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20 Years Since MT

Discussion in 'Muppet Headlines' started by Muppet Master, Mar 8, 2016.


What Did You Think of Muppets Tonight?

  1. Great

    4 vote(s)
  2. Good

    6 vote(s)
  3. Okay

    5 vote(s)
  4. Fair

    0 vote(s)
  5. Bad

    0 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.

  1. Muppet Master

    Muppet Master Well-Known Member

    Just a week after the finale of the new muppet show, it's on this day 20 years ago that MT premiered, Sadly it was ill fated doing poorly in the ratings that it ended up airing some of it's episodees in the summer, and ran another short season on Disney Channel. Though it's sad to think 20 years later we're stuck in the same position again with The Muppets doing poorly in the ratings and likely to be cancelled. But what went wrong here, should this show be on DVD, what would you change, and what good moments did the show have, share your thoughts.
  2. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Everything I said about what made The Muppets work, even though some feel otherwise (painfully otherwise) is what made MT not work.

    Know how I always said how we really shouldn't have a Muppet program that tried too hard to be TMS? That's what I feel was the main problem with MT. It had to get a variety show format relevant years after the fact and tried to bend several genres of TV show to get it to a reasonable format. SNL, Late Show, Music shows... all together and even at best it was a hot mess. I get the reasoning behind having Clifford as the host. They wanted the hip, happening type of host (remember. Back in the early to mid-90's that was both David Letterman and Leno were actually considered "hip"), and Kermit was too much an old style small town type. Plus, they wanted to use the character less for some reason once he was recast.

    Secondly, they were dealing with characters that had yet to be recast and were in semi-retirement territory. So gone was half the Electric Mayhem, Scooter, Rowlf, Link Hoghtrob, and Frank's characters were only sort of there depending on availability. So we had new characters, and just like Sesame Street at the time, only some of them actually had staying power. And we recently lost a couple of those due to Brian moving on. So to fill in their roles and their recurring skits we had pale imitations like "Deep Dish 9" and "ERERO." Both proving not to work, not to be funny, and just too pop culture relevant. Bay of Pigs Watch also sucked. However, a lot of the single serve pop culture one shots worked beautifully. Seinfeld Babies was delightful, Co-Dependants Day also good. There was a level of quality writing, just uneven and often due to the use of characters, Andy and Randy sucked after a while because they became the standard "those dumb guys." Same reason why Bebop and Rocksteady became tiresome and obnoxious midway through the 80's Turtles cartoon.

    But the biggest problem was, in trying to recreate the variety show format of the Classic Muppet Show while trying to keep it hip and fresh and while trying to have new characters fill in those huge gaps, the show didn't have a voice for itself. What TMS did worked for TMS. Show were like that back then, even if it was backhanded or tongue in cheek. The writers didn't know what to do with anything until the not broadcast on broadcast television second season, where they added more sitcomy, behind the scenes elements and less focus on one celebrity guest star. Then they were canned right after a succession of actually great episodes. Had we got a third season, it would have been able to shake off what was wrong the first season and a half and become a more 1990's pop culture laugh fest with a soul instead of almost being that but being stuck with the old series in mind.

    Not to mention Boy meets World was getting better ratings.
  3. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Since TMS was before my time and I didn't really get to see it till it started coming out on DVD, I remember MT from my childhood rather well, and I can say that I don't remember thinking any poorly of it at all - though looking back in retrospect, I can see and understand now why it didn't work too well for all of the reasons Drtooth mentioned: trying to recapture the magic of TMS, but for a new generation with new characters and trying to stay hip and fresh. It served a purpose, I suppose, and some of the bits they had were amusing and memorable - I personally got a kick out of those Great Moments in Elvis History, those Elvises always crack me up. But again, as we said, one of the show's biggest downfalls was that it was trying to be a new TMS. But I guess we can give them kudos for at least trying to do something worthwhile for us to enjoy.
  4. tedbear

    tedbear Member

    I never have had a chance to actually properly watch Muppets Tonight. I was born 2 years after it originally aired, at least in the UK, and I don't remember it being on Disney Channel either. The only episode I have seen was episode 1, as I wanted to watch it one day out of curiosity, and it's ok. I did intend to watch the rest, but as I said before, I never have the chance.
  5. mr3urious

    mr3urious Well-Known Member

    MT was good in some of the sketches and the new characters, but bad in the diminished role or total absence of established characters and trying to be like TMS in the wrong ways, though I still like this show warts and all. And it was unfortunate that it never got the chance to truly reach its potential, as it was getting there by the 2nd season (the season where most shows improve, including TMS itself).
    LaRanaRene and Drtooth like this.
  6. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I think the problem was that they were trying to find a blend between old and new, just they didn't know how to blend them and what should have been blended. Tales from the Vet (one of the better segments) seemed to want to be Muppet Labs with a horror angle, but Bunsen and Beaker were still there. The Pig sketches (except for the actual good Howard Tubbman skits) were somehow trying to be Pigs in Space but failing at every angle, especially when Piggy was unavailable and it was just the lousy Pig characters. Most of which existed to just be shallow parodies of the show stars. And those two unfunny dumb guys. It really seems the show's biggest enemy were the recurring skits, but the ones made specifically to fill out the 2 minutes for the UK were gold! Why?! How come we had to suffer through Andy and Randy Pig run around with even more vapid pigs, and the UK got Big Mean Carl eating Game Show contestants?

