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As the Muppets are being revamped for an entirely new generation on Disney+, more people are interested in the history of the Muppets and Jim Henson, its creator. The Muppets have a long history, and much of it is not well known. One of the lesser-known facts is that Jim Henson created two pilots before deciding on The Muppet Show. One of them was The Muppets Valentine Show, and the other wasThe Muppet Show: Sex And Violence, and both were flawed.

Had either of them been the final pilot that aired, the show would never have been a massive hit, and the movies would never have been massive successes. Luckily for all of us, Jim Henson was smart enough to make enough changes to give us the Muppet shows we know and love.

Jim Henson with Muppets cast
Jim Henson and Muppets | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

What is the history of The Muppet Show?

According to The New Yorker, Jim Henson created a puppet show right out of high school called Sam and Friends along with his future wife, Jane Nebel. The show appeared in five-minute vignettes and featured a non-speaking Kermit and a humanoid puppet called Sam, who often lip-synched various songs. They parlayed the show’s success into some commercial spots for Wilkins Coffee which aired from 1957 to 1969.

These commercials showed Henson’s penchant for blowing things up, which he later gave to a Muppet named Crazy Harry, who often appeared on The Muppet Show. Henson gave up the commercials when the Muppets began appearing on Sesame Street, officially launching his career into superstardom.

What were the flaws of the first two ‘Muppet Show’ pilots?

In 1974 and 1975, Henson created two pilots which would eventually become The Muppet Show. The pilots were both flawed but in very different ways.  The first pilot was The Muppets Valentine Show. It was much more like the contemporary Muppet Show in that it has a host, Mia Farrow, but according to The AV Club, the show was sentimental to the point of being nauseating.

Despite featuring Crazy Harry (Then called Crazy Don) blowing things up, it lacked the humor and character work that The Muppet Show was known for. This humor and character work let The Muppet Show be sappy without going over the edge. Without the humor, The Muppets Valentine Show was too sweet.

Between filming the first pilot and the second pilot, The Muppet Show: Sex And Violence, the Muppets appeared on the first two episodes of Saturday Night Live. The Muppet Show: Sex And Violence tapped into too much of that manic improvisational energy. It had plenty of humor and character work but lacked any sentimentality or depth.

Henson was trying to create the same chaos he experienced on Saturday Night Live, and it just didn’t work for the Muppets. Luckily, Jim Henson realized the problem and essentially combined the two pilots. He kept the warmth and the guest host of The Muppets Valentine Show and paired it with the humor of The Muppet Show: Sex And Violence to create The Muppet Show we know and love.

What is the legacy of The ‘Muppet Show’?

In its five seasons, The Muppet Show won three Emmys, inspired 13 films, and spawned a children’s cartoon called Muppet Babies. The show made a comeback in 1996 with a show called The Muppets Tonight, had a mockumentary style show called The Muppets, and has an upcoming new show on Disney+.  What made The Muppet Show so iconic was that it managed to blend comedy, music, and heart-touching moments so that they melded perfectly. Sometimes making errors can lead to the perfect show that everyone loves. 


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