Muppets: Little. Furry. Prone to blowing things up and spewing out mile-a-minute puns. Everyone loves the Muppets, and everyone has their favorite (for the record, mine’s Animal). So it was surprising to go back to The Muppet Show: Season 1 and find the funnies less plentiful than I remembered. There are a few reasons for this. First off, it’s essentially a kids’ show, and sadly, I outgrew Underoos a long time ago. Also, in 1976 the syndicated variety show was still finding its way. Most of the jokes are so corny they make Laugh-In seem nuanced, and the characters had yet to adopt their now-familiar look and sound (puppeteer Frank Oz uses Miss Piggy’s voice on another character!). The notable exception to the hodgepodge of random skits is the Vincent Price episode: With its running (spooky) theme, it offered a bolder, more topical template for future seasons.
Completists, however, will delight in the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational extras. Included are all the U.K. segments, along with a hilarious early sales pitch for CBS — in which a newscaster announces that the show will appeal to ”freaky, longhaired, dirty, cynical hippies who love our freaky, longhaired, dirty, cynical Muppets!” — and a 1975 ABC special hosted not by Kermit but by Nigel (later demoted to orchestra conductor — hey, them’s the showbiz breaks). There’s also a pop-up trivia option, where we learn how many points are on Kermit’s collar (11), that guest star Ben Vereen once put out an album called Stop Your Half-Steppin’ Mama (nice!), and which character most guests wanted to work with (Piggy, of course). Piggy would eventually turn into a riot, but on this set, it’s the bonus features that bring home the bacon.