Something fun, for your Sunday.
I think “Muppet Babies” might be (by default) the closest to “overrated” any of the mainline Muppet productions ever got, mostly because it was probably a certain generation of kids first exposure to the characters. Absolutely not a BAD show, by any means, but watching it again now it’s kind of unnavoidable that the ratio of preschool-moralizing to actual humor is a bit lopsided in the not-as-funny direction (also, yes… having all the character voices pitched so high starts to grate after a bit.)
But, fond memories I still have; particularly of the handful of episodes I had on tape and watched incessantly as a kid. One I only think I saw once, however, was (for obvious reasons) burned into my head just enough that before you could look these things up on the internet there was a period when I thought I’d imagined it: “It’s Only Pretendo.”
If you’re not familiar with (or don’t recall) the premise of the show, the Babies would play this or that make-believe game, which would flip back and forth between the “real world” of their nursery and elaborate visualizations of what they’re pretending is going on; often using mixed-media additions of movie and TV footage (usually public-domain, but sometimes big stuff like “Star Wars” which is why this isn’t on DVD yet.)
This episode is built around playing “Pretendo,” which you’ll gather is supposed to be a video-game console (the “lesson” turns out to be “play friendly and share” rather than “put that down and go outside,” UNHEARD OF in any other cartoon of the era where gaming was involved!) Aside from the obvious, I think the reason this one probably stuck out to me as a kid was that you almost NEVER saw video games being played by characters on TV and you definitely never saw reference to ACTUAL games. But that’s what goes on here, as the main part of the show is essentially wall-to-wall reference to Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros, Zelda, Frogger (of course) Q*Bert and even The Power Pad(!) plus relative obscurities like Keith Courage and Fantasy Zone.