Aug 25, 2014

Michael Wermuth Remembers 5 Years of Articles

Michael Wermuth - Well, 2014 is a great year for Muppet anniversaries, whether there’s official celebrations or not. It is the 60th anniversary of The Junior Morning Show (thus the 60th anniversary of Jim Henson’s television career), 45th anniversary of Sesame Street, 35th anniversary of The Muppet Movie, 30th anniversary of The Muppets Take Manhattan and Muppet Babies, 25th anniversary of The Jim Henson Hour, and the 15th anniversary of Muppets From Space and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.

But most importantly, this is the five-year anniversary of the start of The Muppet Mindset, a website you are probably viewing right now. For the past five years, many Muppet fans have been allowed to write articles relating to Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and other works from Jim Henson and get them published on a great website (without having to start their own websites), and of this website’s many contributors, I am one of them. And today I thought I’d take a look back on some of the articles I have written.

Top Ten Sesame Street Songs Not on Any Album Lists
My first article to be published here was my first of two lists of my top ten favorite Sesame Street songs that have not been released on any album. It was partially inspired by a few online lists I’ve seen listing the top ten (or whatever) most underrated Sesame Street songs. I included a mix of songs that I truly am surprised have not been released as well as some favorites that are more-or-less favorites because of the characters who sang the songs. Unfortunately, these songs remain unreleased.

Top Ten Sesame Street Inserts Not Released on Video
Like the above list, I made two separate top ten lists of inserts that have never been released on home video. I had this idea at the time of the “songs not released on any albums” list, but since a 40th anniversary DVD was coming out, I decided to wait until after that was released to make this list. These lists include a lot of childhood favorites of mine that had not been released on video. Only two inserts from either list have been released on a physical DVD (“Outrageous Makeover” on Best of Sesame Street Spoofs! and “Chariots of Fur” on Old School Volume 3). If there are plans for a 45th anniversary set, these segments would be most welcomed.

41 Favorite Sesame Street Inserts
This article came when the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street was ending and the 41st season was beginning, and felt I had to celebrate somehow, so I compiled a list of 41 of my all-time favorite segments. With the 45th anniversary coming up, I kinda wish I didn’t do a top 41 segments list so I could celebrate with a top 45 inserts list. Then again, this doesn’t mean that you readers can’t make such a list.

Top 40 Muppet Show Songs and Segments
It took a little longer for me to even consider making a massive list of my all-time favorite segments from The Muppet Show. And at first I had trouble deciding on whether I wanted to list my top 40, top 50 (I could have included ten segments per season), or whatever, before settling on just 40. This list ended up being a four-part list, but was originally written as one, before adding some info and opinions written about each entry. I do regret not including any male guest stars (some segments I’d have liked to have included include Joel Grey’s “Wilkomen”, Alice Cooper’s”School’s Out”, and Roger Miller’s “Hat”), which I don’t think I realized until it was too late.

In Search of Missing Muppets
This was an article I wrote about certain characters who had not been used (in puppet form) in at least ten years. And since this list was compiled, many characters listed have been seen again, including Lips, Uncle Deadley, Marvin Suggs and the Muppaphone, Annie Sue, and both Nigels. Could my list have influenced the return of many of these characters? Naaahhh...

Muppetology 101: Advanced Property Ownership
I often think about the Muppet sale to Disney in 2004, and who owns what, and since this year is the ten-year anniversary of Disney’s purchase of the characters, I thought it’d be a good time to do an article on who owns what. When I wrote this article, I mentioned that I was unsure of who actually owned the rights to the Sam and Friends characters (well, besides Kermit), having for years assumed Henson still owned those characters, only to be surprised that they got a section in The Muppets Character Encyclopedia.

Top Five Good and Bad Things lists
This year I started making a few lists where I write five things I like about a certain production followed by five things I don’t like (or don’t like as much). The idea came to me one day when I was thinking about making a top ten list and started thinking about what I liked and disliked about certain productions. And maybe Tough Pigs’ “two things” articles subliminally inspired me as well.
Weekly Muppet Wednesdays
After Ryan decided to let other contributors write Weekly Muppet Wednesday articles, I was the first guest contributor to do so (my first being on my favorite obscure character, Lips). I’ve done articles on various characters, from major characters like Statler and Waldorf, Beaker, and Grover to more lesser-known characters like Bruno the Trashman, Zondra, and Baskerville the Hound. I was the first to do an article on a creature shop character, Baby Sinclair. For some characters I wrote articles on, such as Cookie Monster and Grover, Ryan had helped contribute as much as I did, and although I already thought those articles were great, his editing and contributions made those articles a lot better.

