Film

From Rita Moreno to Lola Falana, 10 Best Moments From Original ‘Muppet’ Show Featuring Latinas

Lead Photo: Art by Alan López for Remezcla
Art by Alan López for Remezcla

The Muppet Show, a variety comedy TV series featuring the Muppets created by late pioneering puppeteer Jim Henson, has found its way to Disney+. Most of the original show, which ran for five seasons (120 episodes) from 1976 to 1981, was released on the streaming service last Friday (Feb. 19)—but not without some controversy.

Each episode of The Muppet Show was hosted by a celebrity guest. Over the show’s five seasons, big names like Steve Martin, Elton John, Julie Andrews, Sylvester Stallone and Mark Hamill took center stage to interact with plush characters like Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and the rest of the puppet cast of the popular series.

During The Muppet Show’s run, only six Latino guests were featured as hosts. They were actress, singer and dancer Rita Moreno (season 1), actress and singer Raquel Welch (season 3), singer, dancer and actress Lola Falana (season 4), actress and singer Lynda Carter (season 4), singer Joan Baez (season 5) and singer Linda Ronstadt (season 5).

The women are seen doing everything from song and dance numbers to sketches with woodland creatures. Like a few of the episodes released on Disney+, Baez’s episode is flagged with a warning at the start of the show for having “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.” In the questionable skit, Baez takes a book about Mahatma Gandhi away from a baby Muppet. The baby starts crying and Baez, in a stereotypical Indian accent says, “That’s what happens when you take Gandhi from a baby.”

Despite that sketch, the others with Moreno, Welch, Falana, Carter, Ronstadt and Baez are quite entertaining. If you decide to peruse through the series, we suggest you start with these. Without further ado, it’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to meet the Latinas who gave us the best moments on The Muppet Show tonight.

Joan Baez Sings a Lullaby

The folk singer starts her episode by singing “Honest Lullaby,” the title track from her 1979 album. She sings the song to a Muppet child going to sleep. It’s soft, sweet and her voice is flawless.

Lola Falana Meets ‘The Greatest Dancers’

The Afro-Latina performer dances with different Muppets while singing Sister Sledge’s “He’s the Greatest Dancer.” Her first dance partner looks like a monster from Maurice Sendak’s children’s book Where the Wild Things Are.

Raquel Welch Duets with Miss Piggy

Welch teams up with Piggy during a performance of the song “I’m a Woman” by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Dressed in matching white dress coats and maroon bow ties, the duo plays off one another nicely while spelling out “W-O-M-A-N” and end the song spelling out “W-O-P-I-G.”

Lola Falana Sings ‘Smile’ to Cheer Up Gonzo

After Gonzo, the blue weirdo, gets fired from The Muppet Show, he ends up crying in Falana’s dressing room closet. She makes him feel better when she sings “Smile,” a song first used as an instrumental in Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie Modern Times. Lyrics were added to the song in 1954. “You feel better now?” Falana asks. Gonzo replies: “Of course. Now I can smile my way through the rest of my miserable life.”

Lynda Carter Performs with a Rubber Band Band

The Wonder Woman star brings her own band to the set of The Muppet Show to perform the 1976 song “The Rubberband Man” by The Spinners. Behind Carter as she sings is a group of bandmates who are made of rubber bands. They pluck and play themselves like guitars. No guitar picks necessary.

Linda Ronstadt Professes Her Love to Kermit

Miss Piggy has some competition on this episode where Ronstadt sings “I’ve Got a Crush on You” to Kermie. Piggy gets jealous earlier in the show when her man, er, frog, brings Ronstadt flowers. Throughout the show, Piggy keeps locking Kermit in a dingy trunk, but in this number, Ronstadt plants a kiss on his cheek before he’s confined again.

Lynda Carter Meets a Lot of Wannabe Superheroes

While performing the Nat King Cole song “Orange Colored Sky,” Carter is greeted by different Muppets dressed as their own unique superheroes. All of them come tumbling into the scene in a puff of smoke as Carter sings, “Flash! Bam! Alakazam!” If any of them deserve a spot in the Justice League, it’s probably Lew Zealand, whose “boomerang fish” is about as cool of a weapon as Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth.

Rita Moreno Dances a Passionate (& Violent) Tango

Things get a bit heated when Moreno walks into a café to find her full-sized puppet boyfriend in the arms of another woman (in this case, a puppet pig). The dance includes a few knees and elbows to the boyfriend’s body and a broken bottle over his head. The sketch gives new meaning to the idea that love sometimes hurts—a lot.

Linda Ronstadt on ‘Blue Bayou’

Ronstadt sings her signature song and is accompanied by some of the members of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem band and a chorus of green and blue frogs who keep the beat with their ribbits.

Rita Moreno Sings ‘Fever’ with Animal on Drums

Moreno shows off her vocals singing a cover of the popular Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell song “Fever.” But as she’s singing, Animal keeps interrupting her with aggressive drum beats that throw her off rhythm. Frustrated with his playing, Moreno gets the last laugh when she slams Animal’s head between two cymbals. Animal exclaims, “That my kind of woman!”