For nearly seven decades, Jim Henson’s Muppets have been entertaining people of all ages. Whether it be through shows such as Sesame Street or The Muppet Show, the Muppets are simply timeless. When The Muppet Show first aired in 1976, Henson had been struggling for years to try and make a Muppet show for families to enjoy. With The Muppet Show, Henson finally got his wish: families were now watching the Muppets every week. From 1976 to 1981, the show would last for five seasons and 120 episodes. While the guest stars were featured throughout every episode, the show also followed the backstage antics and shenanigans of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo and dozens of other colorful characters. Now 30 years after Henson’s death, Disney Plus will be dropping a new Muppet show- Muppets Now– on July 31st. Coming four years after the failed one-season-run of the Office styled Muppets show on ABC, it’s good to see Kermit and the gang together again (pun slightly intended).
With the release of the new show, I thought I’d share my personal top 10 favorite episodes of The Muppet Show. Here’s the list- presented in countdown order.
- Vincent Price (S1 E19)
The first season of The Muppet Show is a strange season to watch: some of the episode are slow and some of the Muppet characters don’t look or sound like themselves. This is stand out episode from the first season given that the skits all revolve around a horror theme. Throughout the episode, there are strange monsters and creatures roaming around the theater. Price was a good fit for the show, as his style of acting works well with the Muppets’ vaudeville style.
Favorite number/skit: House of Horrors, where Fozzie and Gonzo visit a haunted house. They are greeted by Uncle Deadly (his first appearance in a Muppet work) and his master- played by Price. Something truly frightening happens in the end of the skit, as Price’s character turns into a monstrous creature- JACK PARNELL!
- Loretta Lynn (S3 E8)
The most memorable episodes of The Muppet Show are usually the ones that break away from the usual format. In this episode, the Muppet Theater is being fumigated. With that, the Muppets are forced to do the show at a railway station- with trains interrupting skits here and there. The opening titles are also different as the gang has to work with a makeshift sign of the show’s logo.
Favorite number/skit: The Rhyming Song, with Fozzie, Scooter, Link and Annie Sue.
- Harry Belafonte (S3 E14)
Fozzie decides that the show should start using scripts, instead of the show being spontaneous. This is a fun episode with several of the best numbers including Belafonte. Towards the beginning, he sings “Day-o (The Banana Song)” and later takes part in a drum duel with Animal.
Favorite number/skit: “Turn the World Around”- the closing number in which Belafonte sings about African mythology in how the elements in the world make it go around. Belafonte is joined by African Mask Muppets, which look amazing. This number is often seen as one of the show’s best. So much so, Belafonte performed it at Jim Henson’s memorial service.
- John Denver (S4 E1)
John Denver’s episode of The Muppet Show would end up branching out into other projects. For this episode, Kermit starts planning for a camping trip with Denver and the rest of the Muppet gang. Miss Piggy, however, is less than enthused about the trip. This is an all around good episode, with Denver’s music being a perfect fit with the Muppets. Denver’s association with Muppets would lead to a Christmas album and special and in 1983- the gang actually did go on the camping trip in the TV special Rocky Mountain Holiday.
Favorite number/skit: “Grandma’s Feather Bed”- the closing number in which Denver is joined in a bed filled with Muppets popping in and out.
- Julie Andrews (S2 E17)
Similar to Denver, Julie Andrews was another perfect choice in guest star for the show. In this episode, Kermit and gang are confused by the presence of cows that are hanging out backstage in the theater. This is one the show’s most memorable episodes- with highlights including Andrews singing “When You Were A Tadpole” to Kermit and Andrews singing “I Whistle a Simple Tune” from The King and I.
Favorite number/skit: “The Lonely Goatherd”- taken from The Sound of Music, which Andrews was in the movie adaptation of.
