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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 really loved Van Nutter in both MT and in MFS Brian just really seemed to be having a whole lot of fun with him and just going off the wall. I love Brian as a prefromer anyways he brings a whole lot of energy to every prefromace
    Muppet Master and FletchySRF3088 like this.
  2. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    When MT had a character or sketch that worked, it REALLY worked. I really wish Brian would freelance for Disney now and then, so we'd get Sal and VanNeuter back. Those characters were brilliant. VanNeuter's scene in MFS is my favorite bit of the movie... my second favorite bit? Johnny and Sal cutting Gonzo's cake. Third? Everything with Bobo.

    The new characters totally salvaged MFS.
    galagr, Duke Remington and dwmckim like this.
  3. Tomservo95

    Tomservo95 Active Member

    I LOVED mt. I think it's way underrated. There are some hysterical bits in it. Some of my most cherished childhood memories are watching mt on tape with my mom and my aunt. BUT if i had to pick something i didn't like i think some of the guest stars act like they couldn't have cared less some times and they really phoned their performances in. My second gripe would have to be the lack of fozzie and piggy and other classic muppets.
    CaseytheMuppet likes this.
  4. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Me too, but I'd like to point out that it's been widely sourced that the Muppet performers normally work freelance, whether it be for Henson, Sesame Workshop, or even Disney. I'm sure there'd be no problem if Brian wanted to perform for Disney. But I'm sure he's more interested in working for his own company (it would be great to see a new interview with Brian Henson, commenting on the situation).
  5. LouisTheOtter

    LouisTheOtter Well-Known Member

    Any comments I could make about MT must be taken with a grain of salt, because I missed the second season (it wasn't shown on Canadian TV and I didn't have cable at the time) and I've only recently started digging up some of it on YouTube.

    That being said, my feelings about MT are summed up by a 2001 interview with Carroll Spinney in which he recalls a disastrous puppet performance that he delivered in the '60s and adds that Jim Henson came backstage afterwards and said, "I liked what you were TRYING to do."

    And they really tried. There are days that I truly feel bad for everyone involved in MT - particularly the writers and the Muppeteers (of every vintage) and especially Brian Henson, who had the impossible task of both fiercely protecting and yet simultaneously enhancing his father's legacy only six years after Jim's death.

    Occasionally, they nailed it. I got a grand charge out of some of the newer characters, especially Johnny Fiama and Sal (at their best in the Tony Bennett and Martin Short episodes IMHO), Bobo, and Pepe (believe it or not, I actually miss Seymour sometimes). Bits that should arguably have died in the script room - "Great Moments in Elvis History" and "Thor, God of Thunder" - turned out to be laugh riots. Even Andy and Randy, one-note characters whose jobs were to be thick and annoying, had their moments. (I wish I didn't giggle hysterically when one of them called Sandra Bullock "Miss Buttocks." I honestly thought I was more sophisticated than that.)

    Whether they involved newer characters or beloved classic favourite, some of the MT moments are firmly lodged among my all-time favourite Muppet bits (yes, ranking ahead of much of the Jim-era content). Jason Alexander freaking out at the cast during the Hercules Poirot spoof; Whoopi Goldberg losing it when the rats sing Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" too fast; William Shatner on the plane with Piggy; Sandra Bullock and Kermit updating "Mahna Mahna"; Michelle Pfieffer on "The Muppet Dating Game"; Cindy Crawford on "The Kermit The Frog Club"; Gilbert Gottfried winning a date with Kermit; Mickey Dolenz interrupting Bobo's retro '60s flashback ("I'm A Believer") to avoid paying his retro '60s alimony (I STILL can't believe that line!!!); Kermit's "Once In A Lifetime" and "Dancing In The Dark"; and, seriously, the entire Martin Short episode (climaxing with his finale with Statler and Waldorf).

    I'm not blind to MT's problems, though. The first wave of Muppet recasts hasn't yet occured, so we had to settle for Animal being the only Electric Mayhem holdover (and minimal doses of Fozzie and Piggy) and a feeling that a lot of our old friends were missing all the fun. The show had such a frenetic pace and was more of a flat-out comedy than TMS, so we missed a lot of the softer, tender moments with the characters - no Ben Vereen singing "Pure Imagination" or Rowlf singing "What A Wonderful World" to a real puppy here. That had more to do with the overall tone of pop culture in the mid-to-late-'90s - the variety show format was pretty much toast and we were collectively more interested in laughing at ourselves (and each other) than stopping for a poignant moment.

