The Muppet Show Season Two (TV 1977)

I really enjoyed this season two of the Muppet Show. Part of that was that they had a bunch of actors/entertainers who I actually had heard of (unlike season one where it was mostly C-list nobodies) and the variety was much greater in terms of skits and backstage goings ons. I’m guessing the budget was increased?

Things got started with Don Knotts, who I grew up with watching his disney movies and a few others. The Apple Dumpling Gang, the Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, the Shakiest Gun in the West, etc.

And the guests got bigger from there in many cases. Bob Hope, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Elton John. I don’t know if they were more talented or just because I knew them, but I liked most of the guests and their acts better than in season one. It felt like there was more interaction between the Muppets and the guests instead of the guests just doing their act with the Muppets involved.

I really enjoyed that there was a LOT more backstage stuff going on. One show was all about the Pigs taking over the show and the guest star helping Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo escape and take back the show. Ideas like that are right up my alley and I loved it. The terrible jokes are still front and center but don’t have quite as much attention paid to them as in season one. I was ok with that!

I mentioned the greater variety of skits and I think my favorite of them all is the Pigs in Space. The Swinetrek is a hilarious ship. John Cleese participates in one of the skits and he’s a pirate, with a muppet parrot, eye patch and sword. On a spaceship. He was trying to take over the ship but everything went wrong for him. I’m not a fan of Cleese and even I found the skit hilarious ๐Ÿ˜€

I am really looking forward to season three now.

The Muppet Show Season One (TV 1976)

I went into this never having seen full episodes before, just the various movies and then bits and pieces throughout my childhood.

I would sum up this season as psychedelic singing between rounds of horrible wordplays and bad jokes made on purpose. And I loved every minute of it.

I liked that the characters were “themselves” instead of trying to be something else like in the movies. Kermit is a great manager with just the right amount of gentleness and hardnose take no crap to keep everyone moving. Miss Piggy, well, she’s Miss Piggy and even in the movies she plays herself. It’s funny to watch her go after Kermit and him constantly rebuffing her. Why this is funny, I can’t say except that it is.

The human stars of the show, one per episode, were a bit of a disappointment. Most of them were singers and/or stage entertainers. I guess in the 70’s people watched tv to see people sing popular songs while either dancing with puppets or beating the stuffing out of them. I recognized 2-5 of the guests but that was it. I guess the muppets had a harder time at first getting some non-B list actors. Heck, I’d go so far as to say that several, if not many, of the guests were more at the C-list level. Of course, Candice Bergen pointing a shotgun at one of the characters and shooting a door off its hinges was totally worth it. You won’t see THAT today.

I really did binge this. While each episode was just under 25 minutes, once you ignore the opening and closing sequence you’re looking at 20minutes of “action”. One disc is quite easily watched on a sunday afternoon if you don’t mind plunking your backside down and just watching. With 4 discs for this season, that’s easy peasy.

I am really looking forward to Season 2 next month.

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984 Movie)

The Muppet Gang all graduate from college and have big dreams of making a play that will storm Broadway. So they write a play, travel to Manhattan and present their play to a famous director, telling him they hope it will make them all rich and famous. The director slowly looks at them and proceeds to throw the manuscript away. The rest of the movie is kermit trying to get the play accepted and all the other muppets giving up and going elsewhere. Once Kermit does succeed, he gets the gang back together, only to get amnesia and go missing. He’s found, Miss Piggy karate chops his memory back and the play is a smash hit and Kermit and Piggy get married.


This was definitely the weakest of the 3 movies. While as self-referential as the others, it lacked the cozy bonhomie of the first and the zany over the top situation of the second. I’m not a Broadway Play kind of guy so the whole situation didn’t work for me. Second, and more important to me, was just how mean Kermit could be. It was a very sharp departure from the carefree, optimistic Kermit of the first movie.

The Muppet show had ended in 1981 and the animated tv show, the Muppet Babies was to start in just a few months. This movie felt like a promotional ad for the Muppet Babies and as a “Happily Ever After” for fans of Kermit and Piggy. For me, Piggy and Kermit should have been eternally engaged, with all the drama and antics that go along with it.

I bought this but to be honest, I’ll probably watch it once or twice more and call that good. I felt too “meh” about this for most of it for me to give it anything else than a thumbs sideways.

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

The Great Muppet Caper is the second (as far as I can tell) in the Muppet movie franchise.

