Muppet Babies "It's Only Pretendo" (1989)

Hey guys!  Remember Muppet Babies?  It was a Saturday Morning cartoon show based on the 1970s puppet variety show by Jim Henson.  Remember variety shows?  They would have singing and dancing and bad skits.  Sonny and Cher had a variety show and The Brady Bunch and loads of people you’ve never heard of.  They were huge in the 1970s.  I’m so *nostalgic* for variety shows.  Even though they were gone by the time I was born.  It’s a dead genre.

Anyway, Muppet Babies is only loosely based The Muppet Show.  First of all, it’s a cartoon.  Secondly, it’s clearly aimed at young children, whereas the The Muppet Show had a more adult audience.  And thirdly, as the title suggests, the Muppets are babies in this cartoon.

So let’s go all the way back to the year 1989 and check it out.  1989…that was a good year, wasn’t it?  Rain Man won the Oscar for Best Picture.  But enough about James Rolfe.

0:00 – Fuck.  Is this really the best quality video?  It seems to be.  There’s one on Vimeo too but it looks like the same video.  Well, that’s how it was in 1989.  There was no HD.  No 4k.  There was analogue and that’s the way we liked it.  

So it just starts with a weird Donkey Kong kind of level.  But it’s Gonzo.  And he refers to himself as Super Mario Weirdo.  

This brings me back.  I really hated Gonzo always saying “weirdo”.  And what was the deal with Gonzo in the The Muppet Show and the chickens?  Everybody called Gonzo “weird” in that show.  Was this a chicken fucking reference or just…Gonzo is weird and likes chickens (platonically)?  

Back to the video, instead of Donkey Kong at the top of the level there’s some kind of dinosaur character.  Who was the villain in Donkey Kong Country?  A dinosaur, right?  Let me look this up.  Yeah, King K Rool.

And the character in this Muppet Babies is called King.  And has a similar appearance to King K Rool.  Has a cape and a crown and looks like an alligator.  But Donkey Kong Country wouldn’t debut for another three years.  What a crazy coincidence.  If it is a coincidence.  Maybe they got like preview art for the game.  Or Rare ripped the character off from this episode.

0:30 – King Copacabana is his name.  

0:45 – There’s actual footage from Donkey Kong.  It’s animated but it’s clearly Donkey Kong.  So they must have permission to do this.  

Then Gonzo is back in his imagination and says, “Ooh, a magic cupcake.”  They seem to really be melding Donkey Kong with Super Mario Bros.  In the very first scene, Gonzo makes a reference to the Kingdom of Pasta Fazool.  I know that it’s all Mario, kind of, but it seems like whoever wrote this didn’t quite understand the games.

1:30 – Then Miss Piggy appears as like the Donkey Kong/King Coccacabana character in imagination land and then back to the real world, she unplugs the tv and/or the console.  Gonzo says, “I was just about to take the throne.”

This is a reference to the Mushroom Kingdom, presumably.  That’s not a goal of the game, of course but these shows were written by people who didn’t  play video games.  They were kind of a new thing and these writers were already adults when video games came out.  They weren’t playing this shit.

There are a lot of reference to points, for example.  “I’m going to get 500 points for (whatever)”.  Even by 1989, games weren’t really like this.  Games got away from playing the same stage over and over again with the goal of getting a high score.  But the writers didn’t know this.

Then Miss Piggy says that she’s tired of watching Gonzo play Pretendo.  Gonzo appeals to the other Muppet babies and asks if they like watching him play the games and they all say no.  This was a time when not everybody played video games.  Fucking nerds were playing this shit but that’s it.  Kids were still interested in sports and whatnot.

2:15 – So Miss Piggy starts playing and it’s clearly Donkey Kong Jr.  They must have had permission from Nintendo to do this but then why do they call it Pretendo?  Maybe product placement was a problem.  They couldn’t market stuff to children in cartoons.

She dies almost immediately.  Shit tier gameplay.  And then suddenly she’s playing Donkey Kong.  

