Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Muppets Take Manhattan, Part 4: Just Forget It

It's Mail Time again!  Now we finally get to see what Rowlf and Gonzo have been up to all this time.  I don't know why these segments weren't included in the first round of letters.  I guess they didn't want to mess with the flow of randomness.

Gonzo is doing crazy stunts at some carnival, of course.  His routine involves him water-skiing up a ramp, through a hoop of fire, and into an imitation-leather reclining chair while his chickens squawk the William Tell Overture, of course.

I'll give you one guess how this turns out.

At least the chickens are wearing life jackets.

Rowlf has found a job at a kennel, and we observe an obnoxious customer check-in his prim and pampered pooch Snookums.  He treats Rowlf like a dog and is just generally disagreeable and annoying.  And this scene goes on forever because it's "funny."


Kermit has one more letter and, lo and behold, it's actually something that moves the plot along!  We are finally back to the story!  It only took us 45 min!  A big shot producer named Bernard Crawford has somehow come across Kermit's script and has taken an interest producing it (for some reason).  So Kermit heads on down to his office and meets Mr. Crawford, who seems to be a little young to be a big-shot producer.

But he's got a bow-tie, so he must be legit.

It turns out that this man is actually Bernard's son Ronnie, who currently works as the errand-boy for the production company.  Apparently, his father has told him that he would give him the support to fund one show since he also wants to be a producer.  So, after what must have been an intense process, Ronnie has settled on Kermit's show.  Ronnie tells the good news to his father (played by Art Carney) and Mr. Crawford reluctantly agrees to fund the show, despite his reservations that dancing and singing animals are out of style.  The condition is that they must complete the show in two weeks, since that is the only time he has to add another project to his plate.

He was going to originally use those two weeks to fix the elevator, but that'll have to wait.

Kermit excitedly calls the restaurant, putting Jenny in charge of costumes and Piggy in charge of rounding up the rest of the gang.  And then he steps out into oncoming traffic and gets hit by a taxi!  That night, Piggy awaits Kermit's return, but he never shows up.  Pete tries to reassure Piggy, telling her Kermit will show up because "Peoples is peoples," but it doesn't help.  Ronnie shows up to explain the details and the two-week time limit.  While the group goes out to search for Kermit, Pete pens the message to all of the other Muppets, telling them "Peoples is peoples."

And what about Kermit.  Well, he has amnesia.  Really, movie?  Now you decide to give us a plot?!

You have amnesia, so for the next 5 min, I'm going to squish your limbs and face like a plush toy.  Seriously.

*Sigh* Okay, so now, Kermit has amnesia.  The doctor suggests he go out and start a new life because THAT'S TOTALLY WHAT YOU DO WITH YOUR AMNESIA PATIENTS.  So Ragtime Kermit heads to Madison Ave to get a job.

This would have been a good plan before he got amnesia.

He stumbles into a frog-based advertising agency filled with Muppeteers doing their best Kermit voices.  The frogs, Gil, Bill, and Jill hope that Kermit (or Phil, as he now calls himself) can help them determine a good slogan for their brand of Ocean Breeze soap.

The Muppets Take Manhattan: Singing, dancing, and office work!

After they tell him what they have so far, ("For People Who Don't Want to Stink" and "It's Just Like Taking an Ocean Cruise, Except There's No Boat and You Don't Go Anywhere" which I think are fantastic slogans) Kermit/Phil suggests the straightforward "Ocean Breeze Will Get You Clean."  The frogs love it and soon, Kermit/Phil is hired!

Then they all got matching versions of Kermit's outfit and started a barbershop quartet.

Oh no!  The musical is finally going to be produced and it goes up in two weeks!  And instead of being fun and artistic, Kermit is stuck in a bland, boring, non-creative ad firm!  How is he going to get out of this one?

