Guest-starring George Burns!

It’s the Muppet Show! With our very special return to season two on the 45th anniversary of the original NYC broadcast. Ben and Pete continue their journey documenting what jokes land, debating which conceits confuse, and wondering from where some of these musical choices came. This week they discuss the show’s secret Britishness, the worst green-screen ever, and Pete’s encroaching total amnesia.

Sources and References:

We begin by quoting the Muppet Fandom page quoting Christopher Finch’s making-of The Muppet Show book Of Muppets and Men, which clearly lays out the anecdote about the Muppeteers discovering that Fleet Scribbler was too obnoxious to continue on the show, despite having been hyped to the British press. Ben discusses how this character feels, despite his American accent, more like a member of the British tabloid press, helping to cement the perspective put forward in the Kermit Culture essay by Kathleen E. Kennedy, “British to a Fang, British to a Whisker” that the The Muppet Show’s national identity may be more British than audiences realized.

The statement that Burns may have decided to go into show business after falling in love with being applauded and “getting the feel of an audience” comes from his 1955 memoir I Love Her, That’s Why, where he describes dancing “a little Spanish number” on a street corner to the music of an organ grinder at age five. The anecdote about Orson Welles giving Burns advice on how to play God in Oh, God! appears in the 1980 memoir Third Time Around. And the details about Burns, Clooney, and Anita Morris’s involvement in Radioland Murders comes from that film’s IMDB trivia page.

In another classic moment of Ben trying to deny Pete points, Pete’s guess was correct: George Burns did appear on an episode of Alice opposite Linda Lavin that was titled “Oh, George Burns!” Ben was apparently so wrapped up with the fact that, as he said, George didn’t appear on I Love Lucy, but an episode of the later post-Desi The Lucy Show, that he didn’t notice Pete gave the correct answer. Weirdly enough, Pete didn’t notice either. So in further Errata notifications: Pete has an extra point in the overall totals, even if it wasn’t enough to get him to have deserved the first minifig. Mea culpa.

In creating the Connect the Stars map of the various possible IMDB connections between George Burns and Jim Henson, I was struck by two things that hadn’t occurred to me at the time. Firstly, Pete may have been disappointed by not being able to go through Ron Rifkin because of the Alias connection, but Rifkin is in Wolf with Michelle Pfeiffer (which I only discovered because of trying to type in “Wolfman Jack“, which CtS rejected for some reason), who we regularly connect to Henson through Into the Night. But secondly, the fact that Oh, God!’s co-star John Denver can’t properly connect to Jim Henson via John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together probably frustrated a lot of fans.

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