Posted on Friday, September 18th, 2015 by Angie Han
Now that 2011’s The Muppets and 2014’s Muppets Most Wanted have revitalized the Muppets brand, Kermit and company are heading back to their home turf: television. ABC’s new The Muppets series unfolds behind the scenes of Up Late With Miss Piggy, following the trials and tribulations of its cast and crew.
While the characters are familiar, the show promises they’ll be “like you’ve never seen them before.” But is that a good thing or a bad thing? Get The Muppets early buzz after the jump.
Reactions to The Muppets are all over the map, in part because it seems like everyone has a different idea of what a new Muppets show should be. Some hate the snarky tone and grown-up jokes (including references to Muppet sex) and long for a return to the gentler Muppets of yore; others enjoy seeing the Muppets in a new light.
Of course, The Muppets, for all its familiarity, is still a new show, and like all new shows will presumably continue to evolve throughout its first season. There are many great shows that got off to weak starts, and many terrible shows that got off to great ones, so if you’re invested in the Muppets it’s worth keeping an eye out for additional reviews as the series progresses. With that in mind, here are some sample reactions to early episodes of The Muppets.
The Muppets is just pure fun. The characters – both felt and human – are endearing, the jokes are fast, and the workplace set-up is near-bursting with expansion possibilities for the future. A big caveat, of course, lies in those afraid of change: the Statler and Waldorfs of the world who prefer their Muppets more classic, the ones who don’t carry iPhones and worry about working out or drop medical marijuana jokes. They will probably find it hard to look past the new incarnation’s meta-realism. For everyone else, for the Kermits and Animals and Janices: here’s the first laudatory television sitcom of the fall. Enjoy the show.
As soon as you begin watching the new “Muppets” the question arises—how come no one thought of this before? So perfect is the idea of a late-night talk show called “Up Late With Miss Piggy” one has to wonder. True, this is a notably more adult Muppets show with its little touches of socio-political commentary. All in good fun, of course.
The Muppets opens in the Muppets’ writers’ room, where Kermit announces that ABC wants to make a primetime show about the Muppets and their personal lives. The muppets decide it should be filmed in the style of a mockumentry, just as the camera cuts to Gonzo, who complains, “cut-to interviews? That is totally just an overused device to make easy jokes!” The whole show is like this: knowing, self-aware, clichéd, adorable, irresistible—unless you, understandably, thought the Muppets were perfect as is.
[…] The Muppets (developed by The Big Bang Theory‘s Bill Prady and Bob Kushall) had the opportunity with this new series to do something a little different. But there’s also a good argument to be made that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While The Muppets’ somewhat stale setup feels a lot like a mix of 30 Rock and The Office (and countless others, including ABC’s comedy juggernaut Modern Family), it also stays true the Muppet’s signature meta style. And for fans, that should be enough. It just may not be enough to win any new fans in the adult demographic (for whom the show is skewed, although it’s also fine for kids, too).
Fears from certain paranoid quarters that The Muppets would yield an excessively adult, and therefore smutty, version of these beloved, family-friendly characters are, of course, unfounded. The Muppets have, in many of their incarnations, sustained a certain amount of double entendre, and this documentary-style glimpse behind the scenes doesn’t remove the gauzy filter in any way.
In trying to update the variety show format and vaudeville theatre of The Muppet Show that ran on TV decades ago, the new Muppets shows way too many of its strings. What little drama can be milked from the tension between Kermit and Miss Piggy — both with new partners, so to speak — is exhausted quickly.
“The Muppets” brings with it name recognition, and the initial kick — in this new “The Office”-like faux-documentary approach — of seeing the laughs played on a more adult level, such as having fun with misunderstandings that can occur when one advertises being a “bear” online. Yet just as the 2011 Muppets movie featuring Jason Segel yielded a sequel that largely fizzled, the real question is how well this moderately amusing concept will wear, before those fuzzy costumes, and the related gags, begin to feel a tad threadbare.
Could a fresh take done with a new, meta-spin on the characters with a mokumentary twist really work? Well, the answer for those fans is sadly, no. But, sadder is the fact that the answer is also no for those that have absolutely zero ties to the institution’s past.
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And no, it’s not terrible: Bill Prady, its executive producer, also co-created The Big Bang Theory, and he is talented. But the new Muppets is ill-conceived, smug, unfunny, and mean-spirited. In the two episodes ABC (finally) put on its press site earlier this week, I laughed one time, and that was when the tone of the show-within-the-show abruptly shifts, and the populist religious scholar Reza Aslan is a guest. Does that gag indicate how up its own ass The Muppets is? Because it should.