Tune in tomorrow, for the epic musical finale that the movie has been building towards(?) all this time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Muppets Take Manhattan, Part 3: Anything Goes

There is something weird that happens when reviewing a movie like The Muppets Take Manhattan one fifth at a time.  It really shows you how disjointed the plot is.  I have seen this movie a few times before, and if I were to summarize it in a paragraph, absolutely none of the following scenes would be mentioned.  It's not that they aren't entertaining.  It's just that the things that are important to the story have been pushed to the beginning and ending edges.  While watching this film, one gets the feeling that the Muppet staff had a book full of ideas that they wanted to see the Muppets do, and now that there was no longer a show, those ideas would have to go into the movie.

So here are some hypothetical excerpts from this fictional Muppets Take Manhattan Idea Journal:

Idea #276:  3-D movies are all the rage now.  (Possible Lew Zealand Cameo?)

Kermit's first letter is from Scooter, who has found a job at a movie theater as an usher.  First we get to see Swedish Chef working the concession stand, which goes exactly as you expect it would.

Then we have an appearance by Lew Zealand, a one-note character whose whole schtick is that he only has one joke: boomerang fish.  So, of course, he loves the 3-D movie about killer fish because it allows him to "interact" with the movie.  Yeah, it's a lame set up for an even lamer joke, but that's who Lew Zealand is.

Apparently, this scene is so iconic that you can get your very own "Usher Scooter" action figure!

"My favorite Muppet action figure is Usher Scooter."

Idea #328:  What if Fozzie met a real bear?

In Fozzie's letter, Fozzie, unable to find work, decides to give hibernating a try.  He finds himself in a den filled with realistic-looking Muppet bears, which presents a very odd contrast with the cartoonish Fozzie.  Unfortunately, Fozzie can't sleep.  Womp, womp.

 That's not a bear.  Bears wear hats.

Idea #12: What if the Electric Mayhem had to play polka music?

I miss the Happiness Hotel.

Idea #56: Okay, so Kermit has to pretend to be a big shot producer in order to start some buzz about his Broadway play. And, like, he goes into a fancy restaurant in disguise. It's one of those restaurants where they have pictures of all the famous people who've ever eaten there on the wall. And Kermit replaces his picture with another celebrity (TBD, check our Muppet Show guest roster). And then that celebrity actually shows up and Kermit gets kicked out! Also, rats.

At least this disguise is more tolerable than his "boffo" agent.

So yeah, Kermit decides to start a "whispering campaign" having all the rats hide under the tables of patrons in order to subliminal work Kermit's play into their conversations. And the rats reveal themselves and everyone gets kicked out, making for another funny, yet pointless scene.

Oh, and they chose Liza Minnelli.

Idea #1237:  In our last movie, we had Miss Piggy ride a motorcycle.  How can we top that?

In yet another day of spying on Kermit and Jenny, Piggy's purse gets stolen and since her little puppet legs can only take her so far, she has to borrow some roller skates.  Time for an action sequence!

The skating scene I could do without, but the confrontation at the end between Kermit and Piggy with Gregory Hines acting as the supportive mediator is probably the funniest scene in the whole film.

"You didn't say there were huggies!"

Idea #1:  What if the Muppets were BABIES?!

Okay, so this song/scene has no bearing on the movie whatsoever, but it is so iconic and important to the franchise that it's worth making a whole movie just for this moment.  Basically, Piggy imagines the premise of Muppet Babies and it is adorable.

The fantastic song that spawned a regrettable genre: famous characters as babies.

We already know why this song is great, so instead check out this weird promotional music video version of the song that aired on The Merv Griffin Show.  It features homages to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Flashdance, and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" music video, with a live action pig and frog to boot.  And Jim Henson also has a cameo as...I don't even know.

I don't know what all that extra stuff has to do with babies or love.  Seeing the pig and frog was interesting, but it kind of stepped on the whole premise of the scene, especially since the scene does just fine on it's own.  Maybe that was another idea from the big journal of ideas and they couldn't fit it into the film. (Idea #15,029: The Muppets as actual live-action animals!!!!).  In any case, the actual moment in the movie is great.  And it's the last "random" thing to occur in the film.

Yayayayay!  Bye babies, see you on CBS!

