The Muppet Show
The concept of the program was that Kermit the Frog and his friends were trying to put on a variety show for the audience (an audience in an auditorium, entirely composed of other Muppets). Unfortunately, things never quite went according to plan, and the group was often forced to improvise, such as when Gilda Radner accidentally got superglued to her own forehead, several of the Muppets, and big plastered chunks of the theater, but had to do a tap dance number on stage in spite of this; or when a group of pigs took over the show during the Cloris Leachman episode, forcing Kermit and co. to escape and save the show.
The program was created by Jim Henson, who enjoyed the critical and popular success that the Muppets experienced on Sesame Street, but was frustrated that the Muppets had been pigeonholed as a "children's act." He wanted to create a show that would be equally enjoyed by adults.
Initially, Henson approached the major TV networks - which then consisted of ABC, CBS, and NBC - about airing the show. But while the studio executives loved Henson's work, they remained unconvinced that a puppet show would work in prime time.
Henson resisted syndicating the show, since he was worried that the program would be under-funded. Upon meeting with British syndicator Lord Lew Grade, the owner of Associated Television (ATV, one of the franchisees of Britain's ITV network), however, Henson agreed once he realized that Grade would provide the appropriate funding for Henson and his group to do a quality production.
In the first season, under the guidance of head writer Jack Bruns, the show was mostly gag-oriented with no overarching plot. Starting in the second season, though, under the guiding force of writer Jerry Juhl, the program become more focused on character-driven stories. Also, some minor characters were dumped from Season 1 in favor of new characters as well as more emphasis on stronger characters from the first year, such as Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, The Great Gonzo, Floyd Pepper, Scooter. Due to these changes, the show's popularity took off in the second season, particularly in the U.S.
Miss Piggy in particular became a breakout TV star in the 1970s. Masterfully performed by Frank Oz, the egotistical yet insecure porcine female had a massive infatuation on a certain frog. But when angered, the pig revealed a powerful karate chop. Miss Piggy's "HI-YAAAAA!!!" becomes as iconic in the 1970s as the Fonz's "Ayyyy!" Miss Piggy became something of a feminist icon, and her debut calendar in 1980 was a huge best-seller.
The show was syndicated to over a hundred countries, and in fact was the first American TV show to be broadcast in the Soviet Union. For this reason, it has been called the most successful television show of all time.
After five seasons, Henson decided to pull the plug, not because ratings had dropped but because he was anxious to move his creative team onto other projects, such as the fantasy films The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, and the children's show Fraggle Rock.
The show spawned six theatrical films, starting with 1979's The Muppet Movie, two TV-movies, and a multitude of TV specials. There were also two TV spinoffs that did air on the networks - The Jim Henson Hour and Muppets Tonight - though, ironically, these were both short-lived. The most successful spinoff, oddly enough, was an animated program: Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, which ran from 1984 to 1991 and won multiple Emmys.
The Muppet Show was produced by Henson Associates in association with ATV (in the UK), ITC Entertainment (outside the UK) and CBS-Owned Television Stations (the TV station ownership division of American network CBS). While the show was originally syndicated by ITC during its original run, Disney-ABC Domestic Television now owns the distribution rights due to parent The Walt Disney Company's ownership of the Jim Henson catalogue.
|Frank Oz||Miss Piggy||*||*||*||*||*|
|Jerry Nelson||Floyd Pepper||*||*||*||*||*|
|Camilla the Chicken||*||*||*|
|Dave Goelz||The Great Gonzo||*||*||*||*||*|
|Dr. Bunsen Honeydew||*||*||*||*||*|
|John Lovelady||Additional Muppets||*|
|Louise Gold||Additional Muppets||*||*||*||*|
|Steve Whitmire||Additional Muppets||*||*||*|
|Rizzo the Rat||*||*|
|Kathryn Mullen||Additional Muppets||*||*||*|
|Jim Henson||Kermit the Frog||*||*||*||*||*|
|Rowlf the Dog||*||*||*||*||*|
|Season One||September 5, 1976||April 23, 1977||24|
|Season Two||September 30, 1977||April 23, 1978||30|
|Season Three||November 17, 1978||March 9, 1979||18|
|Season Four||November 2, 1979||April 4, 1980||23|
|Season Five||October 5, 1980||March 22, 1981||25|
- At a Glance: Additional information about the series