The 15 best moments from the original ‘Muppet Show’

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It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to meet the Muppets on TV once again! The Muppets premieres tonight on ABC, marking the first return of these beloved characters to a regular series on the small screen since Muppets Tonight ended in 1998.

While the show will be different from what we’ve seen before with its mockumentary style, we hope that it will contain the magic we’ve come to love from the Muppets over the years, epitomized by the original TV series The Muppet Show. The sketches, guest stars, and unforgettable musical numbers from that ’70s series remain classic to this day. Here are 15 of our favorite moments from The Muppet Show that are prime examples of what we love to see from the Muppets—and hope to see tonight when The Muppets premieres on ABC at 8pm ET.

1) “Mahna Mahna”

This is one of the most well-known and catchy Muppet songs of them all. The sketch didn’t debut on The Muppet Show, but it was performed on the very first episode, and this version remains a classic. Who can resist singing along with Mahna Mahna and the Snowths? The song even continued behind the scenes of the show as Mahna Mahna dances and sings his way off stage, past Kermit, and out of the theater.

2) Dom DeLuise on Planet Koozebane

The Muppets visit Koozebane a number of times, but there’s just something about comedian Dom DeLuise taking a trip to the planet that makes this moment stand out from the rest. DeLuise plays an astronaut who meets a few Merdlidops while exploring Koozebane. The resulting alien encounter causes quite a bit of trouble for the astronaut—and quite a few laughs.

3) “The Comedian’s a Bear” sketch

When best friends Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear are paired together, laughter is surely not far behind. So when Fozzie suddenly enlists the help of Kermit in telling one of his jokes, it leads to one of the greatest moments between the two on the show.

4) Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”

Singer Harry Belafonte performed a number of songs during his guest appearance in the third season of The Muppet Show. This one, however, gets some special help from Fozzie, who is determined to make the song perfect, no matter what it takes. The result is a pig chorus, a frantic search for bananas, and a mostly successful attempt at a sing-along.

5) “Veterinarian’s Hospital”

The continuing story of a quack who’s gone to the dogs, “Veterinarian’s Hospital” was a recurring sketch you could always look forward to on the show. You never knew who Dr. Bob and nurses Piggy and Janice would be faced with helping; the patient could be a Muppet or an object like a shoe, but either way the medical trio usually wound up telling jokes the whole time instead of helping.

6) Julie Andrews sings “The Lonely Goatherd”

When Julie Andrews is on your show, how can you resist having her sing a song from The Sound of Music? Lots of Muppets find perfect ways to get involved in the song’s performance as Andrews sings beautifully.

7) “Happy Feet”

This is one of Kermit’s most famous solos from the show. The catchy dance number once again proves Kermit has a lot of talents—from singing to dancing to looking awesome in a suit! It also succeeds in making us feel like he’s actually dancing during the sketch even though you never see his happy feet. It just goes to show the masterful magic of the Muppets.

8) Statler and Waldorf heckle Milton Berle

Statler and Waldorf heckling from their balcony was always one of the best parts of the series. No one was safe from their criticism, not even famous comedian Milton Berle! His interaction with the two old men is one of the funniest from the show.

9) Fozzie helps Rowlf perform “Clair de Lune”

The Muppet Show shined when it combined comedy with classical music during Rowlf’s performances. It was always fun to see the musical dog play some beautiful piece of music on the piano, only to have something unforeseen happen during his act. This is our favorite of those moments. Whenever Fozzie wants to help, things don’t exactly go as planned!

10) Gonzo leaves the show and sings “My Way”

The show was not afraid of being emotional or taking time for sad, heartfelt moments in between the laughs. One of the best examples of this is the episode when Gonzo leaves the show in order to pursue a movie career. He chokes up in the middle of his performance of “My Way,” causing Kermit to come out and comfort his friend. When you hear Gonzo start to cry, you’ll wish you could comfort him too!

11) Star Wars meets “Pigs in Space”

It makes perfect sense that when actor Mark Hamill guest starred on the show he’d make an appearance on the recurring sketch that takes place on a spaceship, “Pigs in Space”! Hamill as Luke Skywalker is joined by C-3PO and R2-D2 on the Swinetrek as they borrow the ship to go rescue Chewbacca. Their interactions with Captain Link Hogthrob, Dr. Strangepork, and Piggy (dressed like Princess Leia) are priceless!

12) John Cleese finale

John Cleese stars in one of the greatest Muppet Show final acts as he repeatedly refuses to perform the musical numbers the Muppets pick for him, so the Muppets dress him up for multiple songs and eventually join him on stage for the performance. While Cleese may not have been happy at first with Kermit’s efforts, the round of applause the Muppets’ antics earn him at the end seems to win him over.

13) Multiple Beakers search for Bunsen

It was always funny to see two sketches combine on The Muppet Show, and it added to the sense of the show all taking place in one night in the same theater. For example, the Swedish Chef had great cooking segments and Beaker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew were fantastic in Muppet Labs, but when an experiment multiplies Beaker and Bunsen hides from them on the Chef’s set, you get the best of both sketches in one hilarious moment!

14) The Robin Hood episode

When actress Lynn Redgrave appeared on the show, the Muppets put on a production of Robin Hood for the entirety of the episode. There are a lot of amazing moments in this episode, but there are two in particular that stand out. The first is Fozzie really getting into his role as Little John and leading everyone else in cavorting, all while saying “cavort” repeatedly, as we see what funny things the others are up to in the camp. The second is one of those times the Muppets take a quiet moment to perform a sweet song as Redgrave and Kermit sing to each other in their roles as Maid Marian and Robin Hood.

15) The Muppet Show opening 

The Muppet Show has one of the best openings in all of TV. From the first notes of the song to Gonzo’s recurring gag at the end, this fantastic introduction to the show is a classic! 

Photo via Michelle O’Connell/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

Lisa Granshaw

Lisa Granshaw

Lisa Granshaw reports on pop culture and geek fashion and is the founder of GeekFold. You can find her work on Syfy, Boing Boing, and Geek and Sundry.