THE MUPPETS – The Muppets are back in prime time like you’ve never seen them before. Romance! Breakups! Success! Failure! Muppets are opening the doors to their homes and offices in this fresh documentary style series that explores these beloved characters as they live their lives in Hollywood. This real-world Muppet series will have something for kids of all ages. (ABC/Andrea McCallin) DENISE, KERMIT THE FROG
On Tuesday night, The Muppets returned to network television for the umpteenth time with a fresh primetime slot on ABC, but not everyone was impressed. In fact, it seems like the general consensus was that–based on the pilot, “Pig Girls Don’t Cry”, alone–the show sucked.
via Facebook/The Muppets
I’m actually shocked, and I’m wondering why there is so much backlash, from io9 decrying the show’s concept to an organization called One Million Moms outright labeling the show as “perverted“. Let me be clear, all of these opinions are valid. I just don’t agree. As for kids watching the show, I think it was a given this wasn’t going to be a family friendly version of The Muppets when Kermit and Miss Piggy split up this past summer. Perversion aside, I watched the screener on Saturday and laughed my ass off for most of the show.
If you’re familiar with sitcoms like The Office or Modern Family, then you’re familiar with the style and tempo that made those shows semi-uniquely funny. The Muppets follows the same formula, with confessional, one-on-one interviews–at one point Gonzo shades the whole confessional thing in his own damn interview–and a voyeuristic, behind-the-scenes style. In fact, that’s the concept of The Muppets‘ current television incarnation. Kermit and company all work on Miss Piggy’s late-night talk show Up Late with Miss Piggy. Both Kermit and his new porcine paramour Denise, along with your favorite characters from Muppets past like Fozzie Bear, Swedish Chef, and Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem are all part of the Up Late‘s crew. Miss Piggy is as delusional and arrogant as she’s always been, but I agree with the critics that find her even colder and meaner than she has been in the past, which says a lot. Kermit, the production manager, is the glue that holds the whole thing together, and as usual, is the bridge between Miss Piggy and the others, and he’s the more exhausted for it. She doesn’t know Fozzie by name, and she is very adamant that he not make eye contact with her. She also has an irrational, yet equally saddening, hatred for Elizabeth Banks whom she refuses to have as a guest on her talk show, leading Kermit to have to settle for Dancing with the Stars host Tom Bergeron. She doesn’t seem to like anyone but herself, which is not all that funny…
But here’s the thing, though. While Kermit and Miss Piggy do garner some laughs, their situation is complicated. It’s the supporting Muppets that bring the laughs, and they’re the stars of the show. For example, Fozzie talks about the awkward miscommunication that arises out of referring to himself, accurately, as a “bear” on a matchmaking site. Scooter gets into an argument with Elizabeth Banks while driving her around the film lot that ends up in an all-out fight on the cart, and the parents of Fozzie’s human girlfriend are patently against their daughter dating a bear because they do not approve of interspecies relationships.
The humor has an adult bent, but so is most of the humor on most cartoons on the Cartoon Network. We all know it. Bergeron takes a good brunt of the jokes, and the “musical guests”, Imagine Dragons, don’t get away without a few jokes lobbed at their expense either.
Basically, The Muppets are all grown up. They are not playfully naive anymore. They are dealing with some real problems, like putting on a little weight after major life crises, drama in the workplace, and relationship complications… Just like the rest of us. So they’re puppets… And? That’s what makes it all the more comical to me because while some of the issues tackled in the pilot are ones that most of us can identify with, The Mupppets are actually able to go places human characters could not.
Look, I’m not getting rid of my Muppet Show DVDs anytime soon, but funny is funny. And as long as The Muppets keeps bringing the laughs more often than not, I’ll be here for it.