“You and Me”
In 1977, the year before he appeared on “The Muppet Show,” Alice Cooper was a drunk who consumed two cases of Bud and a bottle of whiskey every day. Though Cooper had sobered up by the time he arrived at Muppet Theater (and would soon release an album about his time spent in a sanitarium), he was still no one’s idea of a kid-friendly celebrity – except for Jim Henson & Co. The entirety of Cooper’s third season episode would terrify even the most thick-skinned of children, but the creepiest segment of them all had the singer getting Miss Piggy to sell her soul to the Devil, before she realizes it’s not worth looking like Beakie in order to gain notoriety and fame. The song he serenades Piggy with, “You and Me,” also contains the line, “I like to hold you and squeeze you ’till the passion starts to rise.”
“Time in a Bottle”
The episode of “The Muppet Show” hosted by Edgar Bergen (and by extension, Charlie McCarthy) is one of the show’s weakest – ventriloquism wasn’t funny then and it’s not funny now, even if the dummy can do the hully guy and imitate Vin Scully – yet it contains one of my favorite segments. A scientist is seen fiddling around in his laboratory, singing “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce (who made Jackson Browne seem cool by comparison), as he gradually grows younger from the potion he’s drinking. The song’s about saving “time in a bottle” to “go through time with you,” and the skit seems to be leading towards a happy ending, with the man spending the rest of his eternal life with his true love. But with only 10 seconds left, the experiment backfires and the scientist returns to his elderly state, proving you can’t actually beat time and must accept your mortality. Jesus.
“The Windmills of Your Mind”
The way Dusty Springfield sings her well-known version of “The Windmills of Your Mind” is very different from the one that’s sung by Screaming Thing. It’s slower, something like a torch song, while on “The Muppet Show,” every verse is faster than the one before it. It’s meant to showcase the mind of someone who appears calm on the outside but is actually going crazy on the inside, about how they can’t help but think about how the world’s like an apple whirling silently and continuously in space, and it does just that. Once the song’s over, the insane Screaming Thing throws himself off Statler and Waldorf’s balcony, horribly injuring himself.
“Dirty Ol’ Egg-Sucking Dog”
Johnny Cash singing “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog” while an increasingly pissed off Rowlf accompanies him on piano is dark comedy enough (in the song, Cash threatens to stomp the dog’s head in the ground and get his rifle and send him to the chicken coop in the sky), but what would really make today’s censors say no to the segment is the Confederate flag in the background. Here’s a fun game to play: imagine this was a new episode (ZOMBIE JOHNNY CASH) and it aired exactly like it did in 1980. Which group would protest the episode first: the Black Panthers or PETA? For once, my money’s on the Panthers.