The Muppet Show series 1 episode 4 review

Our look back at classic series The Muppet Show continues, and this week Glen enjoys some of the best music of the season so far...

“It’s The Muppet Show with our special guest Miss Ruth Buzzi.” – Kermit

Episode four’s guest is accomplished comedienne Ruth Buzzi, who found fame though her work on another variety show, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in in the late-60s and early-70s. Buzzi gives the most energetic performance from a Muppets Show guest so far this series and, at times, quite literally throws herself into the performance. Her comedic timing is excellent and the show really plays to her strengths.

Whereas the previous episode took on a musical film to cater to the talents of guest Joel Grey, this episode played out like a comedy sketch show with a few musical numbers that were largely played for laughs. 

For the opening musical number of episode four, Floyd Pepper leads The Electric Mayhem in a rendition of Sunny, but the performance is hampered by Animal as the pesky percussionist wasn’t satisfied with the pace and shouts “Faster!” at regular intervals and cranks up the tempo, causing the rest of the band to collapse with exhaustion. Animal crops up again shortly after this sketch as Statler tells Waldorf that he needs to stretch his legs. Animal appears and stretches them for him.

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Buzzi’s only musical number is a rendition of Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You with Sweetums, who remains oblivious to her charms and shuns her advances. The duet leads to a fight between the two performers and sees Buzzi throw herself at her partner in a great sketch that shows off Buzzi’s voice and comedic talents.

Another sketch that appears later in the show that highlights Buzzi’s comedic talents is the interrogation scene, where she plays a prisoner of war and divulges far more information than her captors Frackle and Whatnot need or want.

This episode sees the introduction of what would become a regular character, Scooter, who justifies his backstage presence through being the nephew of Muppet theatre owner, J.P. Grosse. Scooter is sent to deliver a wind-up mechanical version of Kermit. The robotic frog proves to be more trouble than it’s worth. Well, for Kermit at least, as it sets out to harass the host and flirt outrageously with his porcine admirer, Miss Piggy.

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When the robotic Kermit takes things a step too far whilst whispering sweet nothings to Miss Piggy leaving her outraged, it’s Kermit that deals with the consequences through what would become her trademark karate chop.

In a first for the series so far, the episode doesn’t close with a musical number from one of its guest stars. Instead there’s a comedy sketch around a discussion panel on whether or not the human body is obsolete. It gives Buzzi another opportunity to throw herself into the performance as she plays the role of Gloria Goodbody and proceeds to perform yoga on the desk in front of Sam the Eagle.

The show, as a whole, was possibly one of the more consistent so far, with only the jokes in At the Dance misfiring. The focus on comedy, as opposed to music, was a refreshing change after episode 3’s musical theme.

Even though the musical numbers that featured were largely played for laughs, they didn’t lose any quality. The Electric Mayhems’ version of Sunny, Ruth Buzzi and Sweetums’ Can’t Take My Eyes off of You and Rowlf’s I Never Harmed An Onion are some of the finest from the season so far and Wayne and Wanda’s Row Row Row and The Gogolala Jubilee Jug Band’s You Can’t Rollerskate In A Buffalo Herd are both solid if not outstanding.

Overall, the episode was a refreshing change of pace that struck the right balance between comedy sketches and musical numbers whilst maintaining consistency in terms of the quality of the material.

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Read our remembrance of episode 3 here.