We first knew Jim Henson’s Muppets from their appearances on Sesame Street (Great American Things, September 1, 2009). Henson, however, didn’t want to be stuck with the label of “children’s entertainment.” He knew he could make his creations – and his quirky humor – popular with adult audiences as well. The result, we’re all happy to say, was The Muppet Show.
The show debuted in 1976, and built momentum from early disappointing results to huge success. Part of the credit goes to the desire of many major stars to be on the show. Guest stars over the show’s five seasons included: Julie Andrews, Harry Belafonte, Carol Burnett, George Burns, Johnny Cash, John Cleese, John Denver, Bob Hope, Elton John, Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, Gladys Knight, Loretta Lynn, Steve Martin, Rudolph Nureyev, Kenny Rogers, Linda Ronstadt, Peter Sellers, Paul Simon, Sylvester Stallone, Peter Ustinov, Raquel Welch, and dozens more.
The characters created by Henson and his fabulous puppeteers (including Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz, and others) were fully realized. The modest Kermit, the outrageous Miss Piggy, the endearing Fozzie Bear, the daredevil Gonzo, the intrepid inventor Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker, the inventive Swedish Chef, wild drummer Animal, and the two hecklers in the balcony, Statler and Waldorf.
The show only ran for five seasons, but has often been seen in syndication since (though it’s not appearing now, best I can tell). During that time, it earned four Emmys (including Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Musical Series) and the prestigious Peabody Award.
By the way, did you know Miss Piggy’s whole name? It’s “Miss Piggy Lee”…