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Muppets Tonight!

But all the familiar Muppets are back -- Statler and Waldorf (the old guys in the opera boxes), Animal the drummer, Rizzo the rat, the Swedish Chef, Beeker, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew -- and so is the goofy satire that made "The Muppet Show" so enduring and funny. Instead of "Pigs in Space," it's "Bay of Pigs Watch" with Spamela Anderson; KMUP's sked includes "Single Duck in the City With an Apartment Full of Friends" and "Mad About Ewes."

With:
Performers: Bill Barretta, Kevin Clash, Dave Goelz, Brian Henson, Jerry Nelson, Steve Whitmire, Frank Oz, Leslie Carrara, Kevin Carlson, Bruce Lanoil, Len Levitt, Drew Massey, Joe Selph, Allan Trautman. Guest star: Michelle Pfeiffer. The loony and whimsical sensibility of the Muppet universe is refreshingly and hilariously back on TV, this time on primetime Fridays with "The Muppets Tonight!" Smart and smartly done, "Muppets Tonight!" should draw families as well as lovers of the original "Muppet Show." "Muppets Tonight!" is essentially the same format as the original syndicated "Muppet Show," but the troupe has moved on from trying to pull off a chaotic stage show every week to running a chaotic TV station, KMUP. Kermit the Frog's role is more managerial than host, and a new character, Clifford, is running the act.

But all the familiar Muppets are back — Statler and Waldorf (the old guys in the opera boxes), Animal the drummer, Rizzo the rat, the Swedish Chef, Beeker, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew — and so is the goofy satire that made “The Muppet Show” so enduring and funny. Instead of “Pigs in Space,” it’s “Bay of Pigs Watch” with Spamela Anderson; KMUP’s sked includes “Single Duck in the City With an Apartment Full of Friends” and “Mad About Ewes.”

Also like the original series, a top star is booked as a guest: Who can forget Beverly Sills balancing a spoon on her nose with Gonzo coaching her? Premiere of “Muppets Tonight!” features Michelle Pfeiffer — no stranger to working with Muppets, as Clifford drags up a 1975 film clip of her as a guest on “Muppet Match-Up,” a hysterical “Dating Game” takeoff — battling Miss Piggy for the guest star spot, which climaxes in a musical number from “The Sound of Music.”

Uh-huh. Well, just watch the show. The Muppet humor is subtly subversive and fun for the whole family.

As always, the puppeteering, sets and production values are matchless.

Muppets Tonight!

Production: Muppets Tonight! Fri. (8), 8:30-9:00 p.m., ABC Filmed in Los Angeles by Jim Henson Prods. Executive producers, Brian Henson, Dick Blasucci. Co-executive producer, Alex Rockwell; producer, Martin G. Baker; director, Gary Halvorson; writers, Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk R. Thatcher, Patric M. Verrone.

Crew: Cameras, Ted Ashton, Tom Geren, Randy Gomez, Mark Hunter, Den Webb; editors, Robert Douglas, Cheryl Campsmith; production designer, Val Strazovec; costume designer, Polly Smith; sound, Jeffrey Santoro, Greg Hartstein; musical director, Richard Gibbs. Muppet

With: Performers: Bill Barretta, Kevin Clash, Dave Goelz, Brian Henson, Jerry Nelson, Steve Whitmire, Frank Oz, Leslie Carrara, Kevin Carlson, Bruce Lanoil, Len Levitt, Drew Massey, Joe Selph, Allan Trautman. Guest star: Michelle Pfeiffer. The loony and whimsical sensibility of the Muppet universe is refreshingly and hilariously back on TV, this time on primetime Fridays with "The Muppets Tonight!" Smart and smartly done, "Muppets Tonight!" should draw families as well as lovers of the original "Muppet Show." "Muppets Tonight!" is essentially the same format as the original syndicated "Muppet Show," but the troupe has moved on from trying to pull off a chaotic stage show every week to running a chaotic TV station, KMUP. Kermit the Frog's role is more managerial than host, and a new character, Clifford, is running the act.

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