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Muppets Tonight what went wrong?

Discussion in 'Classic Muppets' started by dwayne1115, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    I have been watching some of Muppets Tonight on youtube and I'm wondering why it was not as successful as the Muppet Show it had a lot of elements of that show was was fresh and new with New Muppets. So I'm asking what was wrong with the show?
  2. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    I only watched it once with my parents and turned it off pretty quickly. It sort of felt like a lot of '90s Muppet stuff where they were being molded by pop culture instead of mocking it the way they'd done on Muppet Show.
    Vincent Liu likes this.
  3. Hayley B

    Hayley B Active Member

    I've been meaning to watch some more on YouTube. I really wanted to get into this show back then. But I don't. I think it just didn't feel like the Muppet Show sometimes. Especially with Kermit not being the host. I only remember the Michelle Pfeiffer one.
  4. MissMusical12

    MissMusical12 Well-Known Member

    Muppets Tonight had its moments here and there........but it just wasn't the same as The Muppet Show.......especially with Kermit not being the host of Muppets Tonight.
  5. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I watched the show during it's original run, liked it, but still had some problems with it. In fact I've also been rewatching some episodes recently.

    I've heard that it was because ABC didn't know what to do with the show. But while som esay ABC kept changing the time slot, I only remember one time slot change: From friday nights to sundays, with the show being off the air for a month between the timeslot changes.

    Some of the problems I have, and I think other fans would feel the same way about some things (though I could be wrogn and shouldn't be putting words in people's mouths):
    • Too many new characters, not enough old characters. Though it seems the old characters are featured better than they were on The Jim Henson Hour. Many of the new characters (Seymour, Pepe, Bobo, Carl, Dr. Phil van Neuter, Nigel) are great, but there's also some characters who are bland and/or annoying (Andy and Randy, David Hosgohog, Mr. Poodlepants). I remember when watching the first episode, after all those classic characters left the meeting room at the beginning I was worried that many classic characters would be absent (in addition to the fact that Fozzie wasn't in that episode), but I think the first episode is one of the best when it comes to classic characters (Bobo and Mr. Poodelpants are the only new characters in that opening scene).
    • It was common to not see complete sketches, especially musical numbers. I used to wonder how clips would play out on Muppets Tonight albums or compilation videos (an unneccessary concern considering we never got either... The closest thing to a Muppets Tonight song appearing on an album is when Kermit and Tony Bennett sang "Firefly" on Tony Bennett's "The Playground" album).
    • Some of the new characters are useless, especially the new band. They're only used as back-up for musical numbers, we never get to know them well (though there's two instances where Clifford has brief chats with the band), we never learn what they're called (Jim Lewis doesn't even remember, or at least didn't remember when I asked a few years ago). They didn't do anything more than what The Electric Mayhem would have done at the time.
    • Statler and Waldorf watching the show on TV instead of live in the studio. Especially in the first season at the nursing home. I feel it got better in the second season, when they watched the show at different locations instead.
    • Not having Kermit be the host. It's been said that Brian Henson didn't want a one-on-one comparison between this and The Muppet Show, but I feel if it's a follow-up to The Muppet Show, everybody expects Kermit to be the host. And I realize it's a "****ed if you do, ****ed if you don't" situation when it comes to giving the audience what they expect vs. not giving them what they'd expect, but not making Kermit the star (and prioritizing new characters over old characters) is a big mistake.
    • Clifford should have been a supporting character, not the host. And Kevin Clash should have been given more characters (all his other characters were sidekicks in various sketches, particularly UK spots). There were quite a few occasions where Kevin Clash performed other people's characters and the regular voices weren't dubbed, and yet he had a limited number of his own characters.
    • Many of the new characters felt like replacement characters for old characters, regardless of how they were featured on the show. David Hogsohog was too similar to Link Hogthrob, I'm unsure whether Spamela Hamderson should be considered similar to Miss Piggy or Annie Sue, Bobo is a lot like Rowlf (in voice, color, and personality) and maybe Fozzie (him being a bear), Clifford seems like Kermit's on-stage personality while Nigel is like Kermit's backstage personality (in addition to looking like Droop and having the same name as the Muppet conductor), Dr. Phil van Neuter and Mulch (who was around on The Muppet Show) are a lot like Bunsen and Beaker, who were heavily used on this show (Phil seems like a mix between Bunsen and Beaker, having Bunsen's colors and Beaker's head shape), and of course the band doesn't add anything The Electric Mayhem couldn't provide.
    • While Miss Piggy does get quite a bit to do, Fozzie is a little useless here, only appearing backstage twice, otherwise appearing in acts on-stage, in costume and playing roles. In the Whoopi Goldberg episode he's backstage takign notes as if he's going to be performing stand-up comedy, but never does (though it would have been funny if he wrote down Whoopi's jokes, then went on after her, telling the exact same jokes but not getting the same audience reactions). But I guess it wouldn't have been the same if Statler and Waldorf weren't there to heckle him (I know, they didn't heckle Fozzie's ventreloquism, phrenology, marionette, or telephone pole bit acts, either).

