More TV Memories – Muppets Tonight.

Muppets Tonight (ABC, 1996, Disney, 1997-1998)

The Muppets are characters who have appeared on TV for decades now, and they are fondly thought of by generations of viewers. They have featured in various shows including Sesame Street and films for decades, with one of their biggest successes being The Muppet Show that was set in a theatre and launched on ITV in the mid-70s (and I plan to review that one soon too). There was also the cartoon Muppet Babies, but let’s not think about that for now.

Muppets Tonight was an attempt to relaunch the Muppets on TV in the mid-90s, and I do remember watching this, including the memorable opening theme. The show was introduced by a new character who was created for this series, who was the dreadlocked Clifford (not to be confused with the Clifford in the Listerine adverts, partly because that was an animated dragon), who hosted a variety show on the channel KMUP. vlcsnap-01014

Plenty of the established characters also featured, including Kermit of course, along with Gonzo, Fozzie, and Miss Piggy. Could they put this show together, and would Clifford go on the be the next Letterman? Well, not really, because despite a large amount of celebrities being rather eager to make guest appearances, they were often unaware that the production behind the scenes was rather chaotic. vlcsnap-01018

As well as what was going on in the studio, there were also a few regular features, including a parody of Baywatch called Bay Of Pigswatch, which starred Spamela Hamderson, which really is one of the worst puns that I have come across. There were also plenty of other creative Muppet characters, old and new, of all colours, shapes, and sizes, who would feature in every edition. vlcsnap-01017

Muppets Tonight was initially promoted with much enthusiasm with BBC1 (even earning a Radio Times cover), and the show was given a primetime slot as it was hoped that many people would enjoy their return to TV. And because the show was of American origin, as it was shown on a channel in the UK that didn’t feature adverts, there were a few features exclusively added that US viewers didn’t see to fill the extra time. vlcsnap-01020

I did enjoy watching Muppets Tonight, but BBC1 seemed to lose interest rather quickly, and it was moved from its primetime slot, with the final edition going out quietly on New Year’s Eve 1996, before it vanished altogther. I think they didn’t even show the final ten or so of the 22 editions (but swapping channels in America halfway through the run didn’t help either), and I don’t recall a VHS or DVD release. The Muppets still remain very popular though, and they have featured in many more films since.

More TV Memories – Doug.

Doug (Nickelodeon, 1991-1994, Disney, 1996-1999)

Another 90s cartoon that I remember, Doug was all about the adventures of an 11½-year-old schoolboy. At the beginning of the show, Doug Funnie, along with his parents and sister, move to the fictional town of Bluffington after his dad gets a job promotion, and Doug who has something of a dreamy outlook documents his life. Also joining him is his pet dog Porkchop who he is very fond of and follows him everywhere. vlcsnap-00869

There were many other characters in the show including Skeeter who becomes Doug’s best friend, and we also meet various pupils and teachers that Doug encounters at his new school including Roger the bully and Patti who he has a crush on. One thing that I remember being distinctive about the animation of Doug was that beyond the main character all the people’s skin colour were ones that you wouldn’t get in real life, and his interaction with orange people, green people and purple people and so on definitely made the show stand out. vlcsnap-00864

One thing about Doug that I didn’t realise at the time was that in the early series he was voiced by Billy West, a voice actor who has contributed to many other cartoons over the years including The Ren And Stimpy Show, where his rather crazed performance voicing both those characters was something of a contrast to his portrayal of Doug, and he later went on to voice Fry in Futurama. When Doug was revived though, West had moved on to other projects so he was replaced by Tom McHugh. vlcsnap-00862

As far as I’m aware, Doug was never shown on CBBC or CITV, I remember it being shown on the final year or so of TV-am, and it was also shown on weekend mornings on Channel 4, and I remember recording a few episodes to watch which I enjoyed in the mid-90s. Beyond this, Doug has also been shown regularly on Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel. vlcsnap-00868

It seems that there were two eras of Doug, in the early-90s episodes were made for the children’s channel Nickelodeon, and after a short break the show moved to The Disney Channel. I must admit I’ve never liked Disney cartoons that much, preferring the ones made by Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the like, but I did like this one, and the show was popular enough for there to be a film version made in 1999 called Doug’s 1st Movie, although despite that rather optimistic title, I’m fairly sure that no more films were made. vlcsnap-00870

Over 100 episodes of Doug were made throughout the 90s, and having a look back at some episodes recently, the show reminded me a little of another cartoon I liked which was Hey Arnold! which features a boy going through school and trying to help people out. I don’t think that Doug has been released on DVD in this country, but I hope that there are still plenty of fans out there.