Tomorrow, we finally get back to the story, as Kermit makes significant leaps forward and loses his mind.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Muppets Take Manhattan, Part 2: Drifting Aimlessly

It is time for the Muppets to split up with "Saying Goodbye."  "Together Again" was a delightful romp, but this is the first song of the movie that captures a feeling in that Muppety way, making for an emotional number.

Piggy leaves by train, others by bus, and pretty soon, the gang has scattered to the wind, unsure of whether they will ever see each other again.  Many graduates have gone through this scenario, spending years of their lives bonding with an inseparable group and then finding that there comes a day where life steps in and rips them apart.

And they just become faint memories.

Kermit, always the dreamer, stays behind and wanders around the overwhelming city.  During a powerful, introspective moment, he travels to the top of the Empire State Building at night and yells at the monstrous city, resolving that he will not be beaten.  It's genuine and riveting.

This is just a regular picture of New York at night, but this it's still breathtaking.

Then we cut to the street below where we see Piggy hearing Kermit's oath and this is where the movie begins to fall apart for a while.

Kermit returns to Pete's Luncheonette to get a job, just as Rizzo is demanding a bigger staff since he is overworked.  You would think that Kermit would be hired as simple as that, but no, Rizzo has to round up a bunch of one-dimensional rat friends to work at the restaurant first.  Pete is not pleased about the idea but he eventually relents and lets that rats work there.

"Rats is rats."

Now you may be thinking, "Oh no, Kermit will have to find a job elsewhere!" But Jenny convinces Pete to hire Kermit as a dishwasher anyway.  So, what was the point of all the rats?  We'll get to that later.  Right now, Kermit has to plan how to get his show produced and his first step is to use Jenny's costuming talents to disguise him as a fast-talking agent so he can sneak his way into a production company and get his script to the higher ups.  And the scene is just ridiculous.

Kermit + An Afro = All Sorts of Wrong.

After saying "Boffo" a million times, Kermit leaves and the producer tosses the script right in the trash. So, all of that work for nothing, which is true to life but it's still kind of weird for the movie to focus so much on this scene for it to have absolutely no payoff.

Kermit meets with Jenny in a park to discuss the next step of his plan, and a disguised Piggy watches them grow close from afar, getting insanely jealous.  Her subplot doesn't make much sense either since she has no reason to hide and stalk Kermit.  If she was going to stay in New York, she should have just told Kermit.  If she is not communicating with him at all, then why get upset when another girl swoops in on the single frog?  You're just making things worse for yourself Piggy!

And speaking of Piggy making things worse for herself, her stalking has made her late for her new job with Joan Rivers at a perfume counter.  While angry Piggy does get some funny lines, yelling about how the perfume isn't going to change stupid men at all, the scene is another "things just happen with no effect on the plot" moment.  Joan Rivers, in order to cheer Piggy up starts playfully giving her a makeover with all of the makeup.  They have fun, and the scene as a very improvisational vibe as the two make a mess and laugh themselves silly.  Then Piggy gets fired and another scene is over.

One more cameo down.

Back at Pete's Luncheonette, the customers have been complaining about the rodent waitstaff, so Pete has redistributed them all to the kitchen.  What follows next is a condensed version of Pixar's 2007 classic Ratatouille.

Technologically speaking, this scene is a marvel, seeing all of the rats preparing food in unique ways without the aid of strings.  Jim Henson was very proud of this scene, and he helped stage a lot of it.  What's most amazing was that real butter and pancake batter was used since it provided the best consistency (even when the rat was using butter pads for skating).

I could tell you how they got that one rat to ride an eggbeater like a unicycle, but the magic is better.

It's been 15 minutes and barely nothing has happened to continue the story and that's when Kermit receives a bunch of postcards so we can see what the other Muppet have been doing with their time.  So, we will be taking a break in the action during this extended break in the action.  Okay.  I understand that sometimes in life, nothing happens for long stretches of time, but it seems like they are just stalling at this point.

Tomorrow, more Muppety vignettes and then finally, we'll get back to the story.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Muppets Take Manhattan, Part 1: Welcome to the Real World

1981 saw the premiere of The Great Muppet Caper and the final season of The Muppet Show.  After that, the Muppets practically disappeared for a while.  With Sesame Street, The Dark Crystal, and a new show called Fraggle Rock taking up most of Henson's time, the Muppets found themselves with very little to do.  Finally, in 1984, after an absence of two years, the Muppets returned for one more feature film.  And this time, they were headed to the Big Apple!

