Well, miraculously we have reached the middle of the alphabet on the middle day of April…I’d like to say that was planned, but it really wasn’t, however the symmetry pleases me.
Some letters for this challenge do of course present an actual challenge to come up with a favourite TV show from my youth using that letter (wait until we get to U, I have no idea!) And then… we reach letters like M, where I have the opposite problem and I have three ideas. However, as one of them was very closely linked to my M post for music last year (The Monkees), I’ve picked just one of the other two for today, rather than bore everyone who read last year with the same old story (I can’t even link back as I had a blog thinning out thing a few months back and only left posts related to writing up here), and as this is a biggy I’m afraid Maid Marian and her Merry Men will have to take a back seat too.
For today, M is for the very mighty…
“It’s time to play the music
It’s time to light the lights
It’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight
It’s time to put on make up
It’s time to dress up right
It’s time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show tonight.”
According to my mum, I was mesmerized by The Muppet Show when I was very small and used to sit right in front of the television watching it on a Sunday evening (I believe that was when it was on, and I certainly always associate it with Sunday night bath time). Mum – if you read this, e-mail me to fill in the details please!
Memory, especially early memory, is a very shaky thing, and even though I don’t remember an awful lot about the show itself, what I do remember is that The Muppets (thanks initially to The Muppet Show) featured heavily throughout my childhood and I have an awful lot of general really happy memories associated with them. I do wonder if my early viewings of the show were in black and white. (again, mum, if you’re reading – help!) I don’t think we had a colour TV for quite a while, yet I only have colour memories of The Muppets. How strange if that’s the case. Perhaps this was down to the fact that there was a huge Muppets poster on our bedroom wall, or that I had various pieces of Muppet merchandise (A Miss Piggy apron, a Miss Piggy mug, a Miss Piggy in a sports car, Muppet dungarees, Kermit slippers – wow I must have been obsessed!). Or maybe the fact we had The Muppet Show album (on vinyl of course) which was in colour or maybe it’s the fact I watched The Muppet Movie on repeat for donkey’s years and we did have a colour TV when we watched that. We must have done. I even had Rainbow Connection on green vinyl 7″ – which sadly one day got stood on and broke. (Probably a result of that messy bedroom I mentioned in The Fraggle Rock post!)
The apron I can’t find, though there are photos of me wearing it. My sister had one exactly the same – purple plastic! Right, okay, enough of a trip down Muppet merch memory lane!
Back to the show.
Now something I did not know about The Muppet Show was that it was initially passed over by network executives in the USA, including CBS, and it was, in fact, British dancer and talent agent, Lew Grade, (in his later career responsible for the distribution of Blade Runner and This is Spinal Tap fact fans!) who approached Jim Henson to produce the show in the UK – right here in the Midlands at that. It was then successfully broadcast between 1976 and 1981. The show was actually recorded at Elstree Studios in The UK. This I never knew. Google is wonderful! (A little factoid here as well which I’ve just linked in my memory. In The Muppet Movie the big executive the Muppets go to see in Hollywood is called Lew Lord, played by Orson Welles) I wonder if this was a nod to Lew Grade? Pretty sure it would have been.)
As for the show itself – I have only those shady, hazy memories childhood brings rather than any real specifics. You know, just flashes of familiar images, such as the star dressing rooms, or the opening credits, or the stage, or Statler and Waldorf’s balcony. The content of the show is not especially memorable to me other than the Pigs in Space (Piiiiiiiiiiiigs In Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace) section! I always remember that for some reason. And the Swedish Chef part, but probably more for the fact my dad always did impressions of the Swedish Chef. Come to think of it, my mum and dad used to pretend to be Miss Piggy and Kermit too! Hahaha! And my dad would also try and take off Sam the Eagle – he certainly had the eyebrow thing right!
Many of my Muppet memories come flooding back because of The Muppet Show album released in 1977. (Now forlornly residing in my garage, scratched to pieces and minus the internal sleeve.) It featured such classics as Lydia the Tattooed Lady, Hugga Wugga, Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear, Pachalafaka, Mahna, Mahna, Halfway Down the Stairs and my favourite, Mr Bassman. Surpassed only by the release of The Muppet Movie soundtrack in 1979 which is also residing in my garage looking well played and a little worse for it.
I loved, still love, The Muppet Movie. It’s definitely in my top ten films of all time. Even now I will watch it quite happily and laugh at it. Thanks to the song Moving Right Along, I’ve never forgotten that the sun sets in the West! True story. I think The Muppet Movie was probably an early influence for my love of puns. “Fork in the road” anyone?! I mean okay, not an actual pun, but to a six year old, one I could get! It is a feel good, colourful, happy movie with fantastic, catchy songs and great wit and if it’s on I can pretty much say it line for line. I’ve liked all the Muppet films (bar Treasure Island – naff!) since, though The Muppet Movie remains the best. My favourite since it is A Muppet Christmas Carol of course – an utter classic- but in the 1980s it was The Great Muppet Caper (the one with Diana Rigg in) I got excited about if it was ever on the schedule on TV. Rare though it was as it never seemed to be on enough to me. It was all about the theft of a diamond and there was one sequence where Miss Piggy does a synchronised swim:
I don’t know why that stands out, but it always has done! The Great Muppet Caper was brilliant though and does stick out in my mind from childhood, mainly because of Diana Rigg actually! Really, all the Muppet films are great fun and witty though – something for both children and adults.
In 1996, when I was 21, a new Muppet Show was released – Muppets Tonight. I know it took a lot of slating, but I loved this too. Some of the characters were absolutely hilarious. Johnny Fiama – the Italian rat pack style singer with his sidekick monkey – Sal. (I still have a cuddly chimp I bought back then which looked like Sal and is called Sal as a result!) Then there was Andy and Randy pig, Miss Piggy’s hapless nephews. I liked Andy best, he was slightly chubbier and slightly dopier than Randy! They featured in a parody section of the show called Bay of Pigswatch which was a parody of course of the popular show –Baywatch and starred, as well as Andy and Randy, another pig called David Hoggleshoff and a female one called Spamela Hamderson. I mean, just how great is that?! It was hilarious, and being 21 of course I understood the send up more than if I’d been 5 or 6 when Pigs in Space was parodying Lost in Space. But Bay of Pigswatch? How great is that as a send up name? (Okay you have to be up on your US/Cuban history – but still.) I then ended up getting quite a lot of piggy paraphernalia for Christmas that year from my mum! I still have my cuddly pig, Truffles, which she got for me.
I mustn’t go without mentioning another Muppet show spin off I also loved and that was Muppet Babies. (I know, I know, again probably sacrilege to say so. But they were so damn cute!)
They were often on a Saturday morning fairly early, which I recall being around later in the ’80s in Britain. Unlike The Muppets, which were obviously real puppets, Muppet Babies was an animated version detailing the Muppets early life living in a nursery. (You therefore had to have a leap of imagination and ignore everything you were shown in The Muppet Movie about how the Muppets met!) Oddly enough, I even had a toy from this – a little plastic baby Kermit – eh voila…!
And there we have it…we’ve hurdled the half way mark and I’ve had a great afternoon looking back at one of my absolute favourite things from childhood. Hope it’s brough back some happy memories for some of you too. 🙂
Tomorrow we reach N and I have nothing for N as of yet. So as nothing begins with N I may actually write nothing! 😀