The basic plot is that twin reporters, Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear, miss a jewel heist happening right in front them, get fired and end up going to England to try to interview Lady Holiday and to recover her jewels, thus ensuring a triumphant return to their jobs.

The self-awareness of this film is even more deliberate, even sharper and more 4th wall breaking than in The Muppet Movie. I found it highly amusing at the beginning but by the end of the movie the charm of it had rubbed off and it felt overused, like a 3 day old sardine out of its tin. Ok, not that bad but it had definitely stopped being amusing by the end.

Once again, there were musical numbers out the wazoo. And once again, it was quite different from The Muppet Movie. Where I was humming, singing and tapping my metaphorical toe in the first movie, these numbers were much more group oriented, almost felt like broadway chorus songs. I didn’t find myself entranced by the music at all. Psychic Grandma wouldn’t have tried to convert any of these into belgian boom wave, not even into 7/92 tempo!

The silly, over the top, zany humor, situations and physical comedy were just the same however. Miss Piggy is as bipolar as ever between Bashful Debutante and Kungfu Queen. Fozzie is clueless, Gonzo is suicidal (in a very “I wonder what X would be like” rather than a depressed and anxious way) and Kermit is the glue that binds every character together. The human cast did an admirable job of playing to the Muppets but my goodness, they were even more shallow and ridiculous than Doc Hopper and his Frog Hunter in the first movie. The Love Triangle between the Jewel Thief, Kermit and Miss Piggy is as developed as a can of playdo and is used as an excuse to A: further the plot and B: make comments about it doing nothing but furthering the plot. I have to admit though, just thinking about it all still brings a smile to my face.

While this had some differences from the first movie that didn’t work for me, I still laughed and smiled while watching this. And since that is ALL I expect from this franchise, it’s a solid success. I guess my final verdict is a thumbs up.

The Muppet Movie (1979)

Ahhhhh yeah! When I blogged about The Muppet Christmas Carol and posted a link over at Librarything, one of the people over there suggested I make 2021 The Year of the Muppets for the movies I watch. I liked that idea so much that I decided to act on it. This is the first installment of that plan.

A bit of background.

The Muppets tv show had been going strong for a couple of years and it was decided to leverage that into a big Hollywood movie. About Kermit going to Hollywood to make a movie and become famous. That sort of self-referential gag runs through this movie the entire time. It’s great. No knowledge of the tv show or the Muppets in general are needed to understand anything in this movie. While I am sure that having knowledge of the tv show would make this a stronger movie, a lack of knowledge doesn’t make it weaker (if you can follow that). This is an Origins story and as such each main Muppet character is introduced with their various quirks and personality traits on full display.

The gist of the movie is that Kermit is going to Hollywood to audition for a movie and along the way picks up a disparate crew of other Muppets and they all believe in themselves and sing and dance their way across the country. At the same time Doc Hopper, a fast food franchise owner, wants Kermit to do the commercials for his Frog Legs chain of restaurants. He’s chasing down Kermit and that ends with in a western style showdown in a deserted ghost town. Then the Muppets make it to Hollywood and get Orson Welles to give them “the standard Rich and Famous” contract. All this takes place AS a movie within the movie, with the muppets watching its debut in a private theatre. It is just genius. There is singing, there is muppet dancing, there are cameos from a lot of A-List actors, many of whom I have no idea who they are now, and there is a lot of feel good fun the entire time.

The movie opens with the 2 Grumpy Old Men (Statler and Waldorf) driving into the debut and making wisecracks about how bad it is going to be. It perfectly set the humorous tone for the movie. The movie ends with all the muppets hanging around the theatre and talking while the credits roll. It was like watching an after movie party of stars. From beginning to end, this felt consistent.

I found myself bobbing my head and singing along to the various songs. I was laughing and grinning the entire time as well. This was just a Good Time Movie that kids, adults and even fractious grumps could enjoy. I am quite happy that I bought this and plan on watching it again (although not writing about it). I can see this becoming a Happy Background Movie for me.

I would call this a complete success!

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992 Movie)

I reviewed the story/book A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens back in ’13 and it is the basis for this movie. If you don’t know the basic premise of the story, please go read that or look it up on Wikipedia. This review will assume that the reader knows the basic plot to ACC.

First off, besides the Muppets, Michael Caine has the starring role as Ebenezer Scrooge. If a movie has Michael Caine in it, you know it’s going to be a good movie. While fringe nut job yobs might try to present evidence to the contrary, I simply ask my readers, who are you going to trust? Me, or some fringe nut job yob?
Michael Caine = you know you are getting a good movie.

