I wasn't sure how to rate this episode-- taken on its own, it's pretty dull. But watching it now, now that we know what the Muppets have become... well I will just have to repeat the word SURREAL. I can't think how else to describe it! The characters are all clearly Muppets-- some of them are vaguely familiar, a few VERY familiar, and yet the minor characters are major characters and the major ones are minor. There's Kermit hanging out on the sidelines-- I kept expecting him to try to organize everyone, whip them into shape, take control of the show, yet all he did was briefly and somewhat grouchily contribute his sad tale of Going A'Courtin'. Mia Farrow related to the characters in the same way later guest stars would relate to the characters on the Muppet Show-- as if she knew them personally. But though SHE knew them, WE do not. So on the whole you're watching all this, feeling like you've been dropped into an alternate dimension, somewhere where the Muppet Show as we know it never happened and something else entirely happened instead. Personally, I'm very glad reality took the Muppet-track it ended up taking. But it's worth having this surreal experience once-- you can now find this special on the bonus tracks to the Muppet Show Season 2 DVDs.
Airing in 1974, this special (intended as a pilot for The Muppet Show) doesn't yet quite have all the familiar elements in place. Kermit is a minor character, and the host is some bland guy with sunglasses whose name I can't even remember.
The guest star is Mia Farrow, and she appears in one cutesy musical number or sketch after another. It's not her fault; apparently Jim Henson and co. leaned heavily on the "cute" on this show. The second pilot, "Sex and Violence," would go straight for the comedy, and is much stronger as a result.
The one interesting concept to come out of this whole show is the idea of the Muppets all living in a house together. This idea wouldn't be used again until 25 years later (!), in 1999's "Muppets from Space."
At this time, this pilot is not available on video or DVD at this time, so you'll either have to get it in a tape trade or hope the rerun shows up on cable somewhere.
If you do get to see it, keep your eyes open for an Ernie and Bert cameo at the end.
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