This episode’s guest star is the composer, singer, and actor Paul Williams. Williams has been nominated for Academy Awards on a number of occasions including his scores for Bugsy Malone, Cinderella Liberty, Phantom Of The Paradise and The Muppet Movie.
He also received Best Song nominations for Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie and for Evergreen (Love theme from a Star Is Born) for which he won his only Academy Award.
As an actor he has appeared in Smokey And The Bandit, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Voyager as well as providing the voice for The Penguin in Batman: The Animated Series.
After a couple of distinctly average episodes, this was a refreshing return to form that saw the writing team firing on all cylinders with the sketches being of a consistently high standard and utilising the guest’s talents to their full potential.
There’s also a return to some of the more subversive elements that were hinted at in the pilots and the earlier episodes, which have sadly been lacking from the past few episodes, and it’s one of the most overt examples seen so far.
It takes part in the Muppet Labs scene where we see the debut of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew as he demonstrates his All-Purpose Tenderizer product on a number of household items, making them softer following the application of the product. It’s when he demonstrates this on a plate and proceeds to rub the plate on his face, shivers with delight and exclaims, “Ooh, it sends me all aquiver!” resulting in one of the biggest laughs in the series so far.
Episode one veiled its links to a Swedish mondo movie with a seemingly innocent performance of Mahna-Mahna, but this is the most overtly sexual sketch seen so far in the series and it was absolutely brilliant. Unsurprisingly, this sketch would be cut when The Muppet Show aired on Nickelodeon.
There’s a running joke throughout where Scooter attempts to convince Fozzie to perform the telephone pole bit, which sees the comedian go to great lengths to get into character. During the performance of the routine, Fozzie is referred to by the name of Frank Oz’s father in the joke’s punch line.
The musical numbers are incredible and are possibly some of the finest of the series so far. Williams is an immensely talented songwriter and performer, so it’s easy to see why the Muppet team would reunite with him a number of times later down the line, and he’s also one of the few guests to receive a Muppet likeness of himself, but, unlike the others who had one, Williams got two likenesses.
His first performance of one of his own songs was a rendition of An Old Fashioned Love Song, accompanied by his Muppet Likenesses and the Gogolala Jubilee Jugband, which is first occasion this series where the resident country act have accompanied a high quality sketch.
The second song is the show’s closing number, Sad Song, which, whilst it’s quite downbeat in comparison to the rest of the material in the show, is far from a downer. Williams’ ability to construct a song and voice are remarkable, and the emotional tone of the material he performs enhances the show rather than detracts from it.
A couple of non-Williams-related performances include Mary Louise leading the Frog Chorus through a rendition of Peter, Paul and Mary’s I’m In Love With a Big Blue Frog and Rowlf’s reading of a poem entitled ‘Silence’. When Rowlf is trying to deliver his personal and introspective poem, the rest of the cast take cues from various verses to interrupt the poem and hilarity ensues.
With a strong focus on music, this episode sees a return to form following a couple of disappointing shows. Williams’ talents are utilised well, as the material plays to his strengths and plays on his diminutive stature. Also, for the most part, the filler sketches are of a high standard. So much so that there’s little to fault with this episode. Even Statler and Waldorf were happy.
The show would also be nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in Comedy, which was very much deserved, as this really is a perfect demonstration of how good The Muppet Show can be.
Read our remembrance of episode 7 here.