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EPISODE NOTES

At the end of season one, Dave Goelz had been frustrated with the crew's reactions to Gonzo who was becoming his main character. In one of the last scenes he taped, he was being advised to give off bigger reactions to make the scene funnier so he over exaggerated and received a huge laugh. As a puppet builder, Dave could see the main problem with Gonzo was his constantly depressed looking design. (They had still been using the original puppet that Jim had sculpted without working from a design for 1970's The Great Santa Claus Switch.) Dave rebuilt Gonzo in the break between the seasons and in addition to making the puppet look more sophisticated, he also added in an eye mechanism that would allow Gonzo's expression to change from "down" to excited.

Dave used this new feature to expand on the more excitable aspects of Gonzo's personality (best seen here in the backstage scene where Gonzo first learns that his act won't be on ("But Kermit - WHY?!") and then finds out seconds later he'll be going on as a replacement act. ("Stardom is MINE!") Four episodes in, this is the first major look at the new puppet and interpretation. Previously, Gonzo's only been seen in the new opening and in a bit part conversing with Milton Berle and already the improvements are quite noticeable. Credit must also be given to Jerry Juhl's character-based writing of the new episodes.

This episode continues season 2's trend of using live animals since all the dancing chickens are actual live chickens rather than Muppet chickens. More importantly, at one point Gonzo ad libs to the camera regarding a less-than-stellar audition: "Nice legs though." This was another epiphany in Gonzo's character to Dave Goelz and Jerry Juhl - Gonzo's fascination with chickens which would develop into a major hook to his character.

Actress-singer Louise Gold is the third female to audition for the open slot in this episode and she ends up winning the position. Though left-handed, her ability to both physically manipulate the Muppets, sing well and interact with other characters is already in evidence. She's a riot as Mildred although she uses a very different voice than what's been maintained by her various performers in season one. Louise would
remain with the show throughout the rest of its run and stay with the Muppet team afterward (dividing her career between Muppeteering and the London theatre scene). However, all of her performances in season two
will be uncredited.

Fleet Scribbler, a sarcastic tabloid reporter debuts here. Fleet was
introduced to a group of reporters in a press conference promoting
season two and of course the members of the press were enamored and gave the Muppet a huge write up. When Fleet is used in a major part of the storyline in the George Burns episode, the writers weren't comfortable
with his hard line nosiness when interacting with Kermit and the
character was phased out as a result despite the initial publicity. Yet in his first appearance here, Fleet comes across as a winning character delivering some hilarious lines. Although he gave the frog too hard a time in the aforementioned episode, the basic character is very funny and perhaps could even be successfully revived in today's atmosphere of journalistic sensationalism. Though the Newsman has his hands full with
keeping a star struck Mildred under control, one can only imagine the
possibilities Fleet may have played as a foil to the more straight laced
Newsman.

In addition to reconstructing the Miss Piggy puppet, more attention would be paid to her wardrobe this year. In season one, unless she needed a specific costume such as in Vet's Hospital or playing the maid in the Sherlock Holmes sketch, Piggy always wore a silvery white dress. Most of this season's early episodes keep her in that same dress but she'll gradually develop a more varied wardrobe as the year progresses. The closing number here is the first time we see Miss Piggy in one of her new outfits. Calista Hendrickson would primarily be responsible for Piggy's costumes.

PRODUCED BY Jim Henson

WRITTEN BY Jerry Juhl, Joseph A. Bailey, Jim Henson and Don Hinkley

DIRECTED BY Philip Casson

THE MUPPET PERFORMERS FEATURING

Frank Oz (Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Animal, Gorgan Heap, Big Mary Louise)

with Jerry Nelson (Big Mama, Crazy Harry, chicken overdubs,
Fleet, announcer, Muppet chicken, whatnots)

Richard Hunt (Scooter, Statler,
Janice), Dave Goelz (Gonzo)

Jim Henson (Kermit, Waldorf, Rowlf, Lenny Lizard, Newsman, whatnots)

[uncredited] Louise Gold (French trio, Mildred)

PUPPETS AND THEIR COSTUMES BY Caroly Wilcox, Mari Kaestle, John
Lovelady, Rollin Krewson, Amy Van Gilder, Calista Hendrickson, Faz Fazakas, Larry Jameson and Bonnie Erickson

