If you had a chance (or the misfortune) to read our tweets from last night’s Oscars telecast, you’ll know that we were very sore that Bret McKenzie was not given a chance to perform his Oscar-nominated “Man or Muppet” (and one would assume a theoretical performance would include Jason Segel & Walter, if not the Muppet cast), and we took every opportunity to point out an uninspiring three minutes that could have been better spent with a Muppet musical interlude (which, basically, was any three minutes in the show, save for Tom Hanks’ presentation and Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis’s own musical interlude). And, despite the hope that we foolishly granted ourselves in our most private moments, the Muppet contribution to the show was limited to a short bit with Kermit & Miss Piggy introducing Cirque Du Soleil (so you had time for those freaks and not the Muppets? C’mon). So with that you could consider the chance to do something fun and different and special officially thwarted, in favor of the same old pabulum (and the new old Billy Crystal).
BUT, despite all that, the Muppets did deliver two of the night’s best moments. First, of course, was Bret McKenzie’s triumph (although, let’s be honest, if the song from Rio won, we should just pack it in. That would have been worse that Meryl Streep’s victory (which, by the way, was a win for lazy white people everywhere)), winning the Oscar for a film that deserved much more acclaim and recognition than it received. The second moment was McKenzie’s gracious, earnest acceptance speech, and, more to the point, Jason Segel’s reaction when McKenzie offered his gratitude to Jim Henson. That moment of pure joy could warm the coldest heart.
We can’t find that clip online (thanks a lot, the man!), but this almost approximates that joy and innocence:
On a related note, for the better part of the last year we’ve been slogging our way through Michael Davis’ Street Gang, the wonderfully detailed and thoroughly researched history of Sesame Street. Not surprisingly, we found the most engaging excerpts to be those that touched on Jim Henson’s contribution to the show, and, in a macabre way, the description of his passing and his now legendary memorial service. We finally came to this event towards the end of the book as we were riding along the E train yesterday; at one point the doors open, we look up and what should we see? Jim Henson, surrounded by his greatest creations, a poster for their exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image. It was a bit eerie, but even more it felt special, serendipitous. And, then, mere hours later, McKenzie invokes Henson’s name, providing another fitting tribute to a man who remains an inspiration to so many of us.
In two days The Muppets will return to theaters after more than a decade away from the big screen. It seems like just yesterday that we were salivating over the whispers of a Muppet resurrection orchestrated by Jason Segel (yes, that Jason Segel). After spending years on the brink of obsolescence – thanks to bad business deals, changing tastes, the boom of CGI, and general Hollywood bureaucracy – it began to seem like the Muppets would never be given the opportunity to recapture the glory they once possessed, that they would forever be relegated to an aging, evermore antiquated attraction at Disneyland, and truly exist only on DVD and in the hearts and memories of people over 25. We yearned for their return, and while we never imagined their savior would be a geek in shining armor like Segel, we were thrilled when the rumors began to circulate that someone who grew up on the Muppets, someone who loved and cherished them as much as we did, was going to resuscitate them. Not some out of touch, graying puppeteers, or even the Henson family, but someone with a fresh, relevant perspective whose primary hope was to honor the spirit and style of Jim Henson. We could not have been more excited.
And now, with The Muppets about to unspool at theaters across the country, what we feel is not excitement, but trepidation. Why? Because of this:
A short, fun Muppet Tuesday inspired by a video referred to us by The Geoff Man and last week’s Top Chef.
As far as Sesame Street characters go, we don’t remember being particularly enamored with Cookie Monster as a child. Certainly, we weren’t fans of that red menace Elmo, but our allegiances laid more with Ernie and that other blue monster, Grover (probably because of his aural resemblance to Yoda, his brother in Frank Oz-helmed arms). And, of course, we appreciated and admired Kermit, not just for being the straight man who tolerated all the zany creatures on Sesame Street, but because we were thoroughly impressed that he managed to moonlight as the “Muppet News” reporter while managing the Muppets full-time. That guy was basically the 70s and 80s version of Joel McHale (But really, Kermit can’t count as a favorite, because he’s a given, it’s like saying the Beatles are your favorite band (which they are not). Hall of Fame members are not options)). But for some reason, while not disliking Cookie Monster, he never struck the same chord as the others. Perhaps because he wasn’t as silly-mean as Grover, or childlike and mischievous as Ernie. He seemed rather one-note, heck bent on one thing and one thing alone, and that obscured a rather winning personality. But with his SNL audition tape, his appearance on the show with Jeff Bridges, and his guest-judging on Top Chef last week, our opinion towards the pastry pouncer began to change. With hs newly discovered nuanced sense of humor Cookie Monster was evolving into our favorite Sesame Street Muppet . Except that, as this vintage video shows, that sharp sensibility was there all along. We just missed it until now. Somehow, Cookie Monster might actually be the subtlest monster on Sesame Street.
And, as usual, we plan to recap last week’s Top Chef just before the new one airs tomorrow night, but take a look at this behind the scenes clip from featuring Cookie Monster, along with Telly and, yes, Elmo, hilariously kinda being dicks to the crew.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
And we now realize where Barbara Walters got it from…
And if just one, just one, 3 year-old decides they prefer Cookie Monster to Elmo then we’ll be happy.
If you thought we couldn’t keep up our habit of recapping Top Chef just before the new episode premieres, then you were wrong. DEAD WRONG. So here we go! (note: our DVR ran out of space when recording this episode so we cannot provide our usual primary source materials. Sorry!)
For the Quickfire challenge they made fondue! Just like a party my parents might have! But Carla was struggling and lamented the fact that there was never any time.
Time to sample the dishes! Padma seemed to particularly enjoy Tiffany’s entry.
It’s Thursday night and we haven’t mentioned the Muppets once this week, so it’s time to kill two birds with one stone. Well, more accurately, one large bird and one big ham, and instead of a stone it’s a tennis ball. And we’re not killing them so much as gently mocking them.
Tony Danza is just like us! He learned to count from Sesame Street (JK, Tony! JK!)
Quick one today! Check out a featurette about Being Elmo, an upcoming documentary about Kevin Clash, better known as the puppeteer behind the little red Muppet monster (also known as the voice of Splinter in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films). As much as we resent Elmo for obscuring the other Muppets on Sesame Street (and, to some extent, watering down the show’s material), we most certainly respect Clash’s body of work.
And we also respect the filmmakers for resisting the urge to title their documentary Tickle Me: The Kevin Clash Story.