The Muppets are back on TV!


I have long been a fan of the Muppets, going back to Sesame Street and the old Muppet Show on TV and the films. There was always a silly innocence and goofiness to the humor that appealed to me and I did not realize until yesterday that they are going to be back on regular weekly network TV starting today (Tuesday) at 8:00pm on ABC.

TV critic Davis Bianculli says that it is the best of the new fall offerings and the only one really worth watching, combining elements of the old shows and characters with the structure of The Office and 30 Rock TV series.

Another good sign (albeit in a backhanded sort of way) is that the conservative group One Million Moms has slammed the show as “perverted” and wants ABC to remove it, thus immediately creating a lot of publicity for it and likely increasing viewership. So why are they objecting?

In the run-up to the show’s premiere, ABC’s promotional campaign has focused on Kermit and Miss Piggy’s alleged breakup and subsequent rebound relationships, the porcine star’s promiscuity, Fozzie Bear’s relationship with a woman, and even included an ad with a Kermit clad in only a scarf that brags, “Finally, a network TV show with full frontal nudity.”

“1MM (One Million Moms) suspects there are going to be a lot of shocked moms and dads when they discover that the family-friendly Muppets of the 1970s are no more. It appears that no subject is off limits,” the group says in the petition, in which it provides a phone number to call ABC to pressure the network to cancel the show. “The puppet characters loved by kids in the 1970s and 1980s and beyond are now weighing in on abortion and promiscuity,” it continues.

You can’t say we weren’t warned. People said that if we accepted homosexuality as normal, the next thing would be interspecies relationships. And lo, here we have bear-human and frog-pig relationships.

Get a grip, people! These are Muppets, for crying out loud.

Here’s a promo for the show.

Comments

  1. invivoMark says

    Um, the title of the pilot episode of the original Muppets series was subtitled “Sex and Violence.” It has never been strictly an innocent children’s show, and always included a bit of cheeky humor that children wouldn’t get. That’s part of what made it popular.

  2. psweet says

    For an excellent example of that, check out the episode with Raquel Welch. Definitely not a kid’s show.

  3. Erk1/2 says

    Agreed invivoMark. That’s why Segel’s Muppet movie was bad, it was just kid-directed sweetness and nostalgia. It’s like he wrote it based on his perspective as a kid not getting any of the subtle jokes.

  4. Katydid says

    I was a toddler when Sesame Street first aired; I grew up with Kermit and company. I remember making the connection of Kermit’s song “It’s not Easy, Being Green” with “Black is Beautiful”, and both Sesame Street and The Muppet Show (and movies) are examples of different species getting along. The Muppets have always addressed current topics and issues–look at the evolution of Miss Piggy over the years (but always a Feminist!) I once wrote a paper in high school on Kermit As Everyman, citing examples from The Muppet Show.

  5. astrosmash says

    And you NEVER start a new series with previous relationships intact…THAT’S why Kermit had to break up with Ms. Piggy…

  6. says

    I’d much rather the show focus on “Up Late” rather than all the reality show/documentary stuff. Meh. I think that would be much funnier. Be more like “The Muppet Show” except about a talk show instead of a variety show. Could still have all the behind-the-scenes stuff, but just make it about the show-within-the-show rather than about their personal lives.
    .
    ‘Cause really, nobody wants to see Fozzie sitting through an awkward dinner with his girlfriend’s parents, or Kermit and Denise in bed together (you know that’s gonna happen!), or any of the rest.

  7. flex says

    We watched it, and I wasn’t impressed.

    The original Muppet show was something unique on TV at the time. It didn’t try to be hip or modern or relevant or topical. It was a show where guests who got a good bit of screen time, doing the thing they were famous for, and some zany sketches in-between the guest spots. (And this isn’t just memory, I regularly watch them still while on the treadmill.)

    Generally the guests had 2-3 bits where they used skills they were known for; singing, dancing, comedy, even mime or puppetry. Steve Martin told jokes, Vincent Price did scary camp, Ethel Merman sang, Julie Andrews communed with Kermit. All good stuff. One of the most disappointing shows was with the cast of Star Wars, where it wasn’t about the guests showcasing their talents, it was about product placement.

    Sure, a lot of the humor was from embarrassing situations, and the new show had it’s share of that humor too. But the embarrassing situations in the original was more along the lines of Statler and Waldorf hecking Fozzie, or someone’s trousers ripping at the seams. The new show’s embarrassment humor was about bigotry or deliberately causing harm. Not self-inflicted or accidental embarrassment, but cruel and even deliberate embarrassment.

