Written by Caballero Oscuro
The second season of The Muppet Show finally arrives on DVD this week, and the only question is: what took so long? Surfacing a full two years after the first season DVD box set, it was starting to look like it would never materialize, but it was certainly worth the wait. Where Season One had some hiccups and a questionable roster of guest stars as it searched for its footing, Season Two finds the show firing on all cylinders with its trademark comedy and some truly stunning guests. Sure, there are some clunkers included, both in the skits and the guest-star choices, but fans who grew up with the show and new viewers will find much to enjoy in this set.
The guest stars in Season Two ran from the highs of Bob Hope and Peter Sellers to the lows of Nancy Walker (virtually forgotten now) and Judy Collins (completely stiff and somewhat off-key). Unlike Season One, the genuine star power exceeded the number of lesser-known guests, with memorable turns from Steve Martin, Julie Andrews, and Elton John helping to tip the balance. One of the strongest episodes features a genuinely moving performance by the legendary Milton Berle where he fondly recounts his early vaudeville days before launching into a representative musical number. He also contributes one of the funniest performances during his lengthy roasting by the Muppet judges, those old cads in the balcony.
For many viewers, the guest stars were merely a distraction from the real action, the Muppets themselves. Season Two heaps on new outings of skits such as Pigs In Space, Veterinarian’s Hospital, and the further adventures of the Swedish Chef. There are also frequent sightings of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem (Animal!), Sam the Eagle, as well as Beaker and Dr. Honeydew. Tying them all together are the key players: Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and Scooter. There are plenty of explosions, ongoing sparks between Kermit and Miss Piggy, and Gonzo’s continuing fascination with chickens as they all work together to present the show within a show each week.
Watching these episodes over 30 years after their first airing provides a completely new perspective on their impact. First, the show is every bit as good as you remember it, if not better. Second, I never noticed how self-deprecating the show was, with the balcony geezers, Sam the Eagle, and sometimes even Kermit disparaging the show from within while Scooter’s uncle kept threatening to shut it down from the outside. The show was becoming hugely successful by this time, but on screen it always remained incredibly humble. Finally, The Muppet Show may have been the last great gasp of the variety show format, as they made it work extremely well for five seasons even though at its core it was just a throwback to TV’s golden age with a fresh coat of Muppet paint.
In addition to the 24 Season Two episodes, the DVD box set includes a rare Valentine Special that predates the series, as well as some amusing interviews of the Muppets and a new music video featuring Weezer and the Muppets. Thanks to the meticulous digital restoration and remastering, the show has never looked or sounded better, and thanks to its evergreen content and appeal, it should be a mandatory purchase.