It seems like eons have passed since the first season of “The Muppet Show” graced store shelves. Finally, “The Muppet Show” Season Two is being released. Is the set worth the wait? If you’re a fan of the Muppets, then you know the answer is an automatic yes. If, however, you’re just a DVD fan who likes to find out about the inner workings of what you’re watching, you’re going to be a little disappointed. Like the first season set, this is all about the show itself, with little else being offered. As a big fan of The Muppets, I’m fine with that. The second season of “The Muppet Show” features some changes from the first season; changes that are noticeable immediately. The first episode (with guest star Don Knotts) opens with Scooter informing the star that it’s twenty-five seconds until curtain, leading into some joke about the guest star’s room and an unexpected Muppet encounter. It’s the kind of thing Muppet fans remember, but it didn’t become a staple of the show until season two.
The opening credits for the show have also changed. Like the opening Scooter gag, they take the form the show would carry on for the remainder of its years – the opening style fans remember. Gone is Fozzie’s mid-song joke and Kermit’s mid-song introduction of the guest star. Now you have Muppets dancing among arches and a mid-song complaint from Waldorf and Statler. Again, it’s the way fans remember the credits being, but they didn’t take that shape until this season.
What hasn’t changed about the show from first season to second season are the zany antics of the Muppets themselves. Each week they do their best to keep their variety style show going, with guests ranging from the artistic Rudolf Nureyev, to the vaudevillian Milton Berle, to the crazy John Cleese. The Muppets don’t care how prestigious or well known the guest star is, however. Gonzo is still going to do his strangest act possible. Piggy is still going to be focused on herself. Kermit is still going to do his best to hold things together, even in an episode that features Fozzy in charge because Kermit is home sick.
Some minor changes take place throughout the season. Band member Janice, best known for her part in the “Doctor Bob” sketches, finally gets the stoner, hippie style voice she has to this day. Piggy looks more like the Pig we know than the rougher version that appeared in season one. Clearly “The Muppet Show” was given permission to grow after its first season, resulting in more polished looking Muppet characters and bigger stars: Elton John, Bob Hope, and Peter Sellers are among the season’s guests. The show rarely stops for its guests though. Pigs take over the show, Scooter’s uncle threatens the theater with closing, and mayhem ensues regardless of how impressive the guest.
On a personal note, one of the most touching moments of “The Muppet Show” takes place in Season Two. Feeling low and left out, Robin is comforted by guest star Bernadette Peters, who sings him the song “If Just One Person Believes In You.” It’s the same song Robin would sing to Fozzie thirteen years later as the Muppets honored the passing of their creator in “The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson”. It’s a touching moment to see Kermit consoling his nephew with the same song that will mark the new Kermit’s debut years later.
For fans of “The Muppet Show,” the second season marks the show’s transformation into the series we’ve always remembered. So start the music, light the lights, celebrate bein’ green, and enjoy “The Muppet Show” season two. The first thing I noticed about this DVD release was that the packaging did not match the theme of the Season one release. The first season featured a shot of Kermit’s torso, while this package focuses on Piggy’s face. Mismatched as it may be, this is still a pretty cool packaging. Piggy’s face features a kind of plush covering, making it feel fuzzy, while her eyes glitter. It’s not a terribly useful feature of the set, but it’s kind of neat to rub your fingers over Piggy’s face and feel a texture. My understanding is not all the sets feature this textured covering, however, so you might want to look for it, just to own all the bells and whistles of the set. The packaging is a more simplistic this time than the first season. Instead of an episode listing insert (which gets lost far too easily) the episode listings are on the DVD package which slides out from the Piggy face slipcase.
There are a total of 24 episodes in season two, spaced over four discs. Most discs have six or seven episodes with the last disc only containing five and the set’s bonus material. That’s right – there are no commentary tracks to be had on the individual discs. With several of the muppeteers already having passed away, this makes sense. It would be nice to hear some behind the scenes stories, but the real value here is just having the episodes to enjoy.
Each disc has a menu selection accompanied by two to three minutes of banter by a pair of muppet characters. On discs one and three it’s Kermit and Fozzie and discs two and four have Animal and Rizzo. Rizzo is an odd choice since he isn’t a part of the Muppet show during Season Two (he wouldn’t arrive until Season Four). It’s also strange hearing the legacy voices of Jim Henson and Frank Oz doing Kermit and Fozzie during the episodes, but then having the newer voices of Steve Whitmire and Eric Jacobson doing the voices on the menu. It’s cute, but also a sad reminder of what we’ve lost over time.
The episodes look and sound great. I could have done with some breakdowns within the episode – the menus only feature an episode selection, although you can use your remote to jump ahead to segments divided by commercial breaks.
As far as bonus material, the disc includes the little seen “The Muppets Valentine Special”. It’s interesting to see this rare gem included on the DVD, but I have to say it’s not something even the most die-hard Muppet fan was probably missing. The special has almost nothing to do with the standard Muppets we all know. The show involves Wally (in his first and last appearance with that name) writing a script for the show which then comes to life, with guest Mia Farrow. Kermit appears in a smaller role for a fun rendition of “Froggy Went A Courtin’” and a few other minor Muppet characters appear under different names: Crazy Harry is Crazy Donald for instance. A Koozbanian sequence was reused (and better polished) for The Muppet Show.
The other two bonus features are minor. The Weezer video “Keep Fishin’” is included, although paralleled right next to the real Muppet Show the differences on their recreation are very obvious. It’s still a fun video though. Finally, “The Muppets on the Muppets” consists of 15-20 one minute segmented interviews with the Muppet characters on subjects such as “what it’s like being a role-model” and “what is friendship”. Again, the new voices stand out in comparison to a set made up of episodes with older voices, except for Dave Goelz’s Gonzo who, sadly sounds like the character is getting older. Fortunately there’s a play all option because the segments are so short by themselves.
Although Season Two doesn’t offer much more than Season One offered as far as bonus materials go, resources seem to indicate the set is complete (a few sketches or musical numbers were removed from Season One). That alone makes this set worth picking up. A dedicated Muppets fan isn’t going to care much about the bells and whistles anyway. It’s just great getting to see another season of “The Muppet Show” on DVD. Let’s hope it doesn’t take quite as long for the third season to arrive.
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