Clifford, host of Muppets Tonight
|Created by||Jim Henson Productions|
|Written by||Greg V. Fera
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||22 (list of episodes)|
|Location(s)||Hollywood Center Studios
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Jim Henson Productions|
|Original release||March 8, 1996– February 8, 1998|
Muppets Tonight is an American live-action/puppet children's television series created by Jim Henson Productions and featuring The Muppets. Much like the "MuppeTelevision" segment of The Jim Henson Hour, the show was a continuation of The Muppet Show, set in a television studio, rather than a theater.
The premise of Muppets Tonight was that Clifford was the host of a variety/talk show on KMUP. The show stuck closely to The Muppet Show format of various skits (mostly featuring the show's human guest star) interspersed with some sort of crisis occurring backstage.
- Clifford (performed by Kevin Clash) – Host of the show since no one else wanted the job (Though he was featured with Muppet eyes in place of his usual sunglasses, he went back to wearing sunglasses in later Muppet projects as revealed at MuppetFest)
- Kermit the Frog (performed by Steve Whitmire) – Producer of the show
- Animal (performed by Frank Oz)
- Beauregard (performed by Dave Goelz) – Janitor of KMUP
- Behemoth (performed by Bill Barretta) – Ernst Stavros Grouper's assistant
- Dr. Bunsen Honeydew (performed by Dave Goelz) – The scientist and inventor from Muppet Labs who shows off his inventions on the show
- Dr. Julius Strangepork (performed by Jerry Nelson) – Appears in a "Bay of Pigswatch" sketch as the lifeguard inspector as seen in the Pierce Brosnan episode
- The Elvises – A group of Muppets resembling Elvis Presley that star in "Great Moments in Elvis History"
- Eugene (performed by Steve Whitmire) – A mink who serves as Nigel's assistant
- George the Janitor (performed by Steve Whitmire) – Janitor of KMUP
- Gonzo the Great (performed by Dave Goelz) – Does his stunt shows on the show
- Fozzie Bear (performed by Frank Oz)
- J.P. Grosse (performed by Kevin Clash) – The owner of the Muppet Theater who makes cameos as a crew member. In the Sandra Bullock episode, he appears in "The Tubmans of Porksmith" as Howard Tubman's doctor (performed by Allan Trautman)
- Miss Piggy (performed by Frank Oz)
- Mulch (performed by Kevin Clash) – Dr. Phil van Neuter's assistant (shown in minor parts in earlier Muppet projects); in one sketch, it is revealed that he has a sister named Composta Heap to whom Dr. Phil van Neuter is engaged
- Rizzo the Rat (performed by Steve Whitmire) – Production assistant of the show
- Rowlf the Dog (performed by Bill Barretta) – Makes some appearances playing pianos in some acts
- Sam the Eagle (performed by Frank Oz) – Hosts "The Eagle's Nest"
- Statler and Waldorf (performed by Jerry Nelson and Dave Goelz) – Usually seen heckling the show from an unnamed retirement home (season 2 has them traveling to different areas while watching the show)
- Sweetums (performed by John Henson)
Some of these introduced in Muppets Tonight went on to appear in later Muppet productions, particularly Pepe the Prawn, who has become a regular.