    I wish I could say I liked Clifford. I didn't. He seemed forced. I had a little trouble with Kermit's background role. And, as has been mentioned previously, a lot of MT's direct pop-culture spoofs had too many appearances (Bay of PigsWatch, Deep Dish Nine, Seinfeld Babies) or shouldn't have even made the show.

    But I'm still glad they tried, and I look forward to having the time to see the entire run of MT someday. And I think anybody attempting to bring the Muppets back to a regular TV slot should look carefully at MT, not simply to avoid making the same mistakes but to remind themselves how well the Muppets work when the writing, the chemistry and the intangibles all blend together. This happened on MT far more often than we realize.
  6. Mo Frackle

    Mo Frackle Well-Known Member

    I agree with a lot of what you say (and you're not the only who laughed at the "Sandra Buttocks" moment. On paper, it doesn't really sound right, but the end result is actually very funny). One thing that you mentioned, too many heavy doses of the pop-culture spoofs. I agree with that, but Seinfled Babies only made one apperance on the show.
  7. Muppet Master

    Muppet Master Well-Known Member

    Honestly, I loved Muppets Tonight. It had a healthy run in my opinion compared to Little Muppet Monsters and The Jim Henson Hour lasting about 2 years from March 8, 1996-Feburary 8, 1998. First off here's an episode guide
    Season 1 (1996-1997)
    101. Michelle Pfeiffer
    102. Garth Brooks
    103. Billy Crystal
    104. John Goodman
    105. Cindy Crawford
    106. Tony Bennett
    107. Sandra Bullock
    108. Jason Alexander
    109. Whoopi Goldberge
    110. Martin Short
    Season 2 (1997-1998)
    201. The Artist Formerly Known As Prince
    202. Rick Moranis
    203. Heather Locklear
    204. Pierce Bronsan
    205. Coolio & Don Rickles
    206. Paula Abdul
    207. Dennis Quaid
    208. The Cameo Show
    209. The Best of Muppets Tonight
    210. The Gary Cahuenga Show
    211. Andie MacDowell
    212. Johnny Fiama Leaves Home
    The show afterwards was canceled for unknown reasons.
    Though the show did have a massive shortage of original muppets. Kermit, Statler and Waldorf, Rizzo the Rat, Gonzo the Great, Bunsen, and Beaker all had large parts, but the lack of Oz's characters, Nelson's characters (besides Statler), Hunt's characters, and Henson's. Jim Henson and Richard Hunt passed away, so unless you could resurrect him, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, and The Swedish Chef had little or literally NO part with the show. Hunt died and Scooter and Janice were practically dead and neither appeared in any episodes. Oz was directing so Miss Piggy was only around in guest star form, Fozzie only appeared in E-I-E-I-O-R and a few times on the show but he was only in 6/22 of the episodes. Animal was absent besides only 6 episodes as well and Sam the Eagle appeared in 5 episodes. (Miss Piggy in 10 episodes). To this day I cannot understand why Jerry Nelson's primary characters (besides Statler) had no part in the show. :sing: appeared in the first two episodes, but only playing the ukelele and in the background. :fishy: in 3 episodes. :crazy: in hardly any and camilla in nothing. ​
    ElizaSchuyler likes this.
  8. jvcarroll

    jvcarroll Well-Known Member

    I've listed lots of reasons before, but ultimately the answer to Muppets Tonights' lukewarm reception is this: the excitement just wasn't great enough. Much of the sparkle was missing for many reasons. Maybe it would have gained momentum with time. It definitely needed more Kermit & Piggy moments, more Fozzie & Kermit moments and more Electric Mayhem moments, but the spark that's largely missing from the production can clearly be seen in the outtakes. More of that would have solidified the show.
    sofiasaldanha likes this.
  9. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    The show's situation was unfortunately tuned to having to go around the deaths of Jim and Richard and the less than available. That left to an uneven mix of new characters that either were really good or flat and terrible. But what the real problem comes down to is that they didn't play with the show's format enough, and it was stuck between doing pop culture parodies and trying to redo things from The Muppet Show with the wrong characters.

    The stuff that worked really worked, but the stuff that didn't really didn't. The sitcom style plotlines were the stronger episodes, and also the last ones. If they made the show sitcomy and reliant on back stage plotlines to begin with, the show would have been far better. I'd venture to say, more focus on the backstage storyline would actually have been superior to The Muppet Show. That's why the comic book series worked so well. It took the best of the classic Muppet Show and played with it, developing characters with more complex behind the scenes stories. Kinda also helps that the strongest storylines in the comic were also multi-part arcs.

