Muppets Tonight was a TV series featuring The Muppets that originally ran from 1996 to 1998 as part of ABC's TGIF block. An update of the premise of The Muppet Show, it featured the Muppets producing a television variety show with the help (or otherwise) of the episode's guest star. Kermit the Frog was replaced as host by Clifford, a catfish-esque "humanoid" first seen on The Jim Henson Hour, but retained his role as producer. Pigs In Space, a recurring sketch from The Muppet Show, returned as Deep Dish Nine.
The series introduced several new Muppets who went on to appear in subsequent productions such as Muppets from Space and The Muppets' Wizard Of Oz, including lounge singer Johnny Fiama; Sal Manilla, Johnny's bodyguard; Bobo, the studio's security guard; and Pepe the King Prawn, the studio's elevator attendant who was desperate to break into showbiz.
- Adam Westing: Many of the guest stars, to a greater or lesser extent.
- Breakout Character: Pepe the Prawn. Other new characters this series introduced either faded or had minor roles later on, but he's been a steady major presence ever since.
- Breakup Breakout: Pepe went on to appear in many later Muppet productions. Seymour.. didn't.
- Call Back: When Bobo flings Sal Monella into the traffic, Johnny Fiama comments that it's a nutty way to get a cab.
- Catch Phrase:
- Andy and Randy frequently exclaim "This job's too hard!!"
- Clifford (when he's hosting and something inevitably sidetracks him): "anywho..."
- Bobo (as an inappropriately casual goodbye given whatever had just happened beforehand): "Have a good day sir."
- Celebrity Power: Cindy Crawford was shown to have heat vision, because she's a supermodel.
- Chaste Puppets: Miss Piggy mysteriously acquires two nephews, Andy and Randy.
- Clark Kenting: Parodied, with a skit that featured Bobo the Bear & Clifford in a Buddy Cop Show parody - Upon Clifford asking him about his sunglasses, Bobo stated he was working undercover, prompting Clifford to point that it was a Paper-Thin Disguise & it wouldn't work... Only for several people who knew Bobo to fail to recognise him.
- The Cameo: Happens a lot. One episode was nothing but cameos.
- Clip Show: "The Best of Muppets Tonight"
- Demoted to Extra: Many older characters. Kermit not being the host is a common source of criticism.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Half of every "Bay of Pigs Watch" sketch consisted of David Hoggselhoth ignoring whatever is going on at the beach to come up with an excuse to make out with Spamela Hamderson.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Seymour and Pepe's attempt at telling the "Elefino" joke, which is made even funnier by the diagrams and placards they use to explain it. The audience got it the first time, they dosn't think it's funny.
- Earpiece Conversation: In the Cindy Crawford episode, mumbling security guard Bobo the Bear develops a crush on her. They hook him up an earpiece so that Rizzo the Rat can feed him the lines, but Rizzo's nephews (coming home from somewhere with balloons) walk in, leading Bobo to hear and repeat: "That's a nice set of balloons you've got. Maybe you'll let me play with them later."
- Exact Words:
- When Bobo is hired as a security guard, he prevents Clifford from getting to his office because his orders (As given by Clifford) stated that if a person's name wasn't on the list, they weren't to be allowed in the building. Clifford countered by saying: If my name's not on your paycheck, you don't get paid.
- The first time Clifford and Rizzo get Garth Brooks to agree to do a country song, he "If I Were A Rich Man", which is a song from a musical about people living in the Russian countryside. Rizzo comments that Garth didn't mention which country.
- Executive Meddling: Done in-universe when Earnst Staveros Grouper buys the station. Among the irrational changes he makes is changing Kermit the Frog into Virgil the Monkey.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: It's the Muppets. What do you expect?
- Particularly the aforementioned Cindy Crawford "balloons" joke and Garth Brooks singing "It's Not Unusual" and inciting various Muppets including Bobo the Bear to throw their underwear onstage, including a teeny-tiny bra he seems inordinately fond of...
- In the "Seinfeld Babies" sketch, they make a very unsubtle reference to "The Contest".
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: Seymour and Pepe pretending to be Jason Alexander's good and bad conscience in order to convince him to do an act with Gonzo.
- Got Volunteered: How Clifford got to be the host. Kermit asked for someone to host the new show and everyone ran out the door. Except Clifford, who was in the corner talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone.
- Hostile Show Takeover: In one episode, the lobsters from the "Rock Lobster" sketch take over the show. The day is saved by the guest star, Pierce Brosnan, who goes undercover as... James Prawn. In a gigantic lobster costume.
- Hypocritical Humor: The shows has tons of it, particularly mixed with Tempting Fate.
