While "The Muppet Show" may seem slightly dated to younger generations just seeing it for the first time, I still find the jokes and the timing are still delightfully hilarious. The series was presented as a variety show, with Kermit, Piggy, Fonzie, Gonzo and others starring in sketches and guest stars throwing in their efforts, musical or otherwise. Between sketches, the audience gets a glimpse "behind-the-scenes" at the conflicts behind the curtain.
Although many people have named Kermit, Fonzie, Piggy or others as their favorite muppet characters, I've always loved the two critics who sit up in the balcony, even when I was a little kid. The voice artists working them had incredible delivery, and their one-liners (In the first episode, one of them turns to the other one, who doesn't appear to be feeling good and asks what's the matter. The other one responds, "It's either the show or indigestion, but I hope it's indigestion." The other one asks why, and he responds, "Because if it's indigestion, it'll get better soon." There's an exchange between the two and Milton Berle in the third episode that's utterly hysterical) still stand out to me as some of the funniest in any given episode.
The puppeteers working the main characters do a remarkable job both with movement and with voicing the characters - some of the most distinctive traits of many of the Muppets were their voices. The guest stars also give their best in most of the episodes, as well. Given that many stars did not want to appear on a "puppet show" (similar to how "Simpsons" creators have noted that celebs were nervous about appearing on a cartoon early in that show's run), the creators had to rely on their own connections, pulling in their friends for the first season episodes. The second season reels in some big names, including Raquel Welch, Cheryl Ladd, Harry Belafonte, Sylvester Stallone and Lynn Redgrave.
Overall, it was great fun to be able to see these episodes again, as it's been probably a good 20 years or more since I've seen them. Although, as mentioned before, the guest stars date the program, the material stands up surprisingly well after all these years - the amount of imagination and inspiration that went into the writing and everything else in the production still shows through brightly.
55. 17 Nov 78 Raquel Welch
56. 24 Nov 78 Alice Cooper
57. 1 Dec 78 Helen Reddy
58. 8 Dec 78 James Coco
59. 15 Dec 78 Marisa Berenson
60. 22 Dec 78 Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge
61. 25 Dec 78 Danny Kaye
62. 29 Dec 78 Cheryl Ladd
63. 5 Jan 79 Harry Belafonte
64. 12 Jan 79 Lesley Ann Warren
65. 19 Jan 79 Liberace
66. 26 Jan 79 Lesley Uggams
67. 2 Feb 79 Elke Sommer
68. 9 Feb 79 Sylvester Stallone
69. 16 Feb 79 Roger Miller
70. 23 Feb 79 Roy Rogers, Dale Evans
71. 2 Mar 79 Spike Milligan
72. 9 Mar 79 Lynn Redgrave
VIDEO: Disney definitely has put care into the presentation of the show once again, as the 1.33:1 full-frame transfers for these third season shows are quite superb. Sharpness and detail are not flawless, but pretty great considering the age of the material and the material itself. Definition remained consistent throughout the programs. The presentations remain mostly free of pixelation, showed no edge enhancement and remarkably, presented essentially no wear. Colors remained vivid and vibrant, with nice saturation and no smearing or other faults. Overall, this is terrific work from Disney, and Muppet fans should be pleased.
SOUND: The mono soundtrack was quite fine, with clear dialogue and music. No distortion, hiss or any other issues were encountered. Overall, the audio sounds better than I'd expect from the material.
EXTRAS: The main extra is "Muppets on Puppets", a 1968 PBS documentary that had Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Juhl and Don Sahlin heading to Hershey, PA in order to tape a program about working with puppets. There are some brief, infrequent audio drop-outs during the course of the nearly hour-long documentary, but it's due only to the age of the program. While the feature is certainly dated, it does offer some interesting insights and certainly has some historic interest for fans. "A Company of Players" is a 10-minute piece about the puppeteers that worked on the series. Finally, we get a series of Purina commercials, which are where character Rowlf the Dog made his debut.
Final Thoughts: The third season of "The Muppet Show" continues the show's successful run, with great laughs and terrific guest stars. The DVD doesn't offer a ton of extras, but it does boast great audio/video quality. Highly recommended.