And so we come to the close of the first season of the Muppet Show, with the 45th anniversary of the broadcast of the first production episode. Pete and Ben discuss which scenes they think were re-filmed, the creepiness of an amphibian casting couch, and which Muppets have had plastic surgery, before Pete summarizes statistics and rankings for the whole year and we learn who beat whom at the quiz.
Sources and References:
Ben’s memory of the AV Club telling him about the Swedish softcore origins of Mahna Mahna comes from Keith Phipps back in 2008. That page linked to a video showing sauna footage and featuring the music in situ, but that link is now dead. We’ll see how long this one stays up, as it’s mildly NSFW. “Máh-Ná Máh-Ná”, as written by Piero Umiliani, was released as a single, so Henson may have encountered it during his ongoing search for comedy 7-inches to adapt for sketches. While it was the lead track on the original vinyl release of the soundtrack, it disappointingly no longer seems to appear on the current digital release. Do feel free to comfort yourself with this four and a half hour-long version of “Mahna Mahna” instead.
The moment Ben refers to with Mahna Mahna “boop”ing his nose into the mouths of the snowths happens on the Ed Sullivan show, which first aired in 1969, apparently only a scant three days after the initial version of the sketch was first on Sesame Street on Nov. 27th.
Ben mentions a photograph of Jim Henson surrounded by Muppets with George’s eyes glowering over his shoulder. You can judge for yourself how accurate of a description that is (and check out the mention of Miss Piggy with beady “generic pig eyes” as well) in this image, which Ben forgot is the back cover picture on the hardcover edition of Brian Jay Jones’ biography of Henson.
Chris O’Leary’s column in his BowieSongs blog contains all of the following links and references that Ben makes on the episode, but here are some of them extracted from his column for ease of access: the 1959 Red Kelly version that may be the first recorded version of the song, and the David Bowie live cover that he tosses off to the almost total disregard of both his audience and fellow musicians.
This YouTube video of the CBS weekly promo for the show is the one that features footage cut from the final episode. You can hear Frank doing Fozzie’s original voice —which was retroactively claimed to have been a John Wayne impression — and see the mechanism that turns the corners of his mouth down. You can also see footage of the line of kick-dancers that Pete lists as having been cut from the original opening.
You can compare the Alan Price Set arrangement and performance of “Simon Smith and his Dancing Bear” that features a prominent Zoot-eque sax to the original more lugubrious Randy Newman version yourself. Similarly, feel free to contrast the more pastoral Marvin Hamlisch arrangement from The Sting of Scott Joplin’s “Solace” to a YouTube presentation of a more classic piano roll of the same piece.
Juliet Prowse’s relationships with Sinatra and Elvis are detailed on her Wikipedia page, with Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader adding in the additional insinuation that there was some crossover between the relationships, which may have led Sinatra to dissolve his engagement to Prowse. Wikipedia also links to the L.A. Times article about her being attacked twice by the same leopard. Khrushchev’s announcement that her appearance in Can-Can was “immoral” and the details of her death due to cancer are in her New York Times obituary.