The good news is that finally, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has begun to release episodes from ’The Muppet Show’ on DVD. The bad news is that sadly, the studios seems to pick and chose them rather than releasing the entire five seasons of the show in periodical ordered box sets.
That aside, at least here are some of the highlights from the show, starting out with the 1977 appearance of Elton John on the show during the second season. Julie Andrews’ appearance during the same season and Gene Kelly’s show during the final season in 1980 are also part of this release, making for a varied experience that covers all ends. Each episode is quickly introduced by Brian Henson, where he talks about some of the events surrounding that particular episode.
The age of the show and the limitations of TV at the time are clearly evident in the release. While the image quality is good throughout, the softness of the picture, the inconsistency in the colors and the washed-out look all are reminders that color TV still had severe limitations during those years in a sense. The result is an image that is a bit subdued and in a way only hint at the extremely colorful and flamboyant production design, as can be witnessed in all its glory in the more recent Muppet Movies. Certainly Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has tried to make the best of the material and as such the presentation is commendable, although it also suffers noticeably from compression artifacts, which could have been avoided.
To be honest with you, from my childhood I did not remember there was so much music on the Muppet Show – and I had not seen it since. Sure, there was music, but I always remembered the sketches more than the musical numbers. To accommodate so much music, the DVD comes with a cleaned up Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. The track is free of defects or distortion and the frequency response is surprisingly good. No immediate limitations are audible and free of sibilance, the track is clear and well-balanced.
Reliving the Muppet Show is a fascinating experience that makes you wish they would pick up the show again and begin creating new episodes. It was a highly entertaining and charming formula the likes you don’t find anywhere on TV these days. What Jim Henson and Frank Oz created here was a phenomenon that still holds its magic 25 years after it was produced and still, Kermit, Gonzo and the rest of the gang are as much fun as ever. Dig it!