Fozzie Bear, left, Scooter, Miss Piggy, Rowlf, and the Swedish Chef are among Muppets from "The Muppet Show" donated to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24, 2013.
Jacquelyn Martin—AP
September 22, 2015 9:00 AM EDT

When The Muppets debuts on Tuesday night, the new show will have big shoes to fill: by the time the long-running original Muppet Show reached its third season, in 1978, it was the most popular TV show on Earth, with 235 million people in 106 countries tuning in for their weekly dose of Kermit.

And it wasn’t just kids: The Muppet Show just might have been, per TIME’s take, both “the only adult show on television” and “give or take Saturday Night Live, the funniest show on television.”

The Muppets’ unique satirical voice got most of the credit for why grown-ups loved the show, but the reason ran deeper than that, according to TIME’s 1978 story:

Read the full story, here in the TIME Vault: Those Marvelous Muppets

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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