After several “Best of” collections, Jim Henson’s iconic tube creation finally arrives on DVD with the entire first season in a handsome, fuzzy, four-disc box set. The main attractions are the fast-paced episodes themselves, while the extra features are relatively limited. What is there is squarely aimed at collectors and nostalgia buffs, not families.
Vincent Price, Ruth Buzzi, Jim Nabors and Joel Grey are among those who frolicked with the furry critters during its first season. Peter Ustinov’s appearance stands out as a showcase for his talent with accents and impersonations. Twiggy, on the other hand, provides one of the season’s more bizarre moments as she croons the Beatles’ “In My Life” while looking at old photographs of herself.
Henson’s faux-patriotic pitch reel played for net execs in the mid-’70s is a hoot, stressing that the show will appeal to every Nielsen target aud, from small children to “intellectual eggheads” to “freaky, long-haired, dirty, cynical hippies.” The reel ends with a painting of God handing Kermit the Frog a plaque marked “forty share.”
A short gag reel is mostly composed of commercial bumpers, and the original pilot is an interesting archival piece (Kermit’s only seen briefly, while Piggy and Fozzie are nowhere to be found), but is sorely in need of an introduction or commentary.
Any commentary would have been a welcome way for contributors such as puppeteers/voice actors Frank Oz, Dave Goelz and Jerry Nelson or any of the myriad guest stars (did Connie Stevens really like the Muppet made in her likeness?) to enrich the collection. Also missing is a tribute to Henson himself, who died in 1990.
The cantankerous duo of Statler and Waldorf still have plenty to complain about, and the discs’ menus allow them to verbally trash the show and encourage viewers not to press the play button.