Television

Friday Fun Link: Family Television Edition

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Lawrence Miles lists "Nine Things Which Appeared on The Muppet Show, But Wouldn't Make It Onto Family Television These Days." For example:

1. Cigarettes, alcohol and death. Before he started making feature-length video game demonstrations like The Frighteners and The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson made a film called Meet the Feebles, a "behind-the-scenes" parody of The Muppet Show which depicts the cast doing controversial grown-up things like smoking, drinking, having sex, packing guns, trying to murder each other and experiencing Vietnam flashbacks. The problem here, as the rest of this list should demonstrate, is that the parody is almost completely redundant: it's based on the folk-memory of The Muppet Show as something colourful and noisy, but essentially soft and fuzzy, whereas the truth is that the real Muppets are frequently seen lighting up, boozing up or snuffing it. A good test case is Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler", in which the narrator of the song plies an aged poker player with scotch and fags until he dies happy in his sleep. Performed by humans, it's unpleasantly cloying. Performed by Muppets, it's just scary. See also Peter Sellers' Muppet Show rendition of "Cigarettes and Whiskey and Wild Wild Women", although he does at least perform it in character as a reformed wastrel who's joined the Salvation Army, so we never actually get to see the Muppet whores.

And:

5. Songs that just aren't supposed to be there. Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" has blatant overtones of underage male prostitution ("I'm not a present for your friends to open / this boy's too young to be singing the blues"). Which is why you don't expect to see him perform it with Animal on drums. But he does. It's just a pity they never hired Lou Reed as a guest and got him to perform "Walk on the Wild Side," because I suspect that the Muppet interpretation of "giving head" would be spectacularly over-literal.

Whole thing here. And just in case you thought Miles was making up that "Gambler" story, go to reason.tv to see the clip that justifies Kenny's entire career:

NEXT: Friday Funnies

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  1. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is about what?

  2. Yeah, wait, what?

  3. This leads to one obvious question (which Im going ask before going to Amazon and checking): Is the Muppet Show available on DVD?

    It and WKRP (with original music) are about the only shows from my youth Im willing to buy.

  4. Took the words out my typing hand robc – except that yes, as far as I know the whole shebang is on DVD – I was just going to say that it’s articles like this that remind me what a good investment that money would be.

  5. Yes!!!

    Season one includes the pilot, entitled “Sex and Violence”.

  6. robc,

    I found Season 1 at BJs (I think I remember seeing Season 2 & 3 as well). Just finished watching it with my 11 year old son. Funny aside — he was describing watching it to a friend and my son said that he and my wife thought it was hilarious, but that Daddy laughs at the parts that aren’t funny.

  7. Season 2 came out in August of this year, season 3 not yet available. There are “best of” dvds available too, but Im more of a “buy complete seasons” kind of person.

  8. sixstring,

    Im sure I would be laughing at different parts than when I first watched them.

    I sometimes think writers dont get it. You write for kids by writing for adults too, kids will get just as much as they need to get to laugh, and will continue to enjoy it as they get older.

    Warner Bros cartoons being the other great example.

  9. The Muppets was a fantastic show. Jim Henson truly understood how to entertain both adults and children, by putting adult stuff in that was way over children’s heads so they completely missed it. Watch the show again–there are sexual, social and other adult references in there that will amaze you, as in “I can’t believe they said that” (compared against today’s utterly sanitized children’s entertainment).

    Jim was a rare talent, and his untimely death was a damn shame, and a loss for intelligent children’s programming.

  10. Ah yes, The Muppet Show. It was underrated, unappreciated, and funny as hell. Kermit did Lydia the Tattooed Lady. I bought The Muppet Show LP because that was on it.

    She once swept an Admiral clear off his feet.
    The ships on her hips made his heart skip a beat.
    And now the old boy’s in command of the fleet,
    for he went and married Lydia!

    Kid’s show, yep.

  11. Wow. I totally loved this show as a kid, and I haven’t seen it in like 20 years. I’m really interested in watching it again now.

  12. I sometimes think writers dont get it. You write for kids by writing for adults too, kids will get just as much as they need to get to laugh, and will continue to enjoy it as they get older.