    Deep down, it's not that the show wasn't enjoyable. When things worked, they worked beautifully. It's just so much didn't work because the writers didn't know what to do with the show until second season. And even then, second season was dumped on Disney Channel because don't you dare take the time slot of the only memorable late 90's TGIF show or any time from AFV.
  7. Mo Frackle

    Mo Frackle Well-Known Member

    MT improved significantly during its second season. More attention was being placed on 'backstage' plots rather than the on stage skits. My favorite episode is easily the one where Bunsen goes through his midlife crisis, and gets Johnny and Sal to give him a makeover ("Pretty Bunsen, not that I'm into that...").

    It's easy to see the reasoning behind keeping and dropping certain 'new' characters. Pepe, Bobo, Johnny and Sal, and Dr. Phil Van Neuter all offered something new and memorable to the table. It's a shame that Brian's absence has led to Van Neuter and Sal (and Johnny too, I guess) being dropped.

    Big Mean Carl acts as both a tribute to and parody of the classic Muppet monsters.

    Howard Tubman has been used on rare occasions as well. I can see more being done with him, especially since Bill has changed him from the 'fat guy' stereotype to a show-biz savvy type. I suppose I could see Carl the butler working as a minor character, and Eugene the Ferret (is that what he was?) in the background.

    Seymour the Elephant was likeable, but we already have plenty of likeable Muppets.

    I can see Bill the Bubbleguy sticking around in the same way Lew Zealand has, I suppose. He'd get a funny line every so often - though Dave's delivery played a large role in that.

    Mr. Poodlepants was merely a Muppet Ed Wynn. I don't think anybody really knew what to do with him.

    Nigel seemed a bit too one-jokeish. I'm guessing he was there to share the Kermit role with Clifford.

    Zippety Zap seemed to be a fill-in for Floyd.

    David Hoggselhoff and Spamela were merely parodies of David Hasselhoff and Pamela Henderson.

    The Deep Dish Nine Crew felt like clones of Link and Strangepork.

    Mulch's constant growling was kind of grating (sorry, Kevin).

    Andy and Randy Pig could have worked if they were treated like Ernest T. Bass - only getting one or two appearances per season.

    Still, it was pretty neat to see the performers experiment with new characters. Hey, experiments aren't always going to turn out perfectly.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
  8. BlakeConor14

    BlakeConor14 Well-Known Member

    I would pay so much money to see sal minela a nd Dr Phil van neuter be recast
  9. mr3urious

    mr3urious Well-Known Member

    I wonder if Matt Vogel or David Rudman could take on the task?
  10. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    The thing that made the Howard Tubman skits work was that it could have just been "fat guy like food," but they took that to the level of mocking British period piece/costume dramas and gave the dialogue a certain flair. The food he loved so much was lyrically written as very sophisticated, specific things instead of just "here food, me eat." I like really like that kind of verbose and strange wordplay, also why I like Ned's Newt and Sam and Max so much. It's not so much that the character is fat, but he's also incredibly hedonistic and foppish as well. And he's not exactly a bad guy, just in his own little gourmand world.

    Meanwhile Andy and Randy are dumb, and David Hasslehog and Spamella Hamderson are vapid. Nothing much there.

    I disagree because knockoffs of Link and Julius would have been an improvement. We had the annoying other pigs and a one note parody of Worf (a Worf Muppet parody worked better on a Sesame Street Spaceship Surprise skit). But overall, Deep Dish Nine just didn't work. Not even as a reference to the original PIS or even a Star Trek parody.

    Pigs in Space worked because the segment wasn't just referencing old time drama and some of the first space operas out there. It was totally ripping them a new one. The characters were deathly serious (until they weren't) and reacted to situations either as melodramatic or as snarky as possible. While it clearly had some Star Trekish elements, it never fully embraced complete Star Trek parody status, doing what they were doing. Crazy stuff happening and them reacting to it as purposely Narm-ful as possible. And then having Piggy actually break character half the time and being herself. And sometimes things are down with an Airplane! level of straightfacedness.

    Deep Dish Nine was just joke laughtrack joke laughtrack with the obvious, literal jokes in mind. No tongues were in cheek, no back handed homages done. Just a weak shallow Star Trek parody that doesn't even reference the right version of Star Trek. Even Bay of Pigs Watch was funnier.

