While The Muppet Show had two specials that aired on ABC as pilots, The Muppets Valentine Show and The Muppet Show: Sex & Violence, this debut episode and the subsequent Connie Stevens show were shot before the rest as pilots as well.
According to Jerry Juhl, a lot of these two episodes were reshot or reworked. Though not as anarchic as the show would eventually become, it nonetheless stands out as a strong pilot episode. Having the show done in a theater (as opposed to a random assortment of sketches) added a sense of unity. Kermit, a well established character, makes a stronger host than Wally or Nigel. Let's see one of them get kissed twice in 25 minutes!
Much of the cast either came from one of the two pilots or previous Muppet productions, but the major supporting characters, Fozzie, Scooter, and Miss Piggy were brand new (although it could be argued a prototype Piggy appeared in Sex & Violence or even a 1974 Herb Albert Show appearance). Throughout the year, more new characters would be created as well as expanding the cast with more older characters from various specials.
Although most major characters had a continual puppeteer, there was a lot of character switching in the first season. Many background characters and monsters would have a different performer/voice each appearance. Jerry Nelson, who played Statler in Sex & Violence (and Waldorf in the Muppet Meeting Films) reportedly did Statler a few times, Mildred would have at least three performers (who all did a good job trying to use the same voice), and Miss Piggy was initially traded off between Richard Hunt and Frank Oz, often in the same episode.
Indeed, in this episode, she's first played by Richard Hunt in "At the Dance" then in "Temptation", the infamous scene where she goes from chorus girl to star, she's voiced by Frank Oz speaking and Richard Hunt singing!! It's possible that Oz's voice could have been dubbed later but more likely, Frank is physically performing Piggy and the song was prerecorded with Richard's vocals.
It's interesting to note how Piggy may have sounded had Hunt ended up performing her regularly instead of Oz. While Richard is known for his vocal talents, Oz was initially scared of doing voices and not as strong a singer as Hunt, Jerry Nelson, and John Lovelady. Yet, later in the season, Frank would stretch his ability surprising everyone, including himself, as he started doing some Piggy singing. Also note Piggy does not wear long evening gloves.
The pig with brown hair in the closing number is a rebuilt Dr. Nauga from "Sex & Violence". This pig would be seen frequently throughout season 1. Next year it will be transformed yet again into the Dr. Nauga-inspired Dr. Julius Strangepork.
The "Temptation" number is really the high point of the episode - even aside from its significance as Miss Piggy's launching. Before the song even begins, the whole routine of Kermit trying to conduct the clueless Glee Club is hysterically funny and becomes wilder when the song begins - Piggy's a joy to watch even when she's still in the chorus. Keep your eye on Piggy when she sings, "Here is my heart" and thrusts her chest into Kermit's face...and Kermit's priceless reaction!
Mildred and George, not having been romantically linked in their previous appearances, would end up as dancing partners in almost each installment of At The Dance this year. Each week, Frank Oz attempts to upstage the other performers with Mildred/George's dancing which gets wilder each week. Interestingly enough, in England around this time, there was a sitcom called "George & Mildred" which was a spin-off of "Man About the House", the show that the American "Three's Company" was based on. ("George & Mildred" would have been the British equivalent of "The Ropers".)
Standup comedian Fozzie Bear was originally planned to be the "second banana". Even though he's on stage in other songs and sketches, he doesn't actually do any monologues (aside from his opening theme jokes) in the aired versions of the first two episodes. (However, Fozzie's comedy act is the very first act in the original unaired version of this episode).
Jerry Nelson, one of the veteran Muppeteers at this point, was not involved with a lot of the season's earliest episodes but would become a regular performer in the latter half of the season. Muppet fans may also have been surprised that the cast does not include Fran Brill, who was the main female puppeteer with the Muppets at the time, having performed in "Sesame Street", "Saturday Night Live", Muppet Meeting Films, and the "Sex and Violence pilot". She would eventually do a couple episodes this season only. Eren Ozker would be the main female presence on the show, but did not return for season two in order to return to the States and start her family.
For the purposes of this episode guide the purple monster that appears in the Western Sketch will be referred to as "Miss Kitty" since this is the only time where any name was given to the character.
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