The Muppet Show series 1 episode 14 review

It's not the best Muppet Show episode. But it does have the Swedish Chef making doughnuts in it...

This episode’s guest is star of stage and TV, Sandy Duncan. Nominated for a Tony Award for her role in the Peter Pan Broadway show and an Emmy for her role in Roots, she is also known for her role in the sitcom The Hogan Family.

The show opens well, with Duncan performing A Nice Girl Like Me, which switches the gender roles of Barry Manilow’s A Nice Boy Like Me. Backed by The Electric Mayhem, Duncan downs shots of whisky and throws herself in to a high energy performance. The cafe setting and the use of Sweetums and The Mutations reference back to some of the great musical numbers of strong female guest stars in the past, such as Rita Moreno, Ruth Buzzi and Connie Stevens.

Another of the show’s highlights sees the Swedish Chef show off his method of putting holes in donuts by using a rifle. Sounds crazy, but you can’t argue with the results. The timing seen in the sketch, along with the absurdity, makes this a standout of the show.

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The remaining musical numbers and sketches were flat and uninspiring, with Gonzo croaking his way through Nobody, a sickly sweet rendition of Never Smile At A Crocodile and a snooze worthy performance of Try To Remember. Even the usually consistent Veterinarians Hospital sketch was poor.

Sadly, aside from the two aforementioned sketches, the quality goes downhill fast. The entertainment to be gleamed from this episode is largely dependent on whether you find the mystery surrounding the Banana Sketch funny or not. I, like the host, found this dull, dragged out sketch to be tedious and, thusly, the episode was a bit of a tough slog, especially given the payoff, if you could call it that, was very weak.

I’ve spoken out at the lack of unifying themes in reviews of past episodes, so when what was an initially promising setup failed to deliver on the promise, it was disappointing, to say the least. A far more interesting theme would have been the exploration of the enigmatic gag writer, Gags Beasly, whom Jack Burns would later play in an episode of Saturday Night Live.

Duncan as a guest fell the same way as the running theme, started off promising in an up-tempo musical number- comedy sketch, but slipped off drastically in a number of dull sketches. She failed to find that spark that made the first sketch throughout the rest of the show, and became another in an increasingly long line of guests who fail to ignite an episode. Not the worst guest star, by any means, but far away from the best.

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There were a few highlights, but overall this was a collection of subpar material that failed to stand up to the quality of the material that preceded it. The musical numbers were weak for the most part, and as a whole, only the opening number and the Swedish Chef’s demonstration of his method of making ring donuts provided the requisite levels of attention that you would expect.

Episodes like this are quite frustrating, as the few good elements are torpedoed by the weaker material. There have been some fine showcases so far this series for what The Muppet Show can be when it’s firing on all cylinders. Sadly, this middling episode isn’t one of them.

Read our remembrance of episode 13 here.