On to the slightly more serious.

The singing. Muppets movies always have singing, whether the audience wants it or not. I’ve resigned myself to this fact and tried to not let it unduly influence me. Of course, just because Michael Caine is a good actor doesn’t mean he’s a good singer. He does take part in one song and I have to admit, he’s not terrible but I think things might have had a bit more glitz if they’d dubbed him over with Michael Jackson, who was still arguably the Prince of Pop in ’92. The message conveyed by the songs are as trite and shallow as you’d expect from a Disney production but really, if you read Dickens’ book, he’s not really that much deeper.
Oh yes, the Missing Song. In the theatres, there is an extra song that was subsequently cut out from all dvd/bluray releases. I personally didn’t miss it but if you’re a completionist, it is supposed to be included in the next “upgrade” to this movie. 4K I believe. Simply one more way for Disney to bend you over and make you think you like it. The picture below shows the type of propaganda Disney promulgates.

On to the good stuff.

If you are a fan of the Muppets and their zaniness, then this is a no-brainer to watch, even if Dickens isn’t your cup of tea. Between Fozziwig (a cute play on Fozzi’s name being used for that character) and his Rubber Chicken Factory to Gonzo playing Charles Dickens (and being distracted by every chicken that walks by) to Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy playing Bob & Mrs Cratchett, you get your fill. While a knowledge of the Muppets isn’t essential, knowing them as The Muppets gives an added dimension to the fun. An example would the single scene where Sam the Eagle is sending a young Scrooge off to his first place of business as an apprentice and rhapsodizes about the the beauty of business. Sam ends it with “…and that is the American Way!”. Gonzo whispers in his ear and Sam immediately says “…and that is the British Way!”. Which is really funny if you know that Sam is the proto-American Super Patriot as a Muppet.

The story proceeds at a rapid pace and almost feels like Scrooge changes for the sake of changing. However, this is in keeping with the original book and shouldn’t surprise anyone. Throw in that this movie was made for a juvenile audience and the pacing is perfectly in line with what out of touch Hollywood Directors think is appropriate for your child. Just don’t expect a deeply thoughtful, insightful and deeply philosophical movie and you should be just fine. You’re in this for the singing, dancing and laughs.

This gets a big fat thumbs up from me.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004 Anime)

Howl’s Moving Castle, besides being an Excellent Middle Grade book, is also a fantastic anime movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Here’s the wiki:

Howl’s Moving Castle Anime Wiki.

I thought about trying to do some sort of scary movie for October’s movie selection, but considering that I don’t LIKE scary movies, nor gratuitous sex and violence, that really seemed to clear the playing field. Throw in that some of the movies I might have considered not being available on Prime and well, I decided to go for something that I knew I would enjoy.

Comparing this to the book, you could say both the book and the movie are animals and as such they are the same. But I’d go with saying one is a cat while the other is a dog. Both have four legs, a head, a tail, are animals and have fur. They are extremely similar. But as anyone who has ever met a cat and a dog knows, they are NOT the same, not even close. And thus it is with this.

Both the book and the anime have a character named Howl, one named Sophie, a fire demon named Calcifer and even a Wicked Witch of the Waste. But at it’s heart, the anime is an anti-war film. Miyazaki makes no bones about that with this film nor is he subtle, unfortunately. I say unfortunately, because it is really heavy handed and honestly, I found myself being distracted from the story and the beautiful art work. I hadn’t noticed it so much in earlier viewings as I was trying to pay attention to the story but this time around I just couldn’t ignore it.

The artwork is gorgeous and stands right up there with some of Studio Ghibli’s other films. Sophie’s curse wasn’t as constant as it was in the book and it was neat to see her get older or younger depending on how things were going. It was deftly done.

Just like in the book though, there is no real “enemy”. Howl redeems himself from his cowardice, the Witch of the Waste gives up Howl’s heart to save him, Madam Suliman stops the war. Miyazaki is a firm believer in the innate goodness of people and that shows quite brightly through his characters. Here’s a picture of some of the main characters, including young and old Sophie:

Mrs B did watch this with me, as it is one of the few movies we own that we’ll both watch. She enjoyed it as well as I. I almost forgot, Miyazaki’s love of black gloopy “stuff” is here in spades. Not quite as intense as in Princess Mononoke nor as scary as in Spirited Away but definitely menacing nonetheless.