    Finally, the original show exposed me, and I suspect many of my generation, to songs and humor, and even to some extent different cultures. Songs from the great American song book, as well as songs from musicals, rock-and-roll, the jazz age, etc. I believe that some of the eclectic tastes I have in music arose from exposure to the original Muppet Show. Then the show also showed different cultures around the world, to some extent stereotyped, but it was exposure I don’t get much from other places. I don’t expect to see much music or world culture on the new show.

    All that being said, it is probably unfair to criticize the new show because it isn’t the original. But I found the new show to be fairly dull (Janice had the one good joke). The situations, and the resolution of those situations to be predictable. And I really don’t have any interest in watching a staged documentary-style. complete with self-referenced in-jokes, show.

    I will watch a few more shows, to see if it gets better. I recognize that a pilot episode often sucks because it’s what the networks executives think is funny, not the rest of us. But I’m not all that interested.

  8. brucegee1962 says

    Yeah, I too had high expectations, and today I feel a bit let down.

    The best thing about the old series was that you constantly had the feeling that the whole show was walking on a razor’s edge, and that at any moment it might fall off, crack into bits, catch on fire, and blow something up. It always did, sometimes several times in an episode, and always in funny and unexpected ways.

    This Miss Piggy talk show thing seems entirely too well run. There’s the whole build-up to the confrontation between her and the guest, but when it finally does come about, there aren’t any flying karate kicks or collapsing sets — just a little wrinkled nose. I’d rather watch Kermit trying to deal with 500 show business-crazed chickens than relationship problems.

    Violence was a big part of the old show, and it showed up here, too, but it was a different kind of violence. Maybe that came partly from the decision to have the characters show full-bodied so often. If something bad happened to Scooter in an old show, he’d go flying off-camera, there’d be a loud noise, and a bunch of furniture would fall onto the set. Here we actually see him go flying out of a car, and then he shows up with bandages.

    The biggest problem is that the whole show simply wasn’t very funny. I mean, kudos for tackling an issue like prejudice with Fozzy, but does he really have enough depth of character to carry a storyline like that? There were a few ok jokes, taken in isolation, but overall, the tone seemed to be very dark.

  9. flex says

    There’s dark, and there’s mean.

    Dark can be good. Catch-22 is dark, Slaughterhouse 5 is dark.

    But this show struck me as mean, in the sense of small-minded, wretched, petty and shabby.

    In the original show, no matter how difficult or stressful it was, Kermit was battling to produce something that an audience would watch. In the new show, it appears that Kermit is taking the audience for granted. There’s no striving for success, they’re successful. Now what’s left is the petty infighting among the cast and crew. Kermit and friends aren’t striving for something better, only to keep the wheels on what already exists.

    Maybe it’s a sign of our modern world. Striving for something better is not a feature in most of what little I see in television entertainment these days. Much of it is about battling to retain what the characters have, not about doing better. My wife watches “Orange is the New Black”, and it’s all about survival, not improvement. She also used to watch “The Walking Dead”, but since it always left her in a more depressed state we agreed that she probably would be happier watching the news than that show. But that was about survival rather than improvement. Then all those reality shows appear to be about back-stabbing other people and avoiding being back-stabbed by other people on the show.

    Maybe, by virtue of the relatively good life I lead, I’m out of touch with the modern zeitgeist. I still think we should be striving to do better, and I can still work toward that goal. But I know quite a few people who are struggling to maintain their lifestyle, and going further into debt while doing so. Maybe people in these situations prefer entertainment which matches their own expectations?

    But then I think of the enormous popularity of those shows and movies which do show positive goals and striving for improvement, even if they are of the “Game of Thrones” style. And I then think that maybe Hollywood screenwriters are simply jaded nihilists, allowing their own depression to color their work.

  10. Mano Singham says

    Comedy and variety shows take a while to find their groove so I would give it some time.

    I thought the first episode was pretty good. But then I’m partial to the Muppets and am willing to give them some slack.

  11. brucegee1962 says

    The ethos of the old show was “working together, we strive unsuccessfully to hold back the chaos that lurks beneath the surface.”

    The new show seems to be “lonely Muppets striving to get through a lonely world, alone.”

    If that’s really what we’ve come to, then I miss the 70s. Never thought I’d say that.

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