Lost Muppet Treasure
As a fan of classic media, I am always on the look out for rare and precious items. Some of the hardest items to find nowadays are The Muppets. Our society has really started to develop this bias against anything “old.” If kids haven’t heard of something, it must not matter. Actors on TV and movies used to look mature, sophisticated. Now it seems they all need to look like recent college grads. There’s nothing wrong with progress, we do need to move forward on many things (let’s face it, DVDs do look better than VHSs!). But if we continue on this path of rejecting the old in favor of the new and hip, pretty soon there won’t be anything left that’s worth preserving.
It was easy to be a Muppet fan in the ’80s, you had Sesame Street, the Muppet movies, Fraggle Rock, AND Muppet Babies. It seemed there was always a new Behind the Scenes special coming out (not to mention the all-too-short Jim Henson Hour!) The stores were filled with books, videos, toys, Halloween costumes, not to mention tooth brushes and foot stools! Nowadays you have to be a detective; searching discount stores, the Internet, your local library, anyplace that might house some of these lost treasures. I was fortunate recently to come across one such item, Children’s Songs and Stories with The Muppets.
To anyone who is drawing a blank, it’s a 1985 VHS released through Playhouse Video, a compilation of various Muppet Show sketches, with new segments in between. And it is truly one of the most adorable Muppet projects I’ve ever seen. And it’s practically a love letter to Scooter, The Muppets’ eager young ”gofer” (“go-fer coffee, go-fer sandwiches etc.”). I’ll try to give a general summary/analysis. (performed by Muppeteer Richard Hunt is of course the young adult character on The Muppet Show, loyally serving Kermit but desperately wishing for a chance at stardom. I’ve seen many websites dismiss the character as wimpy or boring. I disagree, Scooter was every kid who’s starting out in the adult world, desperately trying to be grown up and respected (it didn’t hurt that his Uncle owned the theater!) He definitely wasn’t a pushover, he often got the best put down lines of the group.
As the video opens, we see Scooter at a desk with his scrapbook of Muppet Show memories. The fact that Scooter keeps a scrapbook I think shows he doesn’t just work for The Muppet Show, he’s their biggest fan. The first song he introduces is “Octopus’ Garden”, sung by Kermit’s little nephew Robin.
Kermit: The song was great!
Scooter: Yeah, but you were all wet! Lolol (He sort of sounded like a very young Statler there. Perhaps Uncle JP Grosse isn’t the only relative Scooter has in the theater!)
Kermit: …cute joke.
Scooter: Mmm hmm!
The next song introduced is “I’m Five”, again sung by Robin.
Scooter: Well, Robin’s five! ::boastfully:: Personally I’m A LOT older than that!
Things go pretty normal (or as normal as a Muppet project could possibly get!) But things slowly begin to go awry. Scooter continually tries to introduce his “personal favorite” song. So named “because I sing it.” But unfortunately, he’s continually interrupted by other characters (mainly by little Robin’s numbers!) Finally, the special’s almost over. And Scooter’s no closer to introducing his song. By this point, he’s pretty downtrodden, (and not a little resentful of Robin!) As usual, it’s Kermit who saves the day!
Scooter: Well that’s almost the end…
Kermit: Hey, you know what song you should do?
Scooter: No…::head down::
Kermit: It’s that song of yours, it used to be your personal favorite!
Scooter: ::looks away:: Oh, nobody wants to hear that!
Kermit: Well, I do!
Scooter: ::looks back:: You do?!
Kermit: Sure, it’s GREAT! ::doing that arm gesture Scooter always done::
Scooter: It IS great! And it’s my personal favorite!
Kermit: Oh good! And now, the one, the only, Six String Orchestra, sung by Scooter!
Both: Great!!! ::with arm gesture::
Following Six String Orchestra, all is right with the world once again.
Scooter: Thanks, boss! And I have a good song to end on, ::tenderly:: it’s by Kermit’s nephew Robin! (Aww)
Phew! That was a lot of typing! Hehe, anyway after viewing the special, I’ve decided it should have been subtitled “Scooter’s Older Child Syndrome!” Here, Scooter goes through all the various stages of the insecure syndrome. He begins by happily boasting about how much older and more mature he is than his younger relative (in this case, Robin). After all, he WAS chosen by Kermit to host the special! He’s a grown up with responsibilities and he’s proud! He even attempts to make a joke at his boss’ expense (“You were all wet!”), proving that he’s one of the guys!
But soon, he grows jealous and resentful, when he realizes cute little Robin is getting all the attention from the grown ups. He’s no longer the proud grown up, but an insecure little boy wondering why no one wants to watch him anymore. Finally the parental figure, Kermit, comes to the rescue. He warmly insists Scooter do his “personal favorite” song, because he’d love to hear it. Kermit assures Scooter he is still important and loved. Feeling secure once again, Scooter has no problem introducing little Robin’s final number. Well, I hope that was entertaining for any Muppet fans out there. Personally, I’d give it 5 GREATS of my own!
As I said, it’s unfortunate that such a classic tape is so hard to find. Now, I’m not saying the Muppets need to be as popular or mainstream as they once were. Popularity does not guarantee quality after all. But I (and I know many other fans of all ages) would love to see them appreciated for never underestimating their audience, and bringing a unique mixture of mayhem and sweetness that will never grow old.