Rating – 8/10
The Muppets are finally back on television and it only took 17 years. The last major Muppet series to air was Muppets Tonight from 1996-1998, and it struggled with mixed reviews, moving from ABC to Disney Channel. Disney has shown they are serious about making The Muppets work, and after two great movies and a few viral web videos, they have finally found a winning formula to bring the iconic characters to life again on the small screen with The Muppets.
This past summer, a 10-minute preview of The Muppets was shown at Comic-Con before being released on YouTube and it garnered a ton of positive buzz for the series. The Muppets promised to show off a new, edgier side and they delivered. Jim Henson wanted The Muppets to be for adults, despite some audiences thinking they were only for kids due largely to the success of Sesame Street. The brand new series squashes this notion entirely, and Jim would be ecstatic with the results.
The Muppets centers around the talk show Up Late with Miss Piggy, which is of course hosted by Miss Piggy. Kermit is the executive producer. Gonzo is a writer. Sam Eagle is in charge of Standards and Practices. Swedish Chef runs craft services. Every Muppet has a role in the late night talk show being filmed on the Disney backlot in Burbank. However, The Muppets is filmed in a single-camera documentary style like The Office, Parks and Recreation and the ABC juggernaut, Modern Family.
In the pilot episode, “Pig Girls Don’t Cry,” The Muppets picks up after the pitch and plot elements in Comic-Con preview. The opening sequence draws from the pitch meeting in the preview, but this time around it’s just the morning meeting before the daily taping begins. The show establishes its adult branding quickly with a fun AA reference by Zoot and a back and forth between Kermit and Sam Eagle over some script alterations.
Sam Eagle: The following inappropriate words need to be deleted from tonight’s script – crotchety, twiddle… and gesticulate.
Kermit: Gesticulate? Well, that just means to move your hands.
Sam Eagle: Which leads to shaking hands, which is the first step in making babies… not on my watch!
However, the show won’t just appeal more to adults solely based on the humor. The Muppets have adopted a more realistic attitude, which leads the characters to feel more human. Kermit struggles on a daily basis dealing with constant nonsense around him, especially from Miss Piggy who makes outrageous demands about how her garbage is handled and not allowing Elizabeth Banks on the show, which sets up the A-plot for this episode and leads to more information surrounding their break-up that set social media on fire.
The B-plot revolves around Fozzie meeting his human girlfriend’s parents and clamoring for their acceptance, some of which is similar to what was seen in the preview. The idea of a Muppet actually being in a relationship with a human feels slightly abnormal in this episode, and needs more time to develop. The premise is more funny than the execution, but it also accounts for one of the funniest quotes of the episode, courtesy of Fozzie:
When your online profile says passionate bear looking for love, you get a lot of wrong responses. Not wrong, but just… wrong for me.
Along with the new show comes a new Muppet – Denise. Denise is a pig who runs marketing for ABC and has been dating Kermit for the past couple months. After successful launches of Walter and Constantine, Denise doesn’t feel like she fits in quite yet. Granted, the other two “new” Muppets had full movies to develop and Denise was only given 5 minutes in the pilot, but there is something off about her character, especially the voice acting.
The pilot also proves that The Muppets won’t be solely for adults. Nothing in “Pig Girls Don’t Cry” is absurdly inappropriate for kids and most of the edgier jokes will go right over their head. Clever kids might inquire about what some of the jokes mean, but most will probably ignore them and pay more attention to the gags and goofier jokes, which is what the Muppets do best.
Overall, The Muppets shows a ton of promise in this series premiere. If there is ever a series that proves the Muppets are just as relevant for adults as they are for kids, then this is it. There are a ton of genuine laugh-out-loud moments in “Pig Girls Don’t Cry” and there is also a lot of heart, which is also a staple for anything Muppets.
Although some plots and characters might need to be tweaked to better suit the style of the show, The Muppets is overall one of the strongest premieres Disney could hope for. It doesn’t hurt that the Muppets have always been able to pull in great celebrity guests and now have a HUGE pool of talent to choose from being on The Walt Disney Studios backlot.
So many shows struggle to find the right groove and fanbase, but The Muppets already has both of these. Assuming the current fanbase doesn’t bail on the show, The Muppets will surely find loyal audience and thrive as the lead-in to Fresh Off The Boat. It’s a shame that it can’t follow Modern Family, but it probably won’t need any help being a success.
Best Moments (SPOILERS AHEAD!!!)
- Kermit on dating Miss Piggy – “You know, when Piggy and I were a couple, I found her unpredictable and spontaneous and… quirky, and that was kind of sexy. But if you take dating out of the equation, she’s just a lunatic.”
- During Scooter’s complimentary tour of the studio to keep Elizabeth Banks away for maybe three hours… four tops. They never make it to the Mary Poppins stage – Elizabeth: “Yes, I know what a soundstage is. I’m in the movie business.” Scooter: “Uh really? I did not know that? What exactly do you do?” Elizabeth: “I’m an actor…” Scooter: “Huh. Then act like you’re interested in the tour that somebody’s taking time away from his day to give you.”
- Floyd and Janice discussing guest band, Imagine Dragons – Floyd: “So, you know these guys, huh?” Janice: “Oh yeah! You know the original name of the band was Imagine Dragons?” Floyd: “That is their name…” Janice: “I know, they kept it!”
- Tom. Bergeron. – “Should I tell that story about the time I grew a mustache and some guy thought I was Tom Selleck?”
- If you bad mouth Tom Bergeron, make sure he’s on the elevator first – “Scooter. You walk into a stage full of dancing stars and you bring back Tom Bergeron?”
- Tom Bergeron’s bit courtesy of Scooter – Dancing with the Czars: Catherine the Great Dancer and Ivan the Terrible Dancer and tonight’s dance is… the foxtrot.