Muppets Tonight is an updated version of The Muppet Show, set in a television studio. The show aired in 1996 on ABC and was cancelled after ten episodes had aired. The full run of 22 episodes aired on Disney Channel from 1997 to 1998.
The premise of Muppets Tonight was that Clifford was to be the host of a variety show on a Muppet-owned television station called KMUP. Most of the shows stuck closely to the Muppet Show format of various skits interspersed with some sort of backstage story (usually a crisis). The show featured a laugh track, similar to the one used on The Muppet Show. One big difference between the two shows is that on Muppets Tonight, it was much more common for audiences to only see half of an on-stage act (especially musical numbers), as many acts would begin and shortly afterwards would cut to a backstage scene (or a comment from Statler and Waldorf). Another difference is that while each episode of The Muppet Show only had one or two featured guests, and no additional humans appearing on-screen, many episodes of Muppets Tonight often feature cameos by celebrities in addition to the featured guest star. Some of these celebrities also took part in episode subplots. Also, while it was rare for any scenes on The Muppet Show to take place outside of The Muppet Theater, many episodes of Muppets Tonight had scenes taking place outside of the station.
Among the regular sketches were "Bay of Pigswatch"; "Pigs in Space: Deep Dish Nine" (a spin-off from The Muppet Show's "Pigs in Space"); "EIEIO-R"; "Tales from the Vet", and "Great Moments in Elvis History".
There have been no commercial releases of the show on DVD or video, but Brian Henson has expressed hope for a DVD release of the series after season five of The Muppet Show.
In a newspaper interview, Brian Henson talks about the show focusing on the new characters instead of the classic characters. "We've got that core, classic group, which is Kermit and Piggy, Fozzie and Gonzo, and four or five others. (But) we quickly realized that if we put those guys right in the center of the show, there wouldn't be much space for new character development. And what we wanted to do was create another sort of experimental, very creative atmosphere for 'Muppets Tonight!' that could grow new characters."
Muppets Tonight introduced many new Muppet characters, including Pepe the King Prawn, Johnny Fiama, Sal Minella, Bobo the Bear, Seymour, Spamela Hamderson, Bill the Bubble Guy, Mr. Poodlepants, Dr. Phil van Neuter and Big Mean Carl. The show also featured regular appearances from classic characters, such as Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Rizzo the Rat, Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Statler and Waldorf and Miss Piggy. Despite the new assortment, very few Muppets introduced in the series stayed in the franchise, most notably Pepe the Prawn, who became part of the main cast and has been in every Muppet production ever since.
Brian Henson said about the decision to put the Muppets in another TV series, "We were waiting until enough time had passed from the original 'Muppet Show' where we didn't feel like we were doing something that we had already done once."
Reruns of Muppets Tonight aired in syndication in countries outside of the United States, though, often packaged with the MuppetTelevision segments of The Jim Henson Hour (retitled The Jim Henson Show), and episodes of The Muppet Show.
- Paula Abdul
- Jason Alexander
- Tony Bennett
- Garth Brooks
- Pierce Brosnan
- Sandra Bullock
- Irving Cohen (played by Martin Short)
- Cindy Crawford
- Billy Crystal
- Christopher Darden
- Micky Dolenz
- Kevin Eubanks
- Lori Fetrick
- Fly Girls
- Sandy Fox
- Whoopi Goldberg
- John Goodman
- Gilbert Gottfried
- Arsenio Hall
- Daryl Hannah
- Page Hannah
- Raye Hollitt
- Evander Holyfield
- Kathy Ireland
- Bob Keeshan
- Larry King
- Jay Leno
- Little Richard
- Heather Locklear
- Andie MacDowell
- Johnny Mathis
- Ed McMahon
- Rick Moranis
- Kathy Najimy
- Leonard Nimoy
- Penn and Teller
- Michelle Pfeiffer
- Dennis Quaid
- Don Rickles
- William Shatner
- Bernard Shaw
- Martin Short
- Ben Stein
- George Takei
- Judge Joseph A. Wapner
- Fred Willard
- Kevin Clash has suggested that Jim Henson was planning to have the next Muppet series, after The Jim Henson Hour's end, cast Clifford in the leading role. (YouTube)
- The show was at first going to be titled "Muppets Live!". Another working title was "The New Muppet Show." Also in a taped presentation, Gonzo suggested a surefire alternative: "Roseanne's Funniest Home Improvements, She Wrote."
- Frank Oz's characters didn't appear much because Frank had been busy with other projects at the time.
- Executive Producers: Brian Henson, Dick Blasucci
- Producer: Martin G. Baker
- Directors: Greg V. Fera, Gary Halvorson, Brian Henson, Tom Trbovich
- Writers: Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Darin Henry, Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher, Patric Verrone
- Puppeteers: Kevin Clash, Bill Barretta, Steve Whitmire, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Brian Henson
- Additional Puppeteers: Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Phil Baron, Thom Fountain, Bruce Lanoil, Doug Legacy, Len Levitt, Drew Massey, Joe Selph, Leif Tilden, Allan Trautman, Tim Blaney, Kevin Carlson, Steven Ritz-Barr, John Kennedy, David Rudman (episode 201), Brad Abrell (season 2), Julianne Buescher (season 2), Terri Hardin (season 2), Alice Dinnean-Vernon (season 2), Paul Hartis, Mary Brehmer, John Henson (episode 206)
- Musical Director: Richard Gibbs
- Music Coordinator: Paul Rudolph
- Costume Designer: Polly Smith
- Designers: Amy van Gilder, Fred Buchholz, Mary Brehmer, Jane Gootnick, Matthew Brooks, James Haves, Henri Ewaskio, Heather Henson, Ronald Binion, Janet Kuhl
- Executive Consultant: Frank Oz
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