Still, any excuse to see re-runs of Kermit singing Rainbow Connection with Debbie Harry. Sniffle…
* Best Ever Muppet Moments, ITV1, Saturday 11 March, 7pm
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) was dedicated to the memory of Mup-daddy Jim Henson. Henson died on 16 May 1990 – the same day as Sammy Davis Jr.
2. Chris Langham from The Thick of It was one of the chief writers on The Muppet Show. In 1981 he guest-starred as a last-minute replacement for Richard Pryor. He did magic tricks with sausages and impersonated an owl.
4. Lucas spent thousands on a campaign to get Frank Oz an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for Empire Strikes Back. Didn’t happen.
5. Oz, who voiced Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Animal, was also the hands of the Swedish Chef.
6. Oz is magic, 1: He brings good luck to movie director John Landis. When he appears in a Landis film (Trading Places, The Blue Brothers, American Werewolf in London), the film does well. When he doesn’t (Twilight Zone: The Movie), it tanks.
7. Oz is magic, 2: The last three letters of his car’s number plate are PYK, for Piggy, Yoda, and Kermit. But he didn’t order it specially; it was standard issue.
8. Jim Henson became famous after his puppets were used in Sesame Street (1969-infinity). But he hated being typecast as a kids’ entertainer, so he tried to become a Saturday Night Live regular. But he and the rest of the cast hated each other.
9. When Henson tried Plan B – a grown-up version of Sesame Street – no US network wanted it. Michael Grade‘s dad, legendary Brit telly boss Lew Grade, was the only person interested. But when he aired The Muppet Show in 1976, no-one watched it.
10. It eventually became the most-watched show in telly history.
11. The original Kermit was made out of Henson’s mum’s old coat and a ping-pong ball. He was a sort of lizard, and named after Henson’s old childhood friend from Mississippi.
12. At first, the show struggled to attract big-name guests, so the production crew got their friends in. Luckily, their friends included Bruce Forsyth (season 1 show 3, 1976) and Peter Ustinov (season 1 show 12, 1976). The guests only really started rolling after Rudolf Nureyev performed Swine Lake with Miss Piggy in season 2.
Not great Muppet websites:
* Muppets.com – Disney-owned corporate swill