In 1986, Muppet television was made. Select Muppets from all of the individual Muppet franchises appeared in the television special The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years. It is a Muppet fan moment that will never be matched. A Muppet Family Christmas and The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson television specials also combined the Muppet worlds and casts; however, they do not come close to rivaling this special. As much as I love A Muppet Family Christmas, it only includes three of the franchises: Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and the Muppet characters from The Muppet Show. The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson once again includes performances from Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and Muppet Show characters that were taped specifically for that special, but characters from the other lesser known franchises only appear in clips. This special is unique in that it not only includes previously aired clips from multiple specials, movies, and television shows, but it also includes footage taped and written for this special for characters from Sam and Friends (the first ever Muppet television show) as well as characters from the short lived television show Little Muppet Monsters. This special served as a treasure chest of forgotten and seldom seen footage long before YouTube.com and the Internet served up millions of clips that were just a click away. For fans, this tells the story of the Muppets and Jim Henson’s career. It featured clips from Sam and Friends, The Jimmy Dean Show, and commercials from Wilkins Coffee and La Choy that may not have been televised since their original airings. The special progressed from there with clips from The Muppet Show, Muppet movies, Sesame Street, variety and talk show specials the Muppets appeared on such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, to what would have been more contemporary Muppet projects for that time such as Fraggle Rock, Muppet Babies, Little Muppet Monsters, and The Muppets Go to the Movies. Peter Harris directed this special along with The Muppets Go to the Movies as well as episodes of The Muppet Show. He understands the strange algorithm of music, madness, and sentimentality that makes up the Muppets and he successfully maintains a balance between those different aspects that Muppet material lacked during the 1990s. Not only was Henson an innovative puppeteer and artist, he was also a magnificent businessman which accounts for the longevity of the Muppets spanning over decades as well as the presence across multiple mediums especially during the 1970s and 80s. He was not afraid to market the Muppets, and he marketed them well. This special works on multiple spectrums. It was wonderfully entertaining and truly a celebration of the history of the Muppets. At this time, Sesame Street had been on the air for 17 years. An entire generation of kids grew up and learned with Henson and his characters, and would now be responsible for introducing their young siblings and even their children to the Muppets. Henson used this special to remind folks who had grown up with the Muppets why they were great and a staple of entertainment. He took the viewer on a visual timeline of the Muppets that mirrored the childhoods of the viewers. Audiences at home remember learning with Sesame Street, tuning into this week’s special guest star on The Muppet Show, and then buying tickets to Muppet movies. It was very clever and subtle reminder from an old friend not to be hidden in a toy box or put on a shelf and allowed to grow dusty and covered in cobwebs. As far as format goes, the Muppets host a formal banquet with Kermit, Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Rowlf the Dog, The Electric Mayhem Band, and Fozzie at the head table. Assorted Muppet characters are seen seated at other tables. No matter how many times you watch this special, you cannot spot all of the characters! There are some great full shots, but it is almost impossible to scan for everyone. The “Rainbow Connection” finale in The Muppet Movie and the wedding scene in Muppets Take Manhattan have similar Where’s Waldo? scenes that are fun and almost as impossible to list all the characters that appear as this one. The different Muppets at the head table, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, The Count, and Uncle Traveling Matt take turns introducing clips that are organized to tell the history of the Muppets, highlight classic performances by Kermit and Miss Piggy, show some noteworthy clips from the Muppet movies, illustrate the educational value of Sesame Street, reminisce over the different songs and guest stars who have contributed to the Muppets, and to introduce existing Muppet fans to new shows and projects. One of my personal favorite moments of the special (I warn you, I have MANY) is a series of clips that visit the classic Muppet bit of explosions and characters being eaten! There often seems to be no rhyme or reason why Crazy Harry would emerge and blow up Muppet characters or sets. It could happen at the end of cheesy skit or during a seemingly serious song. Any character or skit is considered fair game to the Muppets. As always, Kermit has to keep the other Muppet costars from getting carried away. They tend to become overzealous and turn the special into a tribute to Kermit rather than a celebration of the Muppets as a whole. You cannot really blame them; he is their leader and glue. During these momentary shifts, it also feels as if you are no longer watching Fozzie, Gonzo, and the gang showing their appreciation to Kermit. It feels as if you are seeing Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, and the other Muppet performers paying tribute to Jim Henson. Kermit quickly and shyly redirects the focus to all of the Muppets just as I would imagine Henson may do the same with his comrades. It is a touching and oddly private moment that seems to sneak through. Guest stars only appear in previously aired clips. None appear at the banquet. This is thematically different than most Muppet specials. It is interesting to imagine the Muppets hanging out together, different cliques gravitating to each other which so often happens in the work place, perhaps discussing the different stars they worked with. By not including any stars from stage, screen, or music in the actual banquet, this reinforces the idea of the Muppets gathering together as friends and family. Close to the end of the special, Henson makes a brief cameo when Grover hands him the very long check from the evening. As is the story with most of these televised specials, it is not available commercially in the U.S. As I always say, it would make a wonderful special feature on any of the Muppet movies or especially included in Blu-ray or DVD releases of The Muppet Show. The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years is a must see for any Muppet fan rather die-hard and obsessive like your’s truly or a more casual fan. It plays almost like a visual yearbook chronicling the Muppets and Henson’s work of three decades. It gets a solid 4.5 out of 5 rubber chickens! Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.