Friday, September 12, 2014

Pigs In Space: The Star Wars Themed Muppet Show Episode that Predicted the Future


Wow! I stumbled across a Star Wars themed episode of The Muppet Show the other day finding myself amazed that the original series is as good as I remember it being as a kid and that Jim Henson had the insight to know way back in 1980 that someday in the future The Muppets and Star Wars would all be a part of the Disney family. Kermit the Frog & cast are joined in Episode 417 of The Muppet Show by Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (in C3PO costumer), Peter Mayhew Mayhew (Chewbacca) and R2D2 (listed as played by himself in the show credits).  The Star Wars quartet go on a variety of missions behind the scenes of the show and on stage wrapping up with a foreshadowing song number that has the Muppet and Star Wars characters singing together "When You Wish Upon a Star" in front of a prop that looks very much like a Disney amusement park castle.  Freaky!!!

There are some nice Star Wars skits in the show including a "Pigs in Space" feature and a Fred Astaire inspired dance number by C3PO.  It is also funny that at this point in his career Mark Hamill was really concerned about being type cast as Luke Skywalker in Hollywood so he insisted that if he appear on the show they do something that differentiated Mark Hamill the actor from Luke Skywalker the character.  So the show has a gag where Mark Hamill is portrayed as Luke Skywalker's "cousin" who is showing off various talents in an effort to get his own skit on the variety show.  While I was hooked into the watching the episode by the Star Wars connection, I have to say I was truly impressed by the  non-Star Wars related performances in the The Muppet Show which reminded me of just how great this family friendly show was in its time. I highly recommend sitting back for a half hour and enjoying this classic original episode of The Muppet Show:

Here are a few easter eggs from the show you may want to look out for while watching it:

Hanging on Scooter's bedroom wall during his "Six String Orchestra" number are posters of Luke Skywalker and an upside-down Star Destroyer.

This episode of The Muppet Show was released prior to Empire Strikes Back appearing in theaters but Hamill is wearing Luke Skywalker's never before seen Bespin costume from the movie.  Hinting that this may be tied to the upcoming Star Wars sequel, the Muppets refer to his costumer throughout the episode frequently pointing it out and asking him "Who's your tailor?" which the audience wouldn't get the connection to until watching the movie in theaters and seeing him wearing it.  Even Mark Hamill says to Luke Skywalker "Who is your tailor? I love that outfit" in the high-tech for its time ending of the show that has the two of them appear with Kermit the Frog at the same time.

Similarly at the time of the show's broadcast, the audience wouldn't have known that Darth Vader's identity is revealed in Empire Strikes Back but The Muppet Show episode teases that the true identity of Dearth Nadir (Gonzo) would be revealed during the "Pigs in Space" skit. Was this a hint to the audience that Darth Vader's identity would be revealed in Empire Strikes Back?

Frank Oz was the puppeteer and voice on this episode for Ms. Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Animal.  He also was the puppeteer and voice for Yoda in the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi movies.  At the time this episode aired people wouldn't have known who Yoda was as the character first appears in Empire Strikes Back.

The space ship piloted by Ms. Piggy and her crew in "Pigs in Space" is named Swinetrek, a nod to Star Trek.

Disney purchased the rights to The Muppets in 2004 and Star Wars in 2012.  This episode that aired in 1980 foreshadowed that with its final number that has the characters sing one of Disney's trademark songs "When You Wish Upon a Star" with a castle behind them which are often combined to promote the company's theme parks and media products.  Now you can purchase Muppet / Star Wars co-branded items like these toys we picked up at Disney World.

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