Thoughts on ABC’s “The Muppets”

Michael Wermuth- The Muppets is the newest television series starring the Muppets, airing Tuesdays at 8 on ABC. As of this writing, the first two episodes have aired, and I thought I’d review my thoughts on the series so far. Normally, I don’t do Muppet articles here, since there’s a Muppet Mindset for that, but since The Muppet Mindset has reviewed the first three episodes already I thought I’d do a review for The Mickey Mindset.

Anyway, like previous Muppet revivals such as The Jim Henson Hour and Muppets TonightThe Muppets is very different from The Muppet Show, but unlike those shows (and like the successful Muppet Babies), this one primarily focuses on established characters, rather than having more focus on new than old, so maybe this will be more successful. And unlike the previous Muppet shows (except for Muppet Babies, which did not involve the characters putting on a show), this one focuses a lot more on the backstage aspects of running the show than the on-stage show, “Late Night with Miss Piggy”. For over a decade I thought it’d be great if the Muppets would do a show that focuses a lot more on planning and developing each show, with the show-within-a-show not getting as much focus, though this show also has a “documentary-style” focus, so technically the backstage drama and personal lives are all on-camera (in the shows universe).

Kermit serves as producer, Miss Piggy is the host of a talk show, Fozzie is her on-air sidekick (since both share a performer, I would have given that job to Rowlf or Floyd), Gonzo is the head writer, Rizzo and Pepe are writers Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem is the house band, and the other characters have other duties. Even some of the more minor/obscure characters get time to shine. Chip, an obscure character from The Jim Henson Hour (who was part of a running gag in the presentation pilot, where he’s so obscure that he doesn’t even know who he is or what he’s done with the Muppets), has been rebuilt and is an IT employee (though he hasn’t had any major parts on the show yet), Lips, the trumpet player for The Electric Mayhem, had a line in the second episode (while we’re at it, Zoot has had dialogue in both episodes), Uncle Deadly is in charge of wardrobe, and while not really a minor character, Bobo has a big part as the stage manager.

One plotline for the show is the fact that Kermit and Miss Piggy have broken up. The first episode heavily involves Kermit dealing with working with his ex. Kermit has found a new girlfriend, a pig named Denise. I was expecting her to be a more prominent character, but she’s really not used much. She barely has any dialogue in the presentation pilot, only gets one short scene in the first episode, and is not seen or mentioned at all in the second episode.

The shows format also allows for a lot of celebrities to make appearances in single episodes (though many episodes of Muppets Tonight did include appearances by celebrities who weren’t billed as the guest star). There’s been such stars as Elizabeth Banks, Imagine Dragons, Tom Bergeron (I like some of the mean humor against him in his appearance), Lawrence Fishbourne, and Josh Grobane. Unlike previous Muppet shows, the staff is a mix of Muppets and humans, and I think a few of those humans are regulars, even though I didn’t spot any of them in both episodes. Fozzie’s also got a human girlfriend, Becky, who so far has only been in the first episode. Another thing interesting about this is that the Muppets don’t wear the same outfit all the time. Almost every character who wears clothes is seen in a different outfit every day, and not just for special occasions.

This show has been promoted as more adult, and a number of fans have overreacted to it (and a mothers group has even boycotted the show). However, while all of the episodes so far have had adult humor, most of it is subtle, with only a few that seem to go too far. The humor is more adult than The Muppet Show, but I feel it’s less adult than shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy.

Have I forgotten to talk specifically about the first two episodes? In “Pig Girls Don’t Cry”, Kermit tries to find out why Miss Piggy wants Elizabeth Banks cut as the guest on her show and Fozzie meets his girlfriends parents. In “Hostile Makeover”, Kermit sets Miss Piggy up with Josh Groban, who changes her personality for the better but also encourages her to make the show change for the worst, Fozzie goes to a party held by Jay Leno and ends up stealing a candy dish, and Bobo sells cookies for his daughter’s troop – that’s right, we now know that Bobo has a daughter, and that The Newsman has a daughter and an ex-wife. Both episodes are great, but the second episode is a lot better than the first episode.

Both episodes also feel different, and while many of todays TV shows have continuing storylines going through many episodes, both of the first two episodes are pretty much self-contained. The second episode doesn’t feature Denise or Becky, and I don’t think the break-up between Kermit and Piggy is mentioned at all in that one (despite Kermit setting her up with Josh Groban). In the first episode, the characters seem to be a lot meaner, which many have criticized. I don’t mind the Muppets being meaner or cynical. In fact I like mean humor, though a few instances are a bit much (like how Scooter acts to keep Elizabeth Banks from getting near Miss Piggy). The mean-ness is more-or-less gone in the second episode.

So far, The Muppets is a great series. Hopefully, we’ll end up with at least five seasons of this show.


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