    But the real problem with the show's lack of success was that it was on a network. ABC didn't know what to do with it, they changed around the time slot (which is more than what NBC did with Jim Henson Hour), putting it against 60 Minutes, and just overall lacking of care once the ratings dipped. It wasn't pulling in the viewers Boy Meets World was. If there was some way where it got the same syndication edge the original series did, it probably would have got another season or something.
    Duke Remington likes this.
  10. Mo Frackle

    Mo Frackle Well-Known Member

    Actually, I always felt the few frequently used classic Muppets (Kermit, Gonzo, etc.) took a considerable backseat to the new characters. At least during the first season. Rizzo was really the only old(ish) character featured 24/7. Either way, there's not much to add that wasn't already said by JV and Tooth. The series showed considerable strengths in the backstage plots, but more so during Season 2. I especially liked the expansion of some of the classic characters (Kermit having to get a job as a monkey, Bunsen's midlife crisis, Beaker on the Star Trek cruise, etc.). The series started to really find itself towards the end of production. The sketches, on the other hand, were hit (the Johnny & Sal skits) and miss (the TV show parodies).

    To see how the series progressed, it may help to view the episodes in production order, as opposed to broadcast order:

    Season 1:
    101. Michelle Pheiffer

    102. Martin Short

    103. Paula Abdul (didn't air until Season 2)

    104: Billy Crystal (w/ Larry King)

    105: Garth Brooks (w/ Leonard Nimoy)

    106: John Goodman

    107: Cindy Crawford (w/ Miky Dolenz)

    108: Sandra Bullock

    109: Tony Bennett

    110: Whoopi Goldberg (w/ William Shatner and Judge Joseph A. Wapner)

    111: Heather Locklear (didn't air until Season 2)

    112: Jason Alexander

    113: Pierce Brosnan (didn't air until Season 2)

    Season 2:
    201: Cameo Show (w/ Arsenio Hall, Jay Leno ,Kevin Eubanks, Little Richard, Christopher Darden, and Kathy Ireland)

    202: Cooli and Don Rickles (w/ Ed McMahon, Bernard Shaw, and Fred Willard)

    203: Dennis Quad (w/ Gilbert Gottfried)

    204: Andie MacDowell (w/ George Takei, Bob "Captain Kangaroo) Keeshan, Ben Stein, and the Fly Girls)

    205: The Gary Cahuena Episode (with Penn & Teller, Lori Fetrick, Raye Hollitt, Evander Holyfield, and Kathy Najimy)

    206: (The Artist Formerly Known As) Prince

    207: Rick Moranis

    208: Johnny Fiama Leaves Home (with Daryl Hannah, Page Hannah, and Johnny Mathis)

    209: Best of Muppets Tonight
  11. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Kermit was in that weird phase where he wasn't being used much. I don't see why there wasn't more Gonzo, but he had his fair share of screen time.

    Oddly enough, I do consider most of the new characters the show's greatest assets. To the point where some of the older characters used weren't really given sketches that worked with them. Deep Dish Nine, for example. They got Piggy, but they didn't get what made Pigs in Space special. ERERO was cute, but lacking, with Fozzie in Dr. Bob/Rowlf's role. However, things like Johnny and Sal, Pepe and Seymour, Tales from the Vet, and the UK skits as well as one off pop culture parodies more than made up for the lack of classic characters. The good newer characters pretty much carried the show for me.

    Of course, if MT was made today, there would be a definite lack of new characters as most of the beloved classic characters have been recast. Rowlf, Scooter, the Electric Mayhem... if there was a new Muppet show, we'd see a lot more of them while Sal and VanNeuter need to be recast (unless Brian decided to freelance to Disney, but he's too busy currently with Henson stuff), and the rest of them we hardly saw anymore anyway.

    Now I needn't feel to repeat myself, but my favorite format, hands down, was Jim Henson Hour's Muppet Central segment. If they were able to merge the best of The Muppet Show, JHH, and MT, that would be the direction I'd like to see another hypothetical show.
    Duke Remington likes this.
  12. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I don't think any of the recurring segments were used much (not sure whether having only 22 episodes is a good enough excuse). The best recurring segments weren't used enough and, thankfully, the worst ones weren't used too much.

    I wonder if the show would have succeeded if it was only new characters, and lacked the Muppet name. If it didn't have any Muppet characters or the Muppet name in the title, people wouldn't be complaining about the lack of existing characters, but then it might be harder to get people interested.

