Monday, December 31, 2012

The Muppet Movie (1979) and The Muppets (2011)

I have fond memories of watching The Muppet Movie in a theater with my family. I guess I was nine, since it came out in 1979. Seeing a movie in a theater was a huge treat for us, but what I remember the most is my parents breaking into song once we got home. They started singing "Moving Right Along," which thereafter became a family joke -- we'd sing it at each other at odd moments, especially when we were trying to leave the house or when we wanted someone to move.

I've enjoyed all of the Muppet movies since, but the original was my favorite. When The Muppets came out in 2011, I didn't expect much, but the reviews I read were good, so I raised my expectations, probably a little too much. It had a few good moments (my kids love the part where Chris Cooper raps), but it didn't approach my memories of the original.

I recently watched the original again and confirmed that it's a classic. It has such a goofy sense of humor and the cameos are delightful, especially Steve Martin and Mel Brooks. And "Moving Right Along" is still a fine song that I like to sing at my kids every now and then.

Freaks and Geeks (1999)

This one-season TV show from 1999 was recommended to me and Jon some years ago, but the first couple of episodes just seemed depressing, so we didn't get any further. I mean, it takes place in 1980 in a high school and everyone seems to be wearing olive drab. It seemed painfully realistic. But during one of my recent knitting projects, I decided to give it another try.

I loved it. It's more innocent and familiar than other high school TV shows I've watched recently, like Veronica Mars or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are still the obligatory high school themes -- cliques, sex, drugs, parties, sneaking around, etc. -- but everything seemed more realistic than in other shows. Painful, yes, but also funny and heartfelt and touching. Maybe that's why it only got one season. Not enough soap opera-y drama!

Every character on the show is believable. Quirky but not excessively so. Regular but not boring. In fact, I think one of its triumphs is showing that everybody has a story, even if some of the characters seem like stereotypes in the beginning. Just like in real life, the better you get to know people, the more you love and understand them.

It was also fun to see John Francis Daily (Dr. Sweets on Bones) as the main "geek." He looks exactly the same as an adult!

It's streaming on Netflix right now, and it's only eighteen episodes, so if you're looking for something great to watch, I recommend it. Here's a somewhat long but interesting article/interview of writers and cast members that appeared recently in Vanity Fair, as well as a lovely slideshow of cast members now.