Muppet Stuff - ABC's The Muppets

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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From time to time here on MousePlanet, I have the utmost pleasure to cover what's happening in the world of the Muppets. Considering that something glorious happened in the Muppet universe last week, I thought it was time to check in with them again. That glorious event was the Muppets' return to primetime series television.


Animal, Miss Piggy, Kermit, Gonzo, and Beaker are just a handful of the characters seen on the new Disney/ABC television series, "The Muppets." © Disney Enterprises

On September 22, 2015 at 8 p.m. on ABC Television The Muppets premiered and made this writer a very happy viewer. That's not usually too difficult for me when it comes to Jim Henson and his long lasting menagerie of puppets. As an official card-carrying member of The Muppet Show Fan Club, Jim Henson and his wacky clan of felt friends had me at hello. I was born in 1968, right in time for Sesame Street's debut. Like many others around me growing up in the 1970s, my life was Muppet-filled. My Muppet fandom came to a full-blown zenith when I completed a successful college internship at Jim Henson Productions and was subsequently hired to work in the New York City production studios. Life was good for this Muppet aficionado.

After Jim's untimely death caused a slowdown in production and my departure from the company, I watched for years as they appeared here and there, almost forgotten by a once adoring public. Even my beloved Disney seemed to take its time looking for the right vehicle to bring them back once they officially entered the Mouse House fold. In this fan's eyes, it was the Jason Segel penned 2011 film The Muppets that finally put these characters back where they belonged.


The 2011 film "The Muppets" stars Amy Adams and Jason Segel. © Disney Enterprises

It's my belief that these characters are at their best when they are just being themselves—as much as inanimate pieces of cloth can really be itself—as opposed to say, "acting" in a spoof like Muppet Treasure Island or The Muppets Wizard of Oz. The joy of the original Muppet Show to me was always the interactions back stage as this band of misfits attempted to put on a variety show. They did their best and believed in their show, but most of the time, it was just barely controlled chaos.


Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear discuss the chaos on "Up Late with Miss Piggy," which is the show within the show, "The Muppets." © Disney Enterprises.

This new iteration, simply titled The Muppets, finds the lovable rag tag crew (along with the occasional human being) doing their best to, once again, entertain people by putting on a show. This time it's a late night television talk show known as Up Late with Miss Piggy. Kermit and Piggy have broken up and despite the awkwardness and uncomfortable moments, the frog is producing his ex-pig's TV show. Confusion, hilarity and the classic celebrity cameos, a staple of Muppet movies and shows past, all ensue. This time around, however, the show is being shot "mockumentary" style, breaking away to on-camera interviews every so often, as seen on shows like The Office and Modern Family.


Gonzo speaks to the camera in a "talking head" interview, similar to those done on the television show, "The Office." © Disney Enterprises.

Much is being said out there in conservative America about the more adult vibe the show has adopted. Was that a not so thinly veiled reference to the Muppet band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, benefiting from the recent proliferation of legalized illicit substances in this country? Why yes... yes it was. I, for one, have always enjoyed the edgy irreverence of classic Muppet material.

Needless to say, I was very happy with the premiere episode. I will say that it's a little racy for something that has the Disney name attached to it. Thus the complaints that are apparently being registered out there in "I don't have a sense of humor" land. However, in their heyday, the Muppets always walked a thin line between class and crass, so this should be nothing new.

With longtime Henson and Muppet collaborator Bill Prady at the helm, it's my firm belief that this new show will harken back to the days when the Muppets intelligently walked that line. Let's not forget that the intended title of the original Muppet Show pilot was The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence. It was reportedly named so because Jim Henson himself was concerned that his Muppet creations were being pigeonholed as kid's entertainment due to their involvement with Sesame Street. Personally, I've always felt it to be a stroke of Jim's inherent brilliance to reposition The Muppets in the 70's as more of an adult property. I'm not sure they would have become the phenomenon that they were without this move.

So far, with only two episodes aired this season, I can honestly say that I laughed out loud, that they shocked me a little bit here and there, and that I truly can't wait for next week to see where they go next. The bottom line is the Muppets are back where they belong, in primetime on a major network. Let's hope it lasts even longer this time.


Tuesday night will be Muppet night from now on. © Disney Enterprises

One thing's for sure, I know where I'll be each Tuesday evening for the foreseeable future. The DVR has already been programmed. I've been waiting a long time for this and I'm in it for the long haul. It's The Muppets and once again, they had me at hello.

