays the insurance team at Disney would have a fit!

Okay, One More Thing…: Many of the spells Tony Randall recites in the Scooter scene are the names of various performers and producers pronounced backwards. Included are ‘Noslen Yrrej’ (Jerry Nelson), ‘Tnuh Drahcir’ (Richard Hunt), ‘Evets-Erimtihw’ (Steve Whitmire) and ‘Zleog-divad-oznog’ (Gonzo David Goels, which is the spell that turns Scooter into Gonzo!)

Click here to pronounce Big Dave Lazer backwards on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Jarrod Fairclough

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