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Dec 162015

The Muppets have been around for ages. Muppets Magic features all of the segments that were done on The Ed Sullivan Show from 1966-1971.

If you’re not familiar with the old series, I’ll give you a quick rundown. The Ed Sullivan Show (1948-1971) was a non-competitive variety series where the biggest stars perform all sorts of acts. Many of them appeared more than once and some up to 25 times. In those days it was a very big deal to be on that show. Nowadays the closest thing to it is competition shows like America’s Got Talent, American Idol, and The Voice.

I admit that it was way before my time. In fact, I first heard about The Ed Sullivan Show when I was in sixth grade in social studies class. The subject was about The Beatles and the lessons included watching footage from old performances. Many of which were their appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. The best part was that there were no homework assignments involved.

Now back to the Muppets. They have made a total of 20 appearances and each performance was completely different with a variety of characters. The most common characters were Kermit and Mahna Mahna. Even Big Bird appeared once and I recognized Splurge in another segment.

Among the segments were performances that were later on The Muppet Show like Mahna Mahna, Java, a Frog Eating Worms, Happy Girl Meets a Monster, and The Computer Dinner which featured the first Cookie Monster.

There was also a segment called Scrap Flap that was later remade into Hugga Wugga, which is a classic by the way.

And let’s certainly not forget the Christmas themed segments since the Christmas holiday is coming up. There were two different sketches. One was about funny reindeer concerned about no snow and the other was about thieving monsters arriving at Santa’s (Arthur Godfrey) workshop. I recognized one of the monsters as the first Grover, though he plays a completely different character here.

Ed Sullivan must have really enjoyed having the Muppets on his show since he also hosted the Muppet Christmas special The Great Santa Claus Switch.

This compilation DVD is a great one, a true blast from the past for Muppet fans. The franchise is still as big as ever, but sometimes it’s good to look back on the classics.

Nov 252015

Here’s a creative Sesame Street feature. Sesame Street Songs – Dance Along! has a compilation of segments about different types of dances by different characters. It’s hosted by Gina (Alison Bartlett), Mike (Ward Saxton), Big Bird as they dance to the music with a group of kids in what appears to be a televised dance studio.

It starts with the Oinker Sisters singing A New Way to Walk. I remember this group well, but it took me a while to realize that they were based on the Pointer Sisters. The Oinker Sisters are great singers. I wonder if Miss Piggy had ever met them.

After that, Mike performs A Very Simple Dance with some kids. I can tell that they all had a good time doing this one.

Then the Count arrives to show everyone The Batty Bat and Oscar requests Stop Dancing. Of course he really meant for everyone to stop dancing, but it backfired. Gina even takes the opportunity to gloat on that victory.

Next is The Birdcall Boogie, performed by Hoots the Owl. I totally remember Hoots, always having that saxophone with him. Hoots does make appearances in later seasons of Sesame Street, but doesn’t play his sax anymore. I wonder why that is.

At this point, the group takes a break to watch other characters dance. This includes Grover at the ABC Disco and Bert Doin’ the Pigeon. Both segments are true classics.

After doing some freestyle dancing, the group wraps it up with The Birdland Jump. This song was performed by Joe Williams back when Sesame Street had a bird theme nightclub called Birdland. What do you suppose happened to that place?

This was a good special. It’s true that Elmo had other DVD releases with the same theme, but I think this one is the best in the dance category.

Oct 282015

Welcome to another Halloween themed top 10 list. This year it’s about my most favorite wicked witches in pop culture. Just to set the record straight, there is a difference between witchcraft and sorcery, although it is hard to tell sometimes. Be sure to check out my Top 10 Wicked Sorceresses list for a comparison. Now here are the witches.

#10) Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes) from H.R. Pufnstuf: Witches don’t come any sillier than her. In fact, you can tell just by the sound of her name that Witchiepoo is more funny than creepy. She is intent on capturing young Jimmy and stealing his talking flute Freddie, but never succeeds. It doesn’t help that Witchiepoo has bumbling henchmen and a talking castle that doesn’t believe in her. Of course that’s what makes this witch so interesting and memorable.

#9) The Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus: Known as Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), this trio of witches intends to steal the life force from children for the soul purpose of staying forever young. They tend to bumble through situations while adjusting to the more modern world, since they’re from 300 years in the past, but that’s what makes them hilarious. However, these witches are also dangerous and creepy, so you definitely don’t want to get on their bad sides.

#8) Mirror Queen (Monica Bellucci) from The Brothers Grimm: This nameless beauty was vain and selfish, then eventually killed by the plague. Now as a vengeful spirit, the Mirror Queen has the power to possess an entire forest and capture young girls in creepy and mysterious ways to steal their youth. Seriously, what is it with old witches wanting to stay young?

#7) Maja from Adventure Time: This sky witch is known for taking various objects that contain sentimental affection for great power. In addition to that, Maja can fly, shoot bolts of electricity from her hands, and has an edgy distorted voice. At least she believes in fair trade, compared to most wicked witches.

