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April 20, 2017

The Muppet Show: 40 Years Later – Avery Schreiber

Filed under: Feature,Reviews — Tags: , , — Anthony Strand @ 11:07 am

Original air date: April 18, 1977

We’ve talked a lot in previous reviews about how The Muppet Show season one isn’t quite the same show that would exist later. The characters look rougher, the jokes are a bit cornier, and the stories are… well, mostly they don’t exist.

Happily, that’s starting to change. As Danny Horn discussed in his review of this episode (14 years ago!), this is an early example of an episode with a backstage story. Piggy hatches a plan to make Kermit jealous by having Scooter tell him that Avery Schrieber is mad for her. This leads to some fun shenanigans – particularly the Avery/Piggy flirtation during the Talk Spot – but it’s still mostly an excuse for jokes than a true story.

Fortunately, those jokes are almost all hilarious. I’d go so far as to say that this might be the best possible example of the season one version of The Muppet Show. Every sketch works, the songs are all good, the guest star throws himself into the material with gusto. If The Muppet Show had been cancelled after one season, this one be one that fans got really excited about, a classic on the tape-trade circuit akin to Bobby McFerrin on The Jim Henson Hour or Garth Brooks on Muppets Tonight.

But that’s all it would be – a cult remembered by hardcore fans only. To continue on, to become a worldwide hit, The Muppet Show needed to start going deeper than this. Jerry Juhl understood that in a way that Jack Burns (Schrieber’s old comedy partner) didn’t. It’s not enough for the Muppets to make us laugh. We need to really care about them too, and so far we don’t.

If The Muppet Show had done this story in a later season, the Piggy/Kermit/Avery confrontation would almost certainly have happened during the closing number. Instead the closing number is Avery making a bunch of random sounds with some monsters, which is kind of a metaphor for the lack of storytelling. It’s delightful, it’s a ton of fun, and it gets stuck in your head, but you probably wouldn’t spend five years getting emotionally invested in it.

Best Joke: Avery to Piggy: “I can’t kiss you. You see, my family never even touched a pig let alone put their lips to one.”

Lamest Joke: Rowlf at the dance – “I had a bit part in a movie last week… I bit someone!”

MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): Avery Schreiber is the most Muppety guest star we’ve had so far (much more than Mummenschanz!), so I’m tempted to go ahead and give it to him. If that’s now allowed, I’ll give it to Fozzie for two excellent bits he shares with Avery: the pantomime museum sketch and the comedy routine.

Most Classic Moment:
“Tenderly” is one of the Electric Mayhem’s all-time best songs, including one of Eren Osker’s most enthusiastic Janice performances

Should-Be-Classic Moment: The insult battle between Sir Avery of Macho and Sweetums is treat, helped immensely by Schreiber’s over-the-top Mid-Atlantic accent.

Most Dated Joke: In that same battle, Sweetums calls Burns & Schreiber his second-favorite comedy team after Starsky & Hutch.

First Appearance Of…: The Muppet Labs Gorilla Detector. Sadly also the last.

Missed Opportunity: Boy, does that gorilla detector sketch highlight why the show needed to introduce Beaker. Bunsen screaming in terror as the gorilla drags him off just doesn’t have the comedic punch as Bunsen lecturing obliviously while that happens to Beaker.

Musical Highlight:May You Always” by Rowlf and friends is one of my favorite Muppet songs of all time. I sing it to my 2-year-old daughter as a lullaby frequently.

Obscure Character Watch: Gorgon Heap eats Wayne during “Some Enchanted Evening.” It’s always nice to see that guy.

One More Thing…: Kermit says “Right now [Avery Schrieber] is launching a new career as a movie performer and a television star in his own right” which is pretty sad.

Okay, One More Thing…: When Avery Schreiber put a banana in his ear, my 2-year-old daughter giggled and said “What? What and what? He got a banana in his ear?!”

Click here to serenade a baby Koozebanian on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Anthony Strand – Anthony@ToughPigs.com

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