The Muppet Show Season Three

The Muppet Show Season Three
"This is the strangest show we’ve ever done.” Kermit the Frog speaks the truth from backstage of his meta variety show; he (and we) just witnessed shock rocker Alice Cooper open with "Welcome to My Nightmare,” accompanied by the ghostly spectre of various Muppet monsters. Sure, Cooper is the king of camp, but how many in the two to 11 demographic (in 1975 no less) understand that? Truly a strange moment in the history of children’s television, but stranger than Sylvester Stallone, in the heart of Rocky promotion, performing a gladiator sketch with a lion Muppet that climaxes with the pair, arm in arm, singing the Cole Porter classic "Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”? Every guest sings and dances with the Muppets - you know if Sly can’t get out of it, no one can - which is why even three seasons into this hit kids program, guests still skew to Broadway vets and musicians. Despite the fact that Cooper and Stallone are burned into memories, we’re much more likely to see the likes of Danny Kaye, Harry Belafonte or Helen Reddy than Cheryl Ladd or Raquel Welch. Regardless, season three shows the Muppets in full flight - cleverly deconstructing sketches and narrative conventions one minute, giving into the utter joy of outright silliness the next. Features on these discs are fascinating archival treats: a 1970 special (in black and white) featuring Muppet players gives a history of puppeteering world-wide, a backstage look at their own processes and a how-to on building puppets at home, as well as behind the scenes creation and early Purina dog chow commercials that featured a prototype Rowlf the Dog. The jokes were always corny, but respect for the Muppets legacy makes these sets much more than mere nostalgic punch lines. (Buena Vista)