By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange Tempe
It seems like these days everything you loved as a kid has been remade, rebooted, reimagined, or generally re-cashed-in-on. The less-than-stellar track record of these efforts has trained us to expect little more than a pale copy of the original version. But then there’s The Muppets. Fueled by the success of their cleverly self-aware return to the silver screen in 2011, the loveable troupe is now set to go back to where it all started—prime-time television (starting Sept. 22). This is one revival that I can get behind. So to celebrate, I’ve collected 15 interesting facts you probably didn’t know about the Muppets. Enjoy!
• The Muppets knocked the Beatles off the #1 UK album slot in the summer of 1977.
• Kermit was originally a lizard-like creature, made from Jim Henson’s mother’s old coat and a halved ping pong ball for eyes.
• The Muppets were part of the original cast of Saturday Night Live. Although the SNL writing staff disliked writing for them, they managed to appear in each of the first ten episodes and sporadically afterwards.
• The Miss Piggy started out on The Muppet Show as a nameless chorus line dancer until a breakout performance of “Temptation” in the 22nd episode.
• The Muppet Show wasn’t made in America. After being rejected by the U.S. networks, the show found a home on ITV in London. It was later broadcast in the States.
• The character of Animal was inspired by Keith Moon of The Who.
• Most Muppets are left-handed. This is due to the fact that puppeteers generally work the characters’ mouths with their right hand, leaving their left hand free to work the arm rod.
• The original name of Gonzo the Great was Snarl the Cigar Box Frackle.
• The surprising title of The Muppet Show’s 1975 pilot was “Sex and Violence.” It was meant to parody the amount of sex and violence on television.
• In 1979 Kermit’s version of “Rainbow Connection” reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed in the Top 40 for seven weeks.
• Though guest stars were not permitted to appear on The Muppet Show more than once, they could request to have a scene with their favorite character. The most requested was Miss Piggy and Animal.
• Jim Henson turned down the role of Yoda for The Empire Strikes Back, but suggested fellow puppeteer Frank Oz.
• Whenever a child walks onto the Muppets set, the phrase “blue sky!” is used to remind the cast and crew to refrain from swearing.
• The first Muppet character to get national exposure was Rowlf the Dog. He appeared in Purina Dog Food commercials on the Jimmy Dean show from 1963-66.
• Upon its release in June 1981, Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life was on the New York Times bestseller list for 29 weeks.