New on DVD
'The Muppet Show: The Complete Third Season'
Bonus features delve into the archives for how-to puppet-making and dog food commercials
With the third season underway, celebrities of the day were more willing than ever to guest star, including Sylvester Stallone, Gilda Radner, Raquel Welch, Liberace and even rocker Alice Cooper, among others. Seen from an adult perspective, the formula shouldn't have worked -- serious live performers goofily interacting with puppets -- yet that's definitely part of the charm and, inevitably, a self-fulfilling cycle of cool. In short, it's Muppetational.
DVD Bonus Features:
The Good: Colorful, no-frills menus are thankfully easy to navigate, making it simple to get to the product. Watch the bonus features in the order they're listed in the menu.
"The Muppets on Puppets" is a 1968 special that Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Juhl and Don Sahlin taped for a local public television station in Hershey, Penn., that was later aired in 1970 on NET, the precursor of PBS. Be patient with this one-hour special because Henson is a deceptively mild-mannered, soft-spoken presenter and there's a portion where the audio is dropped, which was unfortunately in the source recording.
Made for kids in mind, the special methodically instructs the curious-minded or budding puppeteers on the different types of puppets (finger, marionette, hand, etc.), how to make some of them and even the behind-the-wall view of the puppeteers at work. Humor comes from the skits and Henson's sidekick Rowlf, especially when he's told that he's a puppet, not a real dog. Although this feature might appear to dymystify the magic of puppetry, it instead fosters amazement for the quality of the end product and respect for Henson's driving vision and genius.
After that grounding in puppet-making, "A Company of Players" is a much shorter, more kinetic documentary that looks back at all the various Muppeteers, their camaraderie and how acting up was encouraged as part of the collaboration. Henson and Oz as Kermit and Fozzie are likened to a pitch-perfect comedy duo, and the origins of some of your favorite Muppets and their trademarks -- such as Miss Piggy's karate chop -- are revealed.
Finally, four quick pre-"Muppet Show" Purina commercials feature Rowlf (yet another Henson alter ego) and a dopey, skinny sidekick dog named Baskerville hawking dog food in a very winning way.
The Bad: None.