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Saturday, 26 January 2008

Best Muppet Show Moments, ITV1

Saturday 11 March 2006
Did we like it?
Yes, of course, except for the fact we were left with an overwhelming sense of melancholy that the limitless creativity that the wonderful Jim Henson brought to ITV back in the 1970s has all but been totally swept awya these days by a sewage-ridden tide of singing and dancing competitions.

What was good about it?
• A chance to see some of the classic sketches again, in particular Kermit and Fozzie's "The comedian's a bear" routine and Kermit losing his cool and firing Piggy - pre-dating Trump and Sugar by decades.
• The qualified and interesting views of the likes of Brian Henson (who is possibly leading a double-life as Middlesbrough midfielder Ray Parlour), Liza Minelli, Frank Oz, Mark Hamill, Steve Whitmire and the other mupeteers.
• The briefest of glimpses of Lew Grade, the man who took a flyer with The Muppets when America rejected the chance. If only he were alive today to pummel ITV out of its creative slumber.
• The hilarious clips from Jim Henson's unbelievable pitch to American TV networks when he was trying to get the Muppets off the ground.
• Statler and Waldorf's corny gags in and out of the breaks.
• The clip of Rita Moreno trying to keep straight-faced as she sang Fever with the unhelpful accompaniment of Animal.
• Robin singing Halway Up the Stairs - no one did or does sentimental so annoyingly brilliantly as Jim Henson.
• The shots of the wonderful Jim Henson with his hippy hair only partially tamed by a psychedelic Muppets headband. The word 'genius' is chucked around with such abandon these days, but here was a man with more talent in his beard than the whole current ITV roster has put together.
• The clips from the truly heartbreaking tribute show and the views of Muppeteer Steve Whitmire (who has adopted the Henson hair and beard) who had the unbelievably tough job of taking over the character of Kermit when Jim died.

What was bad about it?
• Davina McCall. When you've got a list of stars including Frank Oz, Brian Henson, Mark Hamill and Liza Minelli in your show, who on earth thought that having Davina's screechy voice involved was a good idea?
• Even worse was Parky's contribution and his fake sincerity about his (admittedly amusing) seduction scene with Piggy. Please retire you wizened old bore.
• It was frustrating not to see some of the classic sketches in full.
• It was an unhappy reminder of when TV took risks, wasn't afraid to be a little different and of a show that really did have the kind of broad appeal that ITV is desperate for these days but can't seem to grasp.
• The fact that The Muppets really have dwindled since Jim's death - the mania doesn't seem to be there anymore and kids today are far more likely to be seduced by Pixar than Kermit.
• Compare the celebrity guests on The Muppets to the 'celebrities' on Dancing on Ice, (just for example). Depressing, isn't it?

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