Maybe it's because the Muppet Show was a favourite when I was growing up, or maybe it's because I can do a reasonably good impersonation of many of the Muppets (right down to the "Hey-ho" for Kermit), but I'm hoping The Muppets, the forthcoming reboot with Jason Segal, is more than just decent. I want awesome.
We went to see the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie on the weekend (it's not that bad, as long as you bear in mind that it never intended to be that good), and this was a little surprise tucked in there. A trailer for The Muppets, coming under the guise of a romantic comedy ... one which switches gears as soon as the stars are introduced.
In this case, Grover focuses on the word “on,” as in, “on a boat.” Or, “I’m on a horse,” as Grover says at the end … except that the animal below him says “Moo.” “Cow,” Grover quickly adds.
Hilarious. It works for adults, particularly those who like a little burst of satire, and it definitely works for children, too. By early this week, well over five million people had seen the video on YouTube, not including copies posted elsewhere.
I wasn’t surprised, then, to read a piece from New York magazine that revealed not only that the producers of Sesame Street aim to hit two generations with one video, but also deliberately try to get a viral thing happening when they make a video.
They’ve also done parodies of Mad Men – “I’m mad!” says one irate Muppet – and True Blood, a.k.a. True Mud. Yes, it’s a bit risky source material, but the idea is that the kids appreciate what they’re seeing for what it is, while the adults get a lift on a couple of levels.
The Grover parody was conceived, in part, as a way of getting people’s attention, and its internal budget was justified as a promotional event (you’ll notice a brief slide at the end suggesting you watch Sesame Street on PBS, or their website).
More with Muppets
Of course, Grover is a Muppet, but he sticks to Sesame Street. The Muppets, as a brand in their own right, have been reinventing themselves over the last couple of years, and have been making extraordinary clever use of the web to do it.
Consider the cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which reunited all of the Muppet Show gang for a rousing yet kid-friendly rendition. (Animal “sang” the word Mama over and over in the place of the lines about pulling a trigger and shooting a man dead.) The video was just posted, a few nudges were made, and boom – everyone got excited about the Muppets again.
For some, it was a bit of nostalgia; for others, like my son – who particularly likes watching videos of Beaker and Bunsen Honeydew’s ill-fated experiments – the videos are entirely fresh.
When you think about it, the Muppets had a built-in advantage for the web. Their sketches were short and often action-packed, built around one strong joke … and just the right length for bite-size videos that people overwhelmingly prefer online.
Many viral hits are shot with a simple camera, even a cellphone, which makes the Muppets different. The production values on the new ones are sumptuous, and quite a bit of thought and skill has gone into pulling them off.
The Muppet videos are laying the groundwork for a new movie, and no doubt a multimedia presence that will probably be hard to ignore, and possibly overwhelming. For now, though, millions of people can’t get enough of those morsels of Muppet humour.
Angry Birds: Halloween Angry Birds has been a worldwide phenomenon since this summer: a game where a little geometry knowledge helps, and a whole lot of fun for anyone with a smartphone. The free version unveiled for Android phones this month drew 2 million downloads in half a week.
Rovio, the company behind the addictively compelling game, has issued a special Halloween edition, with new levels and challenges. Downloading it made me a hit in our house, where both my wife and son are far adept than I am in maneuvering those die-hard birds into slingshots.
When I was a teenager, and the Muppet Show started, I had this thought that the saxophone player was inspired by a particular musician - namely, the sax player in Gerry Rafferty's band.
Let me explain.
Above is that Muppet. I later learned his name is Zoot, but to me and my friends, he was the sax player who played a really, really deep note at the end of the "It's time to meet the Muppets!" theme song each week, and then cast a curious glance into the bowl of his instrument.
For some reason, Zoot reminded me of this fellow:
This is, I believe, Raphael Ravenscroft, the musician who played the famous sax solo on Baker Street. At the very least, this is the person in the video released with the single in 1978.
I don't remember this video from the period, but I do remember other TV
appearances that Rafferty made; in each, the sax solo was played with some mystery that
echoed, in my adolescent mind, Zoot. In the same way, Janice from the Electric Mayhem reminded me of Ladies of the Canyon-era Joni Mitchell. Animal reminded me of Keith Moon and Floyd reminded me of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.
As it turns out, at least according to the Wikipedia entry on Dr. Teeth and co., Zoot was modelled on none other than Gato Barbieri. At the time, I'm quite I would not have known his name (I knew Chuck Mangione, but not much beyond that), but now ... well, yeah, I can see it:
Aren't they the worst? In any event, my brother-in-law had this as his Facebook profile (I'm assuming for Sunday's meme of Jim Henson Day, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the untimely death of the Muppets creator), and I nicked it.
Incidentally, here's the image I picked for my own profile. (I was surprised to learn that the Muppet news dude's name is ... Newsman.)
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.