 

Comments

  1. By GusMan

    I have to say that I like the new show. It's not my top pick for the new season, but I have my DVR set as well...
    I think most of the complaints that are out there are due to a pre- conceived idea that this was going to be a family show.
    Clearly it is not.
    Im not saying that's a bad thing, but it's akin to when you see a trailer for a movie and you think its going to be one thing, then it ends up being another.

  2. By Goodnplenty

    I'm enjoying the new show too. I was also surprised at the edge to the show, which I like a lot. Actually that edginess reminds me of the 60's - 70's Sesame Street Muppets. On SS, I laughed at their obvious jokes directed at adults that passed right by the kids. The infamous Grover the waiter series was a hoot. But I was laughing at all the things Grover said as he was going to the kitchen and also at the customer's comments. The kids were more focused on the "lesson".
    I think the new Muppet show catches that adult vein very well. I've caught myself laughing out loud when I least expected it.

    GnP

  3. By MattyN

    I love the fact that this show genuinely makes me laugh. I don't watch a lot of network television anymore, but this is a must-see for me. Of course, some of the voices have changed, and that takes you out of the moment for a second or two, but the writing is tight and the overall performances have you believing in these characters - and that's always been a cornerstone of my enjoyment of the Muppets.

  4. By worldlover71

    Sadly, I couldn't disagree more. I am still hopeful that a change in tone is possible because I found the first two episodes lacking in the Muppets' patented brand of zaniness. They all seemed unhappy. I love the Muppets' optimistic attitudes and joy and hope it resurfaces soon. Also, I felt the "adult" humor felt forced, like when they had Mickey do a hip-hop show at DCA-trying too hard to be hip and edgy.

  5. By Dr. G

    I've found some parts funny and others not. I have laughed at parts and I love that the Muppets are on TV again. I'm a huge Muppets fan (have the complete Palisades collection, all the dvds I can get my hands on, Muppet Christmas Carol is an annual C-Mas tradition, etc) and I had such high hopes for this show. One of the things I've loved about the Muppets is the "escape" and the "fun" and I'm just not seeing that yet. I agree with worldlover71 that all the Muppets seem unhappy. Even Kermit, Mr. Historically-Optimistic. Why can the only happy ones in the new show be the ones that everyone in the office implies are drugged? I guess I get enough "reality" in my own life that it is nice to have an entertaining escape from time to time. I'm sure I'll keep watching at least through Season 1 if it lasts that long and then see from there. It is fun to have so many cameo appearances already. I'm still hopeful for a good season, but I'm on the fence on this so far. And as long as I'm typing about the Muppets, when do we get Seasons 4 and 5 of the Muppet Show on DVD!?!

  6. By GusMan

    Quote Originally Posted by worldlover71 View Post
    ...They all seemed unhappy. ...Also, I felt the "adult" humor felt forced...

    Especially the tension between Kermit and Miss Piggy.
    I mean... that whole breakup just seems unnatural.
    Maybe they will get back together as a part of the whole scheme of things....

  7. By Alex S.

    Admittedly, I've never been any particular fan of The Muppets (and have always found Miss Piggy to be actually hateworthy and not amusingly hateworthy) but I decided to watch anyay. Got to the first commercial break without cracking a smile and then fell asleep during the commercial.

  8. By AnotherJenny

    Quote Originally Posted by GusMan View Post
    Especially the tension between Kermit and Miss Piggy.
    I mean... that whole breakup just seems unnatural.
    Maybe they will get back together as a part of the whole scheme of things....
    I liked the break-up aspect. Lately it's seemed more and more like Kermit was being forced into a relationship by Miss Piggy and I didn't understand why they had to be portrayed as a couple at all. Especially since it was so one sided and not in an amusing way at all. At least in the first episode it seemed like he likes her, which I didn't get at all from the last two movies.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alex S. View Post
    Admittedly, I've never been any particular fan of The Muppets (and have always found Miss Piggy to be actually hateworthy and not amusingly hateworthy) but I decided to watch anyay. Got to the first commercial break without cracking a smile and then fell asleep during the commercial.

    I only watched the first episode. I actually liked Miss Piggy more than I have in anything they've done in 25 years. But it's still just a remake of the Larry Sanders Show. And I'd rather just watch that.

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