When I was a kid, I loved exactly three TV shows. M*A*S*H, The Carol Burnett Show, and The Muppets.
I wanted to love Soap, too, but my mom wouldn’t let me stay up that late.
I was so obsessive over M*A*S*H, I used to keep a huge, sprawling, old-fashioned scrapbook of it for years, pasting in my OCD little tidbits — pictures from TV Guide, stories from People Magazine, or whatever.
When the show ended (breaking my heart forever oh god why), I even pasted in photos from the insanely tawdry National Enquirer (the first and only time I ever bought that esteemed journal of letters), because they ran a HUGE spread of exclusive photos DAYS before the final episode aired.
When the Smithsonian held an exhibit about M*A*S*H, my mother and I drove down there so that I could go to it. I had a pair of my very own dog tags made for me in a special kiosk by the gift shop, and I wore them for years.
M*A*S*H informed my politics, my sense of history, my sense of humor, and my sense of what made an attractive, honorable man.
I’ll give you one guess who that man was.
Fun fact: Once, at summer camp, I tried to tell all the kids (none of whom had ever met me before), that everyody always called me “Hawkeye” at home.
They didn’t buy it.
(They also didn’t buy it a few years later, when I insisted that I was “Indy.” Sigh.)
When I was little, Carol Burnett was just about the funniest thing I had ever seen. When I got involved in theatre later, in my early teens, I leaned heavily on the understanding I got from her about how sketch comedy worked, and it served me very well, I can tell you.
She was also a great example to me — and I thought about this almost every time I watched the show — that you could be funny and likable, and you didn’t have to be conventionally pretty while you did it.
I don’t mean that Carol isn’t and wasn’t pretty — I mean that she wasn’t afraid to make herself look like a complete ass. Pratfalls, spit-takes, and googly eyes were totally her thing, and I ate that shit UP.
I can still do a mean prat fall.
Oh yeah, and fake butts. She loved fake butts. Seriously, what other woman on TV was making her butt look BIGGER back then? Just for a laugh? Maybe Phyllis Diller. But hey, I loved her, too.
I loved the TV show, the Muppet Movie, the guest stars, the song-and-dance numbers, Statler and Waldorf, Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, the Muppets and John Denver Christmas album…
There’s not much about the Muppets I don’t love.
I love the silliness of the Muppets, I love their adorable little variety show, their crumbling down theatre that’s always on the verge of being reclaimed by the bank, overrun by rats, or exploded by Crazy Harry.
I love how Kermit keeps everything running, how Scooter makes it all work, and how Fozzie still thinks he can make the audience laugh.
In the run-up to the movie that’s coming out in the fall, somebody (I can’t remember who) described the Muppets as living in a world that’s free of cynicism.
I love that.
So. I didn’t know what to write about this week. You know how I usually write every weekend, at least? Well, I missed my deadline this last weekend, and it’s because I’ve been kind of all over the place in my head. It’s just been hard to know what to say.
Mostly because a friend of mine died last week, suddenly, unexpectedly, and much too young. He had asked me for help a couple of weeks ago with some of the stuff he was struggling with, and I had tried to give it to him. I guess it didn’t end up helping much, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
It’s also the tail end of the summer, and I always feel out of sorts when I’m waiting for the fall to begin. I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that nothing much really gets done in the summertime, and all good projects have to wait until after Labor Day before they can really get underway. So I’ve been in that weird, arid, cotton-eared sort of space you’re in when you’re hanging out in limbo, when you can’t move forward and you can’t move back.
And I haven’t been writing much these last few days. I guess I’ve been in a bit of a funk.
But then I saw the new video for the Muppet cover album today — the one with OK GO singing the Muppet Show theme, together with the whole gang — and I felt… better.
Much, much better.
So I figure, if a little bit of the Muppets was good for me, then a whole LOT of the Muppets must be GREAT for me. Right?
Exactamundo, my friend.