SPECIAL PUPPETS BY Don Sahlin

MUPPET CREATIVE CONSULTANTS: Frank Oz, Michael Frith

MUSIC CONSULTANT: Larry Grossman

ART DIRECTOR: Bryan Holgate

ORCHESTRA CONDUCTED BY Jack Parnell

MUSICAL ASSOCIATE: Derek Scott

LIGHTING DIRECTOR: John Rook

AUDIO: Roger Knight

VIDEO TAPE EDITOR: John Hawkins

ASSISTANT TO THE PRODUCER: Joan Chaplow

SENIOR FLOOR MANAGER: Richard Holloway

FLOOR MANAGER: Martin Baker

STAGE MANAGER: Sara Paul

SENIOR VIDEO ENGINEER: John Willment

SENIOR CAMERAMAN: Mike Whitcutt

VISION MIXER: Carole Legg

COSTUMES BY James Dark

MAKE-UP BY Sheila Mann

THEME MUSIC: Sam Pottle

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER FOR HENSON ASSOCIATES, INC: David Lazer

Rich Little - Episode 28

Taping Dates: Week of June 14, 1977
Original Airdates: September 26, 1977 (New York) and September 23, 1977 (LA)
DVD Release: Buena Vista Home Video, 2007

GENERIC INTRO: MUSIC

Brian Henson: "Hi, I'm Brian Henson. Music has been a big part of the Muppets since the very beginning. When my father started, his first show was called Sam and Friends. At that time, he used to perform with my mother and they would puppeteer lip-syncing to records."

"By the time of The Muppet Show my mother was now at home raising a house full of crazy kids, and the Muppets were singing with their own voices. And they sang with some of the greatest musical talents of our time: Paul Simon, Elton John, Diana Ross, and many, many more. Whether it's chickens playing chopsticks on the piano or a bunch of eskimo pigs singing "Lullaby of Broadway", you can never tell what you will hear next. Here it is, The Muppet Show."

DRESSING ROOM

Shot from the outside of the dressing room door, Rich Little entertains Scooter with some impressions one-by-one complete with costumes.

OPENING THEME

The balcony: Waldorf says, "I've seen enough, let's leave."

Gonzo's horn: A large yellow balloon inflates from inside the horn.

CURTAIN

Kermit announces they wanted to get every superstar on their stage at the same time but they couldn't make it ("You know, babysitting problems and stuff like that.") so they've booked Rich Little as a reasonable facsimile.

OPENING NUMBER - "CHANSON D' AMOUR"

A trio of French singers are joined by Crazy Harry singing the "Ya da da da da"'s - but of course Harry can't perform without his favorite accessory.

[Note: Aside from a brief cameo in the Zero Mostel episode, this is our first real good look at Jerry Nelson's version of Crazy Harry, previously played by John Lovelady (and sometimes Richard Hunt). This is about as perfect a recast as one can get - the vocal performance is very much in keeping with what's already been created including the trademark laugh and the physical mannerisms are completely true to the character as well...yet at the same time Nelson makes the character his own.]

BALCONY

WALDORF: (waking up) Oh...what'd I miss?

STATLER: Oh nothing. They just bombed again.

BACKSTAGE

Gonzo asks Kermit to keep a lookout for chickens that might have read his ad in the paper for dancing chicken auditions.

KERMIT: I've never heard of anything as ridiculous as a dancing chicken!

GONZO: How about a talking frog?

CURTAIN

Kermit brings on the only man he knows who can be anyone he feels like.

GUEST STAR SPOT

Rich Little performs impressions of members of the Muppet cast while coming face to face with his subjects. Waldorf and Statler attempt to heckle Rich's Fozzie but is subdued with Rich's version of Statler. Miss Piggy isn't too thrilled with the sound of Kermit conversing with another woman.

BALCONY

WALDORF: What a performance!

STATLER: Yeah and what a finish - right into the orchestra pit!

WALDORF: Yeah, good old Rich Little - who else could do impressions and break a piano in two with his head?

PROP ROOM

Ever the professional, Rowlf assists Gonzo in his auditions by providing piano accompaniment. The chicken is very good at being a chicken, but not of the dancing variety.

GONZO: One-two-three-four...at least do something..

AT THE DANCE

Crazy Harry helps escort a luckless Animal out of the ballroom.

UK SKIT: MUSICAL NUMBER - "THE BOY IN THE GALLERY"

Rowlf plays piano from an otherwise bare orchestra pit as Miss Piggy sings a solo and gets the audience to wave white handkerchiefs in theme with the song...even Waldorf is won over.