- A. Ligator (performed by Jerry Nelson) – A pink vulture who serves as the show's announcer
- Andy and Randy Pig (performed by Steve Whitmire and Dave Goelz) – Two pigs who are Miss Piggy's nephews
- Barbershop Cactus Quartet – A group of four cacti who make up their own barbershop quartet
- Big Mean Carl (performed by Bill Barretta) – A green shaggy monster who is in the category of Muppets eating other Muppets. He often uses disguises or variety acts to disguise his intentions of eating other muppets or objects, and eats the prized pet whenever a contestant loses (or even wins) Swift Wits. He also makes some audience appearances
- Bill the Bubble Guy (performed by Dave Goelz) – A blue-skinned Muppet who can make bubbles come out of his head; first appears in the Garth Brooks episode where the Head of the Network threatened to replace Clifford with Bill if Garth Brooks did not sing one of his country songs
- Bobo the Bear (performed by Bill Barretta) – A bear who works as a security guard; previously seen in The Muppets Take Manhattan as a generic bear that was performed by Jerry Nelson
- Captain Pighead (performed by Steve Whitmire) – A pig who serves as the captain of the new Swinetrek in the "Pigs in Space: Deep Dish Nine" segments
- Craniac (performed by Kevin Clash) – An alien with a brain for a head; a crew member on the Swinetrek in the "Pigs in Space: Deep Dish Nine" segments
- Clueless Morgan (performed by Bill Barretta) – A goat who previously appeared in Muppet Treasure Island; appears in the "At the Bar" sketch co-owning a bar with Polly Lobster
- Cue Card Monster (performed by Bill Barretta) - A small green monster with long arms who works as the cue card holder.
- Darci (performed by Leslie Carrara-Rudolph) – She was featured in "The Real World Muppets" segments; previously used as Zondra in The Jim Henson Hour
- David Hoggselhoff (a parody of David Hasselhoff; performed by Bill Barretta) – A pig who is the star of "Bay of Pigswatch"
- Dr. Pain (performed by Dave Goelz) – A doctor who appears on "E-I-E-I-O R"
- Dr. Phil van Neuter (performed by Brian Henson, assisted by Bill Barretta, operating the hands) – A mad scientist who hosts "Tales from the Vet"; in one sketch, it is revealed that he is married to Mulch's sister Composta Heap
- Ernst Stavros Grouper (a parody of Ernst Stavro Blofeld; performed by Bill Barretta) – A grouper with an eye patch, the Chairman and CEO of The Grouper Group which bought out Carni-Vore Industries (the company that owns KMUP) in the episode that guest stars Don Rickles and Coolio
- Floor Manager (performed by Leslie Carrara-Rudolph) – The unnamed floor manager of K-MUP
- Gary Cahuenga (performed by Dave Goelz) – A ventriloquist's dummy with a mind of his own
- Head of the Network (performed by Jerry Nelson) – Clifford's unnamed boss at K-MUP who first appears in the "Garth Brooks" episode wanting Clifford to get Garth Brooks to perform a country song or he will give Clifford's time slot to Bill the Bubble Guy; makes background appearances in the control room in later episodes
- Howard Tubman (performed by Bill Barretta) – A rich food-loving pig who is featured in "The Tubmans of Porksmith"; previously seen as one of the native pigs from Muppet Treasure Island
- Johnny Fiama (performed by Bill Barretta) – A Rat Pack-style singer (designed by Ed Eyth and built by Jane Gootnick)
- Jowls (performed by Jerry Nelson) – A wrinkly faced man who leads a house band called the Muppets Tonight Band
- Larry – A crew member at K-MUP; unnamed until Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony where he appeared as a Hollywood stagehand with a Muppet named Oliver
- Mr. Poodlepants (performed by Steve Whitmire) – An eccentric character with a strange fashion style
- Muppets Tonight Writers – A group of three monkeys who did the writing for the show as seen in the "Andie MacDowell" episode; bear a resemblance to Quongo the Gorilla from The Muppet Show
- Nigel (performed by Brian Henson) – A green monster with a long pointy nose who serves as the show's stressed-out director; resembles Droop from The Muppet Show
- Pepé the King Prawn (performed by Bill Barretta) – A king prawn who serves as the elevator operator and commissary cook; often paired up with Seymour; speaks with a heavy Spanish accent
- Polly Lobster (performed by Kevin Clash) – A lobster who previously appeared in Muppet Treasure Island; appears in the "At the Bar" sketch co-owning a bar with Clueless Morgan
- Pokey – A monster who appears in unnamed appearances in this show. This character got its name when it appeared on the "Muppet Takeover" episode of The Today Show where the puppet was performed by Stephanie D'Abruzzo.
