The original version of The Muppet Show went off the air in 1981, which means that stars like Ethel Mermen, Rich Little, and Sandy Duncan have been without a showcase for their talents for decades. Well, they don’t make them like they used to. Do any of today’s stars have what it takes to fill the shoes of performers like Dom DeLuise? We think we’ve found some candidates who might be up for the challenge.
1. Host: Neil Patrick Harris
He's funny, he knows his way around a show tune, and as an added bonus, he's a closet vaudevillian. (Did you know Dr. Horrible himself is an amateur magician?) Best of all, he's proven time and again that he's willing to just roll with it, however silly "it" may be. See his image-tweaking performances in Harold & Kumar, his Old Spice commercial, and his dead on impersonation of Doogie Howser (as seen in episodes of both How I Met Your Mother and Celebrity Poker Showdown.)
Episode Highlight: After suffering through willfully bad "Doggie Howser, MD" jokes from the cast of Veterinarians Hospital, Neil leads Rowlf and the dogs through a cover of "Stray Cat Strut" (proving once and for all that Neil's got cat class and he's got cat style.)
2. Host: Will Smith
He'd be fantastic, no question about it. But since he's arguably the biggest star in the world, he'd probably never do it... Unless his car got a flat and he had to run into the Muppet Theater to use the phone to call for a tow. Then I suppose there's a chance they could trick him onto performing. Or, if things were really desperate, Sweatums could tie him to a chair and hold him hostage.
Episode Highlight: For those of you who have been wondering what a "Jiggy" is, apparently they're purple, furry, and they'll eat anything that isn't nailed down.
3. Host: Kristin Chenoweth
With a Broadway-level singing voice, SNL-level comic timing, and a clear willingness to sing and act in silly bits, Chenoweth may be the ultimate Muppet host. Given her height, she's practically a Muppet already. Bonus points: appeared with Bill Irwin and Michael Jeter as Miss Noodle in a Sesame Street video.
Episode Highlight: A touching performance of the ballad "God Bless the Child" marred only by the background vocals being sung by a choir comprised of 6 month old babies.
4. Host: Alec Baldwin
In addition to being deadly-funny on 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin has shown off his talent for skits on over 8 gagillion episodes of Saturday Night Live. He can also hold a tune. Singing isn't mandatory for guests stars on The Muppet Show (nor is holding a tune), but it helps!
Episode Highlight: After using a series of disguises and Ninja techniques to sneak past his bodyguards, Miss Piggy convinces Alec to sing a dressing room duet of "It Had to Be You."
5. Host: Ellen DeGeneres
She's one of the funniest people on that planet. That should be enough for anybody, but Ellen also has a unique style--she's warm, fuzzy, and charming as heck on the surface, but she also has a bit of a subversive streak to her material and some of her bits take gleefully absurdist tangents. If that doesn't say "Muppets," what does?
Episode Highlight: Whether she'd be comfortable warbling a tune remains uncertain, but she'll excel at doing "the mashed potato" alongside her new dance partner -- an 8-foot-tall pile of mashed potatoes -- in a sketch called "Dancing With the Spuds."
6. Host: Steve Martin
He was the all-time best guest star on The Muppet Show and he's still got the talent and the career to merit a repeat visit. When he originally hosted, he was the wild and crazy guy. What would the more eloquent, wry Martin bring to the table?
Episode Highlight: It takes a talented man to deliver an insightful commentary on the lesser-known works of Dostoyevsky while playing the banjo.
7. Host: Dwayne Johnson
Yeah, that's right. The Rock. The original series featured action stars like Roger Moore and Sylvester Stallone. You could argue that Dwayne is a better actor than both of them, and he's definitely funnier. We can easily imagine him singing "I Feel Pretty" with Gonzo.
Episode Highlight: "Can you smell what the Swedish Chef is cooking?"
8. Hosts: Penn & Teller
They need somebody to fill the vaudeville slot previously occupied by Shields and Yarnell, Mumenchantz, Senior Wences, and Doug Henning. If they seem a little to cruel for the Muppets, don't forget that the Muppets were the people who brought you Marvin Suggs.
Episode Highlight: Sawing Beaker, Animal, and Fozzie in half is the easy part. Getting the right tops reattached to the right bottoms could take the whole show.
9. Host: Dick Van Dyke
Thanks to Night in the Museum, we know he's still alive and dancing... And the man is a comedy legend. The Muppets excelled at paying tribute to THE GREATS. Who can forget watching the whole Muppet gang gather around to reverently watch George Burns or Gene Kelly? Dick Van Dyke deserves that kind of adulation.
Episode Highlight: Dick and Kermit duet on "The Sadder But Wiser Girl For Me."
10. Host: Bill O'Reilly
Okay, he'd be a terrible host, not because we disagree with him, but because he's humorless -- especially about himself. And you have to have a sense of humor about yourself to be a good guest star. We're only listing him because we'd love to see him deliver a “Muppet News Flash” so we can fulfill our dream of watching somebody drop anvils on his head.
Episode Highlight: O'Reilly reports on the late-breaking story of an in-flight mechanical error on a cargo plain full of live cows and bowling balls.
11. Hosts: Zac Efron (and the Cast of High School Musical)
This would be the modern answer to the original series episode featuring Mark Hamill and the Cast of Star Wars. (Special note to anybody who thinks comparing Star Wars to High School Musical denigrates the memory of the Star Wars films... we say it's too late for that. George Lucas already ruined our memories with the three prequels.)
Episode Highlight: Since we never actually see those kids put on a real high school musical, they finally get their chance when the cast turns the whole episode over to presenting a mangled version of Guys and Dolls.
12. Host: Weird Al
You may remember him as an 80's icon--sort of the human equivalent of a Rubik's Cube -- but Weird Al was no flash in the pan. He's still at it... and he's still really good! The secret to his success was his ability to make silly songs look easy, but he brought real cleverness and musical talent to the task. Al is a perfect guest star: The manic energy, the colorful clothes, the accordion... it's like he's a vision that came to Gonzo in a fever dream.
Episode Highlight: All of your favorite old-school Muppet songs crammed into a 3 minute polka medley.
Special Note For People Who Like Petitions: Due to "popular" demand, there is now a Facebook group called "Will Somebody Please Put The Muppet Show Back on the Air?"