After a long absence, Kermit and the gang return to prime time television in ABC’s newest comedy The Muppets, but does it have the same charm as it did all those decades ago?
In what seems like an unlikely scenario, a pilot presentation was commissioned for a new Muppet series. Directed by Randall Einhorn (Parks and Recreation, The Office, and Modern Family) and written by Bill Prady (Big Bang Theory) and Bob Kushell (Simpsons, 3rd Rock from the Sun), the 10 minute pilot was so beloved at the presentation that it reportedly received a standing ovation and an immediate green light. Months later, after revealing the 10 minute pilot at Comic Con, the response for the series was so great that ABC made the highly unusual move of releasing the full pilot online for the world to view to much fan acclaim.
In The Muppets, we see what seems like years of waiting for a new fresh look at our favorite childhood television stars. This new series, like it’s predecessors, gives the viewer a meta-look at the production of a television program. Like the original variety hour “The Muppet Show”, this new series centers around a late night talk show called “Up Late with Miss Piggy.” Filmed on the ABC lot (in the show, and I assume literally), you can expect to see a ever rotating lineup of guest appearances by ABC talent as well as other big name Hollywood celebrities to be on the talk show.
All of our old friends from the Muppets are back as various members of the show crew. Kermit is the executive producer, while Fozzie Bear is Miss Piggy’s co-host and announcer with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem as the show band.
Gonzo, Rizzo, and Pepe are show writers, while Scooter is a producer, and Bobo is the stage manager. Even Bunsen and Beaker have a role as the prop-masters, while Uncle Deadly and the Swedish Chef run wardrobe and craft services respectively.
As expected, straight laced patriotic Sam the Eagle is in charge of standards and decency for the network, constantly making notes of what can and can’t be said on television. (“You can’t say hell.”)
At the center of the pilot is the relationship between Kermit and Miss Piggy and the aftermath of their recent breakup. Heavily publicized for months with actual tabloid articles in all the pop culture publications, their breakup has been a hot-bed of contention as we wonder how Kermit and Piggy can continue to work together so closely on her show. In light Kermit’s new love interest Denise, a southern pig who is the corporate ABC rep and Head of Marketing for the show, we can expect a lot of fireworks between Kermit and Piggy as their relationship eventually tumbles even more.
While many may deride the documentary theme of the show as a copy of The Office, I would say it’s really more of an homage to 30 Rock with the zany variety show style crew meetings and general studio mayhem.
One of the biggest concerns from decency and family groups was the perceived fear of a raunchy and scandalously over sexed version of the Muppets, especially with all of the less than subtle humor in the recent promos. (Nathan Fillion walking out of Miss Piggy’s trailer? Oh heavens!) In reality, I would say there’s not anything particularly risqué said during the pilot.
While there are innuendos ( “cross-promoting” ), I wouldn’t say it’s anything particularly to be up in arms about. This show is not the show for little kids we grew up with. Rather it’s a show for the kids that used to watch it and have now grown up. It’s not really “adult” humor, more like “grown up” humor. To be fair, all of the innuendos are so deadpan that most young viewers wouldn’t even notice, but it is something that parents should make a judgement call about.
The biggest fear to me about the Muppets is the gross reuse of cliched jokes that we’ve already seen in 30 Rock like terribly unproductive staff meetings and the insanity of the show talent. What made the originals so great was the charm of the insanity, while the new series has a lot of the insanity without the charm.
Jokes are a bit slow and drawn out, and the show spends a lot of time on the emotional relationships between the characters, mainly Kermit and Piggy in this first episode. Perhaps in the next few episodes, we’ll get more of the laughter we are expecting. Even 30 Rock had a slow start before the writers and cast gelled together to form a weekly dose of charming insanity.
Overall, I think The Muppets is a good show that doesn’t offend, but it also doesn’t quite grab you just yet.
- This week’s banned words: crotchety, twiddle, gesticulate (to gesture with your excited movements instead of speech…like a puppet has to since they can’t express too much)
- Miss Piggy was not held up by a cable from a wrecking ball. Funny on multiple levels.
- Guest stars this week: Elizabeth Banks, Tom Bergeron, Tracy Anderson, and Imagine Dragons.
- “Animal think frog plan dicey”
- “Is this a meeting?…I’m Zoot…and…” “Different meeting”
- Miss Piggy demands “generic” garbage to mask her real trash.
- “If you take dating out of the equation, she’s just a lunatic”
Waldorf and Statler
- Oh god we’re gonna die of hypothermia! I hope it comes quick!
- Every night he tells that same joke! And every night I pray for the tornado!
- Looks like that drum is the way out of here! Let’s make a break for it!
- Imagine Dragons – Roots