Future Articles
So what do I have in store for the future? Well, before the year ends I’d like to do at least one more Muppet Retro Review and at least one more Weekly Muppet Wednesday. In October, I’d like to do a list of Muppet moments that scared me as a child. For the holiday season, I’d like to do a “Top Five Good and Bad Things About...” article on a Christmas production. I’d like to do something to tie in to the 45th anniversary of Sesame Street and the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Muppets. And then there’s a lot of article ideas that I’ve had for years that I still haven’t done. Lots of characters I’d like to write about for Weekly Muppet Wednesdays, plenty of productions to review for Muppet Retro Reviews, a few topics for Muppetology 101, and as it was jokingly mentioned in my section of the websites “About Us” page I have actually considered making a grocery list (right now I know the site needs more cookies, radishes, and birdseed milkshakes).

But here’s to 5 years, and hopefully another 5 years (at which I’ll probably say “here’s to ten years and hopefully another ten years”).





The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

Aug 22, 2014

News Update: August 22, 2014

AUGUST 22, 2014

Like all major celebrities seem to be doing this week, Kermit the Frog took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Kermit was challenged by WWE's Vince McMahon (and many a Muppet fan), and took to the challenge bravely and coldly. Watch below!



Cookie Monster also took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and he in turn challenged Muppet fan MarshallGrover, who is a YouTube account that posts a ton of vintage Sesame Street clips. Watch Cookie Monster's challenge below!



Sesame Street's Bob McGrath, who is 82 years old, jumped out of an airplane recently. The video is incredible and sweet and wonderful... and so perfectly Bob. Watch it here:



Muppet performer Matt Vogel will be signing copies of Muppets Most Wanted on Blu-ray and DVD at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Monday, August 25th from 4-5pm. No word on if Constantine will be in attendance at the signing, but this pretty much confirms his appearance at the special "Villains Unleashed" event this weekend.

Finally, in celebration of The Muppet Mindset's Fifth Anniversary, the owner/operator/founder Ryan Dosier was interviewed by our friend J.D. Hansel on his Muppet fan podcast 11 Point Collar. Be sure to listen to the fun and get in early for The Muppet Mindset's fifth anniversary celebration!

Aug 20, 2014

Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Dog

DOG

Performed by...
Brian Henson

First appearance...
The Storyteller Episode 101: "Hans, My Hedgehog" (1987)

Most-Recent Appearance:
The Jim Henson Hour Episode 110: "Secrets of the Muppets" (1992)

Best known role...
The Storyteller's canine companion

WHO IS DOG?
Dog is the dog (obviously) from The Storyteller, and is generally the only character who listens to The Storyteller's stories in person. Dog generally provides wisecracks and asides to the more serious storytelling. Like The Storyteller, he is rarely part of the actual story. In the first episode, "Hans, My Hedgehog," Dog as well as Stroyteller have roles as waiters in the story, and in "Sapsorrow," he appears to be among Sapsorrow's animal companions, and at one point confirms she's telling the truth when Sapsorrow tells her father that she wasn't taking the ring like her sisters had said. At the beginning of "The Soldier and Death," Dog wants to eat the biscuits that The Storyteller needs for his story, prompting Dog to let him tell the story (because the sooner the story ends, the sooner he can eat them). Although The Storyteller was replaced with a different actor for The Storyteller: Greek Myths, Dog reprised his role as the dog.

Outside of The Storyteller franchise, Dog was interviewed by Rowlf for Muppet Magazine, where he talked about how he met the Storyteller and revealed that although he lives with the Storyteller, he is not the characters (or anybody's) pet. Dog also made a few appearances (outside of The StoryTeller second half) on The Jim Henson Hour. In episode 103, he appears in Jim Henson's intro in place of the Lion. In "Secrets of the Muppets," he appears at the Creature Shop, where he reveals himself to be a member of the Organization of Muppet Dogs (and also reveals that there is an Organization of Muppet Dogs).

WHY DOES THE STORYTELLER NEED DOG?
The Storyteller needs Dog to provide some comic relief, to have SOMEBODY there to listen to his stories, and because the Dog is just plain awesome a character.