Start spreading the news!

Ever since 1970, Henson knew that he wanted to bring the Muppets to Broadway.  The idea of doing a giant, musical, live performance with the Muppets had great appeal to Henson and in 1972 he proposed a show called The Muppets at Lincoln Center.  Since this was pre-Muppet Show, it would have manly consisted of a series of skits with a variety of original puppets.  Although it was approved, television became too demanding.  But, as Jerry Juhl noted, "Every couple of years, when Jim would take a week off, he would come in and say, 'We gotta do that Broadway show.'"  Based on that dream, The Muppets Take Manhattan was born.

The gang is back!

The film opens similar to The Muppet Movie, featuring Kermit singing the opening song, "Together Again."  For audiences at the time, a two-year break from the Muppets was too long, so this song was a way of reuniting the gang and welcoming the audience back into the world of the Muppets.

Each Muppet movie has it's own sort of canon, so here, we soon discover that while the Muppets are as we remember them, The Muppet Show and previous Muppet movies never happened.  Kermit and his friends (Piggy, Gonzo, Scooter, Fozzie, Rowlf, Camilla, and the Electric Mayhem) are graduating college students from the fictional Danhurst College.  They are all into theater and have been performing a show penned by Kermit known as "Manhattan Melodies."  For some reason, this musical revue just drives the entire campus wild and this prompts the gang to consider taking the show to Broadway after they graduate.  Kermit his hesitant at first but decides it's worth it to follow his dream.

The gang immediately travels to New York and shack up in the cheapest living space available, since Kermit naively assures them they will be living large on Broadway the very next day.

Affordable Manhattan housing

The group meets with a producer named Martin Price.  This is scene is a great moment of fantastical Muppet optimism clashing with the harsh realities of life and showbiz.  Kermit describes his show as being about true life in New York City, which he thinks will be full of songs, dancing, and laughter, but the producer assumes he means gritty crimes and murders.  Nonetheless, he bewilderingly finds their show to be a great idea, despite a virtually unknown cast and a lack of shootings.  He agrees to produce their show as long as they fund him $300 each.  That's when it's revealed that Price is actually a con artist who takes money from naive dreamers such as the Muppets.  The police arrest him, with the assistance of a wild Animal.

He's so nimble!

That's when the Muppets realize that their success isn't going to happen overnight.  The spend their entire summer traveling from producer to producer, with no hits.  But, they've got to keep their chin up, since they can't take no for an answer.

Reality bites.

After a few months, Scooter notes that their resources have dwindled and they can only afford to spend two more nights in the city.  The group asks Kermit what they should do next and he cracks, tired of always having to be the leader.  It was foolish of them to go to New York in the first place.  Overwhelmed, the group stops to rest at the nearby Pete's Luncheonette.  As Kermit waits by the counter, Rizzo the Rat appears to take the groups order.  Since Steve Whitmire joined the Muppeteer gang towards the end of The Muppet Show, his then-current signature character Rizzo was given an oddly large role in the film.

Fozzie should probably wash his hands before he eats.

At the counter, Kermit express his woes to the owner Pete, who gives him the sagely advice, "Peoples is peoples."

Since that doesn't help, Kermit then turns to Pete's daughter Jenny, who agrees help Kermit out, since she too has dreams of making it big in New York.

And Kermit would look adorable in that waitress outfit.

Meanwhile, the other Muppets discuss calling it quits on the whole thing, especially since they've been relying on Kermit too much.  They tell Kermit that they have had other job offers and that it's best they part ways.

It's only the beginning and already the Muppets have given up on their dreams!  We are in for a new kind of Muppet movie.

