“It’s The Muppet Show with our special guest Miss Rita Moreno.” – Kermit
Episode five of The Muppet Show sees another Oscar winner join the ranks of guest stars, with the appearance of West Side Story star Rita Moreno. Moreno won the Best Actress Academy Award for her role as Rita in the adaptation of the Broadway smash. She also won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for the role.
After her introduction from Kermit, which sees Animal bite her shoulder, her first sketch in the show begins. Entitled I Get Ideas, it sees Moreno enter a cafe backed by an instrumental version of the song with the same name. Moreno objects to her Muppet boyfriend flirting with Miss Piggy, and engages in a part dance, part fight sequence that is really quite brilliant.
No words are spoken during the routine, but Moreno portrays so much through her facial expressions and actions that make this one of the highlights of the series so far. A brilliant piece of physical comedy that calls back to some of the slapstick elements of silent film.
Through her roles up to the point of her appearance on The Muppet Show, Moreno had something of a combative image and this is something that is played up for comic effect throughout the show. Like in episode four, where Ruth Buzzi guest starred, episode five sees the return of the panel discussion segment.
Moreno plays the role of Tiffany Gonzalez who is there to discuss the topic “Is conversation a dying art?” in which she adopts a heavy Hispanic accent and clashes violently with Miss Piggy, who can’t understand a word Gonzalez is saying and mutters the classic line: “If conversation is a dying art, you killed it!”
Whilst episode four’s panel discussion was great, the set up and execution to this was much better. Moreno put a great deal in to the character and the interaction with the Muppet cast, specifically Miss Piggy, was great.
The last main sketch that Moreno is involved with is her performance of Fever backed by the Electric Mayhem. Moreno delivers a perfect performance of the classic song, but soon faces problems from Animal, who becomes bored with the slow percussion and adds his own up-tempo drum fills for good measure.
A mid-song word in Spanish from his vocalist does little to calm him down and he carries on with his creative vision of what Fever should be until Moreno becomes so frustrated that she slams his head between two cymbals which leads Animal to say, “That’s my kinda woman.”
This musical number represents one of the finest balances of music and comedy seen on the show to date. The execution of the song is very strong and the level of comedy timing between Moreno and Animal is excellent.
Moreno sketches aside, there’s not a great deal of note other than the debut of what would become one of The Muppet Show‘s most beloved sketches, Veterinarians Hospital. The sketch sees Rowlf play Dr. Bob, who is assisted by his nurses, Miss Piggy and Janice. Dr. Bob’s first patient is Fozzie Bear and the jokes fly thick and fast in this short, but thoroughly entertaining sketch.
Moreno was an outstanding guest and it was her segments that really stood out as the show’s best. Great presence, timing and interaction as well as providing one of the musical highlights of the series so far, it’s easy to see why Moreno won an Emmy for her appearance in this episode and all three of her sketches were easily the standouts, (possibly of the series so far).
Other than the debut of Veterinarians Hospital and the return of the Swedish Chef, the rest of the material was little more than filler when compared to Moreno’s contributions. In terms of showcasing the best of their guest’s talents, this has been the strongest episode of the season so far. It’s a shame that the majority of the non-Moreno material didn’t stand up favourably.
Read our remembrance of episode 4 here.