Weird Science: A Guide to the Romance of Bunsen and Beaker

Published: November 3, 2014
Categories: Feature, Fun Stuff

bunsenbeakerEven the most casual of Muppet fans know and love Bunsen and Beaker, and any Muppet fan can clearly describe their simple dynamic. Bunsen invents something, tests it on Beaker, Beaker explodes, Bunsen is oblivious, rinse, repeat. But take a look deeper, and it’s clear that our favorite inventors are hiding some deep dark mysteries. I mean, you’d think that after just one season of being electrocuted, crushed, and thrown to wild mountain gorillas, Beaker would’ve quit Muppet Labs and become a full-time barbershop quartet soprano. But of course, he didn’t, and, by now it’s likely that Beaker has tested (and been hurt by) upwards of fifty different inventions. So why would he stay? That’s a question that certainly seemed like it needed to be answered, but after a couple of minutes thinking about it, I got distracted by a bunch of Youtube clips of Pepe the King Prawn or something and forgot all about it.

That all changed one fateful day when I got an email from ToughPigs’s own Joe Hennes. He listed some articles he’d like to see written for this fine website, beginning with the no-doubt life-altering phrase “Bunsen and Beaker’s oddly sexual relationship.”

Right then, I realized two things. Firstly, everything makes sense now and secondly, Toughpigs is a much weirder website than I had ever thought. But let’s focus on that first one, shall we?

You see, in an effort to test Joe’s hypothesis, I sat down and watched every B & B moment from The Muppet Show, Muppets Tonight, a handful of web videos and Odyssey Channel bumpers, most of the Muppet movies, and my least favorite Muppet Christmas specials and took pages and pages of notes. Bunsen would surely admire (but be unable to replicate) the level of scientific professionalism with which I explored this topic, and now we can all rest assured that what follows will be the single most thorough look at Bunsen and Beaker’s relationship on the entire Internet.

But before we proceed, I need to give a disclaimer: neither I, nor any of the ToughPigs staff, are advocating the sort of relationship that heavily involves lighting your boyfriend on fire. Though I am a Muppet expert, not a relationship expert, I do feel qualified enough to alert you that if electrocution, explosives, and immolation are major parts of your relationship, you and your boyfriend should at least have a talk.

We good? Now, without further ado: the seven moments that most convinced me that Bunsen and Beaker have…er-hem…an oddly sexual relationship.

bb1Bunsen Invents a Luggage Compressor
(The Muppet Show 416: Jonathan Winters)

When Bunsen invents a luggage compressor, it really only takes one guess to figure out who or what is going to wind up getting crushed by the end of the bit. However, unlike many of Bunsen’s inventions, Beaker is thrilled to test this one. Our favorite guinea pig arrives to work dressed as a tourist with a tiny sunhat. Bunsen instantly tells Beaker that he looks “very cute.” Conclusive? Absolutely not. (That’s why this is #7.) But it sure makes this whole relationship more plausible than I initially thought.

514_muppet_labsBunsen’s Nicknames for Beaker
(The Muppet Show, Muppets Tonight: Various)

Sure, we all have nicknames for our friends and co-workers. Most of Bunsen’s nicknames for Beaker are fairly obvious, like “Beakie.” However, he has referred to Beaker not once, but twice, as “Beakie-Poo,” which tilts a little further in the “behind-the-scenes dating” direction. On the Muppet Show, Bunsen also informed Mac Davis that he had “always been a regular sweetie” to Beaker, which is not the sort of thing I usually say about my friends either.

bb2Bunsen Invents Shrinking Pills
(The Muppet Show 306: Jean Stapleton)

In this brief Muppet Labs segment, Bunsen attempts to solve Beaker’s biggest problem: that he’s “ridiculously tall and spindly.” If I learned anything from a lifetime of watching sitcoms, it’s that passive-aggressive complaints about appearances are a good sign of behind-the-scenes action. But I digress. What’s really important here is that when Beaker eats an entire bottle of shrinking pills, he becomes only a few inches tall and immediately does…well, it’s hard to tell, but he either tickles Bunsen’s foot or run up Bunsen’s pant leg. While hard to discern, it certainly makes Bunsen giggle. All evidence supports that this is what counts for foreplay over in Muppet Labs.

bb3Bunsen Has a Mid-Life Crisis Because Beaker Isn’t Around
(Muppets Tonight 211: Andie MacDowell)

One thing that isn’t a mystery is that Muppets Tonight was a frequently disappointing program. Still, if there’s any episode worth watching, it’s the hilarious Andie MacDowell one, which also features an appearance from the Internet’s weird uncle himself, George Takei. This episode is also gold for Bunsen and Beaker historians, because Bunsen sends Beaker off on a Star Trek Celebrity Cruise and struggles to deal with their temporary separation. Bunsen admits that without Beaker, he is a “sad and lonely man,” a fact that both Johnny Fiama and former White House speech writer Ben Stein confirm. No one gets that sad when a good friend leaves for a short time, but a romantic partner? It seems almost too obvious.

Our favorite sad and lonely man then fails to interact with any of the other Muppets, suggesting that he truly has cut ties from everyone except for Beaker. Bunsen isn’t even happy in a rebound relationship with Andie MacDowell. No one makes Bunsen as happy as Beaker, and I think we all know the reason why.

bb4Bunsen Invents a Milking Machine
(The Muppet Show 418: Christopher Reeve)

Okay, so even after all my research this bit doesn’t make any sense to me. Still, it doesn’t get much more conclusive than this particular Muppet Labs bit, in which Bunsen invents a milking machine and indicates a clear lack of understanding of how biology works when he decides to test it on Beaker’s head. The machine somehow gives Beaker a perm, which makes Bunsen shout “Why Beaker! You’re hauntingly attractive today!” Then he puts his head on Beaker’s shoulder and sighs.

Folks, believe me when I say that is the end of this segment. Beaker doesn’t explode or get set on fire at all. There’s no secret message here: Bunsen thinks Beaker is hauntingly attractive. Pass it on.

421px-PetraNemcovaBeaker Gets His Greatest Wish
(A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa)

Letters to Santa is a forgettable Christmas special that, if I recall correctly, is mostly about Gonzo delivering some envelopes to Paul Williams while Big Mean Carl eats the rest of Manhattan’s mail and Rizzo complains a lot. But what you might not remember is that the film also features a sub-plot wherein Bunsen invents the Wish Granter 3000, which grants its wearer his or her greatest wish. Beaker, of course, wishes for a supermodel girlfriend, played by philanthropist and former Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover model Petra Nemcova. While Bunsen acts flustered and desperately begs Beaker to send Petra back, Beaker vanishes, abandoning his friends in the process. Desperately begging someone to break up with their attractive significant other? Bunsen’s got all the signs of a jealous ex.

Like I said at the beginning of the article, you’d think that would be it for Beaker. Armed with a machine that grants his every wish and a beautiful girlfriend who speaks Beaker-ese, you’d figure he’d be set for life. But Beaker and Petra return to the Muppets’ and Jenna-from-30 Rock’s Christmas party on their own volition, and Bunsen is happier than ever before. He asks to cut in, and, instead of dancing with Petra, he grabs Beaker.

At this point, Beaker looks at the camera happily and begins to sing, the duo dance off-screen, and we never see Petra Nemacova ever again.

If you aren’t convinced that Bunsen and Beaker are an item behind the scenes at this point, I can’t help you.

Oh wait. I can. Because there’s still one more list item.

bb5Bunsen Invents a Device with the Intended Purpose of Making Beaker’s Pants Explode
(Muppets Tonight 204: Pierce Brosnan)


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by Evan G.

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