Lena Horne was a promising performer and actress, appearing in acclaimed features such as Stormy Weather and Cabin In The Sky. However, her acting career appeared to be all but over when she was placed on a blacklist, along with a number of other prominent stars, due to her political beliefs, which forced her to go back to her roots as a nightclub performer. Lena Horne passed away in May this year, aged 92.
Prior to her appearance in this episode of The Muppet Show, Horne had previously appeared in numerous episodes of Sesame Street. Her closing musical number for this particular show was a number she previously performed in an episode of Sesame Street, Sing. The song made its debut in the opening season of Sesame Street and became one of the show’s most beloved songs, with a cover version by The Carpenters becoming a hit in 1973.
It’s a good song and it’s performed well enough here, but like much of the material in this episode, it all seems a little flat and a bit too gentle. Like Horne’s rendition of I Got A Name from the film The Last American Hero, earlier in the episode, it’s sung well. It’s just a shame there’s not a great deal of personality in the performance.
The lack of personality is a criticism that can be directed at her other sketches in the show, especially off the back of an episode which saw its guest star adopt a number of personalities throughout and bring a significant amount of energy. This is a bit of a disappointment.
It’s a shame particularly as the show’s opening number is a blistering cover of the Ames Brothers’ 1950 chart topping hit, Rag Mop, by a group of dancing mops discovered by George. It’s an incredible start to the show but, sadly, the heights seen in this sketch aren’t reached again this episode.
Although not an upbeat number, another great performance is Zoot and Rowlf’s take on Lai and Sigman’s Theme From Love Story (Where Do I Begin). It’s a tender number that sees Rowlf reduced to tears at the end of the sketch. This is the first of three times this piece of music would be used during The Muppet Show‘s run.
Some of the other sketches are decent enough, with this being the first time this series that the At The Dance sequence has been consistently funny, with a number of quick fire and sometimes risqué jokes filling the segment. This was a nice surprise for me, as, for the most part, I can take or leave this sketch.
Another strong sketch was the return of The Swedish Chef, who is attacked by some out of control spaghetti during his cooking tutorial.
Whilst there were a few highlights, overall the episode was a little disappointing, especially when it started so strongly. Ultimately, it failed to live up to the early promise shown and was another weak episode in the series.
Not wanting to speak ill of the dead, I’ll just say that Horne didn’t really show a great deal of personality in her appearance, which is a both a shame and a surprise. Especially with Horne’s previous film and television work and her reputation as a captivating stage performer. Although this isn’t the first time this series that a guest star has failed to live up to their reputation and carry a show convincingly, and I can’t imagine that it’ll be the last.
There are some hugely interesting names coming up, including a giant of British TV who has been a firm fixture on TV schedules for decades, an Oscar winner, a fashion icon, a master of horror and an experimental performance art group. So, here’s hoping that they can deliver the goods.
Read our remembrance of episode 10 here.