The Muppet Show has finally arrived on Disney +, and while fans young and old can now relive the best episodes of the variety show, they won’t be able to watch it in its entirety. The problematic content of the show comes with a disclaimer, but some segments will not yet be part of the Disney + collection. And it turns out that most cuts boil down to something even Disney can’t beat: music rights.
Two episodes of The Muppet Show are missing from the show’s catalog on Disney +. The first, Episode 506, is an Alice in Wonderland-themed entry hosted by Brooke Shields, who was the youngest guest star in the show’s history, who, in typical Muppet fashion, gets out of hand. . The reason it was cut, however, was that it features a confused Fozzie, dressed as the Tin Man, singing « We’re Off To See The Wizard » from The Wizard of Oz. The rights to that film are owned by Warner Bros, which is currently working on a remake, making negotiations for the rights to the song prohibitive.
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Music rights are at the center of most of the omissions from The Muppet Show on Disney +. Twelve-episode songs have been removed, including those performed by guest stars such as Don Knotts’ ill-fated The Electric Mayhem collaboration « Lullaby of Birdland, » while others are sung by the Muppets themselves, such as Beauregard’s rendition of « Dancing. On the Ceiling « . However, Broadway legend and Zooey’s Extraordinary Playlist actress Bernadette Peters is the guest with the most songs removed. While none of the songs are performed by her, Kermit’s nephew’s rendition of « I’m Five » and « They Call The Wind Maria » have been cut from the episode.
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However, the cut that shows how convoluted the issue of rights can be occurs in episode 518. In this entry, Gustavo’s old friends from Sesame Street go through the program, and both casts sing a verse of their theme musical. Despite Jim Henson’s participation in Sesame Street, the cameo had to be cut because HBO has the rights to the series.
Apart from music, most of the Disney + cuts were segments shot for territories with fewer advertising breaks than the US market. The ads were edited on the DVD versions of The Muppet Show, but have been removed entirely from the Disney + version. The only thing that has been fully compromised is Episode 519, which probably never got a chance to go bad due to music licensing.
The guest star of that episode was the show’s only British writer, Chris Langham, who has become an infamous figure since his unlikely appearance. Langham replaced the originally planned guest star Richard Pryor, who left the show at the last minute, and played a messenger who broke the news that yod singer Bennie Brillstein was refusing to participate in the episode.
Years after his appearance, Langham was arrested by Kent Police in November 2005 in the context of Operation Ore, a British investigation into child pornography. He was found guilty two years later and sentenced to 10 months in jail. Langham’s sentence was reduced to 6 months on appeal, but Disney decided it wanted nothing more to do with him and has tried to remove the episode whenever possible.
For fans dying to see the skipped musical numbers from The Muppet Show, physical media is really the only way to go. Most of these segments can be found on the DVDs of their respective seasons or on The Best Of The Muppet Show DVD.