- I Am Not Spock: Pierce Brosnan is mistaken for 007 at the beginning of his episode.
- I Am Not Weasel: "I am not a shrimp, okay? I am a King Prawn!"
- I Owe You My Life: John Goodman saves Andy and Randy's life, so they dedicate themselves to being his slaves out of gratitude. Naturally, they only succeed in annoying him.
- Incessant Chorus:
- In one episode, the characters keep mentioning Istanbul and Constantinople as though they were two different places, and every time they do, a band of rats dressed up as Turks pop up from nowhere to sing the penultimate verse of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)".
- Another episode has a band of Muppets show up to sing "Whip It Good" every time someone says the word "whip."
- The "Phenomena" sketch with Sandra Bullock.
- "Goodness gracious, my grape balls are on fire!"
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Has received no DVD release at the moment (December 2011). It was once said that this series would see a DVD after all of The Muppet Show was released. Of course, that was a few years ago and The Muppet Show has two seasons left unreleased, so...
- Monkeys on a Typewriter: In one episode, we learn that the show's scripters are actual Muppet monkeys, mindlessly pounding at typewriters going "Ook-ack-ook!". Once they come up with a satisfactory script, Kermit lets them go touch the monolith.
Kermit: I'll never know what they see in that thing.
- Not on the List: A Running Gag involving Bobo the bear as the security guard.
- Oh Crap: It wouldn't be the Muppets without this.
- On One Condition: Parodied in an episode in which the guest star's character will inherit a "fortune" of "eighty-five dollars" provided that he is married to a beautiful woman. Miss Piggy happens to walk in the door at that point... (And it turns out that she has more money than that already on her.)
- Parental Bonus: It's the Muppets.
- Parody Names: Spamela Hamderson and David Hoggselhoff, the stars of Bay Of Pigs Watch.
- Phone Trace Race: Happens in one episode where a pair of crewman trace the call... by methodically ripping the phone cable out of the walls.
- Pig Latin: In the John Goodman episode:
John Goodman: The igpays are a little upidstay.
"This is fun! I never get to play the bad guy."
- The entire plot of the Garth Brooks episode was that Brooks didn't feel like performing Country/Western that night. By the time that Clifford finally convinced him to sing one of his own songs, he had already performed random bits of Shakespeare, Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual", "If I Were A Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof, and had been planning to participate in one of Gonzo's acts up until the moment he learned how painful the act was likely to be (the act consisted of flying upwards on jet packs, being stopped by bungee cords, and then recoiling back to Earth to crash into the unpadded studio floor).
- Puppet Confusion: One episode involved a ventriloquist dummy coming to life...and this freaked the Muppets out.
- Ret-Gone: A bunch of new Muppets were introduced that took up a larger amount of screen time than the original ones, and were probably intended to be a "next-generation Muppet cast" to add to the originals. ... by 2012, most of them are forgotten and are never used again.
- Shave and a Haircut: The punchline to the "Phenomena" sketch:
Sandra Bullock: You should see what happens when I say "shave and a haircut".
K-E-R (Are we having fun yet?) M-I-T (That's a swell university.) F-R-O-O-G
- Spinoff Babies: A sketch in which two tapes of old network shows got tangled together, resulting in the creation of "Seinfeld Babies".
- Statler and Waldorf: It wouldn't be the Muppets without them. No matter where they go, they end up watching the show, this time from a nursing home.
- Theme Twin Naming: Andy and Randy
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks: the Garth Brooks episode was an In-Universe version of this when Garth decided he didn't want to do Country music anymore and did other things like a Tom Jones impersonation, while everyone else wanted Garth to go back to the way he was, so he closed the show with "We Shall Be Free".
- This Is Going to Suck: Garth Brooks' opinion of Gonzo's rocket-boosted sub-orbital inverse bungee jumping act once he learns what will be stopping them (The floor). Fortunately, he learns this in time to safely back out.
- Too Dumb to Live: Again, Andy and Randy.
- Trivially Obvious: "Muppets Tonight: the show critics everywhere are calling... 'Muppets Tonight'."
- Two for One Show
- Verbal Backspace: John Goodman is fighting in a war with a bunch of rats:
John Goodman: Don't worry, I promise to get all of you home back in one piece.
- Who Writes This Crap?: At the beginning of the "Hardy Pig Boys in the Mystery of the Zombie Queen of the Amazon Outer Space Bee Woman Case: Based on a novel by Jane Austen" sketch.
Announcer: Ugh, who wrote this?
- Your Costume Needs Work: Beaker does an uncanny Little Richard impression, actually a cameo of Little Richard himself, on which the show's host, Clifford, comments "Worst Little Richard impersonation ever!"