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!"
Muppets Tonight 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 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 chimpanzee bodyguard; Bobo the Bear, 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.
- The Andie MacDowell episode prominently focuses on Dr. Bunsen Honeydew going through his midlife crisis.
- 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).
- The Ace: Dennis Quaid is portrayed as such in his guest appearance, making Clifford very jealous. Ends up being an inversion, as Dennis claims all his great feats were either lucky guesses or just bluffs.
- Adam Westing: Many of the guest stars, to a greater or lesser extent.
- Ambiguously Gay: Dr. Phil Van Neuter. However, one episode revealed he was married to his assistant's sister.
- The Backstage Sketch: Much like The Muppet Show before it, many things would happen outside of the show proper.
- Big Eater: Big Mean Carl, Bobo the Bear, Rizzo the Rat and Howard Tubman.
- Big Guy, Little Guy: Seymour the elephant and Pepe the prawn.
- 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.
- Buffy Speak: In the John Goodman episode, Andy Pig refers to a door as "the get out thingy".
- Call-Back: When Bobo flings Sal Monella into the traffic, Johnny Fiama comments that it's a nutty way to get a cab.
- The Cameo:
- Catapult Nightmare: After suffering from horrible injuries caused by Andy and Randy throughout his episode, John Goodman finds himself in the infirmary. When Andy and Randy appear to continue "helping" him, he starts screaming and panicking, then comes to in his actual hospital bed—he's still in traction, but the pigs appearing was a dream.
- 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 a few exceptions, most notably Pepe the King Prawn, Bobo the Bear and Big Mean Carl, many of the new Muppet characters that debuted on this show either got Demoted to Extra or made no further appearances in Muppet productions after the series ended. 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 one final appearance in the "Bohemian Rhapsody" viral video in 2009. This is largely because Sal and van Neuter were performed by Brian Henson, who stopped performing on a regular basis when the Muppets were sold to Disney. note
- Circling Vultures: A variation. In the Whoopi Goldberg episode, a vulture warns Miss Piggy she might be lunch after Andy and Randy get their car lost in a desert.
- 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 recognize him.
- Clip Show: "The Best of Muppets Tonight"
- Cool Shades: Averted. Unlike Clifford's other appearances, he was featured with eyes in this incarnation instead of his sunglasses. Kevin Clash was not pleased about it, to the point where he made clear he would not perform Clifford if the shades were ever removed again.
- Comically Missing the Point: A majority of the Swift Wits contestants such as Nate Leakey, Buster & Colfax Bergman, Philo Zilfinger, Lester Tomwater, and Agnes Stonewick. Until Arthur Modell came along, all of the aforementioned characters got the answers to Snookie Blyer's questions wrong.
- Continuity Nod: Kermit introduces the guest star, as always.
- Cupid's Arrow: When the guard, a grizzly-puppet named Bobo, sees a guest star Cindy Crawford, cupid appears to shoot an arrow at him...however, upon realizing that it was a bear he was supposed to shoot, he immediately exchanges his bow for a heavy crossbow, knowing that it'd take that much firepower to affect a bear. The kick from said crossbow launches him off the screen while he's in the middle of explaining it to the audience. Later on in the same episode, he accidentally shoots Sal, causing him to fall in love with Johnny Fiama.
- Demoted to Extra: Many older characters. Kermit not being the host is a common source of criticism.
- Department of Redundancy Department: In the Whoopi Goldberg episode, three Kermits end up singing "Once In A Lifetime" by the Talking Heads. They all go backstage and we see Clifford say, "Nice job, Kermit", and a Kermit responding "Thank you" all 3 times.
- 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...
- Drop the Cow: Clifford has a falling cow land on him in the Tony Bennett episode.
- Dumbass Has a Point: There instances of the slightly dim Bobo having rather perceptive knowledge of certain things. For example:Dennis Quaid: Have you seen Clifford?
Bobo: Oh, well, he just went in the elevator and went up to the roof.
Dennis: How come?
Bobo: Well, I'm no licensed psychologist, but I would posit that he suffers from clinical depression triggered by your hyper-efficient performance of his duties.