    I can excuse the use of a different location. And of course there's the fact that Jim Henson and Richard Hunt died and couldn't be on the show, combined with Frank Oz's limited involvement (though he was more involved here than on JHH). I have a feeling that, even if the theater isn't used, if a new show is made they'll stick to the classic characters, especially since all the important characters currently have performers.
    Vincent Liu likes this.
  6. CaseytheMuppet

    CaseytheMuppet Well-Known Member

    As someone said before, the time slot was thrown around a lot, and viewers didn't know when to watch it. It wasn't really the show itself, but when it was placed.
  7. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Minor Muppets pretty much said it all... but the main problem was that even the writers didn't know which direction the show should have been going. They picked a strange format for the show, a late night talk show/sketch comedy, and it didn't gel with itself. That's why Clifford was the host. They wanted a hip talk show host character along the lines of Jay Leno (at the time, that is), Conan O'Brien, and Arsenio Hall (even though his show was long cancelled by then).

    The pop culture moments were hit or miss. Remember, Pop Culture jokes were in, in the 90's. Shrek and the Parody Movies didn't ruin that yet. When they had a segment that worked, it REALLY worked, when they had one that bombed, it bombed HARD. Co-dependents Day, Kermit's Once in a Lifetime, Seinfeld Babies... that stuff was gold. But those worked because they were one shot sketches. The recurring bay of Pigs Watch and Deep Dish Nine had no legs to stand on, and were one note jokes that were obvious and unfunny.

    But don't count the show out for the first season. The second is FAR superior in its writing, getting characters out of the studio and making brilliant episodes like the one where Beaker goes on a Star trek cruise and Johnny Leaves Home (unfortunately the last episode).

    Plus, the ONE concept they got right in the second season, that I think is even superior to the original is the usage of multiple guest stars in Muppet Movie style cameos. Not just fawning over one celebrity throughout the whole episode. it let the Muppets BE the Muppets and gave room for more character development.

    Too bad we didn't get a third season. The direction the show was going on would have made a brilliant show. Besides... look at the Muppet Show's first season. They were trying to get into the groove of what they were doing. By the second season, they found it, added funnier characters, and new, funnier segments.
  8. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    When the show was on the air I found it odd that they'd include cameos by other celebrities who weren't the guest star (and in season two even gave subplots to celebrities without announcing them as guests... I can't figure out why Don Rickles was announced as a guest alongside Coolio). I asked Jim Lewis about this, and he pointed out that The Muppet Show only had one or two guests an episode because it was made in england (I don't know what to make of that explanation... There are English-based celebrities, though maybe such celebrities are only famous in England but not America... But there have been plenty of things made in England that have become popular in America; I've read that the Superman and Star Wars movies were filmed in a studio near the one The Muppet Show was made at).

    I was turned off by the fact that whenever they'd start a musical number they'd rarely show the whole number (are there any episodes where all the songs are presented in full?), but Jim Lewis has explained that at the time, musical numbers weren't as popular with the public (which can explain why Muppets from Space wasn't very musical). I don't mind stuff like Firefly and Steppin' Out with my Baby, where it constantly cuts back-and-fourth between on-stage and backstage. That kind of stuff was a little bit common on The Muppet Show (the closing number from the Jonathan Winters episode is an example, or the gargling number with Mark Hamil and Angus McGonacle... Hmm, when thinking about it, I guess it wasn't that common on TMS after all).

    It's been said that the Johnny Fiama Leaves Home episode was the episode where the writers figured out what they were doing, but I don't quite understand what it meant. I watched the episode online last summer... It seems it doesn't focus much on the show, and has quite a bit of scenes outside the studio. But are the scenes at Johnny Fiama's home any different from Beaker's Star Trek cruise, Kermit's date with Gilbert Godfried, Bobo on locaiton looking for a guest star, Piggy's ride to the studio, or the various scenes with Statler and Waldorf watching the show (though with the exception of the last one mentioned, all of them were subplots if not part of the main plot)? Though the episode does have only a handful of sketches (I think this is the only episode produced for season two to feature Bay of Pigswatch), and it seems most of them just come out of nowhere. Last year on the Tough Pigs forum there was a thread about Muppets Tonight, and it was pointed out that this one doesn't have much Clifford while Kermit doesn't appear at all (aside from a monitor image showing the "Once in a Lifetime" number).

