Why Some Episodes of 'The Muppet Show' Are Missing or Have Disclaimers on Disney+February 25, 2021
The Muppet Show is now available to stream for the first time ever. Well, the vast majority of it, and a few of the episodes that are available come with some content disclaimers. But it’s all part of bringing a beloved TV staple to Disney+, a streaming platform that has taken an active role in informing its relatively young audiences about the cultural context in which potentially troubling stereotypes might pop up. Yes, even in The Muppet Show.
Disney+ has been fairly good at the disclaimer business, adding content disclaimers to various titles like Dumbo, Peter Pan, and The Aristocats that warn of “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.” With the streaming debut of The Muppet Show, which aired from from 1976 to 1981, 18 episodes of the beloved Jim Henson show earned that content disclaimer, with a 12-second unskippable text acknowledging that while “these stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” Disney has decided to leave them in order to “acknowledge the [offensive content’s] harmful impact, learn from it, and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”
These 18 episodes are scattered throughout the show’s five-season run, per Variety, and consist of disclaimer-worthy content like Johnny Cash performing in front of a Confederate flag, and a puppet briefly dressing up as a stereotypical Native American (referred to only as an “Indian”) in an episode hosted by Jim Nabors.
But otherwise, The Muppet Show remains relatively intact, with only a handful of missing episodes — and those are only because of music rights issues.
Notably, two episodes from season 5, which featured guest stars Brooke Shields and Chris Langham, are absent from Disney+. Meanwhile, a season 2 episode with Don Knotts is missing the centerpiece musical number “Lullaby of Birdland,” along with all references to it. Assorted songs and sketches are also missing from various episodes. Entertainment Weekly reports that most of the missing pieces come down to music rights — a tangled issue that The Muppet Show has encountered for years with home video releases, with a season 1 DVD omitting several songs (those segments were restored on Disney+). While it’s unclear whether the rest of the music licensing rights can be worked out, you can see a list of edits assembled by a devoted Reddit user.
But one missing episode may not have been omitted due to music rights. An episode hosted by Chris Langham, a staff writer on The Muppet Show who stepped in as a guest star when Richard Pryor dropped out at the last minute, is notably absent. Langham is a convicted sex offender who was found guilty of possessing child pornography in 2007. However, Disney declined to comment to EW as to whether this was the reason the episode is missing.
But there are still 118 episodes of The Muppet Show on Disney+, available to stream to your heart’s content.
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