Today is the big day to play the music and light the lights, as almost all of The Muppet Show has landed on Disney+. Though, as we’ve just specified, almost every episode of the legendary Jim Henson variety show, save for three that haven’t made it onto the platform. Well, we not only know which three episodes aren’t available at the moment, but we also now know why! And in the case of one of those three episodes, there’s hope for restoration coming sooner rather than later.
So if you’re one of the many fans who have been looking forward to finally seeing The Muppet Show releasing the series in the most complete form possible, it’s been a wild ride to this point. But the following three episodes haven’t been added just yet: Kaye Ballard’s Season 1 appearance, plus Brooke Shields' and Chris Langham’s guest host gigs from Season 5. Well, CinemaBlend’s own Muppet News Correspondent Dirk Libbey reached out to a Disney spokesperson, and they told him that it mostly came down to one crucial issue: music rights.
As with some other Muppet flavored projects, like Muppet Family Christmas and Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, music rights to songs that are performed aren’t always tied up the way they were in past broadcasts or physical issues. So if you can’t get those rights secured, you can’t show those episodes, unless you replace the music. With streaming, the deals to get such issues settled seem to be a lot easier, which is why you’ll only see one season of Malcolm in the Middle on DVD, but the complete series on streaming.
That’s the major issue that apparently is still holding back Kaye Ballard and Brooke Shields’ episodes from being included on The Muppet Show. It’s in the case of the Ballard episode that we’ve seen the best movement towards restoration, as it was ordered to be included in the lineup, but some sort of snag may have been hit along the way. At the time of this writing, the Disney representative said that “it should be resolved shortly,” which is fantastic, because Kaye Ballard’s guest spot was made available to the public through The Muppet Show’s Season 1 DVD release.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only issue that’s befallen The Muppet Show’s library, as Chris Langham’s episode from Season 5 seems to be omitted for a totally different reason. As Langham was convicted in 2007 for “possessing level 5 child pornography,” the former staff writer and stand-in guest host for Richard Pryor’s episode will more than likely stay forever locked in the Disney vault. It’s a decision that’s absolutely correct, but again, it prevents anyone from ever saying they have a “complete” collection of shows.
At this point, Disney could probably make an entire series about Muppet restoration. With The Muppet Show now streaming, and The Muppet Christmas Carol getting its 4K revamp with the deleted musical sequence added back in, celebration is indeed in order. But if you’re looking for any of the three episodes above, you’ll either have to be really patient, or know someone who has the old tapes of the original broadcasts.