[The staging here of Miss Piggy appearing in full view onstage being performed from beneath the stage floor with Rowlf in the pit in the same wide shot of the stage is inspired by the work done between the seasons on the special "Emmett Otter's Jug-band Christmas". Though not the first Muppet special to have employed staging with puppets being performed through platformed sets, Emmett Otter made the most elaborate use of this technique so far and many similar shots of a full stage with characters being performed from underneath the set were incorporated in the talent show segment. "Boy in the Gallery" was included on the EP, The Muppet Show Music Hall.]

SKETCH - "INCHWORM"

Another classic sketch from Sam & Friends and the variety show circuit - only Kermit's classic role is replaced by Lenny the Lizard speaking in what suspiciously sounds like the Swedish Chef's "Mock-Swedish".

BALCONY

STATLER: There - now that's entertainment!

WALDORF: That's what you said about the war of 1812.

STAGE DOOR ALLEY

Rich steps outside the theatre to meet up with a group of reporters (including The Muppet Newsman, Mildred, and Fleet Scribbler) to do a mini press conference. Newsman assures Rich he can just be himself and doesn't have to perform, but an enamored Mildred can't resist swooning over Little's impersonations.

NEWSMAN: You can just answer in your own voice.

RICH: Oh, that'll be fine.

FLEET: Uh, are you doing your own voice now or are you doing an impression of yourself?

[There's an impressive shot of a group of Muppet Monsters here where some of the puppet Monsters like Big Mama and Gorgan are staged behind (and taller than) full-sized Monsters Sweetums and Timmy giving off the illusion that they're costumed Monsters as well.]

PROP ROOM

Gonzo starts weeding down the finalists by checking experience levels.

VETERINARIAN'S HOSPITAL

Fozzie, the first-ever patient, makes a return engagement though he only gets in one joke. The team takes advantage of all the bear jokes they missed out on last year.

[Instead of trying to imitate Eren Ozker's version of Janice like he did before, Richard Hunt is starting to perform the character with his own new voice and characterization sprinkling her dialogue with Valley-girl type "wows".]

BACKSTAGE

Kermit can't use Gonzo's act because it's not up to their level of sophistication but soon finds himself in need of a replacement when Nureyev can't make it.

SCOOTER: One of his seals is sick.

GONZO: Rudolf Nureyev has trained seals?

KERMIT: No, Adolf Nureyev does.

[Of course if he wanted to, Kermit could have sent out Rich Little to impersonate Nureyev - and/or his seal, but instead chooses to save face with a dejected Gonzo.]

CURTAIN

The only act he's got, Kermit introduces Gonzo and his dancing chicken, Lolita.

BALCONY

STATLER: Gonzo and a chicken?

WALDORF: Why not? One chicken, one turkey!

GREAT GONZO

Though off to a slow start and missing out on a big finish, Lolita does demonstrate an impressive ability to do the splits.

[In more innovative full-body staging, Gonzo is seen standing on the stage but this time the puppet is being performed from behind the curtain he's standing in front of rather than from underneath the floor. This 30 second spot took seven hours to edit.]

BALCONY

Statler and Waldorf take note of the warm reception the act receives from the Muppet Chickens in the audience.

WALDORF: Hey, that Great Gonzo's pretty good.

STATLER: Good? Why he's got them laying in the aisles!

CURTAIN

Sounding like he's paraphrasing the Muppet Labs motto, Kermit introduces musical moments from yesterday as recreated today by Rich Little.

MUSICAL NUMBER - IMPRESSION MEDLEY

Rich appears in three vignettes slipping into different characters as he duets with Fozzie on "Singin' In the Rain", Kermit on "Well Did You Evah?" and Miss Piggy on "I Remember It Well".

[Displaying her usual double standard, Miss Piggy suggestively delivers some lines to Rich regardless of her earlier fury at the frog's fictional flirtations.]

CURTAIN

Rich debuts his impression of the latest Muppet Show superstar as an encore to Kermit's exasperation and Gonzo's approval.

CLOSING THEME

WALDORF: I never want to go through that again.

STATLER: What? The Muppet Show?

WALDORF: No, the War of 1812.

Guide Written by
D. W. McKim and Phillip Chapman

Video Captures by
Alex Taylor

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