Tomorrow, everyone goes on their own journeys, and Kermit takes on the Big Apple alone.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Don't Panic: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Labyrinth

It's Towel Day, the day where we celebrate the works of the late Douglas Adams, British writer of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, who reminded us that the most important item a space-and-time-travelling hitchhiker can have is his towel.  Adams is one of my favorite authors as I find his writing to be so charming and witty that I enjoy anything he's ever written, even if it's about a topic I don't care about.  He was a very clever writer so I decided to see if he ever crossed paths with Henson and sure enough, the two were mutually fond of each other.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

Adams was actually very good friends with Christopher Cerf, one of the main songwriters for Sesame Street.  It was through Cerf that Adams met Henson and the two eventually began working on a television special involving the Muppets and computers.  Adams was very interested in the world of computers and technology, which is made evident in many of his fictional and non-fictional writings.  The special was called The Muppet Institute of Technology and it aimed to teach viewers about computer literacy.  However, the special never moved beyond the planning stages and was ultimately dropped.

And we never learned how to use computers as a result.

But this wasn't the only work Adams provided for the Henson Company.  Because he enjoyed computers, he also wrote some text-based computer games.  One made in 1984 was based on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and another was an original story called Starship Titanic which was released in 1998.  But in 1986, he was called upon to help write a computer game based on everyone's favorite magic-dancin' fantasy film Labyrinth.

Released by Lucasfilm Games, makers of The Secret of Monkey Island

Rather than play as Sarah, however, you played as a teenager going to see Labyrinth on a date.   Suddenly, Jareth pulls you into the movie and you go through the story, loosely.  The prologue was set up like a regular text-game that Adams was fond of writing.

 Not even popcorn can get your date to stop talking.

The main game would then switch to images and movement, but it kept the "roulette" interface of entering a verb and a noun to make your commands.

And Hoggle is played by Moe from The Simpsons

A particularly Adamsian touch was to include a random word that seemingly does nothing (such as "No tea" found in the inventory of the Hitchhiker's game).  He chose the word "adumbrate" which means "foreshadow" or "overshadow" or "give a faint indication of."  At one point, the player must "adumbrate the elephant" in order to move forward in the game.

This was not the only collaboration between the Henson Company and Adams.  The Jim Henson Creature Shop helped supply numerous characters for the 2005 live-action movie The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Adams died before completion, but he helped write the script.  I don't know if he ever got to see the creatures, though.


The Creature Shop made the repulsive, bureaucratic, Earth-destroying villains the Vogons...

How pleasantly unpleasant.

...the falling whale that is conjured into existence by the Infinite Improbability Drive...

The director thought this was the most impressive visual he had ever seen.

...and everyone's favorite depressed, Alan-Rickman-voiced robot, Marvin the Paranoid Android.

 I could never tell if those were his eyes or his mouth, but he's just so darn cute either way.

The movie received mixed reviews from audiences, critics, and fans of the series alike, but I found it to be an absolutely marvelous movie.  The influence and humor of both Adams and Henson can be felt throughout the film and I think it's a wonderful addition to the collection of fans of either artist.

So, on this Towel Day, do yourself a favor and check out some of Douglas Adams's literary works.  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has appeared in various incarnations (radio show, books, movie, television series, comic books, etc.) so choose one and start appreciating another great visionary.

*      *      *

When I was researching the Labyrinth computer game, I found that there was also a Japanese Nintendo game made for the Famicom that was also based on the movie.  And since I don't see myself finding another excuse to talk about Labyrinth video games, I figured it would be best to mention it here.

This one actually does follow the movie's plot and you play as Sarah in a Legend-of-Zelda inspired world of the Labyrinth.  The game play is virtually identical and you can collect weapons and items from the movie, as well as interact with your favorite characters.  There isn't a health bar but a ticking 13 hour clock that takes away minutes each time you get hit.  But the best part is the music.  While the computer game was nearly silent, this one replicates the film's soundtrack in a glorious 8-bit symphony.  All of your favorite songs are included, giving the player a deeper experience than the comedic computer game.  The game is in Japanese, but some English translations can be found.

 Some are clearly more authentic than others.

