The guest star for this episode is the multi-talented performer, Charles Aznavour. Recognised as one of the most successful and versatile performers in the world, Aznavour has composed over 1,000 songs in various languages, the most popular of which is possibly She, which was a number one hit here in the UK and has been covered a number of times, most notably by Elvis Costello for the Notting Hill soundtrack.
Just when it looked as though things were picking up again, this episode saw another dip in the quality of the series. Billing Charles Aznavour as a guest star is quite generous, considering he’s in the show for a chat with Kermit, a brief musical number, and a short sketch. As such, he barely makes an impact on the show.
The musical number proves that he has an amazing voice, but it’s far from a memorable song. The song in question is Inchworm, which originally featured in an old Sesame Streetepisode. There has been some success this series (and, indeed ,this episode) with the recycling of old material. Sadly, this isn’t a great example.
It’s a shame that such a talented guest wasn’t put to good use, with material that suitably supported his talents, like some of the other guest stars that have featured so far this series. With a successful acting career and a phenomenally successful music career, it’s clearly not a case of him not being up to task, more the material failed to showcase his talents and, consequently, this episode is little more than a wasted opportunity.
Non-UK audiences had the benefit of a sketch featuring Aznavour dancing with and serenading Mildred with his number The Old Fashioned Way. Can’t see why this was cut, as it’s better than much of the material that features in this episode. It’s easily viewed elsewhere, but it would have been better to have it fit within the context of the episode as a whole.
In addition to the material not supporting the guest star effectively, the sketches that make up the majority of the show, for the most part, fail to register laughs. That’s not to say that the show’s completely without merit, though. The opening musical number of Bernstein and Sondheim’s I Feel Pretty from West Side Story is an amusing and well performed sketch that features a female Whatnot Muppet preparing for a date and gradually becoming more grotesque throughout the song. Henson and Co. had time to perfect the sketch, having performed it previously in different forms on the Ed Sullivan Show and Sesame Street.
Another amusing sketch sees the return of Veterinarian’s Hospital, which sees Dr. Bob (Rowlf) huffing on oxygen and making jokes about his success rate following the death of a patient. This is exactly the type of material that makes me love the Muppets. When they explore darker territory is when the show is at its best.
Other than the aforementioned, the other two sketches that work for me are Fozzie’s stand-up routine, where Statler and Waldorf beat the bear comic to his punchline and take over the routine, resulting in them heckling each other. These endearing characters are two of the most consistently well used in the Muppet cast.
The ever reliable Discussion Panel sees a slight change in the format as it features an all Muppet panel this week without the accompaniment of the guest star. The fall guy of the sketch is Gonzo, who spent a large portion of the episode playing up to his reputation as some kind of misunderstood artist, but it soon becomes apparent that he’s hilariously out of his depth, as he struggles to keep up with the pace of the topic discussing man’s role in the universe, resulting in him taking the conversation too literally and delivering a hammer blow to Sam the Eagle.
So, it’s another mixed bag of an episode that doesn’t adequately support the guest, but isn’t without merit. There were a few highlights, but there’s a strong sense that the episode could have been better if it featured a coherent theme to tie the material together rather than a seemingly hotchpotch of sketches that make the episode something of an uneven watch.
Read our remembrance of episode 8 here.