Less than a year after the release of Season 2 of The Muppet Show, season 3 has arrived. The 4-disc set features all 24 episodes from the season as well as three bonus features: "The Muppets on Puppets" (a 1-hour show from 1969 about puppets hosted by Jim Henson), "A Company of Players" (a series of interviews about Henson and how The Muppet Show worked), and some Purina Dog Food commercials from the early 60's featuring Rowlf the Dog.
I was lucky enough to get to review the season 2 DVD set, and while it was a treat to revisit the episodes, the extras were a bit disappointing.
Season 3 starts off strong, featuring a full 24 episodes. The quality varies a bit from episode to episode, but overall the show looks and sounds great.
The show and its performers really came into their own in Season 3, and the plotlines and performances are both freer and yet completely controlled.
The guest stars included everyone from Gilda Radner and Alice Cooper to Danny Kaye and Raquel Welch. Some might appeal more than others, but if you're interested in this DVD set, it's for the Muppets, not the guest stars.
The genius of The Muppet Show was its vaudeville format. By choosing a style that was kind of cheesy and outdated when the shows were new, the silly songs and bad jokes hold up better than contemporary songs would have.
The Season 2 extras, while fine and entertaining in their own right, didn't really give us a look at the Muppets themselves and the folks who brought them to life. Season 3 does much better in this respect.
"The Muppets on Puppets" features Jim Henson talking about puppets and puppeteering. He gives a brief rundown of the different types of puppets, does a few skits with the various types, shows the audience how muppets are created, and teaches them how to make their own puppets. It features Frank Oz, Jerry Juhl, and muppet builder Don Sahlin. It also features a warning that there are some drops in audio and that nothing is wrong with your DVD. The silences are disappointing, but apparently could not be helped.
"A Company of Players" is 10 minutes of interviews with various cast members giving a behind-the-scenes look at The Muppet Show. It's absolutely fascinating, but seems designed to leave you wanting a whole lot more.
The Purina commercials are funny, but again leave you wishing more ads (perhaps featuring a wider variety of Muppets) had been included.
Overall, this is a fantastic package. The episodes look and sound good and the extras are a big step in the right direction for the kinds of things I'd love to see on future sets.