May 4, 2022

That Weird Star Wars/Muppet Show Crossover

Ah Star Wars Day. What to watch? The nine movies? The well done animated series? The Disney+ TV series? Hey about this...

The Muppet Show?? Well yes, as a matter of fact. Ok I dont think this is a big secret but yes on Feb 23, 1980 rather than just having Mark Hamill as a guest the creatoes went all out and did a full fledged Star Wars show. I guess if I was George Lucas I'd want to repay Frank Oz (and Jim Henson) for Yoda any way I could too. I've mentioned this once or twice but in honor of Star Wars Day let's run down this silly episode and see if it holds up.

Cold Opening-We know something is up when Scooter opens the door and it's not an actual celebrity in the dressing room. Instead, the walls cave in as Luke Skywalker, C3PO and R2D2 charge in. And Scooter realizes they would be much better hosts. C3PO wonders what strange world they've landed on, and Luke commenting it looks like a variety show planet.

Intro-Kermit introduces the change in hosts, which Angus McGonagle is not pleased about. Then our first act, sheep singing. After that we go backstage where we learn why Luke, C3PO and R2D2 are there. They are searching for Chewbacca. Yes it is bizarre to see C3PO and Kermit talking to each other. 

Cut to a Muppet news flash and then Scooter practicing his guitar. Since Luke wont perform for Kermit, he brings in his "cousin" Mark Hamill to do something. Hamill demonstrates his ability to do impressions. This show has trouble with actors with no real ability to perform but Hamill aquits himself well. It's clear he's just having fun. Before Kermit throws him out.

The second half opens with three littles fishies singing a song. Then Scooter sings with his guitar. It's pretty good. 

After that it's the big sketch you know they HAD to do....PIGS..IN..SPACE! While it's more of a Star Trek/Lost of Space satire the Star Wars characters work perfectly. As they literally take over the sketch. The best part is Piggy (unusually absent for most of the episode) ditching her usual wardrobe to dress like Princess Leia. And of course Gonzo is the Darth Vader analog Dearth Nadir. They all find Chewbacca (who dances) and it leads directly to the finale. 

Finale-The Muppets sing "You are My Lucky Star" including C3PO tap dancing. For proof that whoever wrote this was clairvoyant, the final song is "When you wish upon a star". Yes, really! I'm sure that they picked it because "Star" is in the name but since the song is associated with Disney, and of course Disney would own both The Muppets and Star Wars eventually, it really ties the whole episode together.

Goodbye's:The final goodbyes with the cast are said, and after a cool split screen so Hamill and Luke can be on screen together Luke gets blown off so Mark Hamill can say goodbye as himself. This has to be one of the few Muppet episodes that needs to acknowledge actors in the end credits since Mark Hamill was never formally introduced and of course Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew played C3PO and Chewbacca. R2D2 was remote controlled. 

I get the feeling after this was made Henson went to George Lucas and said "Hey that was weird, but what if we do a movie about a maze that features David Bowie!". This episode is fantastic and is definitely worth a watch. What makes it work so well is that everything gets even time. Star Wars doesn't overwhelm the episode, we get tradtional Muppet stuff. But there is plenty of Star Wars. And Mark Hammil gets to be out of character even showing off his voice talents which would later give him even more fame playing various roles including, of course, The Joker. You gotta admire what a sport he is here, staying in character most of the episode. Especially when parts kind of make Luke look, well, stupid. But it's satire and Hamill clearly gets that. Maybe the Star Wars Holiday Special would have been better had it had this kind of satire in it rather than trying to play it so damn straight! This aired just a few months before Empire. The interactions with the Muppets and the Star Wars characters are on point and Gonzo almost steals the show as his Darth Vader spoof (which he already did once). Yeah Chewbacca dancing gets silly but so what, it's a great episode. There is just something that works when Star Wars and the Muppets get together whether it be movies or specials. And not just with official Muppet productions either. Don't forget that as far as these collaborations go, it could always be weirder....

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