    Somehow, I feel that Tyler Bunch could do Sal justice. He always performs loud, bombastic characters. I could totally see him having a good handle on Sal.
  11. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I was just starting to think maybe Peter Linz could perform them. But maybe I'm just thinking that because he doesn't have any characters except for Walter and Gloria Estefan (but of course Tyler Bunch doesn't have any main characters, either).
  12. Muppet Master

    Muppet Master Well-Known Member

    MT had tons of potentional but ultimately fell short of it. The reduced use of characters like Fozzie and Miss Piggy didn't help either.But the problem was it didn't know what it wanted to be, a sitcom, a sketch show, a late night show or a blatant copy of TMS. The show worked well with a sitcom format like the Johnny Fiama and his mom episode or Beaker going on a Star Trek cruise, they were perfect and muppety. Also, a lot of the skits worked well, but a lot of others, Pigs in Space: Deep Dish Nine or Howard Tubman felt off. Also, some of the characters were really not that well written, like Bill the Bubble Guy or Andy and Randy, plain stupid. If they had worked out all the kinks then it would have worked well, but the new muppet show is ages better than this, still I don't hate the show, I like aspects of it and would watch it gladly, but it could have been a lot better and funnier.
  13. MuppetGuy75

    MuppetGuy75 Well-Known Member

    Muppets Tonight had it's moments.... there were at times some great sketches and hilarious scenes with the guest stars. However, the writing was HORRIBLE! Our beloved Jerry Juhl was not on the project and most of the episodes were written by MANY writers. It seemed really juvenile at times... not the classic mad cap humor we had always known the Muppets to have. The first several episodes all hurt because of that but as several mentioned, the second season was much better. Besides the writing, some of the newer characters were really annoying (to me at least). Randy and Andy Pig, Dr. Van Neuter, and the Three Elvis guys were nothing but one trick ponies that got old fast.

    I think the show would be great to own on DVD due to the fact that there was some outstanding guest stars (Prince, Michelle Pfeiffer, Billy Crystal, Cindy Crawford) as well as great reoccurring sketches like Pigs in Space: Deep Dish Nine, Bay of Pigs Watch, and Statler & Waldorf watching the show from a old folks home. It was no Muppet Show but it was great to see them on TV again!

  14. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    TMS is a big shoe to fill. Even Jim Henson himself couldn't repeat that success. The biggest hit the Muppets had in the 80's was a cartoon series, one that proved to be pretty toyetic, which was such a powerful success that even today its influence is still felt. That is, of course, "Muppets" as in the Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie kind. Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock did quite well for themselves. The Muppets didn't really hit TV again as a regular series until JHH, and even then it felt like its blessing and curse was trying to be the Muppet Show yet not being anything like The Muppet Show at the same time.

    Don't get me wrong, conceptually, I like JHH more than TMS. And for the record, I find Fraggle Rock to be a better show overall than TMS, especially with what it was trying to accomplish, and Sesame Street the most important of the three (telling that it's been the biggest mainstream Muppet success of all). But JHH really didn't know what it wanted to be, it couldn't find an audience, and even beggar NBC became a chooser, thus cutting the show down before it could really improve. MT was essentially the same deal but under different circumstances. Where as JHH was Jim trying to both break out of the Muppets but keep them prominently in the spotlight to say "we still care about them," MT had a different identity crisis.

    MT was a show that wasn't just trying to be TMS, it was trying to be the Muppets' identity post-Jim. That period saw Kermit in flux. He was still there, but in a diminished role, hence Kermit's roles in MCC and MTI. Even though he was still hosting preschool videos and such. That's why Clifford was the host. A hipper voice and a newer puppeteer (newer being relative as he's been with them over 10 years at that point) so Kermit had time to stretch and have Steve find his inner frog. Meanwhile, this was before Frank's roles were recast, and the Muppets without the pig was pretty uneven. Piggy brings a lot to the Muppets, regardless of whether you like or dislike her. I mean, she was shoehorned into MTI when her character didn't really exist, and you can't deny that her appearances as Mrs. Cratchett were some of the highlights of MCC (that and "Light the Lamp, Not the Rat"). When Piggy was on MT, she seemed to be just there (depending on the episode). So already we had less Kermit and less Piggy. Fozzie's also lacking, but his lack of presence doesn't hit the show as hard as the lack of Piggy.

    So basically, we have a show with new characters filling the roles of older, time tested, iconic characters, that's trying to be The Muppet Show but also trying not to be The Muppet Show, all while trying to be more hip and relevant, but still not knowing where it fits as a show or franchise. And I'll admit, they did the best they could under those circumstances, but in the end they really had no clue of what they wanted with the series and it went all over the place. It has to have that association with the classic characters yet establish new characters to fill in roles left behind. And some of the mix worked, most of it didn't. We had about 4 of the new characters actually work (though i feel bad for Seymour, even though I'm struggling to see where he'd place if Pepe now plays off Rizzo) and had them integrated into the Muppets, at least until Brian left making the utter irony of new characters being recasted.

    However, in trying to get the show to be what they wanted it to be, they had some great potential just before it ended. Just enough Muppet Show/TV schtick to satisfy that need, but enough sitcomy goodness to have them break out of a TMS retread.
    Muppet Master likes this.
  15. DrVanneuter20

    DrVanneuter20 Member

    YEAH!!! DR> PHIL VAN NEUTER ROCKED!!! I MISS HIM!!! And did I mention what a hottie he is?!:electric::electric::electric::electric::confused::confused::confused::confused:

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