- Sal Minella (performed by Brian Henson) – A chimpanzee who serves as Johnny Fiama's flunky, bodyguard, and assistant (designed and built by Jane Gootnick)
- Seymour (performed by Brian Henson) – An elephant who serves as the elevator operator and commissary cook; often paired with Pepe
- Snookie Blyer (performed by Bill Barretta) – The host of the game show "Swift Wits"
- Snorty (a parody of Lt. Commander Montgomery "Scotty" Scott; performed by Dave Goelz) – A pig who appears in the "Pigs in Space: Deep Dish Nine" segments
- Spamela Hamderson (performed by Leslie Carrara-Rudolph) – A pig who is a spoof of Pamela Anderson (designed by Ed Eyth)
- Thor (performed by Brian Henson) – The God of Thunder who is seen doing everyday mundane tasks; whenever someone angered him, Thor would strike the person with lightning
- Zippity Zap (performed by Bill Barretta) – A frog who is one of the crew members on the show
Among the regular sketches are:
- Bay of Pigswatch – A parody of Baywatch starring David Hoggselhoff as Champ Schwimmer, Spamela Hamderson as Spamela, and Andy and Randy Pig as Donnie and Art C. Shell where they work as lifeguards at a beach.
- Carl the Big Mean... - Sketches which involve Carl doing an act, which usually ends up incorporating him eating someone or something, e.g., biting the head off a ventriloquist's puppet, predicting someone would be eaten, and eating him, as a psychic.
- E-I-E-I-O R – In a parody of ER, it features Fozzie Bear working at a hospital where the doctors and patients pass around humor; Fozzie is assisted by Dr. Pain, Ernst Stavro Grouper, and an Afghan Hound.
- Great Moments in Elvis History – In a parody of Great Moments in History, the moments in history are reenacted by a bunch of Muppet versions of Elvis Presley.
- Pigs In Space: Deep Dish Nine – In a sequel to "Pigs in Space," Miss Piggy is featured on the new Swinetrek with a different crew. The title is a spoof of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
- Screen Tests – A bunch of screen tests that featured the Muppets auditioning in a movie that featured the guest stars of the episodes it was featured in.
- Tales from the Vet – In a parody of Tales from the Crypt, Dr. Phil van Neuter tells scary stories revolving around animals.
- The Eagle's Nest – Sam the Eagle talks about politics and other issues with Andy and Randy Pig as his recurring guests.
- The Johnny Fiama Show – A talk show hosted by Johnny Fiama.
- The Real World Muppets – A spoof of The Real World that follows Clifford, Rizzo the Rat, Bobo the Bear, Bill the Bubble Guy, and Darci living together in one house.
- Thor: God of Thunder – Deals with Thor doing every day mundane tasks.
- UK Spots – There were some UK Spots that were in this show due to the United Kingdom version not having any commercials
- Fairyland PD – Clifford and Bobo the Bear work as detectives at the Fairyland Police Department under the supervision of their police chief; Clifford and Bobo are charged with the duties of solving mysteries revolving around nursery rhymes and fairy tales.
- Mr. Callahan – Features the unseen Mr. Callahan who is a regular customer at a bar owned by Polly Lobster and Clueless Morgan with this sketch being at Mr. Callahan's point of view.
- Swift Wits – A game show that stars Snookie Blyer. In it, one must guess a secret word in 10 seconds to stop Big Mean Carl (in his Carl the Big Mean Bunny alter ego) from eating an adorable animal. In 5 of the 6 cases, the contestant failed spectacularly, and, on the occasion the contestant got the word correct - without clues - Carl defied Snookie to eat both the pet and than the contestant.
- The Tubmans of Porksmith – Follows the comical misadventures of a rich food-loving pig named Howard Tubman and his butler Carter (was reworked into Boarshead Revisited in season 2).
