Kermit The Frog has had a lengthy, distinguished career in television, one that stretches back to roughly 1955, when he appeared in primordial form on Sam And Friends, way before Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. But one of the amphibian’s oddest assignments arrived on April Fools’ Day in 1994, when he filled in for the absent host of CNN’s Larry King Live. That episode, running about 38 minutes without commercials, has now resurfaced on YouTube, and it makes ideal mid-week viewing material for any die-hard Muppet fans or those who simply long for the glory days of basic-cable interview shows. Kermit was undergoing a transitional phase in his career at the time. Steve Whitmire had been his puppeteer for roughly four years then and was still making the role his own. The Muppets were between movies in 1994. This episode was filmed after The Muppet Christmas Carol but before Muppet Treasure Island. The TV show Muppets Tonight was still a couple of years away, too, but this episode gave Kermit the chance to hobnob with the likes of Ted Koppel, Hulk Hogan, and Carol Alt.
Donning King’s usual attire (a shirt and tie, high-waisted pants, and suspenders) for the occasion, Kermit does a fine job filling in for the absent host, becoming cutely flustered in his attempts to seem calm, cool, and collected opposite his intimidating guests. It doesn’t hurt, certainly, that the program’s regular host is already sort of Muppet-like, so the transition isn’t too jarring. A couple of veteran Muppeteers, Dave Goelz (Gonzo) and Frank Oz (Miss Piggy and Animal), contribute to the episode as well. Koppel makes a fine straight man to the frog and is even persuaded to sing his parody of “You’re A Grand Old Flag.” The appearances of Alt and Hogan are largely edited out of this version, but CNN anchor Bernard Shaw makes a straight-laced cameo, and political advisor and commentator David Gergen sticks around for an entire interview. A different kind of Washington celebrity, the Clintons’ cat, Socks, appears in puppet form later in the program. With Miss Piggy frequently calling in to complain about Kermit’s handling of the show, this episode of Larry King Live almost plays like an alternate universe version of ABC’s recent The Muppets.