Jim Henson always had dual intentions for his Muppets: to delight adults and children alike. The Muppets long had their home on Sesame Street, but they did venture into the adult world with more subversive humor on the first season of Saturday Night Live (1975). SNL audiences and writers hated the strange puppet interludes, and the Muppets were fired.
When they went prime time in 1976, Kermit the Frog took the lead, and the public perception of the Muppets would change forever. The show took on a strange vaudeville format, utilizing old songs for musical numbers and intentionally bad comedy from the likes of Fozzie Bear to give it an authentic feel.
The result was a phenomenon that carries on today. The show actually went off the air in 1981, at the height of its popularity, at the insistence of Henson, who wanted to quit before it lost its steam. The Muppets would continue in the movies and on Sesame Street, returning to prime time on ABC's The Muppets Tonight for a short run (1996-'98).
As for appealing to both adults and children during its run ... I was 8 years old when it debuted. I'd watch it every week with my parents, and I noticed them laughing at jokes I didn't quite get or singing along with songs I did not know. Over time, I started laughing right along with them, appreciating the adult humor as much as the sight of the Keith Moon-inspired Animal going nuts or Gonzo getting blown up.
Special Features: The original pilot, "Sex and Violence," reveals that Kermit was not the original host of the show (it was a janitor-type guy). The pilot opted for a scattershot sketch approach rather than the tighter vaudeville structure. You have the option to activate Muppet Morsels, which reveal text trivia about the programs as the episodes run.
When the first film came out in 1984, nobody had really thought to merge big-budget special effects with low-brow comedy. Director Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis ushered in a new era of filmmaking with their bizarre ghost comedy, and the film remains a true landmark. By the time everybody reformed in 1989 for the lackluster Ghostbusters 2, everybody had become huge stars, and Murray looked embarrassed to be involved. Aykroyd tried to launch Ghostbusters 3 a few years ago, but studios balked, and Murray allegedly said he would only be involved if he could play his character as a ghost (actually a pretty good idea). The third film never came to pass. Ghostbusters (A); Ghostbusters 2 (C+).
Special Features: Essentially, this puts the prior DVD releases of both films in one convenient package. Apart from a Reitman/Ramis commentary, there are a couple of featurettes and a bunch of deleted scenes. The most regrettable omission from Ghostbusters would be a scene where Murray and Aykroyd played a couple of homeless guys who get in Rick Moranis' way as he's running from a demon dog. Murray's homeless guy was clearly modeled after Carl the groundskeeper from Caddyshack.
One of two programs that featured members of Monty Python before they merged. This program had Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam's animation. The format for the show was most similar to the Flying Circus, with sketches making attempts at interconnecting, and the introduction of Gilliam's strange cartoons.
Sketches often ended with a thud, a problem that would be resolved with the advent of Monty Python's Flying Circus and that show's remarkable ability to string things together without punch lines. Warning: There were two series of this show, and this DVD contains Series 1. The DVD cover boasts that the show has animations by Terry Gilliam, but the episodes for which he contributed those animations are not here.
Special Features: A couple of interviews (one with Terry Jones), and that's it.
Of the two pre-Python projects, this one was easily the funniest. Watching these old black-and-white sketches just goes to show that Chapman and Cleese were the Lennon and McCartney of the Pythons. Their rapid-fire, intelligent comedy became the trademark of Python's greatest sketches, something that became painfully evident when Cleese didn't participate in the final series of Flying Circus. In addition to Cleese and Chapman, the bug-eyed Marty Feldman (Eye-Gore in Young Frankenstein) and Tim Brooke-Taylor (who would become one of the Goodies) provided decent material. "Four Yorkshiremen," where four pompous men bemoan the laziness of today's youth, made their first appearance here, a sketch that would become a mainstay in the Python live show.
Special Features: Exact same features as Do Not Adjust Your Set.