    Rocky and Bullwinkle.

  13. Jim was a rare talent, and his untimely death was a damn shame, and a loss for intelligent children’s programming.

    I love that teevee funhouse of Disney’s vault where Mickey and the kids come across Jim Henson’s corpse (or something), and Mickey explains, “He wouldn’t sign! He wouldn’t sign!”

  14. J sub D,

    Yeah, that one too. Although, I watched some R&B episodes recently and it just didnt do it for me. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I thought I would.

  15. Peter Jackson made a film called Meet the Feebles…

    He also do one of my favorite B-Movies ever:

    Bad Taste

  16. Dudley Do-Right regularly implied unnatural relations between Nell and Dudley’s horse.

  17. Great joke I saw once on that Taz spin off of Animaniacs.

    Some tax collector was harassing a lemonade stand. On the tax collector’s card, his name was Wesley Mouch.

  18. I always loved this show as a kid. I understood what I needed to understand as a child- and I wasnt traumatized by the adult content.
    Im looking forward to seeing it again as an adult.
    Also, I had no idea EJ’s “Yellow Brick Road” was about young male prostitution! Wow. That’s an eye-opener…

  19. bad taste is pretty hilarious.

    and of course dead alive.

    the feebles is actually far more funny than i thought it would be when i saw it a few years back.

  20. That video made my day.

    And one of those muppets looks eerily like Kurt Vonnegut.

  21. Peter Jackson made a film called Meet the Feebles…

    He also do one of my favorite B-Movies ever:

    Bad Taste

    I’m assuming you’ve also seen Braindead a.k.a. Dead Alive, Jackson’s most disgusting film? Truly awesome. Jackson was a serious talent, and did a good job with the incredibly difficult LOTR. But King Kong was a mistake, in my opinion, and I can’t tell if he will return to making what he is best at.

  22. The sad thing about “WKRP in Cincinnati” is that the DVD version is totally bowdlerized because of music rights issues. All of the classic tunes that you might remember playing when you watched the show on TV have been removed and replaced, changing the whole tenor of the show.

    I hope we have a backlash at some point against the endless nanny state and the neurotic raising of children as little bonsai trees. Let the little ankle biters run wild and develop crazy character flaws.. it makes thing spicy down the line.

    PS Buying “Muppet Show” as I type…

  23. rana,

    I simply refuse to accept Jesse’s statements about that song without more proof. I think that one line is a bit lacking in conclusiveness. Next thing you know, people will be telling me that Sulu is gay or something.

  24. Next thing you know, people will be telling me that Sulu is gay or something.

    Or that Uhura is black.

  25. Ok, well I just spent the past hour reading Lawrence’s diary.

    Anybody else get sucked in over there?

  26. Sulu is gay?

    Next, you’ll be claiming that John Wayne is, too!

  27. John Wayne was a fag.

  28. Pro Liberate,
    John Wayne is gay?!
    I think this thread is doing me more psychological damage than the Muppet Show ever did as a kid!
    Crap, now I have to go over all my EJ songs and look for homosexual undertones. Next thing you know, you will be telling me Elton John is a fag!

  29. Ok, well I just spent the past hour reading Lawrence’s diary. Anybody else get sucked in over there?

    Oh, yes. The man is wrong about many things, but he’s a hell of a good writer.

  30. THE HELL HE WAS!!!

    He was too, you boys. I installed two-way mirrors in his pad in Brentwood, and he come to the door in a dress.

  31. Mm-kay. Next you’re going to tell us Rock Hudson was gay. Is there no end to your perfidy?!?

  32. Jesse,

    More, please, on “Yellow Brick Road.”

    I’ve got Repo Man on reserve at the library. Ten thousand years from now, they’ll call that film America’s greatest contribution to world culture.

  33. VM,
    A cigarrette man? I dont get it.

  34. What about Alice Cooper doing contract negotiations for Satan?

  35. Hay – a lot of straight guys like to watch their buddies…

    rana – britspeak for cigarette

  36. I hope we have a backlash at some point against the endless nanny state and the neurotic raising of children as little bonsai trees. Let the little ankle biters run wild and develop crazy character flaws.. it makes thing spicy down the line.

    ooooh they watch pokemon until they are 10 then they start watching adult swim and south park…the kids are not missing out….only delaying it for a year or two longer.

