Five Times The Muppet Show Creeped Me Out a Little

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jim Henson was a genius -- no doubt about that -- but sometimes his puppetry ventured into mad genius territory. He took creative chances that revealed a bit of a dark side to his work, whether it was a series of commercials done for Wilkins coffee (where an early prototype of Kermit commits various acts of violence against another muppet because he won't drink the coffee brand) or his feature film The Dark Crystal which starred hideous looking creatures that were a stark departure from the cute and fuzzy Muppet Movie gang.

Which brings us to today's post. The Muppet Show had a few unsettling sequences that I still find weirdly wonderful 40 years after first viewing them. Actually, the popular muppet variety show of the '70s and '80s had many moments that could easily fit into this post, but here are the five that made me think a little bit, even at my tender age, and stuck with me all these years. Not many children's shows today will be able to say that decades from now.

1. Time In a Bottle

I was creeped out when I saw this sequence for the first time as a kid, and after watching it a second time 40 years later I must admit its potency hasn't diminished. Set to Jim Croce's classic ethereal hit "Time In a Bottle", it shows an elderly scientist getting progressively younger with each gurgling flask that he downs until...well, you can see for yourself. Sometimes the lesson is you gotta quit while you're ahead!


 
2. The Jabberwocky

I could appreciate Lewis Carroll's surreal poem when classmates read and acted it out in junior high, but as a kindergarten student The Muppet Show interpretation was a little scary, especially as the damn thing doesn't die even when its head gets sliced off!



3. The Stalagmite's Toothache

I bet you didn't know cave formations had teeth or could talk, but this was Jim Henson's world, and we were just watching it. This is by far one of the most out there and disturbing Muppet Show sequences, and I actually remember it being part of the 1978 episode that featured Alice Cooper as a guest star, which makes it all the more fitting.

The real kicker is the unsettling ending, which reveals the afflicted stalagmite is actually a tooth inside another stalagmite's mouth. Shudder.



4. The Windmills Of Your Mind

Without a doubt, the most frantic cover of the Noel Harrison/Dusty Springfield hit.



5. Mummenschanz

OK, this clip does not feature any of the muppets. But the Swiss mask/mime troupe, whose creative routines and use of props seem to be inspired by psychedelic drugs, are probably responsible for a few kids' nightmares in the '70s thanks to their appearances on American television.


4 comments:

  1. I can't look at Mummenschanz even now, they creep me out so much. I can better appreciate the level of difficulty involved in what they did, but ew... I just can't take those faces.

    I remember the "Jabberwocky" and "Windmills" skits but not the other two. You're right, some of Henson's work was bizarre, in a good way.

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    1. LOL...I learned to appreciate Mummenschanz as an adult, and wouldn't even mind seeing them perform live. I seem to remember they appeared on Sesame Street as well. They definitely leave a lasting impression, whether wanted or not! I still find the toothache sketch extremely skin crawling.

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  2. That Mummenschanz was no joke. It scared the holy crap out of me as a kid.
    I had forgotten it and it was out of my brain completely, till I read this.
    I only hope you're pleased with yourself, Pam.
    The Swiss are kinda weird. The late, great Anthony Bourdain (whose show my brother and I watched every week religiously) said he wouldn't do a show there because because it creeped him out for some reason.
    I guess I understand. The Sound of Music, like the Wizard of Oz, was kind of terrifying for a kid to see. Brrr. I'd love to go there, though.
    As far as the Muppets go, the idea of a frog and a pig having a romantic relationship does give one pause.
    Still, I loved that show. Still do! Wish they'd show reruns. The Alice Cooper episode was great. The Harry Belafonte one was my favorite, with the Banana Boat song, and the other one he did that had the Muppets wearing traditional African masks. I had those songs in my head for weeks after that.
    Great post! Cheers!

    M.P.

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    1. Well considering H.R. Giger was Swiss, you may be onto something...

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