Check out the gameplay below, but try not to think about how jealous you are that Japan keeps getting all of these great games that never see international shores.  If I had a copy of the game, I would actually play it and review it in full.  But for now, we have to just watch.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

No One Cares About Scooter

The Muppets who appeared in the most episodes of The Muppet Show are:

1.  Kermit the Frog (120 Episodes) - Jim Henson
2.  Waldorf (120 Episodes) - Jim Henson
3.  Statler (119 Episodes) - Richard Hunt
4.  Fozzie Bear (115 Episodes) - Frank Oz
5.  Scooter (113 Episodes) - Richard Hunt
6.  Miss Piggy (111 Episodes) - Frank Oz
7.  Gonzo (106 Episodes) - Dave Golez
8.  Rowlf the Dog (99 Episodes) - Jim Henson
9.  Janice (84 Episodes) - Richard Hunt
10.  Floyd (82 Episodes) - Jerry Nelson
11.  Animal (79 Episodes) - Frank Oz

After that there is a significant drop-off in appearances, so these eleven can be conisdered the "main characters" of The Muppet Show.  From this list, there is an unofficial group of the "Core Seven" Muppets that often appear together in merchandise and media, which is based on their airtime during the original Muppet Show.  These are Kermit, Fozzie, Piggy, Gonzo, Rowlf, Scooter, and Animal.  This is the group that Muppet Babies focused on and it makes sense why these seven were chosen out of the eleven.  Waldorf and Statler would just provide punchlines and not really a part of the group, and Animal was the most marketable member of the Electric Mayhem.  (If you're confused why Janice ranked the highest of the members, remember that she appeared in all of the Veterinarian's Hospital sketches.)

The reason I am pointing out these statistics is to highlight the prevalence of Scooter within the Muppet Gang.  Quieter and less zany than the rest, Scooter won't find himself winning any popularity contests soon.  It's odd that despite his omnipresence in the show and movies, Scooter has such a small fanbase.

"My favorite Muppet is Scooter!" - No one

A group on the Muppet Central forums had to start an appreciation thread for the guy just to highlight this strange situation the character has found himself in.  Throughout the internet, you can find Scooter appearing on "worst Muppet" lists left and right.  What exactly did Scooter do that so many people have found him displeasing?

I have concluded that there are three main causes.

1.  Scooter started as an antagonist.

In the first couple of seasons of the show, Scooter's main purpose was to remind Kermit that his uncle owned the theater, and therefore, he would often get his way.  He took up a job as a "gofer" but despite  his title, he still basically ran the show.  When his uncle J.P. Grosse did appear and threaten to shut down the theater, Scooter was right on hand to assist in the demolition (after learning that he'd still have a job, of course).

Smashy smashy!

Like Smithers to Burns, Scooter was always on hand to carry out his evil uncle's dirty work, not thinking twice about Kermit or his friends.

The family resemblance is uncanny.

2.  Scooter is boring.

After the Scooter as villain schtick had been played out, Scooter eventually just settled into his job at the theater, becoming an assistant stage manager.  He was always ready to spout exposition and other necessary "backstage" talk to keep the show moving.  The reason his episode count is so high is because from Season 2 to Season 4, he appeared in every episode to introduce the guest with his cry of "15 seconds to curtain!"

The guest introduction became the only thing he was really known for on the show, but it allowed him to do this:

When it came time to produce Muppet Babies, the creators realized that Scooter didn't really have a "thing" that made him unique outside of the Muppet Theater.  So, in Episode 105: "Scooter's Hidden Talent," it was established that Scooter was a computer whiz, and, by default, a nerd.

He would be standing on books, that four-eyes!

3.  Scooter disappeared for over a decade.

After the death of his puppeteer, Richard Hunt, Scooter was momentarily retired, much like Rowlf had been with Henson.  But, as with Rowlf, the producers wanted to keep the character in the lineup.  Scooter would make random background appearances, saying only a line or two at most.  By this point, the Muppets had strayed further away from the Muppet Theater, making Scooter less relevant.  He made a brief appearance in A Very, Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, but the less said about that the better.

Really, this happens in a Muppet movie.

By 2008, when David Rudman adopted the character, Scooter was no longer in the public conscious.  A new generation of Muppet fans had entered and none of them knew who Scooter was.

