Thursday, November 3, 2011

Please Don't Stop the Music

When The Muppet Show began, it was chiefly used as a vehicle for gags.  Each sketch was self-contained and the characters backstage would only engage in one-liners and recurring jokes.  After the first season, each episode took on more story arcs.  It kept the songs and sketches, but characters were allowed to grow and develop.  Personalities evolved as the show became a place to see your favorite Muppets go about their daily lives.

Because of this, there is a minor tonal shift between the first season and the following ones.  Certain segments of the show were dropped to allow for more depth.  Most of these were Laugh-In inspired bits like the "At the Dance" sequences (a bunch of unrelated jokes), the talking houses (who only delivered house-related puns), and "Talk Spots" (small moments were the guest star would just joke around with a Muppet).  These moments were not missed, as everyone still got adequate screentime.

That is, except for two characters who were lost in the change, and they deserve some recognition.

The most high-brow Muppet duo-act ever conceived.

Wayne (Richard Hunt) and Wanda (Eren Ozker) were brought onto the show to bring a sense of culture to the program.  They were "wholesome, uplifting, and decent," as described by show censor Sam the Eagle.  They were the only act he encouraged in this crazy program of misfits and wackos.  Inoffensive and great for the whole family!

Sounds boring, right?

Well, fortunately, their acts rarely lasted over 40 seconds.  They would set out to perform a darling musical duet, before tragedy would inevitably strike.

Each performance would be cut short through some unintentional set mishap, relieving the audience of artistic ennui.  But were these accidents accidental?  It seems as though some god of entertainment was out to get them, stopping them in their tracks before they could besmirch his name.

Nothing could protect these two.  Their only purpose on the show was to fail.  They only meant well and certainly did not deserve these celestial insults.

Of course, once we got the main joke, it was a struggle to come up with new ways to repeat it.  As soon as their segments began, it was just a matter of waiting for the punchline.  Their acts became shorter and shorter to keep the audience on their toes.  But finally, it came to be too redundant.  As the show entered its second season, Eren Ozker left as a performer and writer Jerry Juhl took the helm, deciding to focus on character growth.  They just had to go.  Their last duet was unexpectedly their last duet ever.

However, they did eventually get their proper sendoff.  In a fourth season episode, characters from Kermit's past were reintroduced to celebrate his birthday.  It was revealed that he had fired them and they have been living a horrid life of unemployment and squalor.  But he gives them another chance and hires them back (only to realize why he fired them in the first place).

Sadly, the final interruption to their comeback number was Kermit himself.  It was not an accident or strange coincidence.

This time it was intentional.

Perhaps, they were better off forgotten.  Hopefully one day, they can make it to the end of a verse.

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