We own this on dvd and it is one I’d consider upgrading to bluray for. So this film gets a thumbs up from both of us.

Voices of a Distant Star (2002 Anime Movie)


Well, this was a gamble. I knew that completely going in to this re-watch.

The story, all 25minutes of it, revolves around a teen girl and boy who are separated, as the girl makes it into the UN Army to fight the aliens and the boy washes out. She becomes a fighter pilot in a matter of months(? time isn’t real clear here) and then the fleet gives chase to the aliens. She can only contact her boy love through text messages and the further she gets from Earth, the longer they take to get to him. Eventually, she is far enough away that it takes 8 years for her message to get to him and she is fighting the aliens. She survives and the movie ends with the boy, now a man and the girl, connecting with each other about one thought, that they love each other.

I am literally watching my memories from my 20’s melt away into a hormone laden and angst ridden reality. Ugh. I can see why this appealed to me 15 or more years ago. LOVE overcoming even time and space, Destiny and Fate bowing down to the power of two people with the will to overcome anything standing between them.

This time around? I noticed that the girl is still wearing her school uniform, while fighting in probably one of the world’s most advanced space fighters. She abandons her mission to rescue her cell phone, as apparently communication with Earth doesn’t exist on the carrier ships. But my goodness, her cell phone must have GREAT coverage. I’d hate to get that bill though. After this, I didn’t bother to watch Place Promised in Our Early Days for fear I’d have the same reaction. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

At the same time, I am grateful to have seen this again as it really held up a mirror for me about what I was back then. I have changed, matured, become more a man. I have grown up. I just didn’t know what growing up meant. Now that I have, I am grateful I didn’t know. I’m not sure I could have handled it then. Now? I just have to remember not to be too hard on younger people who are now just like me back then. For they too will one day turn into curmudgeonly grumps and make the world a grumpier place.

This reminds me of an incident from my Bibleschool days. One of our professors was talking about finding an old journal he’d written back when he was in his 20’s. He related that he had re-read it and then razor bladed the thing so it would never see the light of day. My first thought back then was “Then how are you going to remember what it was like to be in your 20’s?” As the years have gone by I begin to understand why the professor did what he did but I’ve also come to realize that my question has even more relevance now. If I can’t remember, or won’t remember, then I am cutting off communications, pre-emptively, with entire generations of people. If I want to reach them, I must go to their level and draw them up, not demand that they come up to my level before I’ll communicate with them. I have to show that I am not the center of the universe, as an example for them to learn that they are not the center of the universe.

All of that sprang from re-watching this anime. I might forget most of this, but remembering that I’m the adult now? That will stick with me. Sometimes I begin to grasp that I’ll never be fully “grown up” in this world. Thank God for the next life.

Oh, the music was hauntingly beautiful. Here’s the youtube link to the ending song that carries most of the movie on it’s shoulders:

So a conditional thumbs up. It was a good movie for a very specific audience.

I am zero idea what I’ll watch next month. I am leaning towards something non-anime though. I’ve got so many movies that I have never watched since I bought the dvd. Thankfully, that rarely happens anymore. Self-control and all that tommy-rot ๐Ÿ˜‰

Spriggan (1998 Anime Movie)

spriggan Spriggan was released in 1998 but didn’t make its way over to the US until around 2002. Ahhh, the good old days of anime when fans actually had to wait for things. Ughhh, they really weren’t good old days!

This is Rated R for Violence and it earns it. Gutting knives, guns (little and very big), missile launchers, even psychic compression, the blood is everywhere. Not for the faint of heart.

Spriggan is a pure action movie about an organization called ARCAM that recovers and protects super artifacts found throughout the world. This movie deals with Noah’s Ark. It turns out Noah’s Ark is an alien artifact that can not only control our climate and weather, but also create life to fit whatever climate it creates.  Rogue elements of the US military, using insane cyborgs and led by a child Colonel with psychic abilities, take over the ark. Only 2 Spriggan’s (super special agents of ARCAM) are on hand to stop this.  Yu and Jean (Japan’s top Spriggan and France’s top Spriggan) will do their best, but against the might of the United States Machine Corp (how clever, the USMC, ha!)  and Colonel MacDougall, can they stop him from remaking the world and becoming its new god?

Duh. Of course! Bodies will fall like wheat, hands severed, necks broken, yes, a veritable river of blood will follow the 2 Spriggans as they put a stop to the insane MacDougall.

