The Land of Gorch

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The Land of Gorch
Starring Jim Henson
Frank Oz
Fran Brill
Richard Hunt
Jerry Nelson
Alice Tweedie
Narrated by Don Pardo (opening narration)
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 16
Production
Executive producer(s) Lorne Michaels
Broadcast
Original run October 11, 1975 – September 18, 1976

The Land of Gorch is a recurring skit in season one of Saturday Night Live. This segment featured Jim Henson's Muppets. Saturday Night Live's executive producer Lorne Michaels described the characters as the type of adult Muppets that can stay up late.

Plot[edit]

The Land of Gorch is a swampy alien wasteland on an unnamed planet (which was claimed to also be named "Gorch" in one sketch) ruled by the oafish King Ploobis who has different misadventures with his wife Queen Peuta, his right-hand man Scred, his servant Vazh, his son Wisss, and a carved-from-stone deity called The Mighty Favog.

The intro narrated by Don Pardo states:

"Come with us now from the bubbling tar pits to the sulfurous wasteland, from the rotting forest to the stagnant mud flats, to the Land of Gorch."

The Land of Gorch segments dealt with a number of racy issues ranging from alcohol abuse, adultery, species extinction, drugs, and other "adult" topics, though each was treated with the expected SNL irreverence.

Decline[edit]

Saturday Night Live's writing staff disliked writing for the Muppets. Although the puppet designs were praised, the sketches themselves were generally not well received. The Land of Gorch characters (and the Land of Gorch set) appeared in each of the first 10 episodes of the show; in the 11th episode, Scred makes a solo appearance only to be told by Gilda Radner that the sketch he was to appear in has been cancelled. After that, the "Gorch" characters appeared only sporadically, making a total of three appearances in the season's final 13 episodes, and one further appearance in season two. (Chevy Chase also acted out one later "Gorch" sketch in which none of the puppets actually appeared.) After episode 10, the Land of Gorch sketches (when they appeared at all) were mostly self-referential bits about how the sketch was unpopular, didn't fit in with the rest of the show, and had been canceled. The last few sketches involved the Muppet characters trying to negotiate with various cast members and guest stars for the sketch's revival and continuance, but to no avail.

Alan Zweibel expressed his view on the topic:

Whoever drew the short straw that week had to write the Muppet sketch. The first time I met [Michael] O'Donoghue, I walked into Lorne's office... and I look in a corner of the room and there's a guy I learned was Michael O'Donoghue. What was he doing, you ask? He had taken a stuffed toy of Big Bird, and the cord from the venetian blinds, and he wrapped the cord around Big Bird's neck. He was lynching Big Bird. And that's how we all felt about the Muppets. Al Franken and Tom Davis and I were the rookie writers, and the others always rigged it so we were the ones who wrote the Muppet sketches. So I went over to Jim Henson's townhouse on like Sixty-eighth Street with a sketch I had written. There was one character named Skred [sic], and I remember we're reading the sketch, Jim Henson's reading the pages, and he gets to a line and says, 'Oh, Skred wouldn't say this.' And I look, and on a table over there is this cloth thing that is folded over like laundry, and it's Skred. 'Oh, but he wouldn't say this.' Oh, sorry.

In 1983, Jim Henson commented on what happened behind the scenes at Saturday Night Live:

I saw what he (Lorne Michaels) was going for and I really liked it and wanted to be a part of it, but somehow what we were trying to do and what his writers could write for it never jelled. ... When they were writing for us, I had the feeling they were writing normal sitcom stuff, which is really boring and bland. ... Yeah, it just never jelled with the particular writers we were working with, but at no time did I ever lose my respect for the show. I always liked what they were doing.