  37. “ooooh they watch pokemon until they are 10 then they start watching adult swim and south park…the kids are not missing out….only delaying it for a year or two longer.”

    True, but I didnt have a sheltered childhood and I think kids know more today about sex, drugs and violence than I ever did as a kid. If they are not exposed to these things on children’s programming (which they shouldnt be) they are bombarded with these images by the main stream media. Its hypocritical to say the least.

  38. scene is at URKOBOLD. All but one are welcome!

  39. aawwww, VemSter. Are we still in that nasty fight?

  40. My dad and I loved the Muppet Show and when I was a teenager, before going out and getting into trouble on Saturday nights, I would eat dinner with the family, Daddy and I watched the Muppets, then I’d make up a plausible lie and skidaddle. We tried never to miss the Muppets. I did, and still do, a pretty good Swedish Chef.

    When Daddy passed away a couple years ago, I bought a “Best Of” set of videos from the show (we don’t have a DVD player in the bedroom) and introduced my daughter to the Muppets as a way of remembering her Gramps. She loved it and still does. She thinks Dom Deluise is the funniest guy ever and when he pops up on TV, or in animation voiceover, she’s estatic. She got a little bummed when I explained that the show was made a long time ago and some of the people she’s watching are dead now.

    I love the old English musical theater numbers they always did, esp. Fozzie and Piggy – Piggy did a some Marie Lloyd numbers as I recall. I think it was Robot Chicken that did a parody of VH1’s “Behind the Music” featuring Electric Mayhem.

  41. I do remember being scared shitless of the bigger monsters on the show when I was about 4 or so. The humour in those shows now though…damn. Let’s not forget about the size of the talent that they were able to book as guests. Some of those folks were the mega-stars of their day, and you wouldn’t see some of today’s actors/musicians putting themselves in the same skits for a show such as this now. In fact – I can’t see how a show like this would survive network TV now…which is a damn shame.

  42. That’s don’t mean he’s gay. Lots of guys like to watch their buddies fuck.

    I know I do.

  43. Stubby – a great memory of the show. Thank you for sharing it!

    A good semi “old England” was Paul Simon doing “Scarborough Fair” – in an Renaissance setting, with Miss Piggy screeching (off key, natch), “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme”

    HAPPY FRIDAY.

  44. I don’t think you guys give today’s kids entertainment enough credit… On teevee there’s Spongebob and Fairly Odd Parents, both are very funny for adults and kids dig ’em. Neither is nearly as perverse or unPC as the Muppets, but what are you going to do?

    And some of the best movies today are “kids” movies. All the Pixar stuff is great… full of emotion and life, extremely good popcorn entertainment and meaningful at the same time, just like movies should be. Esp. the work of Brad Bird (Iron Giant, Incredibles, and Ratatouille).

    Again, there’s nothing subversive like Looney Tunes in this group, but that’s just the way that our culture (both for kids and adults) has gone. Maybe we’re too jaded now for writers to try to sneak that stuff under the radar anymore?

  45. Matt: Too right. One of my favorites – no longer being produced, natch, cause my favorites never last – was Recess. The episode where TJ was captured by the kindergartners and his friends searched in increasing desperation, until finding him three hours later, by which point he’d gone native – forgetting how to tie his shoes or speak in complete sentences, painting his body, dancing, napping – was awesome.

    There was also the Life and Times of Juniper Lee – a preteen animated Buffy, also cancelled – and we never miss Code Name Kids Next Door, which is genius.

    Yes, I love cartoons. Thank goodness my kid does too – although like her Gramps, she adores Tom and Jerry, and I just don’t see why. At least she’s off Dora. I can’t stand that brat.

    Can’t wait till she’s old enough to watch Venture Brothers.

  46. Thank you Jesse,
    The Muppet Show was the very best television series ever produced. Jim Henson was the greatest entertainment god whatever lived. I was truly blessed to be born in 1964.