The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

Aug 19, 2014

Muppet Retro Reviews: Muppets Tonight, Part 7

Written by Abigail Maughan.

207—DENNIS QUAID
PLOT: While Kermit is forced to spend a disturbing evening with Gilbert Gottfried, Clifford feels unneeded when Dennis Quaid excels in all of his jobs.
GUEST STAR: We have actor Dennis Quaid, who gets to reference his previous movie roles and good-guy persona. Also present is Gilbert Gottfried, whose obnoxiousness is well-harnessed in a subplot that genuinely generates sympathy for Kermit.
COMEDY: This one hits physical, verbal, and parodical comedy from lots of different characters, such as the falling bowling balls, the knightly name “Sir Cumference of the Circle,” and the buildups and executions of the various “Great Balls of Fire” verses. Strangely, there is not a single recurring skit in this episode.
MUSIC: A very musical show that includes perhaps the most absurd of the show’s music-cue running gags. Two more fantastic songs are “Up on the Roof,” performed by Clifford, and “Dancing with Myself,” performed by Gonzo and his multiple clones.
LOWLIGHTS:

  • “The Mario-Nuts Show” goes on a little too long after the point has been established and drags down the otherwise crisp scene and episode. 

HIGHLIGHTS:

    • Gilbert Gottfried: I made a shrine of you. It’s made of nothing but soda crackers and lemon juice!
    • (later) Dennis Quaid: And that, my friends, is how you make a four-tiered mock wedding cake using nothing but soda crackers and lemon juice.
  • The gags of Dennis Quaid being the best in the most obscure fields, such as squid-wrestling, rat taxes, and show-hosting, are perfectly silly.
  • All of the musical numbers are well done. The “Great Balls of Fire” running gag is energetic and funny in how outlandish it eventually becomes, Clifford’s song showcases one of Kevin’s Clash’s remarkable singing voices, and Gonzo’s “Dancing with Myself” is one of my personal favorite numbers in all of Muppets Tonight.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

  • Note the cameo by Leslie Carrara-Rudolph as Gilbert Gottfried’s... girlfriend?
  • Clifford proves to be a good choice for the series’ most central character. Aside from having previously-established roots in Muppet history, he has a Kermit-like way of being organized until snapping at the breaking point, without being too Kermit-like in his personality or ways of handling situations. Kevin Clash gives consistently impressive performances.

MY RANKING: 5/5 interpretive squid dances. Just plain solid! No distractions from sub-par recurring sketches, good use of Muppets and guest stars, and strong writing.

208—THE CAMEO SHOW

PLOT: Bobo accidentally poisons the guest star, Arsenio Hall, and has to go on the hunt for a new one. Meanwhile Clifford, Rizzo, and Zippity Zap try to keep their cover.
GUEST STAR: Many previous episodes have one major guest star and another celebrity making a cameo, but this is the first of a handful this season that has no headlined guest star, and instead various cameos. With the most exposure are talk show hosts Arsenio Hall, who dies twice, and Jay Leno, who gets irritated by Bobo. Also present are model Kathy Ireland, who inspires Bunsen and Beaker to don bikinis; attorney Chris Darden, who intimidates the Muppets; guitarist Kevin Eubanks, who Bobo adores; and singer Little Richard, who Beaker can impersonate rather well.
COMEDY: The story arc featuring the dead guest star hits all the right, irreverent notes. Regarding sketches, we have the last “Tubmans of Porksmith” skit (renamed “Boarshead Revisited” this season), the second and final “E-I-E-I-O-R,” a “Real World Muppets,” the only “Tales from the Vet” skit to feature a human, and an ad for “Johnny Fiama’s Pasta Playhouse.”
MUSIC: Not much, save for the fittingly wild “I Hear You Knocking,” by Little Richard and the rarely-seen- on-this-show Animal and Zoot.
LOWLIGHTS:

  • While still a clever concept, I think this “Real World Muppets” is the least creative of the three.
  • Per usual, another mediocre “Boarshead Revisited” simply makes one eager to get back to the real story.

HIGHLIGHTS:

    • Clifford: Don’t you think this whole thing is kinda weird?
    • Rizzo: Weird? Nah, this is just slightly bizarre. You want weird? I can tell you weird stories...
  • Beaker’s "impersonation" of Little Richard and the singer’s subsequent performance are just plain enjoyable.
  • It’s a fun group of guest stars who are not afraid to be as silly as needed, and mesh well with the story arc, propelling it to a strong finish.