In 1999, Frank Oz also commented on the show:

There was good and bad. The bad unfortunately was that I think we didn't really belong on "Saturday Night Live." I think our very explosive, more cartoony comedy didn't jive with the kind of Second City casual laid-back comedy, so the writers had a lot of trouble writing for us. They weren't used to that kind of Muppet writing. But the good part was that every Saturday was very exciting - going through rehearsal, then dress [rehearsal], then air - and meeting and seeing the beginnings of Andy Kaufman, and the great little films of Albert Brooks, and seeing John Belushi and Chevy Chase and Danny Aykroyd, the beginnings of all that. That was very, very exciting. A live show on Saturday night is always exciting. But it was good at the end of the year that The Muppet Show was there for us, because it was just too difficult for them. We didn't belong on that show anymore. But we had a great time.

Characters[edit]

  • King Ploobis (performed by Jim Henson) - The greedy and decorative King of the Land of Gorch. He is married to Queen Peuta, but has been having an affair with his servant Vazh. King Ploobis is always seeking advice from The Mighty Favog.
  • Queen Peuta (performed by Alice Tweedie) - The Queen of the Land of Gorch. She is married to King Ploobis. Due to King Ploobis having an affair with Vazh, Queen Peuta secretly has an affair with Scred. She has three feet which she wears shoes that were made from the skins of the Gligs. She was built by Mari Kaestle.
  • Wisss (performed by Richard Hunt) - The son of King Ploobis and Queen Peuta. He is shown to have an addiction to smoking craters.
  • Scred (performed by Jerry Nelson) - King Ploobis' right-hand man and servant who is in an affair with Queen Peuta. Scred is always mistreated by King Ploobis. He was designed by Michael K. Frith and built by Caroly Wilcox.
  • Vazh (performed by Rhonda Hansome in the first appearance, Fran Brill in later appearances) - King Ploobis' lovely servant who he has an affair with.
  • The Mighty Favog (performed by Frank Oz) - A living statue who serves as the deity of the Land of Gorch. He would offer his advice to King Ploobis and the planet's other inhabitants in exchange for sacrifices. The Mighty Favog's name came from a nickname given by the Muppet Performers to the clock in the Green Room of The Ed Sullivan Show where they would playfully pray to the clock that they wouldn't get bumped if the show ran long. Favag was the brand name of synchronized clock systems, popular with broadcasters. The Green Room clock was presumably a Favag.

Episodes[edit]

For each of the episodes, the writers drew straws and that the one who got the shortest straw wrote the episode for this sketch. Two of these episodes have each been written by Jim Henson and Jerry Nelson. The following episodes are listed by the episode with the guest host:

No. Title Writer(s) Initial airing
1 "George Carlin Episode" October 11, 1975

King Ploobis and Scred go to The Mighty Favog for medical advice.

Transcript for sketch here
2 "Paul Simon Episode" October 18, 1975
King Ploobis and Scred go to The Mighty Favog for fiscal assistance. 
3 "Rob Reiner Episode" October 25, 1975

King Ploobis and Scred discover that Wisss is smoking craters and try to get Wisss to stop.

Transcript for sketch here
4 "Candice Bergen Episode" November 8, 1975
King Ploobis wants to eat some Gligs, but there are only two left. King Ploobis goes to The Mighty Favog for advice on how to make more Gligs. 
5 "Robert Klein Episode" November 15, 1975
When King Ploobis has a headache, Scred tries everything he can to cure King Ploobis of his headache. 
6 "Lily Tomlin Episode" Jerry Nelson November 22, 1975

Scred develops a crush on Lily Tomlin and they sing "I Got You Babe."

