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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Once Upon A Muppet Playhouse Video Series Collection by Nicholas Napoli

When I was young, one of my earliest, strongest and most significant Muppet memories was watching The Muppet Playhouse Video Series, over and over again, as far back as age three. Released by Virgin Videos in the U.K in 1985, as part of a series of compilations, featuring songs and sketches from The Muppet Show. In America these tapes were released by Playhouse Video, who released an extra four videos, which never arrived in the U.K, which are the versions I’m most familiar with. Children’s Songs and Stories with The Muppets, Gonzo’s Weird Stuff, Fozzie’s Muppet Scrapbook and The Kermit and Piggy Story were amongst my favourite ones. As a child, these were my Muppet Show episodes, this is what introduced and excited me to the idea, of one day watching The Muppet Show: The Complete Series. Inside the Muppet vault, I imagine copies of all ten of The Muppets Playhouse Video Series can be found. This would be a cheap, easy and valuable way to start reintroducing a new generation of fans to the original Muppets on home video.

The Muppets are most familiar for The Muppet Show, although sadly most of its newer audience have never watched a single episode, nor other classic, great Muppet productions/sketches. When I was born in 1986, I had just missed out on The Muppet Show craze, it never aired any reruns in my area. A few years later Jim Henson Video released two best of The Muppet Show video compilations, titled Meet The Muppets and More Muppet Please, I was hooked on both. It wasn’t until I was sixteen years old, that I finally saw my first 36 full length episodes of The Muppet Show. Back in 2001, HMV released a six-tape The Muppet Show Video Collectors Boxset, which included 36 complete episodes of The Muppet Show. In 2005, The Muppet Show: The Complete First Season, finally arrived on DVD, thanks to The Walt Disney Company. At age twenty, I finally watched the complete first season of The Muppet Show. In 2007, I was finally able to watch The Muppet Show: The Complete Second Season. In 2008, I finally watched The Muppet Show: The Complete Third Season and so far, at age thirty-two, I still haven’t watched the last two seasons. 

Different Muppets interacting on one set, throughout the entire special, cutting through different, pre-existing clips along the way. This is the format, that kept me interested and looking for The Muppet Show episodes, throughout my life. As a kid, I remember how random each clip was from the one that proceeded it. Over thirty years later, why not introduce this format once again, in the hopes of creating new fans and satisfying lifelong Muppet Fans along the way. As a Muppet Fan I’ve been waiting for The Walt Disney Company to released classic Muppet material on DVD, since they first purchased them back in 2004. Thanks to The Walt Disney Company we did get The Muppet Show: The Complete first three seasons on DVD’s alongside multiple releases of the various Muppet movies they own but where are the specials? I’d like to own The Muppets Go To The Movies, The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, The Muppets At Walt Disney World, I want classic Muppet material to buy on DVD, preferably Blu-Ray. I also remember The Muppet Sing-Along videos well as a child, with the new Muppet Babies reboot doing so well, I think it would be a good idea to use these sing- alongs to please life long fans and introduce children now watching the new Muppet Babies reboot to the actual puppet Muppets. 

I truly hope The Muppets begin making a new comeback, using classic material released on DVD in the hopes of reaching a wider fan base. Unlike the original Playhouse Series, this time around as a fan I’d enjoy watching a new series of Muppet video compilations that don’t just focus on The Muppet Show bur rather from clips found, all throughout Muppet history. Including but not limited to The Muppet Show, Muppets Tonight, The Muppets (2015), Muppet Babies, Muppet movies, Muppet special, Muppet viral videos, music videos, live events and interviews. I remember most nights I’d watch Scooter show me Muppets songs and stories in his hosted playhouse video. Imagine if the crew of the Swinetrek did the same thing as Scooter, except hosting clips themed around Pigs in Space and Muppet pigs in general throughout the years. This would be an interesting way to release classic and new clips, which will please both old fans and intrigue new fans in the making. Classic Pigs in Space sketches, the newer recently released Pigs in Space sketches on YouTube and maybe even an animated Pigs In Space episode from Little Muppet Monsters. All three Pigs In Space: Deep Dish Nine sketches from Muppets Tonight, the Mark Hamill, Pigs In Space, Planet Koozbane crossover sketch from The Muppet Show, amongst many other classic and new favourites. The Swedish Chef, The Electric Mayhem, Vets Hospital, Muppet Labs, Bear On Patrol, so many sketches/themes to play around with. 

The Muppet Playhouse video series released in the 80’s was a valuable asset for children who grew up after The Muppet Show. Into becoming a fan of the franchise by being introduced to them through their most worthy production, I am an example of this. My nephew has grown up around The Muppets, now he’s almost as obsessed as I am over them, thanks to the new Muppet Babies reboot series, this show has done wonders for The Muppets in general. I think now is the time to hook these new young fans onto puppet Muppet content, and there are already so many options available for doing this. The Muppet video library is full of options, the first to come to mind is Muppet Classic Theatre and The Tale Of The Bunny Picnic. The last non-Muppet movie DVD release if I’m not mistaken (not counting the new Muppet Babies DVD release) was The Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular back in 2013 and The Muppets Present Studio DC earlier in 2008. Basically, we don’t have much selection, and in my opinion not the DVD releases fans most wanted. Maybe Muppet movie sales aren’t good but that’s because they’ve been released multiple times, I wonder what happens if they release something on home video for the first time. On a side note, I really hope we get Muppet Treasure Island Sing Along as a special feature on the next Muppet Treasure Island release, that would give me a reason to buy it, yet again.

More Muppets on DVD Please!

- Nicolas Napoli

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