Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Muppet Mania

Why don't we get things started?

I.  Love. Muppets.  I love Muppets in all shapes and sizes and everything they encompass.  From Sesame Street to The Muppet Show to Muppet Babies to watching them take Manhattan. 

They were puppets!  (I loved puppets!  I had my very own cast of puppets that I'd fashioned out of used toilet paper rolls.  When  I'd run out of used toilet paper rolls, sometimes I'd be forced to slide the cardboard tube out of the roll that was currently in use.) 

And, they sang and danced. 

And, they sang about putting on makeup! (Makeup being a dream beyond my childhood reach in the late 70's/early 80's.  I learned this swiftly when trying to get away with sloppily applying my mom's bright pink lipstick, not only to my mouth, but to my cheeks and eyelids as well.  And, then following up that act by walking around the house like that as if no one would notice.) 

They had celebrity guest stars each week (I knew this because Kermit would cackle at the beginning of each opening number, "It's The Muppet Show, with our very special guest star, Ms. Madeline Kaaahhhhhn!!!!") but this went completely over my head because the real stars, as any dummy could see, were The Muppets themselves.

In fact, I loved the Muppets so much as a kid that I missed my aunt's bridal shower because... well, that's what you get for trying to throw a party on a Friday night!

My Muppet love has been newly restored by the debut of an all new Muppet movie that is coming to theaters this very week.  (One, two, three... Geek out!)  I've almost got my nephews talked into accompanying me to see it.  (Don't want to look like the weirdo adult going to see the kids movie without any kids in tow.)  Although, the five-year-old's initial response was, "Who are the Muppets?"  When I showed him Kermit on a magazine cover, his next response was, "Oh!  Those guys?  They creep me out!"


I guess Muppets have always had a way of eliciting strong responses.  Although it was my most favoritest show on earth, I definitely had my list of felt celebs faves and the ones I only tolerated because they happened to turn up every week on my favorite show.

On the "Like" list were:
  • Fozzie Bear:  How could you not love such a cuddly wuddly widdle bear whose one and only agenda was to spend his every waking moment trying to make you laugh?  Wocka wocka!
  • Scooter:  I had a strange human-puppet crush on Scooter.  He was so adorable and helpful.  But, mostly I coveted his shiny windbreaker.  (And, girlfriends got to wear boyfriends' jackets from what I understood about dating at the time.)
  • Janice:  My sister and I used to laugh at her and call her "spaghetti hair".  But, boy did I secretly envy that head of uncooked pasta that I publicly mocked.
  • The rest of The Electric Mayhem:  Always a fan of rock and roll and anyone who could play "cool" instruments.  But, let's be honest, if puppets could muster the ability to inhale, these guys had it figured out.  I was particularly suspicious about blue-faced sax player.  And, just try and tell me that Animal hasn't been snooping around the medicine cabinet!
  • Kermit: You'd have to be a terrorist not to love this sweet-hearted singing froggy.  Case in point, I played a violin solo of "Rainbow Connection" for my fifth grade music recital.  The audience literally gasped when the teacher introduced my piece as if Kermie himself would appear, swaying along in accompaniment atop my bow.
  • Rowlf:  Another felt mammal too cute and cuddly not to love.  (And, I've always been a sucker for a piano man!)
  • Beeker:  He seems incredibly annoying to me now, as an adult.  But, I thought I had my impression of him nailed back in the day.  (As if it were so complicated!)
  • Rizzo:  Yes.  The rat.  I thought his "Rat Scat" in The Muppets Take Manhattan was the bomb.  "The coffee's fine.  Come on in!" one rat sings while skinny-dipping in a pot of coffee.  Cracked me up every time!  (Plus, to add to my jacket-envy condition, he usually wore a slick-looking Letterman's jacket.)
  • Robin:  A mini-Kermit. What's not to love?
These Muppets and skits were on the "Dislike" list and I merely tolerated their presence out of my undying love for the show:
  • Miss Piggy:  I never understood why Kermit put up with her.  Even as a small child, I understood that this was an extremely unhealthy relationship and I secretly wished that her Pigs in Space costar, Link, would find some way to seduce her away.  I never understood how a frog with a heart so golden could tolerate a such a bossy sow wearing way too much mascara.  And, just so we're clear, Hoggy... nobody believes that you're actually French.
  • Sam the Eagle: Sam's largeness, both in stature and eyebrows, frightened my childhood self.
  • Swedish Chef:  Memorable, but pointless.  He brought much shame to myself and that whopping 25% of Swedishness that makes up my heritage.  Nothing he said was at all discernible and nothing he cooked was even close to being edible!
  • Pigs in Space:  To me, Pigs In Space rhymed with Bathroom Break.  And, it was a very good time for one.
  • Lew Zealand:  You may not know him by name, but you'll recognize his face to the right.  He sat in the audience obnoxiously tossing fish around for no apparent reason.  Being raised with manners, I thought he was incredibly ill-behaved to be sitting in such a posh setting as Muppet Theater.  I hated him.  And, now I hate the fact that his face is posted on my blog.  I'd like to take him off of his puppeteer's hand and donate him as a chew toy to the pit bull sanctuary. 
  • Statler and Waldorf:  Again, with the manners.  I thought heckling was highly inappropriate behavior.  Especially when aimed at such a sweetheart as Fozzie.
  • Behemoth:  Behemoth may have been a frequent character in my childhood nightmares.  But, he did set the perfect visual image to the tuba solo in the opening number.
  • Dr. Bunsen Honeydew:  Where are his eyes?  Did he even have eyes.  I could tolerate Dr. Honeydew, though, because with him came Beeker.  But, geesh!  I can't help it!  Science teachers are soooo boring!
But, I guess even the most disliked of felt figures left their imprint on my psyche.  Love her or hate her, I doubt there's anyone of my generation who can honestly say they've never "Hi-yah!"ed a younger sibling.  And, poor Sam couldn't help his eyebrows.  Is that any reason to loathe our nation's most patriotic of birds?  As an adult, I even came to find a comic appreciation for the heckling old timers.  They had to enjoy the show a little bit.  They're the ones who kept buying those box tickets and coming back!  And, Lew... Nah, I still hate Lew.

I could go on and on all night, but I'll wrap up this post with a few of my favorite Muppet moments.

The Opening Number:

They'd change around the theme song a little every year.  There was one version of the opening, I remember clear as day but can not find it anywhere... Where there was a puppet couple ballroom-dancing during the instrumental bridge of the theme song (The melody that eventually became Statler and Waldorf singing lines) and when their bodies came together, the female puppet's chest fit into the male puppet's pot belly like perfect-fitting puzzle pieces.  I always thought that was so clever!  Does anyone else remember this?  Leave a message in the comment field below if so, so I can prove I'm not crazy!

"Rat Scat" from The Muppets Take Manhattan:

The first Muppet Babies appearance (also from The Muppets Take Manhattan):

We cooed over this for months wearing a constant rewind on our VHS cassette until, lo and behold, they made the Muppet Babies into an official Saturday morning cartoon.  Bravo!

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