Prepare the celebratory Kermit arms GIFs, The Muppet Show is coming to Disney+ on February 19, according to The Muppet Twitter page, offering fans a chance to discover or reconnect to the show that took Jim Henson’s creations to the top of pop culture mountain. The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and other films and shows followed, but this was the start. Well, not the start. Not at all, really, but it’s foundational to everything Muppet that followed and to the endurance of these characters. If for no other reason than because every TV show that’s been done with them since — from the TGIF era Muppets Tonight to ABC’s failed but ambitious The Muppets and Disney+’s own charming but not quite there Muppets Now — has been judged against it and their ability to replicate the heights of absurdity and depths of soul that Henson, Frank Oz, and company put into the original. It’s similar to how every film that’s come since the original trio is judged against them. It’s just what happens when a high bar is set.
Born in 1976 and doubtlessly helped to air by the ascension, the year prior, of Saturday Night Live (in which Henson and company were a small part with the Land Of Gorch segments), The Muppet Show lasted five seasons and might be, with the exception of SCTV, the most impactful variety show of the ’70s and ’80s that didn’t spring from Lorne Michaels’ brain. But for a long time, word-of-mouth statements like that, stray clips, and DVDs (of the first 3 seasons) were the only way to really prove that out. So it’s nice that people will have a chance to pour through the whole thing now. Despite a dated look and celebrities made unfamiliar by the passage of decades and natural shifts in relevancy, there’s something timeless about The Muppets and how they find the funny. Something that makes this more than a bit of red meat for Muppet oldheads or a bit of historical record that you can likely trace any stand-out sketch/variety show of the last 40 years back to in one way or the other.
As of now, there are no details on if these episodes are complete or how they’ve been made ready for the Disney+ streaming audience. Getting full episodes of SNL has been a challenge owing, in part, to music royalties. And I can imagine that being a problem here as well. But we’ll see. Finally.