Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Big five: Lesser-known Muppet Show Muppets

Today, while trolling through our tracking information, David and I realized that, for some reason, the word that brings people here the third-most often (after "the" and "studio") was "muppet." A quick search showed us that we had mentioned the Muppets in passing twice, but never as the subject of a post.

So this post is for those of you who have been looking for some hardcore Muppet content and have been sadly denied in the past.

By the by, I decided to go with Muppets who weren't on the varsity roster. While all of the Muppets are popular to some degree, I have defined the "varsity roster" as every Muppet who later became a regular as a Muppet Baby (this means that, sadly, we had to leave out Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Animal, Scooter, Rowlf and Skeeter, who wasn't even a Muppet Show Muppet to begin with -- we didn't leave out Muppets who made "guest appearances" on Muppet Babies, such as Dr. Bunsen Honeydew -- well, we DID leave HIM out, but you'll see why in a moment).

Also, the Swedish Chef has been disqualified because, honestly, who doesn't love the Swedish Chef? That makes him varsity in my eyes.

So now then. . .

5.) Lew Zealand, boomerang fish thrower -- One of the best things about The Muppet Show was the way it made fun of the hilariously strange acts at the bottom of vaudeville bills -- once you got past the George M. Cohens of the day, you had to put up with bearded ladies and the like. Lew Zealand was a nice shot at these types of acts, and while he was a one joke character, the joke was just bizarre enough to be funny the many times he was brought out. I mean, honestly, the man threw fish!

4.) Beaker, helpful lab assistant -- Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, of course, was the Muppet staff's gentle mocking of those "science of tomorrow!" types that clogged the airwaves (and science fiction films) in the 1950s. Of course he had to have a helpful lab assistant, and that job fell to the monosyllabic Beaker, a character who managed to say as much through the word "Meep!" as many of the others did through whole monologues. Beaker usually started out frantic and got more frantic as the time went by. While he was probably a character created solely to entertain the kids, he was one of the better ones, and his role as Bunsen's assistant gave him ample screen time.

3.) Doglion Beast, friendly monster -- When I was a wee lad, I loved the Muppets, but I was also slightly terrified by them (the famous Gorilla Detector sketch was traumatizing). I had a Muppets coloring book which featured the characters faces staring up from the page. I went through and systematically colored out all of their eyes. For some reason, though, the big goofy monsters on the show didn't scare me. I think it's because they were played as big, dumb louts or as essentially friendly beasts that just wanted to be a part of the Muppet Show proper. And look at that face -- doesn't he look like Sully from Monsters Inc.?

2.) Sam the Eagle, patriot -- I recently read an article that was deeply concerned with why the people of my generation tended to not be as concerned with "traditional American values" as those of generations past -- why, in essence, we were more likely to support gay marriage, loosened obscenity laws, adult content on TV, etc. Now, of course, a lot of this has to do with just being young (you tend to get more conservative as you age), but I like to think that Jim Henson, that incorrigible liberal, got all of us to mistrust traditional American values with his hyper-patriot, Sam the Eagle, who was always worked up about the decency of some bit of the show (that usually wasn't the least bit indecent). Sam is probably the only Muppet one could imagine as a Cabinet member. After all, who else will think of the children?

1.) Marvin Suggs, player of little fuzzy ball things -- I mean, look at him! That's just NUTS!

Just missed the list: Harry, the guy who blew everything up; Statler & Waldorf (was unclear if they were varsity or not -- I would say they are); Dr. Julius Strangepork of "PIGS IN SPACE"

Okay. I give. Enjoy this. The Swedish Chef prepares Chocolate Moose

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