Relevance of the Muppets
The Muppets franchise has been around for a long time and remains surprisingly relevant despite originally appearing in 1976. And with a series that aired in 2015, it is nice to know that a group of characters from a majority of childhoods can still integrate the pop culture that was most favorable during different time periods and make a show that different people can watch.
That was especially the case with Muppets Tonight. Airing in 1996 as a continuation of The Muppet Show, it was the Muppets' first attempt to make a show based on 21st-century sensibilities. And with those sensibilities came a few changes compared to the aesthetic of The Muppet Show. Some changes included:
- Having Muppets Tonight take place in a TV studio rather than a vaudeville theater from The Muppet Show.
- Changing the host of Muppets Tonight to someone who talked in a more modern manner compared to Kermit the Frog. Enter Clifford.
- Having all of the intermissions take place in the room where the master control was placed or within random areas of the building where Muppets Tonight was in.
- Introducing celebrities that the viewer from 1996 and beyond could recognize. And put the Muppets in situations that The Muppet Show never introduced.
Speaking of celebrities, Muppets Tonight had some interesting guests on the show. Some of the guests had plots that involved them trying to do something different in regard to their careers. Some celebrities introduced hilarious romantic subplots within an episode. Other celebrity guests had their own adventures with the Muppets that introduced all kinds of slapstick. Point was that Muppets Tonight had a more slapstick angle compared to The Muppet Show, and that made it worth watching.
Garth Brooks is a country singer. And in the episode where he was a guest on Muppets Tonight, this meant making an introductory skit where Clifford and Rizzo the Rat were getting characters that matched the country music genre to be on the same stage as Brooks. Of course, once Brooks made his appearance, he introduced the main subplot of Muppets Tonight: an attempt to do something different rather than country music. Like doing the Mambo.
Some skits after the opening included:
- Garth Brooks in the Shakespearean play Romeo and Juliet. Brooks was Romeo. Miss Piggy was Juliet. Or rather, Brooks made the skit be Romeo and Juliet. And everything goes wrong almost immediately. And all of the shenanigans ended with Miss Piggy falling off a balcony.
- Cue Statler and Waldorf making fun of Shakespeare's sister and the performance of the skit.
- A scary skit where a scary veterinarian told the story of the turkey who loved Thanksgiving.
Some other skits were:
- A game show where a contestant had to answer one answer correct or else a cute puppy would be eaten by Carl the Big, Mean Bunny. The puppy always ends up getting eaten.
- An intermission where Kermit the Frog told Clifford that Garth Brooks would actually sing a song. Although Brooks singing Tom Jones's "It's Not Unusual" was probably not the song Clifford was expecting. And to make things worse, the Head of the Network Muppets Tonight was stationed was not happy about Brooks's aversion to country music.
- A skit where an incredibly rich and fat pig was so fat that he needed to call someone to get him out of his chair. This skit ended with two people exploding and the fat pig still stuck in his chair.
- The implication of Brooks doing Kabuki Theater.
- A skit called "Pigs in Space." Basically, this was a skit where characters who were angry at not appearing in a song with Brooks got to appear in a skit. Naturally, everything went off the rails fairly quickly. Also featured a cameo by Leonard Nimoy.
In this final part of the episode, Brooks eventually does do some country music. But not before:
- Brooks performed "If I Were a Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof. Only with a lot of chicken kicking. And some Statler and Waldorf joking.
- Fortunately, this episode did end with Brooks singing an actual country song.
In the Muppets franchise, the most well-known romantic pairing was Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. That does not mean that other Muppets could not pursue romance, though. Like in the episode with model Cindy Crawford. Here one of the characters introduced in Muppets Tonight, Bobo the Bear, fell in love with Crawford upon seeing her.
Skits and intermissions in this episode included:
- A theatrical number sung by Scottish mice. With dancing cheeses becoming fondue.
- A POV skit where the viewer was a Muppet going into a bar. Included Muppets from the movie Muppet Treasure Island. As shown in Muppet Treasure Island: Musical Pirates, the Muppets used in this skit were the villains in the movie, here they were just regular workers at a restaurant. Although one of them did accidentally knock the viewer out with a cricket bat. Then the talking lobster. Then himself.
- A parody of The Mickey Mouse Club. Turns out Crawford used to be a member of The Kermit the Frog Club. And apparently, she had dreams of being a model even as a child. And had most of her life planned out.
As a continuation of the Bobo the Bear romantic subplot:
- Bobo got to do a 60's Retro Montage Fantasy. Which involved Bobo singing the song I'm a Believer by The Monkees. Cameo of The Monkees member Micky Dolenz included. This resulted in Bobo deciding to find Cindy and declare his eternal love for her.
- Of course, doing natural bear mating calls apparently did not work. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Rizzo the Rat offered to help. After being punched into a wall.Of course, trying to help Bobo via a headset did not work. At all. Especially with the innuendos.
Fortunately, Cindy actually did return Bobo's feelings. Through the bear moans.
Some celebrities on Muppets Tonight introduced new ways for the Muppets to format their skits. In the case of the episode with guest-star Sandra Bullock, it was not immediately having the guest-star interacting with the Muppets. The opening had Clifford lose the chance of getting 14 million dollars. Which, in hindsight, would have helped during the 2011 movie The Muppets.
As for the content after the opening, some skits included:
- A butterfly collector catching a butterfly that came out of Clifford's shirt to add to his collection. And then a monster caught the butterfly catcher to add to his collection.
- Sandra Bullock making an appearance. And she was nervous about making a good first impression. Luckily, the skit where she got slapped by a group of Muppets seemed to get a few laughs from Clifford.
- Some transitions also involved a shadowy Muppet calling in a bomb threat on the Muppets Tonight studio. Bobo the Bear was indifferent. Clifford was skeptical, but was a lot more aware of the danger. Especially since one of the requirements to keep Muppets Tonight safe was to keep the ratings above 50.
After the bomb threat, some of the skits included:
- The fat, rich pig attempting to control his issues with eating. Through hypnosis. Which actually resulted in a thin version of the fat, rich pig appearing. And wanting to eat as much as the person he came from.
As a way to get the rating above 50 for Muppets Tonight, some of the skits used to prevent the bomb from going off were:
- Two Muppets banging their heads on anvils, all to the tune of The Anvil Chorus. Eventually, even Sandra Bullock got in on the action.
- A Wall Street segment transitioning into a dancing scene with a an attractive Muppet.
- A blending of the Muppet cartoon Muppet Babies and Seinfeld.
- Anthropomorphic potatoes rocking out. Then turning into mashed potatoes.
Near the end of this episode another batch of skits included:
- A polka singing yak and his polka-dots. This skit was not liked.
- A Muppet lounge singer. Singing about a shark. While a shark tried to eat him. Immediately followed by a Muppet blowing bubbles out of his head. Eventually all of these acts crashed into each other.
- Two of the newer cast members inserting an adult joke that nobody in the audience got
Eventually the identity of the bomber was revealed to be Sandra Bullock. But there was no real bomb. Sandra just wanted to do something so that she could be a part of the cast again.