#6) Taminella Grinderfall from Muppets franchise: This character was always cast as the wicked witch in some of the old Muppet fairytale specials like Tales of the Tinkerdee and The Frog Prince. Her methods of deceit are often silly and easy to see through, but they always seem to succeed, especially with King Goshposh. Since Taminella was never featured again after her defeat in The Frog Prince, she has definitely become underrated.

#5) Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) from Harry Potter franchise: Among many of Voldemort’s followers, Bellatrix is the most loyal as well as the most psychotic. She takes pleasure in killing anyone who crosses her and has sparked a personal vendetta with Neville Longbottom, since she was the one who tortured his parents. What really makes Bellatrix stand out is her crazy and sadistic persona, which is something any evil master ought to look for in a henchwoman.

#4) Theodora (Mila Kunis) from Oz the Great and Powerful: The Wicked Witch of the West has always been an iconic character. However, it’s the one in this movie version that stands out because it reveals how this wicked witch came to be. It’s so interesting to know that Theodora used to be good, then was driven to become a heartless monster. I’ve never been able to see the Wicked Witch of the West the same way again after that.

#3) Evil Willow (Alyson Hannigan) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow Rosenberg is a witch that has always been a loyal member of Buffy’s Scooby team. In season six, her girlfriend Tara was murdered and that pushed Willow to a breaking point. That drove her to take revenge and nearly destroy the world. It can be tough to see such a good character go bad, but Evil Willow’s edgy presence and determination makes her a witch you wouldn’t want to face in a dark alley.

#2) Queen Jadis (Tilda Swinton) from Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Best referred to as the White Witch, this self-proclaimed queen rules the land of Narnia with an iron fist and turns anyone who crosses her into stone. She won’t hesitate to hurt or kill others and is quick to judge when her servants’ loyalty is compromised.

Jadis has made appearances in the sequels and even the animated version was good. One thing is for certain. The White Witch is as evil as they come.

#1) Nancy Downs (Fairuza Balk) from The Craft: This troubled teen is the head of her coven and desires great power, so she can use it to get what she wants. Eventually, Nancy lets that go to her head and ends up losing her sanity. As wickedly crazy as she is, I think Nancy is also likable, especially when she smiles. That is why I rank her at the top of this list.

Oct 072015

Here’s a Sesame Street feature that’s special for Halloween. It’s called Sesame Street: Elmo Says Boo!. Elmo visits the Count at his castle to share some spooky jokes and goes into segments where the theme is spooky stuff.

As the feature goes on, Elmo and the Count keep track of how many spooky jokes they tell. Obviously these jokes are on a children’s level. Sure they’re cute, but not hilarious as they’re portrayed to be.

We also get to see some new additions to the Count’s castle, like the giggling skeleton, Sir Count-a-lot the talking armor, and a laughing portrait of the Countess Groana Lisa. There’s even a cute ghost and the organ plays by itself.

Some of the classic segments include the Count singing about the Bones (Inside of you) and Lillias White performing Transylvania 1-2-3-4-5 while the Count conducts the chorus.

There are also a couple of monster songs and some animated segments like the eight bats fly out of a castle window one by one. Don’t those bats have cute faces?

There’s even an Ernie and Bert segment where they visit an ancient pyramid. Bert is excited to explore, but Ernie is scared. Surprisingly, they find statues that look like the two of them and the one that looks like Ernie comes to life. The statue is friendly, but leaves me wondering who he really was.

The last segment featured is the Count and his bats singing The Batty Bat. It’s a good song, but this was on two other Sesame Street DVDs already.

I enjoyed this feature with its great setup for Elmo visiting the Count. The choice of segments were good too, but it would’ve been nice to also include other songs and skits from the Count back in the 70s, or at least have a Best of Count Von Count on DVD.

Aug 192015

Normally when it comes to Sesame Street specials focused on numbers, the host is usually the Count. On Sesame Street – Learning About Numbers, Big Bird hosts a comedy show featuring classic songs and skits about the numbers 1-10, as well as the number 20.

Big Bird was a good choice as host. My only concern was that his opening joke was a huge bomb. “Boy was it cold yesterday.” “How cold was it?” “It was so cold, I had to wear my mittens.” That was supposed to be funny?

Some of the highlight segments include the red ball rolling down a model roller coaster where all of the obstacles are in threes, and Big Bird singing I Just Adore 4 with the Tarnish brothers. This song is actually on both Sesame Street Old School Albums, both on CD now.

Of course the Count does appear in this feature, but he doesn’t arrive until later. There are a couple of segments that intertwine with his absence. First the Count gives Ernie a job to answer the telephone, but keeps Ernie from answering it because he insists on counting the rings.

The Count also gets a job as an elevator operator, but doesn’t understand the true meaning of the job. Once again his counting obsession becomes a problem. At least it does with Kermit.

The Count does appear in another classic sketch where he counts seven flowers and seven sneezes. I distinctly remember hearing this on a Sesame Street record album years ago. I can’t remember which one that was, but I do remember the segment word for word.

Then after a few animated segments, the Count returns just in time to count to 20 with the Honkers. Certainly a good bit to end on.

This was another great feature with classic Sesame Street segments. I would definitely rank it on the same level as Sesame Street: Count it Higher. There ought to be more like that.