Since Disney+ launched in November 2019, fans have been clamoring for more Muppet content on the platform. Specifically, vocal enthusiasts (particularly on Twitter) have begged for The Muppet Show to make its way to Disney’s direct-to-consumer platform. And finally, the outcry has been answered and every glorious episode of The Muppet Show will be coming to Disney+ on February 19. It’s time to put-on make-up, it’s time to dress up right, etc.
The Muppet Show, which was produced independently and aired around the world in syndication (a novel concept at the time), ran from 1976 to 1981 for a total of 120 episodes. The series catapulted creator Jim Henson and his band of merry Muppet regulars (including Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt and Dave Goelz) and their corresponding characters, into international icons and paved the way for several Muppet feature films, countless television specials, and stranger Henson-created series like The Storyteller, Fraggle Rock and The Jim Henson Hour. For many, The Muppet Show represented the height of Henson’s powers, working with limited creative interference and creating something that both paid homage to past television formats (talk shows, variety shows, faux documentaries) while also being something entirely new. It certainly captured the zeitgeist in a way few of the subsequent projects ever did and engrained the Muppet characters in the hearts and minds of children eveywhere.
Since Disney gained control of the Muppet characters in 2004, the company also maintained the rights to the television show. (This deal was far narrower in scope than the one that Disney, led by former chairman and CEO Michael Eisner, wanted to achieve in 1989, in the months and weeks leading up to Henson’s tragic death by bacterial pneumonia. That deal, ultimately skirted due to rising tax costs and a reluctance on the part of Henson’s family, encompassed characters from other projects including Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.) Disney released three seasons of The Muppet Show on DVD in 2005, 2007, and 2008, and while box art was teased for a Season 4 DVD release at D23 Expo in 2009, it never came to pass. (Season 4 and 5 of the show debuting on Disney+ will be the first time they’ve ever had home video releases.) The DVD releases were mostly complete, although several musical numbers were cut entirely due to rights issues (uncut releases eventually came out overseas). There was also new supplemental material that was produced specifically for these releases (including a Pop-Up Video-style trivia track that would run alongside the episodes). It’s unclear if the Disney+ versions will include these supplemental materials and if they will in fact be the full, as-originally-presented episodes.
However you slice it though, having this wealth of classic Muppet material on Disney+ is a very good thing — and the episodes are coming so soon. If you’ve never seen the series or are a die-hard fan, having the episodes handily available is truly exciting and a gift to every Disney+ subscriber out there. 2021 could use this kind of wackiness.