MY RANKING: 4/5 drums of explosives, for creatively handling so many diverse guest stars while still keeping the Muppets center stage. Of the Muppets Tonight cameo shows, “The Cameo Show” is the strongest and most cohesive.

209—THE BEST OF MUPPETS TONIGHT
PLOT: Gonzo and Rizzo are forced to piece together a Muppets Tonight clip show, showcasing  the best of their sketches, songs, guest star scenes, and parodies. Because this episode is so different in format than the others and full of bits we’ve seen or will see elsewhere, I won’t be going too in-depth in reviewing it. Besides, who wants to read my exact same reviews of various skits all over again? (Cue Statler and Waldorf: “Who wanted to read them all the first time? D’oh-ho-ho!”) I’ll just say that the clip selections are very well made indeed, especially music and guest star clips.
HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Rizzo: Wait a second, Gonzo, what are you doing here? I thought Clifford gave everybody the week off.
  • Gonzo: Oh, he did, I just came to pick up my nasal floss.
  • Rizzo: Of course you did.

MY RANKING: N/A. This episode really can’t be ranked against the others, but it’s hard to go wrong with Gonzo, Rizzo, and tons of skits.

210—THE GARY CAHUENGA EPISODE
PLOT: In the studio basement, Clifford and Rizzo discover a trunk housing Gary Cahuenga, a sentient ventriloquist’s dummy hidden away since 1956. Meanwhile, Gonzo hosts the Lollapalosers festival.
GUEST STARS: Another episode full of rapid-fire cameos that includes magicians Penn and Teller, boxer Evander Holyfield, actress Kathy Najimy, and American Gladiators Ice and Zap, in scenes written specifically for each of them. “The Cameo Show” worked better because the celebrities were all characters in a story, whereas this one, while entertaining, plays more like a series of skits.
COMEDY: Gonzo’s parade of delightful nonsense brings us crisp band parody puns and over half of the guest stars, plus a running gag about whether or not the show has a script. Kathy Nijimy’s irritated nonchalance in the final “Thor, God of Thunder” makes it the best segment of the recurring skit.
MUSIC: The parody acts of “The Benedictine Monkees” and the literal “Smashing Pumpkins” are just as imaginative as they sound.
LOWLIGHTS:

  • The lack of ending to Gary Cahuenga’s story is abrupt and disappointing. After a funny sequence in which various Muppets failingly audition to be Gary’s new comedy partner, the show makes an awkward cut to a long and meandering segment with Johnny, Sal, and boxer Evander Holyfield that lasts the entire rest of the episode. It’s odd and non-resolving, and makes the show feel unfinished.
  • And speaking of the long and meandering segment with Johnny, Sal, and boxer Evander Holyfield, it was easily the weakest skit of the bunch, with no real punchline.

HIGHLIGHTS:

    • Kermit: Gonzo, you are not all the way across the country, you are right here on our stage.
    • Gonzo: I know. My mom wouldn’t let me go.
    • Kermit: What?
    • Gonzo: She said there were too many weirdos. Might be a bad influence on me.
  • I found the segment with magicians Penn and Teller highly entertaining despite the lack of Muppet characters.
  • The idea of Gary Cahuenga is a good one. An interloper from another age of puppet-based entertainment now forced to live in the current age of puppet-based entertainment is an intriguing concept. It would have been interesting to see if, had the show run longer, he’d ever do anything more than his conversation with Prince in the season premiere.
    • Gary: Wait a minute, this isn’t 1956?
    • Rizzo: Not unless you go by my paychecks.

MY RANKING: 2.5/5 trap doors. I would have ranked this higher if the ending didn’t leave things hanging so far out. Both plots have bright points, but overall the episode stumbles just short of the finish line because of the flat ending.

We’re almost done with the show—next week, in fact! In the meantime, we invite you to vote in another poll. What is your favorite episode of Muppets Tonight’s second season?


What is the Best Episode of Muppets Tonight Season 2?
201 - The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
202 - Rick Moranis
203 - Heather Locklear
204 - Pierce Brosnan
205 - Coolio & Don Rickles
206 - Paula Abdul
207 - Dennis Quaid
208 - The Cameo Show
209 - The Best of Muppets Tonight
210 - Andie MacDowell
211 - Johnny Fiama Leaves Home
Poll Maker




The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com