"If you're a human being, take a break from the race Muppets Tonight
Take a load off your feet, wipe the look off your face
We've got a lot to do, and we do it for you
Everybody take your place!"
was a TV series featuring The Muppets
that originally ran from 1996 to 1998, initially as part of ABC's TGIF block. (A Channel Hop
to The Disney Channel
followed.) An update of the premise of The Muppet Show
, it featured the Muppets producing a television variety show with the help (or otherwise) of the episode's guest star. Kermit the Frog was replaced as host by Clifford, a catfish-esque "humanoid" first seen on The Jim Henson Hour
, but retained his role as producer. Pigs In Space
, a recurring sketch from The Muppet Show
, returned as Deep Dish Nine
The series introduced several new Muppets who went on to appear in subsequent productions such as Muppets from Space
and the 2011 film
, including lounge singer Johnny Fiama; Sal Manilla, Johnny's bodyguard; Bobo, the studio's security guard; voracious monster Big Mean Carl; and Pepe the King Prawn, the studio's elevator attendant who was desperate to break into showbiz, okay
This series provides examples of:
- A Day in the Limelight: The last episode centered around Johnny Fiama moving out of his mother's house and into the studio, while Sal tried to get Johnny to go back.
- Absentee Actor: Frank Oz was absent from a handful of episodes (mostly during the second season). Kevin Clash performed Animal in the Sandra Bullock episode. Clash also performed Miss Piggy in the Andie McDowell episode (though Oz looped Piggy's voice in post production).
- Adam Westing: Many of the guest stars, to a greater or lesser extent.
- Ambiguously Gay: Dr. Phil Van Neuter.
- The Backstage Sketch: Much like The Muppet Show before it, many things would happen outside of the show proper.
- Big Eater: Big Mean Carl.
- Breakout Character: Pepe the King Prawn. Other new characters this series introduced either faded or had minor roles later on, but Pepe has had a steady major presence ever since. Bobo the Bear and Big Mean Carl have also made repeated appearances since Muppets Tonight ended, but neither to the degree of prominence that Pepe has achieved.
- Breakup Breakout: Pepe went on to appear in many later Muppet productions. Seymour.. didn't.
- Call Back: When Bobo flings Sal Monella into the traffic, Johnny Fiama comments that it's a nutty way to get a cab.
- Catch Phrase:
- Andy and Randy frequently exclaim "This job's too hard!!" Usually when anybody reaches step 2 of the very simple task they're putting before them.
- Clifford (when he's hosting and something inevitably sidetracks him): "anywho..."
- Bobo (as an inappropriately casual goodbye given whatever had just happened beforehand): "Have a good day sir."
- Big Mean Carl: "Hi, I'm Carl!" and "Thank you!"
- Celebrity Power: Cindy Crawford was shown to have heat vision, because she's a supermodel.
- Chaste Puppets: Miss Piggy mysteriously acquires two nephews, Andy and Randy.
- The Chew Toy: Clifford is frequently the subject of the show's cartoonish slapstick.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: With the exception of Pepe the King Prawn, Bobo the Bear and Big Mean Carl, many of the new Muppet characters that debuted on this show either made no further appearances in Muppet productions after the series ended or faded into the background. Examples include Seymour, Bill the Bubble Guy, Zippity-Zap, Nigel the Director, Mr. Poodlepants and others.
- Johnny Fiama, Sal Minella and Dr. Phil van Neuter became core characters in post-Muppets Tonight Muppet productions for a few years, but fell victim to this trope after the mid-2000s. Though Johnny and Sal made their final appearance in the "Muppets sing Bohemian Rhapsody" Viral Video in 2009.
- Clark Kenting: Parodied, with a skit that featured Bobo the Bear & Clifford in a Buddy Cop Show parody - Upon Clifford asking him about his sunglasses, Bobo stated he was working undercover, prompting Clifford to point that it was a Paper-Thin Disguise & it wouldn't work... Only for several people who knew Bobo to fail to recognise him.
- The Cameo: Happens a lot. One episode was nothing but cameos.
- Also at the end of the John Goodman episode, he is seen relaxing on the set of Roseanne (Or at least a very authentic looking replica)
- Clip Show: "The Best of Muppets Tonight"
- Continuity Nod: Kermit introduces the guest star, as always.
- Demoted to Extra: Many older characters. Kermit not being the host is a common source of criticism.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Half of every "Bay of Pigs Watch" sketch consisted of David Hoggselhoth ignoring whatever is going on at the beach to come up with an excuse to make out with Spamela Hamderson.
