The Muppet Show (ITV, 1976-1981)
A while ago I reviewed Muppets Tonight, the 90s show featuring the famous characters, but this one was the most successful comedy show that they featured in. The Muppets were created by Jim Henson, who had a wild imagination and his characters would go on to be a big success that entertained viewers in this show, and others including Sesame Street. But, once again, as with some success stories, it almost didn’t happen.
The Muppet Show was originally planned to be made for American TV, and although two pilots were made, it was decided not to go any further. ATV did see the potential though, and decided to give the Muppets a series that would be produced in England and shown on ITV. This then became a success, and American TV companies soon realised their mistake and eagerly imported the show.
The basic idea of The Muppet Show was that it was a show about putting on a show at a theatre, as various characters performed on stage as chaos happened all around them. The main characters that viewers would soon become very fond of included Kermit The Frog (voiced by Henson) and Miss Piggy, but there were many more, including Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Animal, and Statler And Waldorf, who would often watch the show, but they never had anything nice to say about it.
As the show was taking place on a big stage, there was also a band, but they did have some difficultly playing their instruments in tune. There were a few regular features, including the rather odd science-fiction parody Pigs In Space, but the highlight of the show for most viewers were the celebrity guests who would take part every week.
Whether they were actors or pop stars or anything inbetween, a huge amount of high-profile names thought nothing about playing along and talking to the Muppets as if it was perfectly normal. All of this added up to something that hugely entertained viewers with its endlessly creative range of Muppet characters, and Kermit and friends soon became as famous as any other human celebrity on TV at the time.
There were 120 episodes of The Muppet Show in five series. A few series were released on DVD, along with some highlights on VHS. There was also a huge amount of merchandise, with the cast enjoying hit albums and singles along with much else. And along with Muppets Tonight, there have also been several Muppet cartoons, films, adverts, and so on.
The original run of the show was before my time, but there have been several repeats, including a short run on BBC1 in the late-80s, these were very enjoyable to watch, and The Muppet Show has gone on to be shown around the world. The show was also featured in ATV Night in 1994 when BBC2 paid tribute to that pioneering ITV company.