The Muppets premiered this week on ABC, with a promised “more adult” sensibility. That was enough to gain a boycott from One Million Moms, but not from three of Gabbing Geeks finest, Jenny, Jimmy and Tom. What did they think? See after the cut.
I haven’t watched a show “live” in ages, preferring to use various streaming services with my Roku. My wife and I, however, opted to unplug the thing to see The Muppets. I’m an old time Muppet Show fan, and found the characters lost something when Jim Henson died, and not just because we suddenly had wrong-sounding Muppets.
No, the problem was the Muppets suddenly didn’t seem right. They did a couple adaptations of old stories, when they used to mostly do original stories. A couple attempts to get them back on TV didn’t seem to work out. But then we had the movie relaunch that remembered what made the Muppets fun and special to begin with. I was hoping that the new series would keep the spirit going and make for some fun times.
Well, one episode in, and I am maybe a little cautiously optimistic. Some of the more “adult” humor, which wasn’t really all that adult, didn’t seem quite right. But some of the other humor did seem right. The format actually does resemble an updated version of the old Muppet Show, though without the various crazy vaudeville acts to break up the backstage antics.
Supposedly, the basic concept of the old show was to view the program like a basketball game where the final score was always Frog 99, Chaos 98. That seems to be more or less the same here, with Kermit the harried producer to a popular late night talk show starring Miss Piggy. Various other Muppet characters have roles in the show, ranging from announcers (Fozzie), writers (Gonzo and Rizzo), to wardrobe assistants (Uncle Deadly).
The show even kept the celebrity guests, with Elizabeth Banks and a forlorn Tom Bergeron filling in for some more crazy antics.
So, what worked? The classic Muppet humor was there, and there was room to grow. The characters, with the possible exception of a more scheming Kermit, seem about right. Fozzie’s anxiety makes sense, as does Piggy’s self-centeredness.
What didn’t? Well, some of the adult jokes don’t seem right. Did Piggy need to talk about plastic surgery she may or may not have had done?
The jury’s still out on Kermit’s new girlfriend Denise. Something about her actually reminded me of Game of Thrones actor Natalie Dormer. Ever seen Dormer smirk? She does it a lot. Denise seems to be doing something like that.
My wife saw it too.
For what it is worth…Kermit and Piggy breaking up seems a little weird to me, but good for Kermit. Piggy’s been karate chopping him for years. That pig was far too abusive.
In an age where most of us grew up with the Muppets and the wonder and delight of Jim Henson, I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was for the reimagining of the Muppet Show.
Recently on PBS, there was a wonderful documentary on the life of Jim Henson, and I watched it right before the airing of The Muppets as an homage to his legacy. I’m glad I did because there were a lot of things I didn’t know about the man’s life and his pursuit of happiness that ultimately made realize just how special The Muppets really are.
The plot is simple. The Muppets have a new nightly show, hosted by Miss Piggy (kind of like The Tonight Show) where the Electric Mayhem band is on the stage, and Fozzie Bear is the introduction host. That being said, Kermit and the rest of the Muppet gang are the brains and operation behind the scenes of the show. The style is a little “30 Rock” meets “The Office.”
Anyway – it works. I love it. I laughed, I cried – no, just kidding, I didn’t cry. But I did laugh. And that’s the point. The Muppet legacy is about making people laugh, and being a source for creative freedom.
I love how the show feels right now. It’s new, it’s fresh, yet The Muppets we’ve known for decades still embody the overall show. Jim Henson described it best when he said: “There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.” And in this case, I think that’s true. We know these characters, yet we just met them all over again.
I think some people will be critical of the style and subtlety of the jokes, but personally I thought they were on point. This is a new crowd, a new generation of viewers, so the writing has to be new and different. I liked that the adult jokes landed in an awkward way at times, and that some of the slap-stick jokes stuck the landing perfectly. Regardless, I am eager to see where the humor aspect of this show goes, because they have a green field. Jim would want them to take chances, so here’s to getting crazy, zany, and idiotic!
Additionally, I am looking forward to seeing how the story will evolve over time. We’ve already gotten a taste of Kermit’s new girlfriend Denise (probably shouldn’t have said taste, since she’s a pig.) And we know that Fozzie is trying out a new relationship with a human. We also know that Miss Piggy is still dealing with her & Kermit’s breakup. But that’s about it – Gonzo, Rowlf, Rizzo, Skeeter, and a bunch of other muppets we love dearly are all still a mystery. Which means lots of source material for later.
So everyone grab your banjo and green paint, because I think this is the new ticket to a rainbow connection.
Like most my age I grew up with the Muppets on The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock and of course the excellent Christmas special. “Watch out for the icy patch!” (Their humble beginnings on Saturday Night Live were before my time.) While I like the Muppets, I was never a huge fanboy. I haven’t seen any of the recent movies. So I was a bit skeptical about watching this new show, but I’m glad I did.
When I first started watching I felt it was more like Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip than 30 Rock. A more apt comparison may probably be The Office, but since I never watched that, I can’t really say. But by the end the Kermit/Piggy relationship definitely gave me a Liz Lemon/Jenna Maroney vibe. And anything that makes it more 30 Rock than Sunset Strip is a good thing. (Full disclosure, I’m likely one of the few that liked Studio 60.)
At the end of the day it really was a retread of those previous behind the scenes at SNL shows, with a sprinkle of the movie Ted thrown in for good measure. But it didn’t feel tired or rehashed or old. I found myself laughing out loud at several bits and it is smart enough to have some internal continuity (eg. Scooter’s bandage and arm sling), something which could easily be dismissed in a Family Guy/Simpsons manner where things are often forgotten in the next scene.
My one minor quip was that Piggy’s voice sounded off to me as I am spoiled by all things Frank Oz.
I don’t think This Muppet show will be anything groundbreaking, but it should be entertaining, and it hooked me enough to be back next week.
Score: 8 out of 10 Scooter/Banks Brawls