  47. BTW does anybody know if the full episodes have been released? The Muppet Show was an hour show, the Season one and two box set on Amazon.com have a run time of just over 600 minutes for 24 episodes per season. Obviously a good deal of material has been cut. BLASPHEMY or at least apocrypha. How could anyone do that?

  48. Warren, I believe the Muppet Show was 30 minutes, not an hour. Check it, but I’m pretty sure on that.

  49. What about Alice Cooper doing contract negotiations for Satan?

    That episode was my first introduction to Alice Cooper. God, how I miss the Muppet Show.

  50. Ok, just one more post.

    For the past 20+ years, whenever I hear Crocodile Rock I cannot avoid hearing the Muppets singing in the background “Laaaa, la la la la la….” And Fozzie’s Wocka Wocka Wocka. I have a friend who tried to dabble in Wicca for a while becuase her girlfriend was a Wiccan. And we couldn’t resist “Wicca Wicca Wicca!”

  51. Dudley Do-Right regularly implied unnatural relations between Nell and Dudley’s horse.

    As an adult, I saw an episode where Snidely Whiplash had the mortgage on the fort, and he was going to foreclose unless the fort commander’s daughter, Nell, married him. The fort commander said, “I never thought I’d call you ‘son,’ Whiplash — I always had a somewhat longer expression in mind.”

    I blinked and realized, “Hey, he just called Snidely Whiplash a son of a bitch!”

    I have a hard time imagining them working stuff like that into Captain Planet or Powerpuff Girls.

  52. Episiarch,
    EEEEEK My aging mind has deceived me, or maybe it’s a corporate conspiracy propagated across the internet. From what I found out, there is some editing on the new discs. Mostly for the sake of song copyrights. AAARR

    Reason #1 to scrap all intellectual property law, The Muppet Show vandalism.

  53. SHREK is the new “for the kiddies with inside jokes for the parents” fare.

    Not in the same league as Bugs or Rocky. Too much a corporate project. Some sweet animation though.

  54. VM,

    I prefer the Muppets’ version.

    I’m going to just say it: I don’t much care for Shrek. The first one was okay, I guess, but that’s it.

    What the heck happened to Mike Myers, anyway? Wasn’t he making (non-animated) movies and stuff, once upon a time? Head! Down!

  55. ProGLib – you need to see the next five minutes of that movie, and you’ll definitely prefer the Muppets’ version! (it involves a topless run around a corral before running back into the sauna). Quite disturbing, actually…

  56. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is about what?

    Well, duh. And what about his song, you know, the one with that line “hold my closer Tony Danza”? Huh?? Whadya think that one’s about??

  57. I’m not saying that Sir Elton isn’t perverted or that he doesn’t have disturbing songs, but I’m just not seeing it with “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. Is “Rocket Man” obscene in some way as well?

    Next thing you’ll be telling me is that “Puff, the Magic Dragon” is a drug song or something.

  58. Here’s a candidate: Debbie Harry of the delightful Punk cum New Wave (the operative word here being “cum”), Blondie singing a song about prostitution on the Muppet Show in 1981:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UArJpA9wm-w

    And BTW, another stellar tune by Blondie: “X Offender” with its, “You had to admit you wanted the love of a sex offender” line, would probably garner restricted play in some quarters these days:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ6fpSdQQKc

  59. …Actually, they were gonna call it “Sex Offender” back in 1976 before they were persuaded not to.

  60. Oh, those two old guys were my favorites! Statler and something or other?

    As for Shrek… holy crap, I couldn’t watch five minutes of it. I’m actually surprised someone said it has humor for adults–I sure didn’t detect any. The only recent kiddie movie of that nature I’ve seen is Finding Nemo, which I think is an excellent movie. Funny for adults without trying too hard.

  61. Rhywun wrote: “Oh, those two old guys were my favorites! Statler and something or other?”

    Waldorf was the other one.

  62. My love for The Muppet Show surpasses all media except my love for Doctor Who – and Lawrence Miles is the author of some truly amazing Doctor Who novels. A lot of his ideas have been incorporated into the new show, but have a browse through his blog and you’ll see why “Mad Larry” isn’t allowed near BBC megabucks franchises anymore. Which is a real shame.

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