- The Ditz: Andy and Randy may be just the two stupidest Muppets ever created.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Seymour and Pepe's attempt at telling the "Elefino" joke, which is made even funnier by the diagrams and placards they use to explain it. The audience got it the first time, they don't think it's funny. Even Gonzo had to hold Rizzo back from yelling.
- Drop-In Character: Both Polly Lobster and Clueless Morgan from Muppet Treasure Island appear on this show... for... some reason...
- Earpiece Conversation: In the Cindy Crawford episode, mumbling security guard Bobo the Bear develops a crush on her. They hook him up an earpiece so that Rizzo the Rat can feed him the lines, but Rizzo's nephews (coming home from somewhere with balloons) walk in, leading Bobo to hear and repeat: "That's a nice set of balloons you've got. Maybe you'll let me play with them later." It doesn't end well for Bobo.
- Exact Words:
- When Bobo is hired as a security guard, he prevents Clifford from getting to his office because his orders (As given by Clifford) stated that if a person's name wasn't on the list, they weren't to be allowed in the building. Clifford countered by saying: If my name's not on your paycheck, you don't get paid.
- The first time Clifford and Rizzo get Garth Brooks to agree to do a country song, he sings "If I Were A Rich Man", which is a song from a musical about people living in the Russian countryside. Rizzo comments that Garth didn't mention which country.
- Executive Meddling: Done in-universe when Earnst Staveros Grouper buys the station. Among the irrational changes he makes is changing Kermit the Frog into Virgil the Monkey.
- Fan Disservice: Bunsen and Beaker... in bikinis in the "Cameo Show." Statler and Waldorf agree.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: It's the Muppets. What do you expect?
- Particularly the aforementioned Cindy Crawford "balloons" joke and Garth Brooks singing "It's Not Unusual" and inciting various Muppets including Bobo the Bear to throw their underwear onstage, including a teeny-tiny bra he seems inordinately fond of...
- In the "Seinfeld Babies" sketch, they make a very unsubtle reference to "The Contest".
- On Billy Crystal's episode, he re-enacts the Immodest Orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally with Miss Piggy, in which she explains how easy it is for women to fake a sneeze to get out of a date.
- During the credits of the Prince episode, Pepe kisses Seymour's butt for whatever reason.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: Seymour and Pepe pretending to be Jason Alexander's good and bad conscience in order to convince him to do an act with Gonzo.
- Got Volunteered: How Clifford got to be the host. Kermit asked for someone to host the new show and everyone ran out the door. Except Clifford, who was in the corner talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone.
- Hostile Show Takeover: In one episode, the lobsters from the "Rock Lobster" sketch take over the show. The day is saved by the guest star, Pierce Brosnan, who goes undercover as... James Prawn. In a gigantic lobster costume.
- Hypocritical Humor: The shows has tons of it, particularly mixed with Tempting Fate.
- On a Tales from the Vet segment, Dr. Van Neuter warns the guests not to overdo it on the eggnog at the Christmas party. Hilarity Ensues when he doesn't follow his own advice...
- From the Heather Locklear episode:
When Heather Locklear agreed to guest star here on Muppets Tonight
, she said she wanted to do something cultured and sophisticated. This is what we came up with. (cue Stylistic Suck B-Movie parody)
- I Am Not Spock: Pierce Brosnan is mistaken for 007 at the beginning of his episode.
- I Am Not Weasel: "I am not a shrimp, okay? I am a King Prawn!"
- I Owe You My Life: John Goodman saves Andy and Randy's life, so they dedicate themselves to being his slaves out of gratitude. Naturally, they only succeed in annoying him. They even follow him to the set of Roseanne afterwards.
Andy and Randy: We were fired, we work here now.
John Goodman: *Screams in terror*
- Incessant Chorus:
- In one episode, the characters keep mentioning Istanbul and Constantinople as though they were two different places, and every time they do, a band of rats dressed up as Turks pop up from nowhere to sing the penultimate verse of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)".
- Another episode has a band of Muppets show up to sing "Whip It" every time someone says the word "whip."
- The "Phenomena" sketch with Sandra Bullock.
- "Goodness gracious, my grape balls are on fire!"
- Monkeys on a Typewriter: In one episode, we learn that the show's scripters are actual Muppet monkeys, mindlessly pounding at typewriters going "Ook-ack-ook!". Once they come up with a satisfactory script, Kermit lets them go touch the monolith.
Kermit: I'll never know what they see in that thing.
- Notzilla: An episode featured Kermit as "Frogzilla".
