Monday, August 30, 2010
The Land of Gorch
The actual sketches themselves aren't hilarious, but they are amusing. And it's refreshing to see Muppets dealing with topics that they wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole now that Disney owns them, such as infidelity, drinking and hallucinogenics. But the best part was probably getting to see Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson in new material. Although it was somewhat disturbing hearing Prairie Dawn's voice come out of the sexpot character Vazh!
What really struck me while I was watching these was the craftsmanship that went into making them. take a look at Scred here:
And that's what makes The Land of Gorch such an interesting experiment. It wasn't written by the regular Muppet writers at all; it was written by the SNL writers, who really didn't know what to do with them. After watching the first few, Joy said to me "It doesn't have much of a punchline, does it?" It was then that I realized what was missing from these sketches: the explosions. Jim Henson had always said the best way to get out of a sketch was to have something get blown up or eaten. Now I suppose I can understand them not using any pyrotechnics on a live show, but with characters like these, someone should have been getten eaten by a giant Muppet.
The thing is, for days after watching them I kept finding myself thinking of Scred, Ploobis and the Mighty Favog while smiling to myself and wanting to see more of them! I haven't rewatched the sketches yet, but I probably will soon; all combined, they only come up to about an hour and twenty minutes.
It also helps that they improved as they went on. Everyone could tell the Muppets and SNL weren't a great fit, and halfway through the series the Muppets return from England to discover their sets have been burned while they were away and they're not being let into the building. From there it becomes more of the Muppets interacting with the humans on the show, learning they've been fired and trying to work their way back on! It's then that the laughs really start.
It's also interesting from a "Henson historical" point of view, because those visits to England that I mentioned earlier were when he was working with ITC to get "The Muppet Show" off the ground. In fact, in their final appearance (which is the first episode of Season Two, and by far the funniest one of all) they acknowledge that The Muppet Show has started, but they can't get on that show either.
So is the SNL Season 1 DVD box set worth it just for The Land of Gorch? Honestly, probably not. But hey, this is the first season of SNL we're talking about. John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase... this is when the show was revolutionary and more importantly very funny. And while the combination may not have worked as well in 1975, for a 21st century Muppets fan it's a win-win.