|Written by||Sam Pottle & Jim Henson|
|Publisher||Fuzzy Muppet Songs|
"The Muppet Show Theme" was played at the beginning and end of every episode of The Muppet Show. Although it evolved visually over the course of the show's five seasons, the musical composition remained substantially the same.
Each episode of The Muppet Show opened on a shot of the title card, which in the first season was less ornate than the one that would replace it the following year. As the camera zoomed in, a spotlight immediately lit up the O, the center of which swung back to reveal Kermit, who introduced the "very special guest star" from this position before retreating behind the sign. The title card then lifted up to reveal the curtains and the camera pulled back to reveal the Muppet orchestra, including close-ups of Crazy Harry on the triangle, Zoot on sax, an uncharacteristically calm Animal on the drums, and Rowlf at the piano. Trumpet Girl and conductor Nigel could be also be seen in the pit in the long shot.
Two kicklines, one of four chorus girls (a bewigged Janice, Miss Piggy, an apparently space-bending Trumpet Girl, and a female Whatnot) and one of four chorus boys (a horned Whatnot monster, Blue Frackle, a Pig, and Green Frackle) then took turns crossing the stage, the former group entering from stage right and the latter from stage left.
The curtains then parted to reveal Fozzie Bear, who attempted a different joke each week, even though he was often cut off. As the curtains closed on Fozzie, Kermit appeared in front of them to introduce the guest star who, to much applause, was usually shown among an assortment of Muppets he or she would appear with later in the episode.
The last verse of the theme song was then performed from a set of cake-like risers. Kermit and the chorus of Muppets, which also include Wayne, Wanda, and Snake Frackle, raised their arms as the song finished and the logo was once again lowered into place. From his perch on the topmost layer of the risers, Gonzo finished the theme each week by trying to hit the O like a gong, with a different result each week. Even when he managed to make contact, the results were never quite what he expected.
The original, unaired pilot episodes for 101 and 102 featured a longer version of the theme. This earliest version had different shots of the chorus girls and boys, an additional verse sung by a kickline of monsters and creatures, and T.R. (performed by Frank Oz instead of Jerry Nelson) introducing Kermit. The frog then showcased both a song by Wayne and Wanda and a dance, in addition to Fozzie's joke, before introducing the guest, who sang a verse of the theme. The opening can be currently found at the beginning of the unaired pilot version of episode 101, seen at the Paley Center for Media.
Episode 103 featured the standard Season One theme but included an extra verse after the guest star introduction, in which Kermit previewed a clip from the "Comedy Tonight" number. This is the only episode in which an actual clip from the show was seen in the opening. The opening also featured a one frame shot of Zoot/Crazy Harry in an odd edit right after Animal's shot.
Beginning in the 1980s, when episodes from Season One were played in syndication and on home video, the original opening was replaced with the Season Two opening, except for episodes 103, 106, and 114, which were paired with the Season Five opening. The original openings were restored on The Muppet Show: Season One DVD set.
This version is featured on most album releases of the song, including The Muppet Show, Favorite Songs From Jim Henson's Muppets, Muppet Hits, Best of the Muppets, and Music, Mayhem, And More. Kermit says, "Ladies and gentlemen, it's the Muppet Show" at the beginning, and Fozzie's joke comes from episode 116, followed by a new verse from Kermit, who introduces the "first original, genuine, no-money-back guaranteed Muppet Show cast album!" Music, Mayhem, And More and Muppet Hits cut out the joke and album introduction, going straight from the men's verse to the final verse.
This was the only version of the theme to be completely different from a previous version. A new title card was used with a border and more detail. This time Kermit stayed perched in the sign as it was lifted into the rafters. The orchestra members have been repositioned, as they would be for the rest of the show's run.
The curtain was then raised, revealing a series of arches that would become strongly associated with the show. The shots of Animal and Crazy Harry are replaced with Rowlf playing a bit of music on the piano, then Zoot, who blew a note on his saxophone. Next, a group of full-bodied monsters (including Sweetums, Timmy Monster, Thog, and two Mutations) walked on-stage, followed by a group of females and then males each group singing its own verse. The characters for the women's line are from right to left, Miss Mousey, Chicken, Whatnot, Chicken, Janice, Whatnot, Mildred Huxtetter, and Lydia. The men characters include Dr. Julius Strangepork, the Swedish Chef, Sam, Whatnot, George the Janitor, whatnot, Blue Frackle, Link Hogthrob, Green Frackle, and the Jim Henson Muppet. The male's verse was slightly shorter than in the previous season. For most episodes, Statler and Waldorf followed with a new wisecrack each week in place of Fozzie's jokes. Instead of finishing the song on the risers, Kermit was shown seated in the arches with the rest of the cast. Gonzo is inside the circle, and plays a note on his bugle, with a different (often disastrous) outcome each week.