2:30 – Then in imagination land, she appears dressed as a ninja and intimidates Mario into committing suicide.  She then refers to herself as “Baby Mutant Ninja Piggy”.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon started in 1987.  But it seems like the writers have only a vague idea what it is.  Same with video games.  They don’t dress as ninjas, for example.  I thought that this was like a Ninja Gaiden reference from the way she’s dressed.

3:15 – She’s using like an Atari joystick as opposed to a d-pad controller.  Another example of the writers (or possibly animators) not knowing about video games.

3:30 – Gonzo then goes to look for another game.  The titles are Galaxy Invaders, Adventures of a Link Sausage, Super Bario Bros, Super Bario Bros Second Cousin of Super Bario Bros.  It’s a joke on sequels.  I guess.  Super Mario Bros 3 wasn’t even out then.  So they’re just shitting on Super Mario Bros 2.  The very idea that there would be a sequel to the game is reason for derision by these writers.

4:00 – Fozzie chooses a Tetris game.  Then single square blocks start falling down.  It’s like your grandmother trying to write a cartoon about video games.  She only has a vague idea what they are.

4:30 – Skeeter then has Skateboard to Doom, a parody of Skate or Die.  But you just see skateboarders chasing after Fozzie for like two seconds in his imagination.  

5:00 – Gonzo then puts Legend of Imelda: The Quest for the Golden Key in the Pretendo and suggests that Miss Piggy is going to love this one.  So I guess that this is a different parody game of Legend of Zelda, having previously talked about Legend of the Link Sausage.  

By the way, the Pretendo looks exactly like a VCR.  And the games look like tapes.  It’s just interesting how people knew nothing about video games back then but they were writing a fucking television episode about it.  They didn’t bother spending any time researching this.

5:30 – They’re playing the game in their imagination, which is clearly The Legend of Zelda, but they play music from Super Mario Bros 2.  It’s not quite the same but it’s very close and obviously that’s what they’re ripping off.  In fact, it’s so close that they must have had permission for this.

6:15 – A monster appears and Miss Piggy just slaps it and it dies and she gets 100 points.  Does Zelda even have a score?  I don’t think so.  

Then Gonzo says, “Whoa, beating Piggy is going to be harder than I thought.”  It’s not a two player game.  It’s not competitive in any way.

6:15 – Gonzo gets attacked by “(something) round reptile of unusual size”.  And then there’s a pack of large bouncing balls.  I don’t know what this is a reference to.  Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?  Only one of them is red.  The other three are yellow.  And I don’t know what makes these reptilian or why he referred to this group with a singular noun.

Then he’s throwing gumballs in their mouths, which apparently kills them.  Are these supposed to be like Pac-Men?  I don’t know.  And do these have anything to do with The Legend of Zelda?  I never really played the game.  Are these enemies in the game?  I don’t think so.

7:30 – Then Ride of the Valkyries starts playing as Gonzo tries to grab a couple of rings with the help of Animal.  This is just…these people never played the fucking game.  Or probably any game.  It’s like if Erin wrote a script.

7:45 – So these rings were some kind of a warp.  Does Legend of Zelda have warps?  I don’t think so.

8:00 – Now suddenly it’s back to Donkey Kong with this King K Rool rip off in place of Donkey Kong.  Oh.  They’re doing the musical montage.  Always everybody’s least favourite part of the episode.

9:15 – Then after that unpleasantness, we’re back to Link.  Piggy and Gonzo both try to jump a gorge.  Is there platforming in Legend of Zelda?  I don’t think so.  Even in the second one, I don’t think so.

Piggy can’t make the jump and is hanging on the ledge.  Gonzo goes to help but then gets distracted by a “500 point bonus banana” that floats past.  Now, I know that these aren’t in Zelda but again, this is how video games were in the past.  Like in Pac-Man.  Nearly ten years earlier.  Things had changed by 1989.  

10:00 – Then there’s a picture…is this Keith Courage?  What a weird reference this would be.  No, that’s definitely it.  Somebody clearly tried to draw that exact game.  No creative liberties.  So maybe they didn’t get permission from Nintendo to do this.  Because surely they didn’t also get permission from Hudson.  And Nintendo wouldn’t allow a competitor’s game to be in the same episode.

