CHARACTERS • MORE
|Premiere||March 8, 1996|
|Finale||February 8, 1998|
|Network||US: ABC/Disney Channel|
UK: BBC 1
Muppets Tonight is an updated version of The Muppet Show, set in a television studio. The show aired in 1996 on ABC, and was cancelled after ten episodes had aired. The full run of 22 episodes aired on Disney Channel from 1997 to 1998.
The premise of Muppets Tonight was that Clifford was the host of a variety show on KMUP. Most of the shows stuck closely to the Muppet Show format of various skits interspersed with some sort of backstage story (usually a crisis). The show featured a laugh track, similar to the one used on The Muppet Show. One big difference between the two shows is that on Muppets Tonight, it was much more common for audiences to only see half of an on-stage act (especially musical numbers), as many acts would begin and shortly afterwards would cut to a backstage scene (or a comment from Statler and Waldorf). Another difference is that while each episode of The Muppet Show only had one or two featured guests, and no additional humans appearing on-screen, many episodes of Muppets Tonight often featured cameos by celebrities in addition to the featured guest star. Some of these celebrities also took part in episode subplots. Also, while it was rare for any scenes on The Muppet Show to take place outside of The Muppet Theatre, many episodes of Muppets Tonight had scenes taking place outside of the station.
Among the regular sketches were "Bay of Pigswatch"; "Pigs in Space: Deep Dish Nine" (a spin-off from The Muppet Show's "Pigs in Space"); "EIEIO-R"; "Tales from the Vet", and "Great Moments in Elvis History".
There have been no commercial releases of the show on DVD or video, but Brian Henson has expressed hope for a DVD release of the series after season five of The Muppet Show.
Muppets Tonight introduced many new Muppet characters, including Pepe the King Prawn, Johnny Fiama, Sal Minella, Bobo the Bear, Seymour, Spamela Hamderson, and Bill the Bubble Guy. The show also featured regular appearances from classic characters, such as Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Rizzo the Rat, Statler and Waldorf, Sam the Eagle, Animal, and Miss Piggy.
In a newspaper interview, Brian Henson talks about the show focusing on the new characters instead of the classic characters.
“We've got that core, classic group, which is Kermit and Piggy, Fozzie and Gonzo, and four or five others. (But) we quickly realized that if we put those guys right in the center of the show, there wouldn't be much space for new character development. And what we wanted to do was create another sort of experimental, very creative atmosphere for 'Muppets Tonight!' that could grow new characters.”
Behind the Scenes
Brian Henson said about the decision to put the Muppets in another TV series, "We were waiting until enough time had passed from the original 'Muppet Show' where we didn't feel like we were doing something that we had already done once."
A second season was commissioned by the Disney-owned network ABC, which ultimately opted not to continue running the low-rated show. Season 2 later debuted on The Disney Channel in hour-long blocks which were generally hosted by Gonzo and Rizzo and consisted of an unseen episode and a Season 1 rerun. These reruns included the UK spots which were omitted from the original ABC broadcasts.
Reruns of Muppets Tonight aired in syndication in countries outside of the United States, though, often packaged with the MuppetTelevision segments of The Jim Henson Hour (retitled The Jim Henson Show), and episodes of The Muppet Show.
- Kevin Clash has suggested that Jim Henson was planning the next Muppet series, after The Jim Henson Hour's end, including Clifford's leading role.
- The show was at first going to be titled "Muppets Live!"Another working title was "The New Muppet Show." Also in a taped presentation, Gonzo suggested "Magnum, P. Iger after Robert Iger, who runs the network, and then a surefire alternative: "Roseanne's Funniest Home Improvements, She Wrote" (referencing then-popular television series Roseanne, America's Funniest Home Videos, Home Improvement, and Murder, She Wrote).
- Executive Producers: Brian Henson, Dick Blasucci
- Producer: Martin G. Baker, Chris Plourde (season 2)
- Directors: Greg V. Fera, Gary Halvorson, Brian Henson, Tom Trbovich
- Writers: Jennifer Barrow, Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Bernie Keating, Jim Lewis, Kirk R. Thatcher and Patric M. Verrone
- Puppeteers: Kevin Clash, Bill Barretta, Steve Whitmire, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Brian Henson
- Additional Puppeteers: Leslie Carrara, Phil Baron, Thom Fountain, Bruce Lanoil, Doug Legacy, Len Levitt, Drew Massey, Joe Selph, Leif Tilden, Allan Trautman, Tim Blaney, Kevin Carlson, Steven Ritz, John Kennedy, David Rudman (episode 201), Brad Abrell (season 2), Julianne Buescher (season 2), Terri Hardin (season 2), Alice Dinnean (season 2), Paul Hartis, Mary Brehmer, John Henson (episode 206)
- Musical Director: Richard Gibbs
- Music Coordinators: Paul Rudolph, Eric Colvin
- Costume Designer: Polly Smith
- Muppet Workshop: Amy Van Gilder (season 1), Jane Gootnick, Fred Buchholz, with Paul Andrejco, April Ascher, Ron Binion, Mary Brehmer, Matthew Brooks, Dorothy Bulac, James Chai, Ed Christie, Brad Elliott, Eric Engelhardt, Henri Ewaskio, James Gray, Paul Hartis, James Hayes, Heather Henson, Ann Holgruen, Jane Howell, Larry Jameson, Scott Johnson, Rollie Krewson, Janet Kuhl, Paul McAvene, Tim Miller, Tom Newby, Elena Pellicciaro, Connie Peterson, Amy Shew, Jason Weber
- Executive Consultant: Frank Oz
- Muppets Tonight Episodes
- Muppets Tonight UK Spots
- Muppets Tonight Promos
- Muppets Tonight TGIF Bumpers
- Muppets Tonight style guide
- KUER RM Radio interview
- Rome News-Tribune: Henson's muppets return to television
- The New York Times: Henson's Son Builds on Muppets Tradition
- The News-Journal: Muppets back on TV
- Bangor Daily News: ABC, Henson sign 5-year Deal
- Sun Journal: Kermit, Miss Piggy, rest Of crew returning in new 'Muppets' series
- The Beaver County Time: New characters will be on hand as Muppets return to prime time