It's hard to have a fanbase when people don't know you exist.

So, why should we care about Scooter?

Because he was Richard Hunt.

Richard Hunt performing Scooter.

Scooter was a young teenager during The Muppet Show (even though Muppet Babies would imply that he was the same age as the rest of the group).  This made him the youngest main member of the show, just as Richard was.  Richard joined the Muppet family at the age of 18, while Henson, Oz, Golez, and Nelson were much older.  They knew the craft inside and out, but Richard was still wide-eyed and just glad to get into showbiz.

He started as a background puppeteer for Sesame Street.  He didn't have any established characters and was mostly a "right-armer," one who helped control puppets that required more than one puppeteer.  But, while on the set, Richard's youth gave him an energy that none of the older puppeteers shared.  Whenever a guest would come to the set, Richard would grab a puppet and start performing for them, no matter the character.

This is the most intense a puppeteer has ever looked.

His sense of play did not go unnoticed and when The Muppet Show was created, everyone knew Hunt would have a special character just for him.  Scooter, like Hunt, was amazed at the world of show business and would do whatever it took to appear onstage.  He wasn't unpleasant or rude.  He just admired the craft.  Scooters most well-known Muppet Show moments were based on this desire to perform.

Scooter was the Muppet that the young audience could related to.  For anyone who dreamed of fame and fortune, Scooter was instantly recognizable.  And, like Hunt, Scooter grew and prospered.  In the most recent Muppet film, it is revealed that Scooter found himself an internship at Google and earlier this year, he appeared at the TED Conference to speak.

So, he's still a nerd, but now he's a cool nerd.

Scooter aims for greatness and succeeds, and that is to be admired.  So, for anyone who says that Scooter is the worst Muppet, reconsider your stance on following your goals.  Scooter may be under-appreciated, but he is not unworthy.

"My favorite Muppet is Scooter!" - Me

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Pound of Music

Marvin Suggs is the worst Muppet.  He's a great and funny character.  But he is still the worst.

Like Bobby Benson, Marvin exploits a group of small defenseless creatures and forces them to make music, but Marvin takes things a step further and beats his artists until they produce the sound he wants.

Marvin Suggs, ready to strike.

Somehow, Marvin has come across a group of creatures known as the Muppaphones.  They are little balls of sentient fur that yelp in specific musical notes when struck with a mallet.  Marvin first presented his act to the world with the Muppaphone rendition of "Lady of Spain."

He would later perform similar violent numbers, but things really took a turn for the worse when he hijacked Rowlf's performance in order to play "Blue Danube."  It was clear that Marvin had become unpopular among the rest of the Muppet Show cast and was forbidden to continue his horrible act onstage.  This was probably the result of Kermit's one-on-one interview with him where, despite Marvin's claims that the group operates on "Mutual love and respect," the Muppaphones fear their abuser since many have perished after becoming a pancake.

The Muppahones could barely get a word in without Marvin telling them to shut up.

When asked what happens to the flattened bodies, Marvin responds "I don't think you want to know."  He is aware that what he is doing is wrong, yet he revels in his art.  One is led to wonder how he found himself in this situation in the first place.  He presumably discovered this species, but, like an evil Pinocchio villain, he only sees them as a means for profit and entertainment.

Frank Oz shed some light on Marvin's backstory, saying "I've always felt Marvin lived in a scuzzy trailer park with his put-upon wife, and he kept the Muppaphones in a cage and would beat them regularly."  No other Muppet was so relentlessly cruel.

But can a monster like Marvin truly be blamed for his actions?  What if there is more to Marvin than we see on the surface?  He disappeared during the later seasons of The Muppet Show only to return unexpectedly when he wound up on the bed of Veterinarian's Hospital.  At death's door, he finds himself hooked up to a monitor and it is discovered that the music is in his heart.

Life is a constant song for Marvin and he requires a means to get it out of his system and into the world.  Like any artist, he longs to share his gift.  It spends so much time pent up inside him that it bursts out in violent rages.

His heart beats the music, so he beats the musicians.

...Okay, that doesn't change anything.  He's still a horrible Muppet.