The arch positions for the group, including both regulars, supporting players, and background characters, were as follows: Row #1:
- Female Koozebanian Creature, Lydia, Mildred Huxtetter, Whatnot, Janice, Chicken, Female Dancer, Chicken, Miss Mousey
- Chicken, The Newsman, Dr. Teeth, Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog (seated), Fozzie Bear, Scooter, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Chicken
- Miss Kitty, Fleet Scribbler, Dr. Julius Strangepork, The Swedish Chef, Sam the Eagle, Whatnot, George the Janitor, Blue Frackle, Whatnot, Link Hogthrob, Green Frackle, Jim Henson Muppet, Lenny the Lizard
- Whatnot, Jerry Nelson Muppet, Uncle Deadly, Droop, Chicken, Beautiful Day Monster, Gorgon Heap, Svengali's Assistant, Pig, Crazy Harry, Male Koozebanian Creature, Wanda, Wayne
This version is featured on the albums of The Muppet Show 2 and Muppet Hits Take 2. At the beginning, Kermit says, "It's the Muppet Show, and this is the one and only, very first second Muppet Show cast album!" Also, there is no Statler and Waldorf comment. This opening also replaced the original first season opening during syndication until the season DVD sets were released.
The third season's opening was similar to the second season, the only differences being a slight change to the initial shots of Zoot and Rowlf and an additional shot in which the audience asked "Why don't you get things started?"
Starting this season, some episodes had a special scene during the opening that took place either backstage or in the orchestra, in place of a comment by Statler and Waldorf. The special scenes from this and the fourth season include the following:
- Episode 303: Roy Clark: Scooter calls for somebody to kill a light. Gunfire is heard, and the light drops from the ceiling.
- Episode 304: Gilda Radner: Gonzo reveals that he always gets butterflies before a show. A giant butterfly tells him, "Not this time," and hits Gonzo with a club.
- Episode 305: Pearl Bailey: Scooter calls for everybody to get onstage, but everybody is onstage.
- Episode 311: Raquel Welch: Beauregard is hit in the head with a sandbag.
- Episode 312: James Coco: Beauregard hands the reader a script, but trips before he can.
- Episode 323: Lynn Redgrave: Archery rehearsal continues as an arrow just misses Beauregard (who insists that the shot was good).
- Episode 404: Dyan Cannon: A concerned Beauregard watches Foo-Foo backstage.
- Episode 415: Anne Murray: Floyd plays a bass solo and Quongo smashes him between two cymbals.
- Episode 420: Alan Arkin: Beauregard sweeps on Rowlf's piano in the orchestra, ruining his part. Rowlf grabs Beauregard's mop and yells at him.
- Episode 423: Carol Channing: The Feather Duster comes out of Zoot's sax.
- Episode 424: Diana Ross: Zoot charms a snake, who crawls into the saxophone.
Episode 308 from this season is the only episode with a completely different opening sequence, the theme lyrics slightly altered, the music played in a timetable, and the intro done at a train station.
This is the shortest opening from the show's run. The shots of the women and men singing in the arches were replaced by a single shot of men (on a top row of arches) and women (on a bottom row of arches) singing one short verse. The rest of the opening remained unchanged from the third season's opening.
This time, the shot of Rowlf and Zoot was replaced again in the fifth season, featuring a new Zoot puppet. This opening also reverted to having the women and men sing two different verses, although the shot was changed from the second and third season's openings. The arches were slightly thicker and wider than the previous openings. The characters for the women's line are from right to left, Miss Mousey, Chicken, Lydia, Chicken, Janice, and Mildred Huxtetter, though she is barely seen at the end of the line. The men's characters are Dr. Julius Strangepork, Whatnot, George the Janitor, Blue Frackle (Boppity), Green Frackle (Gloat), and a Whatnot. Statler and Waldorf then sang a verse about their hatred of The Muppet Show, which was the same in each fifth season episode, and had the same melody as Kermit's guest star verse from Season One. This was followed by a shot of the orchestra that showed Animal on drums, and Lips, the Electric Mayhem's new trumpeter, soloing with Trumpet Girl on trombone. This was followed by a shot of a few rows of arches filled with characters saying "And now let's get things started", before the audience says, "Why don't you get things started?" The top row features a Whatnot, George the Janitor, Blue Frackle, and Link. The bottom row features Mildred, a Whatnot, Janice, and a Chicken. The rest of the opening remained the same from previous versions. However, in this opening, there is a bit of a continuity error, because Lips is supposedly in the orchestra pit as the song goes on, however the opening shot of the orchestra and more evidently the "Why Don't You Get Things Started?" shot remained the same from previous versions so Trumpet Girl is seen playing the trumpet in these shots.
