Last week I did an article on Muppet productions which sucked. When it was done I realized I had missed something which could have easily been a seventh slot. So since I can’t go back and re do that list, I will just talk about this show here. I give you:
John Denver had a long association with The Muppets. He was on The Muppet Show, did a Christmas special and album with them, and then there was this show. I watched it as a kid….and hated it. Simply, it was boring. For years in fact I mixed this up with the Christmas show, thinking they were one and the same. I always wondered why the Christmas special had a campfire scene. It was my friend Les who straightend me out a few years ago.
It is on YouTube so I decided to give it another look, now thirty years later. So is this special really as bad as I remember, or was I just looking at it through very young eyes? Let’s take a look.
Plot-John Denver and The Muppets go camping in the Rocky Mountain Wilderness. And that’s it. Ok, I am being kind of hard on this. There are little vignettes here and there with songs and stuff and even mini story bits. Like the scene where John Denver snaps at Robin and has to apologize. Miss Piggy’s cameo (more on that in a bit). A cut scene with Rowlf I will discuss in a bit. And the endless campfire scene (much more on that in a bit). But basically that’s what this special is, The Muppets marveling at how beautiful it is out in the wilderness while they camp, hike, and fish.
Before I discuss what I liked/hated there is one sequence I can’t put in either category. One of the scenes in this special is John Denver flying a plane with Rowlf. He performs stunts in an attempt to help cure Rowlf’s hiccups. As you probably know Denver was an avid pilot, and as you know that is what led to his untimely passing. This scene is not in the DVD release of this show and I decided it would be in bad taste to bad mouth it.
What I Liked-
The Music-Duh. Let’s be honest, that’s really what this special is. An hour long music video for the album. Yes, there was of course an album. It was even nominated for a Grammy. Most of the songs are good and I have no complaints with any of them. My favorte song was probably the one with Miss Piggy. I also liked the first song that opened the special.
The Scenery-No, I mean that. The Rocky Mountain wilderness looks absolutely beautiful in this. I have been out there but it was a very long time ago.
Miss.Piggy’s Cameo(s)-For some unexplained reason, Miss Piggy was unable to make this camping trip. She is featured in two cameo flashbacks. One during the great number “She’s Coming Around the Mountain” and another as a duet with John Denver. So, why wasn’t Piggy included? Is this sexist? You could argue that except Janice did make the trip. Well, to be fair could you imagine Piggy camping in the wilderness? Besides in the episode of The Muppet Show that featured John Denver, Piggy wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of camping.Â So I am not sure what the reason was but at least she wasn’t left out entirely.
Robin-Kermit’s nephew is often underused. Not here! First his attempts to help get John Denver angry which hurts Robin’s feelings, and then John apologizes in a very nice scene, especially since it was John’s fault he foolishly gave Robin the assignment he botched. In the end he sings Robin a sweet lullaby.
Statler and Waldorf-Yep, they’re still here. They spend the special spying on the antics of the group and commenting
The First Half-At the start It’s really not that bad. We get some nice Muppet moments and John Denver’s songs are good. We see them hiking and fishing. It’s an enjoyable watch. That is until everyone sets up camp. Then the characters sit around the fire and John Denver sings…for the last half of the special or so. Yeah, more on that in the next section
Finally, I really can’t find any fault with John Denver here. His songs for the most part are really good and he really seems to be enjoying himself in this. It’s still sad his life had to be cut so short. But now let’s look at the other stuff, the stuff that didn’t work for me.
What I Hated:
Fozzie-Clearly meant to be the comic relief, he seems really dumb here. He is scared of a bear, scared of a snake, angers some wasps, and lights his paws on fire. I get they needed some jokes but it’s teh same gag and it gets old. They should have given each of these to a different character rather than making Fozzie look like the designated idiot. How come the others know what they’re doing so well?
Some Music Numbers-Yeah, I said I liked the music but some of them were lousy. One in the start had a group of country bumpkins singing some weird tune which really made no sense. And to be fair, some of John Denver’s stuff can be kind of boring.
Jaws Spoof-One of the bits I just don’t get. The set up is that Rowlf is sitting in an inner tube minding his own business, when Gonzo snorkles behind him and punctures the tube. I guess you could say Gonzo was playing a silly trick on Rowlf, but the scene is weird. The image of Rowlf sitting in the inner tube while reading a book is adorable.
The Campfire Scene-So let’s talk about it. You know, I am starting to understand why movies that involve camping and/or hiking usually also involve a serial killer or some other kind of monster. Man this is boring. It takes up almost the last half of the show! I have done a few campfires in my time, and they were nice. But watching people (er, Muppets) enjoy a campfire is another story. Maybe the problem is simply that The Muppets are not known for being quiet and reflective. Just look at any episode of The Muppet Show. Therefore, unlike the rest of the special, they do nothing to liven this up! Yes I know, it’s a campfire it’s not supposed to be lively. John Denevr does tell a ghost story, I guess that counts for something. And some of the songs are nice. It’s just way to long.
The Giant Man Eating Chicken-Not even going to try to explain this one. I agree with Waldorf and Statler, the bit sucked
Time Frame-This all takes place in one day. Why? Why not put the campfire scene more in the middle and show the Muppets doing some other stuff the next day, even going home. Heck, I woild have settled for a tag at the end before teh credits! Then we can end on a huge, uplifting number. Wht not? I want to know what happened on the rest of the trip! Instead the special ends on the same night, on a sad song, and that’s that. Maybe they just ran out of ideas because that’s sure what it feels like, the special running out of gas.
Final Thoughts-Well, turns out I didn’t have another show for that list last week after all. This wasn’t bad at all. Yeah it was slow at times, but The Muppets are here in full glory and who can possibly resist them? And there is something cool about seeing them out of teh studio in a natural environment. There is honest attempts at some laughs and even some warm moments. John Denver is always great, if you like him there’s no reason you wont hav e aproblem with him in this. I guess the one downside is that this is not very memorable. But that doesn’t make it bad. Either on DVD or YouTube, I absolutely say it’s worth a watch. Not as good as The Muppet Family Christmas (which I am so reviewing this year!!!) but not the worst either. What ever happened to specials like this?
So what did you guys think, was this special a hit….or a miss?