Transcript for sketch here
7 "Richard Pryor Episode" December 13, 1975
After "hitting the sauce," King Ploobis and Scred go to see The Mighty Favog. 
8 "Candice Bergen Episode" December 20, 1975
King Ploobis throws a Christmas party. Unfortunately for him, most of the guests that he has invited have chosen to go to the Killer Bees' Christmas party. When Candice Bergen shows up at King Ploobis' Christmas party, she is disappointed at what she sees. Candice, King Ploobis, and Scred then sing "Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas" followed by Scred taking Candice to the Killer Bees' Christmas party. 
9 "Elliott Gould Episode" January 10, 1976
Queen Peuta reveals to Scred that she feels guilty about their affair. King Ploobis plans to kill anyone who has been having an affair with his wife. Not sure about what to do, Scred go to The Mighty Favog for advice. 
10 "Buck Henry Episode" January 17, 1976

While King Ploobis is out of town, Scred shows Queen Peuta his new sex device. This is essentially the last proper "Land Of Gorch" sketch; later sketches generally involve the puppet characters being told the "Land Of Gorch" segment has been cancelled, and/or their attempts to get back on the show.

NOTE: Rollie Krewson served as assistant puppeteer in this sketch. 
11 "Peter Cook and Dudley Moore Episode" January 24, 1976
As Gilda Radner was about to introduce the musical guest, Scred comes out in a bee costume planning to appear in the bee version of The Andy Griffith Show (where he was supposed to play Aunt Bee). Gilda tells Scred that the sketch was canceled and they both introduce Neil Sedaka
12 "Jill Clayburgh Episode" February 28, 1976
The characters from "The Land of Gorch" are ostensibly attending the Grammy Awards, so Chevy Chase ends up acting out the sketch. This is the final time the Land Of Gorch set is seen, although no actual Muppets appear in the episode. 
13 "Anthony Perkins Episode" March 13, 1976
King Ploobis and Scred approach Anthony Perkins for help in order to get their sketch back on the air. King Ploobis and Scred come back during the middle of a later sketch for help, and at the end of the episode, they come on-stage during the credits. 
14 "Raquel Welch Episode" Jim Henson April 24, 1976
King Ploobis and Scred face the facts that they aren't welcome on the show anymore. They couldn't even get lucky with Raquel Welch who states that they "don't exist below the waist." Chevy Chase comes in telling King Ploobis and Scred that their act is canceled. Later on in the show, King Ploobis, Scred, and the other characters consult with The Mighty Favog who tells them to get into the trunk. 
15 "Madeline Kahn Episode" May 8, 1976

Scred and The Mighty Favog cut a deal with Chevy Chase stating that if he can get Lorne Michaels to revive their sketch, The Mighty Favog will get The Beatles to appear on Saturday Night Live.

NOTE: Paul McCartney and John Lennon reportedly were watching this segment on the day it aired and considered going to Rockefeller Center to surprise the audience, but decided to stay in their apartment. 
16 "Lily Tomlin Episode" September 18, 1976
King Ploobis, Queen Peuta, Scred, and Wisss wake up in a filing cabinet assuming that they are in the afterlife. When they think that their sketch has been revived, they find The Mighty Favog under a dust cover that King Ploobis removes. The Mighty Favog states that this may be their last chance on the show and that they must do whatever they tell them to do. "The Land of Gorch" Muppets are then visited by Lily Tomlin. When Lily states that she heard about The Muppet Show that came out last week, Wisss states that they won't let them be on their show since it's a family show. Lily and "The Land of Gorch" Muppets try to sing "I Whistle a Happy Tune". Unfortunately, "The Land of Gorch" Muppets can't whistle. Lily leaves planning to find something else for her and "The Land of Gorch" Muppets to do. The characters appear later on towards the end of the episode to join everyone in "The Antler Dance." 

Cast[edit]

Other appearances[edit]

  • King Ploobis, Queen Peuta, Scred, Vazh, and Wisss appeared in The Muppet Movie where they are seen amongst the Muppets in "The Rainbow Connection" finale.
  • The puppet for Food (who appeared in the Christmas episode that Candice Bergen was in) later appeared in Fraggle Rock as a background cave creature. It later appeared in The Jim Henson Hour episode "Science Fiction" as Zsa Zsa Porkmustard and in the episode "Aquatic Life" as a background undersea creature.

External links[edit]