Dennis: Are you saying it's my fault?
Bobo: Hey, what do I know? I'm a bear. I get my jollies from tipping over garbage cans.
- 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 it comes to a bad end after Rizzo's nephews (coming home from the fair carrying 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."
- Easily Forgiven: The threat of a bomb that would go off if the ratings go under 50% turned out to be a false threat made up by Sandra Bullock in an attempt to keep the ratings up, due to her being worried that they would blame her if the show wasn't popular. The Muppets don't show any resentment for her, let her do whatever she wants (which includes a terrible act), and Clifford assures her she can come back to the show any time.
- 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.
- In Sandra Bullock's episode, she complains that the muffin basket left in her room only had one muffin in it. Rizzo points out that it has too—any more, and it would be a muffinS basket.
- 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.
- Fainting: Clifford does this in the start of the first episode when he's told he's going to get the job of hosting a show and he has to be ready in 30 seconds.
- Fan Disservice: Bunsen and Beaker... in bikinis in the "Cameo Show." Statler and Waldorf agree.
- Fashion-Shop Fashion Show: Johnny Fiama and Sal take Bunsen on one of these, set to "Pretty Bunsen."
- Flanderization: When Clifford became the host of the show, his attitude changed greatly. Whereas in his previous appearances, he was cool and laid-back, being the host made him uptight and irritable, essentially putting him in Kermit's shoes.
- Furry Confusion: Well, Muppet Confusion, but one episode involved a ventriloquist dummy coming to life...and this freaked the Muppets out.
- Furry Reminder: Or rather Muppet Reminder. In the first episode, Clifford introduces himself as "Your homey made of foamy."
- Game Show Goofballs: A short game show segment titled "Swift Wits" featured contestants who were given a simple secret word to guess or else Big Mean Carl would eat an animal. However, nearly all the contestants were too stupid to have even a remote chance of winning. Two insisted on one answer, one refused to answer at all because they had gotten his name wrong, one (a pair of twins) kept spouting off generic answers and not listening, and in the last sketch, even when the word was given, the contestant mistook it for a clue. By the fourth sketch, even the host was getting tired of having idiots on the show.
- 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.
- Hey, That's My Line!: Said by Fozzie in "The Cameo Show" after the cow says, "Wakka wakka".
- Hilarious Outtakes: Some of the episodes have these during the closing credits.
- Hollywood Pudgy: A rather odd in-universe example. In Martin Short's episode, he gets a taste of Mama Fiama's delicious pasta sauce and eats so much that he balloons up. While Short was a slim guy to begin with and certainly looks convincing as bigger in his fat suit (complete with a large stomach and double chin), all of the characters act as if he's become monstrously obese; Clifford says he's "500 pounds" and others call him "two tons." It's used for jokes, but since he doesn't really appear as fat as they're making him out to be, it comes across as mean-spirited.
- 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.
- 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!"
- The Igor: Mulch serves as the deformed assistant to Dr. Phil van Neuter, host of the Tales from the Vet segments.
- 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 work here now.
John Goodman: *screams in terror*
Andy and Randy: *join in*
- 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 anything rhyming "whip it."
- The "Phenomena" sketch with Sandra Bullock.
- "Goodness gracious, my grape balls are on fire!"
- Left the Background Music On: In the Tony Bennett episode, Sal has his own Sad-Times Montage set to Bennett singing "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." He returns to the studio and finds Tony has been singing the song the entire time from his dressing room.
- One sketch has Johnny plugging his new album "Johnny, We Hardly Heard Ya." He tries to sing the classic "Hooked on a Feeling," but Sal is over-eager on the "ooga-chakas," so he loses his place in the song.
- Monkeys on a Typewriter: In the Andie MacDowell 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".
- 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 Ed Grimly will inherit a "fortune" of "eighty-five dollars" (Canadian) 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.)
- One "Tubmans of Porksmith" (a British-only sketch) had Howard Tubman being offered a massive inheritance from his great-aunt if he loses a hundred pounds before noon on Tuesday the twelveth. Given that the telegram announcing this news arrives around 11:45 AM on Tuesday the twelveth, it doesn't end well (although his great-aunt somehow recovers from death, as she's incredibly stubborn).