Then Skeeter puts his sports game in the VCR/Pretendo.

Scooter wants to play a chess game but Skeeter declines stating that her game is better because you get to use the “Mighty Mat.”  This is a reference to the Power Pad.

Somebody in the comments says that this is a reference to World Class Track Meet but I’m not so sure.  It looks like Victory Run.

Yeah.  I just Googled it.  That’s exactly what this is.  Somebody obviously paused the game and did a drawing of it.  From the Eiffel Tower to the trees to the road, this is Victory Run.  But of course they replaced the car with a runner and made it a Power Pad type game.

So another TurboGrafx game.  That’s odd.  It wasn’t exactly popular in the US.

10:45 – Then Fozzie comes in on a skateboard and he’s still being chased by those Skate or Die guys.  This is a running joke in the episode.

12:15 – Then Piggy wants to continue her game with Gonzo, which presumably means the Legend of Zelda game.  But instead, Gonzo puts Fantasy Zone in.  Another TurboGrafx game.  And again, this is clearly Fantasy Zone, not some parody version where they changed it up a little.  How did they not get sued for this?  In 1989, video game companies didn’t have the resources or the interest to be litigious.

I think that this game actually is just about getting points so the dialogue here actually fits.

They even animate the enemies from this game.  This is the most that they’ve done for any game.  This is just a straight rip off.  There’s no parody here.  

14:00 – Kermit starts playing Frogger.  The animation is pretty close but not exactly like the game.

15:30 – Rowlf starts playing a game.  I don’t know what the game is based on but it’s presumably based on a real game, judging from how everything else has been.  He says that it’s a “detective game”.  I have no idea.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego maybe.

16:45 – There’s a brief overhead shot.  Maybe based on the Ghostbusters map.

17:15 – Piggy fights with Rowlf for the controller.  I just noticed that it’s wireless.  And they even have an antenna on it.  But as far as I’m aware, no controller has ever looked anything like this.

17:30 – Gonzo and Piggy start playing some space game.  

But Piggy is now in an earlier level…I guess…and she’s in some castle and she’s dressed as a ninja.  She kicks a wall down and a bunch of little enemies come out.  I don’t think that they’re based on any game.  I don’t think that any of this is based on a real game.  None that I recognise anyway.

18:45 – Now, in order to get to a different castle, she has to cross a Frogger style road.

19:15 – Gonzo finds the box that contains the golden key.  I don’t know if this is based on anything either.

Piggy enters in a castle tower-shaped rocket and the two of them fight over the box.

21:00 – Then they eventually find the key and both grab it and fight over it.  So they turn to the nursery crew and ask which one of them won the game and notice that nobody is watching.  They’re all too busy playing.  So the lesson here is that video games are for losers and cool kids just use their imagination to play.

Anyway, has this ever happened?  You’re playing a two player game and there’s some dispute over who won?  

So that’s the episode.  I’m surprised that TurboGrafx featured so prominently.  

But yeah, these shows from the 1980s to even the 1990s were made by people who didn’t play video games.  That also explains how you get the dreadful Super Mario Bros movie.  These people didn’t play the game, they didn’t care, they were adults when video games came out.  They didn’t know anything about this shit.

I’ll sometimes read comments on Youtube videos where the person says, “I remember playing this with my dad” or even grandfather.  These people must be pretty young.

My parents didn’t give a fuck about video games.  I don’t know anyone’s parents who did.  Actually, I knew a guy who’s father worked in IT and he would get bootleg computer games from him.  So maybe that guy played games.  Some fucking nerd who worked in IT.

But a normal adult in the 1980s had no interest in this.  They would see the game, their kid is playing, and say, “This is not for me” and go back to crocheting or woodworking or whatever hobby they had.  It’s something for kids.  They’ll probably grow out of it.

It’s these people who were writing this shit.  People who were interested in restoring motorcycles or CB radio or whatever hobbies adult men had back then.  They weren’t playing this shit for nerdy kids.  

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