    I think the people on ToughPigs speculated that most of the writers were more experienced with sitcoms than Muppets, and were really creating their own universe, one where the new characters fit in better than the classic characters. Someone mentioned that Gonzo, Bunsen, Beaker, and Miss Piggy fit in with the format, but Kermit and Fozzie don't (and with the exception of Johnny Fiama Leaves Home and The Best of Muppets Tonight, Kermit appeared in new footage in every episode, even in cases where his pressence seemed forced).
  9. Borples

    Borples Active Member

    I tend to think of the mid-late 90s period as the Muppets' adolescence. Separating from a father figure (forcibly, unfortunately, in this case), heading out on their own, trying to find out who they are. Trying to grow up, and in the process acting more childish than ever. And, like any good adolescence, some good things came out of it, some things we'd all rather forget came out of it, and everyone looked like they were having a lot of fun at the time. Muppets Tonight is a perfect encapsulation of that, I think. I actually love the show, but sometimes I find it more fascinating than actually good. Sure did have its moments, though.
    bandit likes this.
  10. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I really like the idea of a Muppet Sitcom style show. That would have been a far more organic than the talk show/sketch comedy/musical act mish mosh they had for the first season. MT's BIGGEST problem was trying too hard to be the same and different from The Muppet Show.

    Not to mention, as I've said often, the American recurring skits were kinda lousy, but the U.K. exclusive skits (Tubbs of Porksmith, Fairy Tale P.D., Quick Witts, and Polly and Clueless) were actually quite brilliant. We missed out on the best part of the show.
  11. catherine

    catherine Active Member

    are they the same as the muppet shows? I prefer the muppet shows, myslef more.
  12. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I was thinking about how it was a poor decision to make Clifford the main character, since the general public wouldn't have known him too well (yeah, he was on The Jim Henson Hour and had appeared in the occasional Muppet production since), but then I remembered an interview where Kevin Clash said that Jim Henson once told him that if the Muppets ever got a new series he wanted Clifford to be the lead. Not often you hear of Jim Henson making a poor decision, though I'm sure if he was still alive Clifford's hosting duties would have been handled better.

    I also recall an interview with Frank Oz where he said that he thought the show's big problem was the need to mix old ideas with new ideas, as opposed to being all new ideas. I wonder what he meant by that... With only new ideas then it wouldn't be a Muppet show it'd be an original Henson show (unless he didn't want to do a new Muppet series at the time).
  13. Mo Frackle

    Mo Frackle Well-Known Member

    Actually, JHH was the show that had its timeslot changed around.
  14. Mo Frackle

    Mo Frackle Well-Known Member

    It's been awhile since I've heard the Kevin Clash interview, but did Kevin specifically say that Jim wanted Clifford to be the host? I remember Kevin mentioning that Jim wanted somebody other than Kermit to be the host (possibly, Jim was foreboding the fact that his busy schedule would have prevented Kermit from doing a lot).

    Whether Jim was the one who decided on having Clifford as host or not, I think the main problem behind this was the writing. Kevin remembers that the MT writers really took away a lot of what made Clifford "Clifford". There was too much of an attempt to turn him into Kermit (and, as DrTooth mentioned, a talk show host).
  15. Mo Frackle

    Mo Frackle Well-Known Member

    I also agree that MT was hit and miss (especially season 1). I remember somebody (possibly Steve Whitmire?) mentioning that the reason why MT was so heavy on new characters was to breed new life into the Muppets. I'm guessing it was felt that adding a lot of new characters would have made 'new life' for the Muppets easier. Characters that worked could be added, greatly increasing the Muppet family, while characters that didn't work could be dropped.

    I agree that the lack of classic Muppets was quite a loss. I remember a few episodes that Kermit wasn't even in (outside of the intro). But it was always fun whenever Kermit and other classic characters got to do things away from the studio (such as Kermit's date with Gilbert Godfrey). I really want to see the Muppets in more of sitcom situation; MT and a handful of TV specials may be the closest we get for now.

    Gonzo also seemed to be used less on the show. Again, there were a few episodes that he wasn't in, but I really did enjoy Gonzo's new crazy stunts. To me, even with the presence of several new characters, Gonzo still stole the show whenever he was on.

    I really wish that Bunsen and Beaker had more to do on the show. The Andie MacDowell episode is one of their few episodes, and definitely one of their best. It really gives us a chance to see other sides of both Bunsen and Beaker, and again, returns to that great 'sitcom' feel of the show.

