The Muppet Show series 1 episode 15 review

It's a much better outing for The Muppet Show this time around, as Candice Bergen joins in the fun...

This episode’s guest star is actress Candice Bergen, who has had a successful film and TV career dating back to the mid-sixties and has seen her nominated for an Academy Award and winning five Emmys and two Golden Globes. Her awards came for her performance in the long running sitcom Murphy Brown. She also had a prominent role in Boston Legal as well as appearing in the likes of Seinfeld, Family Guy and Sex And The City, to name but a few.

The appearance in this episode wasn’t her first or last collaboration with Henson and co, as she appeared in a Saturday Night Live sketch one year prior to this episode’s airdate with Henson-created co-stars. She would also go on to appear in The Muppets Go To Hollywood and appear on Sesame Street a couple of times as well as contributing to Miss Piggy’s cookbook.

In stark contrast to the previous episode and its guest, this was a consistently entertaining episode with a thoroughly engaging and personable host. Bergen displays a variety of characters that reflect aspects of her personality and talents and, as a result, this is another episode that effectively supports the guest and brings out the best in them.

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Bergen’s contribution to the show is both significant and varied, with her demonstrating impeccable comic timing, often through her actions as opposed to saying anything, as well as adopting the aforementioned character for comic effect.

Her downtrodden housewife revolting against her chauvinistic husband by stripping away her apron to reveal a feminist slogan t-shirt and pull a gun on him during Put Another Log On The Fire is one of many highlights in the show. The sketch is wonderfully paced with the increasingly disgruntled wife becoming more and more frustrated providing a stark contrast to the lyrics sung by the Muppet husband, culminating in an entertaining finale.

Bergen’s second sketch is the discussion panel where she and the usual group of Muppets discuss the topic: does travel broaden the mind? Bergen adopts the role of Dr. Clara Cartwell, who makes a number of digs at Sam the Eagle throughout, but ultimately seems enamoured by the noble, but dim-witted, bird. It’s an endearing and amusing character that Bergen adopts here and is perfect for the material. The quality of the sketch hinges on her performance and her ability to adopt a character that’s different from her own persona, but retains some of her key characteristics.

Bergen gets to interact with the Muppets in a couple of sketches where she essentially plays herself to great success. The first of these is the Talk Spot with Kermit, which sees a break from the format and has Bergen take a picture of the frog host only to have Sweetums eat her camera, and the second is where she goes to cheer up Gonzo with a rendition of Friends, which was made famous by Bette Midler. Whilst Bergen’s voice doesn’t match Midler’s, it’s a good closing musical number.

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The other sketch that Bergen features in is another in which she puts across great comedic timing without saying anything or, indeed, moving a great deal. As she plays model to the Muppets art class, she does little more than pull a series of expressions as the class paint her in their own images, culminating in Animal taking the instruction of painting the model a little too literally.

There are other solid sketches filling in the rest of the show, but this is very much the guest’s show and Bergen owns it like the best guests have this series. She does this by committing to the material and not seeming self conscious in any way.

If guests interact with the Muppets in a way other than they would with normal people it usually results in the material falling down, which is why it’s great when guests take to it the way Bergman did here, resulting in comedy gold and a Muppet Show classic.

Such is the quality of the episode that it’s one of the few where even Statler and Waldorf have nothing bad to say about it. This is one of the best episodes of the series so far, so I hope that the quality can stop yo-yoing and the remaining episodes can bring some consistency that has been lacking in the series so far.

Read our remembrance of episode 14 here.

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