- Elton John (S2 E14)
When Elton John comes to the show, Scooter is geeks out as he claims to be Elton’s #1 fan. This episode doesn’t have much of a plot. It’s simply the Muppets with Elton John. Even then, this is still a great episode- with Elton performing some of his biggest hits alongside the Electric Mayhem. There’s also a fun ongoing gag in the episode involving the Swedish Chef , who can’t make an omelet as his chicken is only producing ping pong balls. Throughout the episode, the Chef is chasing the chicken around the theater with a cleaver.
Favorite number/skit: “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”- Elton’s duet with Miss Piggy, with the latter saying “Eat your heart out, Kiki!” during the performance. Also, Sam the Eagle introduces the number wearing a flamboyant suit.
- Star Wars (S4 E17)
When the show books the gargling Angus McGonagle as the guest star, the cast of Star Wars arrives by surprise- with Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca all in attendance. When Kermit asks for them to perform on the show, they are happy to- with Luke recommending his cousin Mark Hamill. This is an episode often considered to be one of the show’s best episodes, given that Star Wars was very popular at that point in time. Throughout the episode, Hamil is wearing Luke’s outfit in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke goes to Cloud City to rescue his friends. When the episode aired in early 1980, Empire hadn’t been released yet. Frank Oz was also in Empire as Yoda, which is probably how this episode came to be.
Favorite number/skit: The closing number- which sees the Muppets and Star Wars cast together. In a now tragically ironic scene, everyone sings “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio. Here we are in 2020, where both the Muppets and Star Wars are owned by Disney.
- Carol Burnett (S5 E15)
Kermit lets Gonzo run a dance marathon during the show. This ends up being a huge mistake, as the dancers interrupt many of the skits and numbers. Carol Burnett is not happy about this, especially when she learns that Animal is her dance partner. This episode is filled with laughs and Burnett is just wonderful.
Favorite number/skit: Carol’s performance of “I Was Made for Dancing”- which I cannot find on YouTube. Instead, here’s the end where Carol tries to perform her Lonely Asparagus sketch.
- Alice Cooper (S3 E7)
Ghosts and creatures lurk all around the theater when shock rocker Alice Cooper appears on the show. In an homage to Faust, Alice works for the Devil and soon starts making offers with all of the Muppets. It was a gutsy move on the show’s part to do an episode of a family show with the then-controversial Alice. However, Alice’s shows were already like vaudeville- which made him a perfect choice in guest star.
Favorite number/skit: “School’s Out”- where Alice breaks out into a devil costume and dances around with all of the tall Muppets. This is wonderfully hilarious, especially when Alice leads the Muppets in a conga line.
- Steve Martin (S2 E8)
As stated before, it’s always fun when the show break away from their format. In this episode, Kermit informs the audience that the show planned for the night has been canceled- as Kermit had forgotten that he had a night for auditions planned beforehand. Guest star Steve Martin isn’t happy about this but decides to stick around and still do his act. This is a unique episode of The Muppet Show in that the set-up is clever: while the show was canceled for the night, the auditions all play out like a regular episode of the show. Also, there’s not the usual laugh track found in other episodes. Instead, the laughing heard in most of the episode is from the Muppeteers- who were just sitting back and enjoying Steve Martin’s stand up.
Favorite number/skit: I love the ongoing gag of Mary Louise and Friend and Steve Martin’s balloon animal making. However, the closing number of “Dueling Banjos” is all out hilarious.
Where to watch The Muppet Show
Unfortunately, it’s not too easy to watch The Muppet Show– or at least the entire series. From 2004 to 2008, the first three seasons were released on DVD. The last two seasons, however, remain unreleased- aside from the few episodes that made it onto a home video. There are bootlegs of Seasons 4 and 5- which take from those home video releases and Disney Channel reruns. As to why the last two seasons still aren’t out, it’s more than likely due to the music used in the show- which the first three seasons struggled with when released. Sadly, it seems unlikely that they will be released anytime soon- not even on Disney Plus.
You can probably find the entire series online somewhere but for those who want official releases- you can buy the first three seasons on DVD.
Muppets Now drops on Disney Plus on July 31st.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.