    I wonder if Disney would do a Muppet show with mostly new characters.
  13. Muppet Master

    Muppet Master Well-Known Member

    You know, the thing is I'm going to say this straight-out, MUPPETS TONIGHT WAS AN AWESOME SHOW!! It was, but then, because it's the muppets we HAVE to compare it to TMS. Why? No matter how good MT was, TMS was loads better (well most of the episodes). I mean I'd take a MT episode over most of the first season of TMS. Remember, TMS evolved after 24 episodes, MT had 22, found its stride, and was canned. Nowadays potential doesn't matter, if it doesn't work in the first few episodes then say hello to the cancellation bear.
    FletchySRF3088 likes this.
  14. Muppet Master

    Muppet Master Well-Known Member

    That would just bomb, no excuse, besides muppets, SS, and fraggles, puppets are dying! That Brian Henson puppet show lasted 8 episodes! I mean even if it was golden comedy, the sad truth is it would be canned before the 3rd episode!
  15. CensoredAlso

    CensoredAlso Well-Known Member

    I think bringing in new characters is often a successful idea. It worked with Tiny Toones and Star Trek: TNG. But it worked because the writing was top notch (Well at least after TNG got past the first season, hehe).
  16. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Well, Tiny Toons was a different title than Looney Tunes. I don't remember thinking of it as being like Looney Tunes before seeing it.

    Then again, Taz-Mania hardly had any new Looney Tunes characters besides Taz, and I really like that show. And outside of Taz-Mania I find the Tasmanian Devil overrated.

    Makes me wonder, if one wants to create a new TV series, I wonder if they should write a full seasons worth of scripts first (let's say 24) with no intention of actually producing those episodes. Just writing the scripts, developing characters and such, and then start writing episodes with the intention to make (maybe produce some of those previous scripts if they fit the show once it's produced).
  17. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Seinfeld Babies was a one time thing. And it was an example of them being brilliant with pop culture, as opposed to the Pig segments that ran on the same jokes about Randy and Andy being stupid. There's a lot of good they did with pop culture based segments, just not the pig based stuff.

    It's a shame the series actually found its voice 2 or 3 episodes to the end. When they actually moved to behind the scenes plot drama, there was the potential for something even better than what the Muppet Show had to offer, in terms of backstage plotlines at least. I love TMS, but some episodes the celebrity backstage stuff was dodgy. The character development in Johnny Runs Away and Andie McDowell were some of the best things they could do with the characters. Too bad we didn't get any of that first season.
    FletchySRF3088 likes this.
  18. muppetlover123

    muppetlover123 Well-Known Member

    I really loved MT it was a pretty good show!

    I mean sure we lost some characters like Johnny and Sal, Seymour, Phill Van Nuter, Clifford etc. But TM11 and MMW proved that ANY CHARACTER can be recast! First off we had most of the classic characters recast like Scooter Rowlf and the EM thanks to the talented performers! In TM11, Afghan Hound, Droop, Link, Wayne and Wanda, Uncle Deadly and Marvin Suggs and more were all recast to have a line or two! Then in MMW we had Bobby Benson, Andy and Randy, The Flying Zucchini Brothers, and Pops were all recast! I really think it is possibly to bring back Johnny if we get Sal back which is possible! Clifford could possibly come back, because with Kevin's Sesame issues resolved maybe he would want to preform Clifford again, who knows? If not he should be able to be recast! Anything is possible
    FletchySRF3088 likes this.
  19. rexcrk

    rexcrk Well-Known Member

    I never watched it when it was on TV, but this thread has definitely got me really interested in it. I just checked out the first episode on YouTube and I enjoyed it.

    I'll admit I'm kind of biased towards "'90s Muppets" though, since that was when I was growing up. When I was growing up, the only Muppet tapes we owned were Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Classic Theater, and an "It's Not Easy Bein' Green" sing-along tape. I don't know why my parents never bought more Muppet stuff on tape to be honest lol, but because of that, I'll always have a nostalgic connection to Clifford (who hosted the sing-along tape along with Kermit) and even characters like Andy & Randy and the Elvises because of Classic Theater.

    And of course Gonzo and Rizzo being in the spotlight.

    If Disney released Muppets Tonight on DVD I would definitely buy it. Though I'm not very hopeful about that seeing as how we can't even get the rest of the original Muppet Show on DVD >___>

    A lot of those new Muppets Tonight characters went on to become some of my favorites. I LOVE Bobo, and Pepe, and Johnny & Sal are great. And Dr. van Neuter, even though I'm really only familiar with him from MFS. I really miss when Kevin Clash and Brian Henson performed with the Muppets now.
  20. ToonGeek

    ToonGeek Well-Known Member

    1. We had lost a lot of the characters from the original show
    2. It was trying to hard to be the original
    and 3. There were recasts just starting to come, but not every character was recasted or the same.

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