The Muppet Show? Oh, The Muppet Show! 15 seconds to curtain, The Muppet Show! Or, make that one month: Disney+ has announced that all of five seasons of Jim Henson’s pioneering variety show will join its library February 19—the show’s streaming debut, if you don’t count all the YouTube rips we’ve been watching while waiting for the show to come to streaming.
Running for 120 episodes and airing in more than 100 countries between 1976 and 1981, The Muppet Show introduced many of the colorful, chaotic characters who remain Muppet mainstays to this day. “It’s going to be great to welcome back longtime fans, and to give a new generation of fans a chance to see how we got our start, how Miss Piggy became a star and so much more,” said Kermit the Frog, a fictional character who can be plausibly quoted in a press release in large part thanks to the personality he developed on The Muppet Show. The puppet that became Miss Piggy had previously popped up in late-night and primetime (including a cameo in the more cheekily titled of The Muppet Show’s two pilots); it took a new set of eyes and at least one karate chop to make her Miss Piggy. The defining spirit of the franchise can be found in The Muppet Show’s messy visits to Muppet Labs and the Swedish Chef’s kitchen, the running commentary of opera box critics Statler and Waldorf, and the entire cast gently trolling Sam The Eagle.
And that’s all without a mention of the guest stars, who include their fair share of ’70s variety show usual suspects (Parents: Your children are never too young to learn about Mummenschanz) in addition to more enduring pop culture personalities like Steve Martin, Diana Ross, and Chewbacca. On The Muppet Show, Gilda Radner did Gilbert and Sullivan opposite a giant carrot, Elton John narrowly escaped the jaws of reptilian death, and Vincent Price got a neck full of vampire Kermit. When Rita Moreno became the third person to earn a EGOT, the “E” came from her tense musical standoff with Animal.
All of which is to say this is a long time coming. The Muppet Show reran in syndication and cable throughout the ’80s and ’90s, but has largely been out of televised rotation for more than 20 years. Following the Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of the Muppets in 2004, Disney began issuing full seasons of The Muppet Show on DVD—though plans for sets containing seasons four and five never came to fruition. With the legal hang-ups of music licensing ensuring that the show will likely never be seen in its entirety again (in non-bootleg form, at least), this Disney+ news represents the most complete home-video release of The Muppet Show to date.
Now when are A Muppet Family Christmas, The Fabulous Miss Piggy Show, and The Muppets At Walt Disney World coming out of the Disney vault?