By the time this show aired, its guest star Ethel Merman had a successful Broadway career spanning forty years, as well as appearing in numerous films, including Airplane!, and TV shows. Famed for her powerful voice and introducing many songs which would become standards of the musical genre, Merman was a giant of the stage.
Sadly, though, just when it looked as though things were picking up, we’re hit with another episode that sees a slide to the bad old days of earlier on in the series. Given the giant of Broadway that Merman is and the previous success other stars of the musicals have enjoyed this series, this is something of a surprise and a disappointment. Granted, Merman was by no means as sprightly as some of the other stars who appeared previously, but she was deserving of better material than what she got here.
Her medley of Broadway hits and closing number of There’s No Business Like Show Business were both solid sketches, but the other interactions, along with much of the other material in the show, fell flat, making this episode a frustrating experience following such a good run of episodes.
The medley was great fun and crammed many hits into a short space of time, making it a relentlessly entertaining sketch that is the show’s highlight by some distance. Seven songs are performed starting with a duet of Cole Porter’s You’re The Top with Kermit, which was introduced by Merman in the musical Anything Goes. This was followed by two other Porter penned numbers in Friendship, which appeared in Anything Goes ,although its origins were in another Merman lead Broadway production, DuBarry Was A Lady, and DeLovely with Gonzo and Scooter admirably filling in for the Bob Hope role of the song, which had its origins in the musical Red Hot And Blue.
These were followed with two numbers by Irving Berlin, You’re Just In Love from Call Me Madam and Anything You Can Do from Annie Get Your Gun, the latter of which sees Merman and Miss Piggy clashing for comedic effect. The medley closes with all of the performers of the various numbers in a rendition of Mutual Appreciation Society from Happy Hunting. With the exception of the last two numbers, the medley requires very little physical exertion from Merman, who remains stationary throughout much of the performance.
As mentioned earlier, the performance of There’s No Business Like Show Business is solid, but this is expected, given that it’s a song that Merman is famed for performing throughout her career. The song would go on to be performed a number of times in future episodes of The Muppet Show.
There’s a sketch that provides a showcase for Australian puppeteer Richard Bradshaw’s talents, which replaces the At the Dancesegment, providing a welcome break, even if it’s a little out of kilter with the rest of the show. Another mildly entertaining, but by no means exceptional sketch is a musical number involving Statler and Waldorf as Miss Mousey sings Don’t Sugar Me to the resident hecklers.
Sadly, beyond this there’s very little of merit in the show. The opening of Java performed by two dancing tubes is mildly amusing at first, but outstays its welcome. The running theme of the show of Fozzie’s agent trying to get him a pay increase is dull and not really fitting with the episode.
It was shown that they could do good running themes with the Vincent price episode, so it’s frustrating that they didn’t go for an all out musical theme. Granted, it was explored to a certain extent previously, but the potential was there and sadly squandered.
It’s a shame that an episode this poor came at this stage of the series, especially as it looked as though it would close strong. Let’s see if the remaining two can recapture some of the magic seen recently and close the series on a high note.
You can read our remembrance of episode 21 here.
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