This version is featured on television soundracks like 50 All-Time Favorite TV Themes and All-Time Top 100 TV Themes. Unlike the soundtrack openings from Seasons 1 and 2, a laugh track is heard twice and Kermit just simply says, "It's the Muppet Show!" at the beginning. It also replaced the original first season opening for episodes 103, 106, and 114 during the 1980s. The beginning half of this opening appears in The Secrets of the Muppets when Digit puts on the wrong opening.
Extended Album Version
An extended version of the Muppet Show theme was recorded between season 1 and 2 for a 45RPM record.
The arrangements are similar to the season 2 opening, but it still features a joke from Fozzie and Kermit's introduction verse. Kermit introduces Miss Piggy, who karatechops him. This is followed by an instrumental break (in which Kermit introduces Animal as a "record breaking drummer"; Animal then attempts to break the record album). The theme then modulates to a piano solo performed by Rowlf and then to the final verse.
The second half of this version of the theme (without kazoo solo and dialogue) was used as the theme for the Muppet Show Music Album.
A recreation of the opening appeared in the 2011 film The Muppets to open the Muppets' live telethon show. While the film's rendition closely resembles the most common elements of the previous openings (with the lyrics being those from season 3's opening), there are some changes - Timmy Monster is not present, a few of the arches on the top level are empty, there are four rows of arches instead of five, and the character selection and placement in the arches are different. With a very small audience in attendance, the "why don't you get things started?" line is sung by Hobo Joe (with the actual vocals provided by Joanna Newsom). Gonzo's trumpet gag consists of the trumpet making the Tarzan yell.
The Muppets are shown rehearsing for the opening earlier in the film.
Muppets Most Wanted
Two international versions of the opening are performed by the Muppets during their world tour shows in Berlin, Germany (Die Muppet Show) and Madrid, Spain (El Muppet Show) in Muppets Most Wanted. An extended version of the Spanish theme (including Statler and Waldorf's season 5 verse sung by Pepe the King Prawn) was included on the film's soundtrack album. In the El Muppet Show version of the intro, Gonzo's trumpet gag consists of the trumpet inflating a soccer ball and Gonzo subsequentally shooting it towards the audience.
The closing theme was an instrumental version of the opening theme. The closing featured The Muppet Orchestra, and various shots of each musician were seen. From left to right were Zoot, Floyd Pepper, Trumpet Girl, Crazy Harry (with no triangle bell), Nigel, Animal, and Rowlf. At the very end of the sequence, Statler and Waldorf would make a comment, which changes per episode (though some of their opening comments were re-used in various episodes, these comments were only included in one episode each). A handful of episodes had something else happening instead of Statler and Waldorf making a comment (see The Muppet Show Alternate Closings). Their comments were followed by a wide shot of the orchestra and then a shot of Zoot blowing a final bum note out of his saxophone.
During the original broadcasts in the UK, Zoot's shots would superimpose the Associated TeleVision logo. Outisde of the UK, the ATV logo was featured over the wide orchestra shot and the ITC Entertainment logo was featured over Zoot's shots. During the mid-1980s, the original ITC shots were replaced with the Henson Associates in-credit variant, featuring a new shot of Zoot, who just blew a small note. During the 1990s, when reruns aired on Nickelodeon, it was replaced by a clip from the "Sax and Violence" number where Zoot plays a short low note, before nodding twice. On The Muppet Show Live, Zoot had a longer saxophone note. The note is also played over the 1980s Henson Associates logo at the end of The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years.
In the pilot episodes 101 and 102 an opening shot of the whole orchestra is seen panning out. The German broadcast of the series uses this version at the end of every episode, instead of using the updated closings for later seasons. This closing is also shown at the end of the It's the Muppets! video releases, heard during the end credits for I Love Muppets, and released on The Muppet Show 2, Muppet Hits, Muppet Hits Take 2, and Music, Mayhem, And More, with a new comment from Statler & Waldorf.
The only difference between the season 1 and 2 closings is that the shot of Floyd Pepper was replaced with a new shot of Floyd. Whereas in the first closing he wasn't wearing his hat, in this shot he wears his hat and blinks his eyes (though he isn't wearing his hat in any of the other scenes in this closing). In episode 201, a different shot of the same scene is shown during the beginning of the closing, as opposed to Animal's shot. On episodes 205, 217, and 222, the camera stays on the curtain call longer than usual before cutting back to the closing sequence. Starting this season, the final orchestra shots during the original broadcasts would no longer superimpose the ATV logo. Instead with a new ITC logo with "An ATV Company" beside it is shown during Zoot's shot.