Jean and Yu, pictured above, are the 2 main protagonists but Yu is the main character. What I did like was that Yu was distinctly japanese while Jean was about as french as you could get. But they were both ARCAM at heart, almost like it was their home country.

Colonel MacDougall, on the other hand, well, he was just a nutjob. When I bought this dvd and watched it, I hadn’t read Akira yet, so it wasn’t until this viewing that I realized how much influence the Akira movie/manga had on this movie. MacDougall is an oldkid with psychic abilities that age him the more he uses them. I then found out that the creator of Akira was involved in this, so I was no longer surprised.

The ark, pictured above, was supposed to shock everyone with how the creators turned what the Bible said about it to the movie’s reality. The reality was that it was no different than the Arc from Indiana Jones spitting out ghosts and melting Nazi’s. They took an idea and then just did what they wanted with it.

There was an 11 book manga series in Japan that this anime was based on. It turns out that only 3 volumes were ever translated here in the US. What a shame, as this seems like something I could really enjoy. I contemplated torrenting the japanese versions just to see the stories in pictures, but even those I wasn’t able to find. Probably just as well, as a story needs words as well as pictures.

Overall, I enjoyed this quite a bit, again. I think this is my 6th or 7th time watching it? There has been no official release on bluray in the American market so I guess I’m stuck with my dvd. Somehow, โ™ชI will Survive!โ™ช

Next month, still sticking with the anime theme but going in a very different direction. I’ll either be watching The Place Promised in Our Early Days (a 90minute movie) or Voices from a Distant Star (a 25minute “movie”). Both have the same director/creator and have the same tone and both are stories of a connection between 2 people couched in an SF setting. Let me know if either looks more interesting.

Record of Lodoss War OVA (1990 Anime)

lodosswarFor those who don’t know, OVA stand for Original Video Animation. It is shorthand for “not quite a full length series” and may consist of either 13 episodes (just like the Tenchi OVA) or 2-5 episodes that are longer in length. 

The Lodoss OVA follows the adventures of Parn, Deedlit, Etoh, Slayne, Ghim and Woodchuck. The first couple of episodes deal with them trying to stop Emperor Beld from conquering Lodoss. Once that is accomplished they must next rescue Deedlit, who has been kidnapped by the wizard Wagnard. Deedlit is a High Elf and has eternal life. Wagnard wants to use said life to resurrect and control a slain dark goddess of destruction. Former allies of Beld help the group. In the end Deedlit and Parn ride off into the sunset to have more adventures and to create their own legend.

Much like the manga, I came away from this viewing realizing that I had gone past it. I was now the master and the anime was the student.

It also didn’t help one bit that the anime episodes weren’t linear for the first several and we’re bounced around a lot, trying to figure out WHEN we are. It isn’t until the 4th episode that things settle down. I remember it confusing me when I first watched it and it still confused me this time around.

Also just like in the manga, the romance between Deedlit and Parn is understated way more than I had remembered. Turns out that every “romantic” bit was in the opening and closing songs. I did a Music Monday post for those last week but didn’t want to talk about them until I was writing about the anime itself. The songs are sickeningly saccharine sweet. Yet even now they make me go “Yes, that is what I want”. Weird huh? They appear to be from Deedlit’s view and talk about wanting to be loved and cherished. As a man, wanting to encompass, protect and love slots right into that. To a 20’s something single guy with a broken heart, it was the Song of the Siren, ie, irresistible.

I watched this with the english dub and it was pretty bad. There was a reason a lot of early anime viewers preferred to watch stuff sub-titled.

Once I had watched this OVA back in the day, I went on to buy the Chronicles of the Heroic Knight series, the Legend of Crystania movie (it deals with Ashram and Pirotess, badguys turned good from Lodoss) and Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring OVA. I don’t remember much, but considering I thought the Lodoss OVA was the cream of the crop, I think I’m going to pass on watching them again. I also ended up buying 2 cloth wall scrolls and several of the OST’s (original sound tracks).

Now that I’ve watched 4 different seasons of various anime this month, I am left wondering, what do I do with the stuff I don’t care for any more? Most anime is a younger person’s game and I doubt the stuff I own that I don’t want would appeal to a younger group of people. It would appear that my options are either to try to sell them dirt cheap on Craigslist or to donate them to the library. This is why I am collecting less and less “stuff” the older I get.