    Rizzo had quite a bit to do on the show. This was most likely done so that Steve could flesh out the character more. Rizzo was basically to Clifford what Scooter had been to Kermit.

    The lack of other classic characters mostly had to do with characters not being recast at this early stage (although Bill Barretta does one of his first performances as Rowlf in an early episode). And, of course, there was the fact that Frank Oz wasn't always available.

    The remaining 'classic' characters either were in the background, had one (or two) time cameos, or were not seen at all. Bean Bunny had a couple of cute (no pun intended) bits, as did Beau and Lew.

    Most of the new characters were really great. The writers, producers, and performers made wise choices in deciding which MT characters could actually remain in the Muppet family. Pepe, Bobo, Johnny, Sal, Dr. Phil, and even Carl and Howard were great additions to the group. Though I do wish that a few other characters had stayed on (Seymour, Nigel, Eugene, Mulch, Darci, Spamella, Carter, and maybe even Bill the Bubble Guy-despite being a one joke character, but hey, so is Lew Zealand-and some of the guys from Deep Dish Nine). Mr. Poodlepants (who is clearly meant to be a parody of comedian Ed Wynn), while a funny looking character with a great voice, did seem a bit bland. Andy and Randy were great one-joke characters, but eventually overstayed their welcome (the writers must have noticed this, as they seemed to be used less in season two). Zippety Zap (again, a great looking character with a fun voice) seemed like a character whose material could have easily been given to Floyd. As much as I love Kevin Clash, I thought Mulch's constant growling was a bit annoying. Though I don't mind having Mulch there. In fact, I actually like the character, just not his growling.
  16. pojksd

    pojksd New Member

    I haven't watched it yet, not much to say about it:coy:
  17. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member


    Let's not forget how Kermit has had a diminished role in the Muppets until VMX. For whatever reason, while it worked for Kermit to play Bob Cratchit, I still find MTI a weird choice, and the captain that doesn't pop up until a third of the way in to the film a weirder choice.

    My problem isn't Clifford's leading the show. They clearly wanted this to be a next generational thing. Not to mention the fact that Kermit wouldn't have fit in as the "young hip" character they were using for satirical purposes. It's the mixed format that was the problem. I don't think even Kermit could have been able to walk away as host from that.

    Hence why the sudden shift in taking the show out of the theater the show had a direction and got better. Too much of the show wanted to be The Muppet Show, and too much of it didn't want to. And honestly, Jim wouldn't have done another The Muppet Show. That wasn't him. That's why he did JHH instead. SO if we have another Muppet TV Show, I hope it isn't just a rehash of TMS.
  18. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    Kermit may not have been the host but he did do some MC work when Clifford was doing something else. I also think that Kermit not being the host gave him more of a chance to do other skits and things. He also seemed more like a Star and the show's hero to me. Talking to the gust stars and what not. My only issue with Kermit on the show is his relationship with Piggy is no where to be seen. In fact I don't think that any of Frank's Muppets talked to Kermit much at all during the show.
  19. miss kermie

    miss kermie Well-Known Member

    NOT ENOUGH MISS PIGGY! TOO MUCH SPAMELA!!!
  20. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member


    How about TOO MUCH not enough Frank Oz?

    Purists love to complain about how his characters got recast, but let's face it... Eric was a BOON to fan kind. Frank's almost passionless phoned in performance in MFS for example (to be fair, the only ones having fun in that film were Dave, Bill, and Brian). That's why, since VMX, we've seen Fozzie and Piggy in the capacity that they should have been. In fact, if anything, we're losing new characters. Kevin's too busy with his various Sesame duties (there goes Clifford), Brian's with Henson now (Sal and VanNeuter), not to mention that some of the new puppeteers are performing classic characters that were thought long gone. Though I don't expect Pepe to go anywhere anytime soon. He's still all over merchandising and promotional stuff. One stunted appearance in a movie isn't the future of the character. Not to mention, it's essentially one of Bill's signature characters.

    But MT HAD to create new characters to fill the void left by Jim and Richard's passing, and Frank's foot out the door. Even in JHH, Frank's characters weren't as prevalent. That had new characters filling that void too, but most of them, we never saw again.

    But as I always say, we lost a LOT of characters after MT as well. And luckily, they're all the worst characters. Spamella last appeared in a comic book, Andy and Randy only came back for a Cat Cora thing... It is a shame we lost Seymour, but I can't figure out where he'd fit in with the Muppets.
    Duke Remington and miss kermie like this.


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