Seasons Three and Four
In season 3, the entire closing was reshot. Crazy Harry is no longer in the orchestra, Animal wears his regular clothes instead of a tuxedo, and Floyd and Zoot both wear their hats (for the entire sequence). The music was also completely replaced with a slightly slower rendition, including a piano solo from Rowlf replacing Zoot's previous solo. In this opening, there are solo shots of each member, with the exception of Trumpet Girl. The characters rearrange themselves as well, so from left to right we see: Trumpet Girl, Floyd Pepper, Nigel, Animal, Zoot, and Rowlf, as is in the opening credits. Starting this season, Zoot stands next to Rowlf's piano in both the opening and closing credits. In episode 308, Nigel is replaced with a train conductor, and Rowlf's piano solo is replaced by a trumpet solo performed by a chicken. In episodes 319, 401, and 409, an opening shot of the orchestra is seen panning out. On episodes 322, 323, and 406, the camera stays on the curtain call longer than usual before cutting back to the closing sequence.
The first part of this version's music was used during the Season 1 pan-out shot during the closing credits for the It's the Muppets! video releases. It was also heard during the closing credits for Of Muppets and Men, ending after Rowlf's solo.
The closing was reshot again for the fifth season. This time, Lips is in the orchestra, and Trumpet Girl plays the trombone. There is also a new trumpet and trombone solo featuring these characters, however the rest of the music remained the same as the Season 3 and 4 closing. Animal is back in his tuxedo instead of his normal clothes and the newest Zoot puppet (see Zoot Through the Years) is featured. In Episode 507, the same scene of Lips' and the Trumpet Girl's solos was used as the opening shot at the beginning of the closing credits. Although, a pan-out shot was never filmed for this season, one was shown at the beginning of the UK spot for "After You've Gone" in episode 504, which had the same orchestra member positions with the addition of Janice on the banjo. In certain episodes (see The Muppet Show Alternate Closings) Lips' trumpet solo is absent from the music.
Most of the compilation videos from Playhouse Video ended with the fifth season closing theme music playing over the credits. However, on "Gonzo Presents Muppet Weird Stuff", the final bars of the closing theme (along with Zoot's "moo" sound effect from the Julie Andrews episode) are used from the first season's closing music, after Gonzo and the cow are shown dating. The fifth season's closing music was also used for a Nickelodeon Muppet Show promo.
OK Go cover
American rock group OK Go performed a cover of the song for The Green Album. The song was later made into a music video featuring the Muppets. The video, directed by Kirk Thatcher, was released on August 23, 2011. The video has also been shown on Disney Channel and the song has been heard on Radio Disney.
OK Go (in order of appearance):
- Dan Konopka, Tim Nordwind, Damian Kulash, Andy Ross
The Muppets (in order of appearance):
- Sweetums, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Animal, Fozzie Bear, Kermit the Frog, Gonzo, Marvin Suggs, Camilla the Chicken, the Swedish Chef, penguins, Sam the Eagle, Rizzo the Rat, Pepe the King Prawn, Scooter, Statler and Waldorf, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, Behemoth, Link Hogthrob, Pops, the Newsman, Bobo the Bear, purple Frackle, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Nigel, Uncle Deadly, Wayne, Beautiful Day Monster, Beauregard, Wanda, the Snowths, Mahna Mahna, Crazy Harry, Lew Zealand, Miss Piggy, Dr. Teeth, sheep, Rowlf the Dog
Italian singer and musician Elio (Stefano Belisari) performed a cover of the song in a music video featuring the Muppets to promote the release of The Muppets in Italy (I Muppet). The video was accompanied with a series of web videos showing Elio being kidnapped by the Muppets to host The Muppet Show.
- As the first TV series that would establish The Muppets brand of characters, musical elements from the theme would be incorporated into the opening title theme for several other forays the Muppets have made into television:
- Kermit and Fozzie off-handedly sang the refrain of the song a capella in a framing sequence featured in The Muppet Revue.
- The tune can also be heard as part of Stars and Motorcars Parade and as an instrumental in Muppet*Vision 3D as visitors enter and exit the theater.
- Another version of the song was written and performed for The Muppet CD-ROM: Muppets Inside as part of the finale video at the end of the game. Footage from the fifth season theme was shown while alternate lyrics relating to being a CD-ROM were sung, including a variation of the first season "to introduce our guest star..." lyric. The end credits played the fifth season version of the closing theme, which kept repeating the last half of the closing theme (starting with the trumpet section) over and over after Statler and Waldorf keep making closing comments.
- Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) sings, and plays on the piano, a rendition of the song while weeping uncontrollably in the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which featured puppets from Jim Henson's Creature Shop).
- Josh Groban sang part of the theme as part of a Television theme song medley on the 60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, where an Animal photo puppet replica appeared to play drums during the bit.
- A variation of the theme song opened issue #1 of The Muppet Show Comic Book: On the Road, while a verse of the theme was also sung in issue #3.
- Children's Songs and Stories with the Muppets begins and ends with a music box-style version of the theme.
- Jim Henson's Musical World included a performance by The New York Pops accompanied by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
- WhoSampled.com notes the tune's similarity to a 1930s German song, "Ich Brauche Keine Millionen".