The first episode of the Muppets is really a surprise. For a first episode of any series, it feels as though it’s been on the air for years. Already we have some iconic acts, and nearly all of the classic characters appear. The only thing that really dates it for me (and not necessarily in a bad way) is the downplay and appearance of Miss Piggy, who hasn’t really established herself as one of the muppet “stars” as of yet. She still has a wonderful moment as the lead singer during a rendition of Temptation. It’s actually interesting to look up Miss Piggy’s evolution as a character, as her appearance changed progressively to how we know her today. To my knowledge, she’s the only muppet to go through this arduous transformation. As I remember, the show is not geared as much to children as it’s timeslot on PBS indicated. I grew up watching the show, and only know can I really appreciate it’s humour and the depth of it’s pop cultural references. I never feel cheatened by their parodies or blatant name drops though, as they’re often dealt with cunning irony or really some loving tributes to icons and classics of the time.
The guest star of this episode is Juliet Prowse, born in South America she was a famous dancer at the time, who was once engaged to Frank Sinatra. She performs one dance routine, which surprisingly doesn’t play for laughs, although is still quite absurdist in presentation. Her comedy skills leave a lot to be desired, but she radiates a very warm and approacheable persona that makes her sequences very enjoyable and light. She went on to have a very successful career in Vegas, where she was one of the top acts. In the late 1980s she was mauled twice by a leopard, the second time she had to have 20 stitches to re-attach one of her ears. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1995, she died a year later from the disease. She was 59 years old.
Muppet version of Juliet Prowse
In every episode, the guest is presented with a muppet version of themselves. This was the first, and I sorta see it!
Best act: “MAHNA MAHNA”
I’m really a sucker for the musical acts on the muppet show, especially when they’re nonsensical and feature one of the jazz characters. This is the very first act of the show, as two pink things called Snowths sing a beat while our Mahna Mahna interrupts them with the title phrase. This is one of the most famous muppet scenes, and I think it’s a testament to the show’s consistency that it also happens to be their first. The muppets, had existed before the conception of the show on other variety shows (like Ed Sullivan) as well as the Muppet Show. This wasn’t the first time people would hear this act, but the punch-line was changed.
Trivia, and additional information from Muppet Central
Really a great reference for the muppet fan in all of us