- 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 Andy and Randy 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:
- In-Universe, where the monster of one sketch is played by Kermit in the Heather Locklear episode.Kermit: This is fun! I never get to play the bad guy.
- The entire plot of the Garth Brooks episode was that Brooks didn't feel like performing Country/Western that night. By the time that Clifford finally convinced him to sing one of his own songs, he had already performed random bits of William Shakespeare, Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual", "If I Were A Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof, and had been planning to participate in one of Gonzo's acts up until the moment he learned how painful the act was likely to be (the act consisted of flying upwards on jet packs, being stopped by bungee cords, and then recoiling back to Earth to crash into the unpadded studio floor).
- In-Universe, where the monster of one sketch is played by Kermit in the Heather Locklear episode.
- Playing Cyrano: In the Cindy Crawford episode, mumbling security guard Bobo the Bear develops a crush on her, and Rizzo takes the Cyrano role of supplying him with appropriate dialog.
- 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:Sandra Bullock: You should see what happens when I say "shave and a haircut".
- Shown Their Work: Larry King tries to pass security guard Bobo the Bear to become a guest on Muppets Tonight in the third episode by claiming that his show is broadcast in 220 countries. Bobo disputes this by proving to King that there are only 191 countries. Bobo was, in fact, correct; when the episode aired, there were 191 countries known to exist.
- Sleep Deprivation: In the Billy Crystal episode, various animals sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", making so much noise the lion can't get to sleep, and ends up chasing them away.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Johnny tries selling his new album "Johnny, We Hardly Heard Ya," he firmly reminds Sal that he certainly did not sell any previous records, muttering about "the IRS audit thing."
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Bug Llewelyn, being one of Jacques Roach who first debuted in The Jim Henson Hour.
- 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".
- Take That!:
Lobster: What's that got to do with shellfish?
- In one episode, a group of lobsters hold the station hostage and read their demands, mostly pertaining to the treatment of shellfish in society. However, one demand ends up being no more movies based on old TV shows.
Lead Lobster: Nothing. It's for the benefit of all mankind.
Bunsen: That's it, she's snapped.
- In another episode, Andie MacDowell, after a fling with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, demands more dangerous adventures, such as sitting through a Pauly Shore movie.
- Temporary Bulk Change: Both Martin Short and Clifford become huge when they get a taste of Mama Fiama's pasta sauce—it's so delicious that they can't stop stuffing their faces.
- Tempting Fate: In the episode featuring Dennis Quaid, Kermit leaves the studio in Clifford's hands, then comments, "It's not like bowling balls gonna come falling out of the sky the minute I leave." Genre Savvy Clifford expects this to happen, only other things end up going wrong. When Dennis is able to fix everything, Rizzo comments there weren't even any falling bowling balls. Cue everyone but Clifford sidestepping away as bowling balls pummel him.
- At the beginning of John Goodman's episode, he remarks that he's expecting a nice, relaxing evening on the show. Clifford promises him that nothing will stress him out at all...not two minutes later, John keeps Andy and Randy from electrocuting themselves, and they decide that they need to be his slave to thank him. They spend the rest of the episode generally making John's life a living hell.
- 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.
- The Trope Formerly Known as X: Milked for all it's worth with Prince's appearance.
- Trivially Obvious: "Muppets Tonight: the show critics everywhere are calling... 'Muppets Tonight'."
- 2-for-1 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.
- Clifford says this at the start of the John Goodman episode, followed by Andy and Randy nearly electrocuting themselves.
- Whole Plot Reference: Sandra Bullock's episode has a "Mad Bomber" calling into the studio and warning the cast that if the ratings drop below 50%, the explosives he's packed into the place will go off—that's the basic plot of Speed (only it's a bus that needs to stay above 50 miles per hour). Sandra lampshades the trope and gets upset when no one seems to have seen the movie. It's later revealed as a Justified Trope in-universe—Sandra was the Mad Bomber in disguise, so it makes sense that she'd base her scheme on one of her own films.
- 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!"