The show ran from 1996 to 1998. There were 22 episodes produced in two batches. 13 episodes were ordered by ABC, though only ten of them were run in the 1995–96 TV season. The program was then purchased by the Disney Channel, which ordered a further nine episodes and aired these along with the three episodes ABC did not air, in the 1997–98 season. One of the nine newly produced episodes was a clip show compilation culled from the earlier episodes.
In the United Kingdom thirteen episodes of the show were transmitted at 7pm on Friday evenings on BBC1 from September – December 1996. The remaining nine episodes have not been shown in the UK.
Unlike the original Muppet Show, most episodes of Muppets Tonight featured multiple guest stars. Typically, there would be one principal guest, but other celebrities would make small walk-on appearances. For example, the Garth Brooks episode (aired as episode #2) features a cameo from Leonard Nimoy.
- Kevin Clash – Clifford, Carter, Craniac, Mulch, Polly Lobster, others
- Brian Henson – Dr. Phil van Neuter, Elvises, Nigel, Sal Minella, Seymour the Elephant, Thor, others
- Jerry Nelson – Camilla the Chicken, A. Ligator, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Elvises, Jowls, Mama Fiama, Statler, Old Skyball Paint, Lew Zealand, others
- Steve Whitmire – Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Foo-Foo, Captain Pighead, Mr. Poodlepants, Andy Pig, George the Janitor, Eugene, others
- Dave Goelz – Gonzo the Great, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Waldorf, Bill the Bubble Guy, Dr. Pain, Gary Cahuenga, Beauregard, Randy Pig, Snorty, others
- Bill Barretta – Pepe the King Prawn, Rowlf the Dog, Behemoth, Big Mean Carl, Bobo the Bear, Clueless Morgan, David Hoggselhoff, Doglion, Elvises, Ernst Stavros Grouper, Dr. Phil van Neuter (hands), Howard Tubman, Johnny Fiama, J.P. Grosse, Snookie Blyer, Zippity Zap, others
- Frank Oz – Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam Eagle, others
- Leslie Carrara-Rudolph – Spamela Hamderson, Darci, Floor Manager, others
- John Henson – Sweetums (episode 16)
- John Kennedy – Female Rock Lobster (episode 14)
- Allan Trautman – Fairyland Police Chief (episodes 8, 9, 13, and 17), Howard Tubman's Doctor (episode 7)
Additional Muppets performed by Brad Abrell, Aurorah Allain, Greg Ballora, Phil Baron, Tim Blaney, Billy Blanks Jr., Matthew Brooks, Pat Brymer, Julianne Buescher, Clayton Cameron, Kevin Carlson, Agostino Castagnola, John Corella, Brad Elliott, Thomas Fountain, Liz Gandora, Terri Hardin, Jennifer Keyes, Bruce Lanoil, Doug Legacy, Len Levitt, Drew Massey, Nancy O'Meara, Steven Ritz, David Rudman, Jeff Schnell, Joe Self, Jim Sloane, Lisa Thompson, and Leif Tilden.
The reception from critics was mixed. Among the staff at other TGIF shows, reception was also negative; Jaleel White, star of Family Matters, blamed Muppets Tonight for Family Matters's own cancellation: "[S]omewhere along the line, Winnie the Pooh and the Muppets started emerging around us and it [TGIF] became kids' night. And we lost a lot of credibility."
- Verrier, Richard (May 8, 2003). "Henson Family Buys Back Muppets For $78 Million". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
- King, Susan (1996-03-10). "The Muppets Put On a Show, Again". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- Mifflin, Lawrie (1996-03-10). "Following in the Frog's Footsteps". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-19.
- "Muppets Tonight! Means the Return of Cuddly Chaos". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-03-20.
- "TV NOTES;High Hopes for Aliens". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-20.
- "Muppets Tonight! Means the Return of Cuddly Chaos". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-03-20.
- "Picks and Pans Review: Muppets Tonight!". People. Retrieved 2012-03-20.
- Hal Boedeker (July 18, 1997). "He's A Goober But CBS Has A Lot Riding On Urkel TV". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 18, 2012.