- Giganticus, the "World's Largest Performing Artist" was slated for an appearance but according to Scooter was beaten up by Super-Giganticus in Tokyo. Kermit filled in, wearing Giganticus' suit and singing "Once In a Lifetime", in an homage to Byrne's giant jacket top from Stop Making Sense.
- Not on the List: A Running Gag involving Bobo the bear as the security guard.
- Oh, Crap: It wouldn't be the Muppets without this.
- On One Condition: Parodied in an episode in which the guest star's character will inherit a "fortune" of "eighty-five dollars" provided that he is married to a beautiful woman. Miss Piggy happens to walk in the door at that point... (And it turns out that she has more money than that already on her.)
- Out of Focus:
- Pretty much every Muppet performed by Frank Oz, thanks to Oz being too busy with his own project to perform them full-time. Piggy became a "special guest star" (such as in the Michelle Pfeiffer episode) while Fozzie, Sam and Animal were only used in the occasional skit or segment.
- Kermit too had a reduced role compared to his days in The Muppet Show, since he was no longer the host, but as the "producer" of the show he still appeared in almost every episode and interacted a lot with the guest stars.
- Overly Long Gag: The show suffered a lot from this in the earlier episodes, especially during "Tales From The Vet."
- Parental Bonus: It's the Muppets.
- Parody Names: Spamela Hamderson and David Hoggselhoff, the stars of Bay Of Pigs Watch.
- Phone-Trace Race: Happens in one episode where a pair of crewman trace the call... by methodically ripping the phone cable out of the walls.
- Piano Drop: Clifford gets a piano dropped on him in the Gary Cahuenga episode.
- Pig Latin: In the John Goodman episode:
John Goodman: The igpays are a little upidstay.
Pigs: He speaks the ancient tongue! Eway are not orthyway! Eway are not orthyway!
- Playing Against Type:
- Puppet Confusion: One episode involved a ventriloquist dummy coming to life...and this freaked the Muppets out.
- Ret Gone: A bunch of new Muppets were introduced that took up a larger amount of screen time than the original ones, and were probably intended to be a "next-generation Muppet cast" to add to the originals. The majority of them have never appeared since.
- Shave And A Haircut: The punchline to the "Phenomena" sketch:
- Spelling Song: In the Cindy Crawford episode, as part of a parody of The Mickey Mouse Club:
K-E-R (Are we having fun yet?) M-I-T (That's a swell university.) F-R-O-O-G
- Spin-Off Babies: A sketch in which two tapes of old network shows got tangled together, resulting in the creation of "Seinfeld Babies".
- Statler and Waldorf: It wouldn't be the Muppets without them. No matter where they go, they end up watching the show, this time from a nursing home. Later episodes they'd be watching it in other various places such as while on a ski-lift.
- Theme Twin Naming: Andy and Randy
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks: the Garth Brooks episode was an In-Universe version of this when Garth decided he didn't want to do Country music anymore and did other things like a Tom Jones impersonation, while everyone else wanted Garth to go back to the way he was, so he closed the show with "We Shall Be Free".
- This Is Going To Suck: Garth Brooks' opinion of Gonzo's rocket-boosted sub-orbital inverse bungee jumping act once he learns what will be stopping them (The floor). Fortunately, he learns this in time to safely back out.
- Too Dumb to Live: Again, Andy and Randy.
- Trivially Obvious: "Muppets Tonight: the show critics everywhere are calling... 'Muppets Tonight'."
- Two For One Show
- Verbal Backspace: John Goodman is fighting in a war with a bunch of rats:
John Goodman: Don't worry, I promise to get all of you home back in one piece.
(a rat explodes and then comes back into view with his top torso separated from his bottom torso)
John Goodman: Okay, maybe several pieces.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: At the start of the Whoopi Goldberg episode, Clifford is really optimistic about the show that night, and is cheerfully telling Kermit about the plans, until Bill the Bubble Guy walks past and adds, "What could possibly go wrong?" Cue Clifford's immediate paranoia and a phone call from Miss Piggy saying that she's flying back from a mall opening in Antarctica and might not make the closing number.
- Who Writes This Crap?!: At the beginning of the "Hardy Pig Boys in the Mystery of the Zombie Queen of the Amazon Outer Space Bee Woman Case: Based on a novel by Jane Austen" sketch.
Announcer: Ugh, who wrote this?
Andy & Randy Pig: We did!
- Your Costume Needs Work: Beaker does an uncanny Little Richard impression◊, actually a cameo of Little Richard himself, on which the show's host, Clifford, comments "Worst Little Richard impersonation ever!"