Every day for a couple of months now, someone has messaged me on social media or asked me about the new Muppet series on ABC. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a longtime, die-hard Muppet fan. I tried my best not to research the new series and not to bombard my Facebook wall with Muppet pictures, quotes, and facts. It was hard. I admit that I have very little, if any, self-control. I find myself to be a Gonzo/Fozzie hybrid on the outside, Animal on the inside. If I asked my opinion of the show, I downplayed my delight and excitement by saying, “I am cautiously optimistic.” I had learned a lesson from Muppets from Space (1999). The Muppets (2011), Muppets Most Wanted (2014), and Muppet shorts on YouTube.com had been so wonderful that I let my guard down for the pilot episode. I am not angry, nor outraged. After watching the pilot, I am still hopeful and optimistic, but not in love with the series yet. The press leading up to The Muppets, had my inner Animal nearly unglued. Headlines reported, “Miss Piggy and Kermit Split!” and teased “Pics of Frog’s New Pig Lover!” The marketing and awareness campaign was brilliant and worthy of the classic Jim Henson Muppet days. The Muppets have always been about parodying society and media; I was very pleased to see a tease at the Muppets returning to their roots. The Muppet formula behind the campaign is classic. Kermit is enticed by another woman and Miss Piggy flips out. It was a step in the right direction and everyone was outraged that Kermit and Miss Piggy were no longer a couple. It will go down as one of the major break-ups in history. A lot of the Muppet movies are about the Muppets working together to save the Muppet Theater or their rise to fame. It works. Although the story is old and has been done before, the non-aging Muppets along with their wit and quips about pop culture make the story seem fresh and new. The go-to plot of the Muppet television series is the Muppets put on a television show. Viewers get to see the hilarious mayhem and antics on the show and behind the scenes. The television show formula was perfect for The Muppet Show (1976), but did not work well for Muppets Tonight (1996). As for this series, the outcome remains to be seen, but, based on my gut reaction and comments on the Interwebs, it does not look good. IIn this series, a documentary crew films the Muppet gang behind the scenes of Miss Piggy’s late night television show. This time, the big hitch is that the Muppets play themselves. We will get a glimpse into the private lives of the Muppets. Kermit and Miss Piggy are no longer together, Kermit has a new girlfriend, Fozzie tries online dating, and who knows what other adventures we will accompany the other characters on. This is a safe premise for the Muppets. It is relevant and modern, but it has proven to be tricky. In my opinion, there are two types of Muppet movies, movies in which the Muppets play/depict themselves (The Muppet Movie, Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted, and It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Special. In other movies, the Muppets are actors playing roles The Great Muppet Caper, Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppet Christmas Carol. The two types bleed into each other because the characters of the Muppets do not differ far from the characters they play. Miss Piggy being the over the top mega diva in Muppets Take Manhattan is not a huge departure from Miss Piggy playing Emily Cratchit. Writers Bob Kushell and Bill Prady must keep this in mind when writing for the characters we have all known and loved for so long. We have a history with the Muppets. Modernizing them is one thing, but changing the characters we love beyond recognition is totally different. Totally revamping iconic characters will not go over well with viewers. Characters that are so well loved and well known become part of our circle. We are protective over them and do not want anyone messing them up. Although Bill Prady has a long history of writing for the Muppets, dating back to work on Fraggle Rock, Muppet*Vision 3-D, and The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, the writing for this pilot was not up to what we the viewers expect from the Muppets. Gonzo is barely featured in the episode with Scooter taking up Gonzo’s traits. In a scene that would have been perfect if written for Gonzo, the usually amicable and meek Scooter is charged with distracting Elizabeth Banks with a studio tour that was expected to last several hours. Instead, Banks and Scooter end up in a fist fight. The scene could have ended with Gonzo’s characteristic eye lid raising exclaiming “What a woman!” while lying on the ground. Instead, Scooter was thrown from a moving golf cart and left on the ground, looking almost like a discarded doll. The ever optimistic and magical Muppets seem to be riddled with angst. The normally jovial Fozzie Bear is frantic and neurotic when he meets his girlfriend’s parents. Her father (Jere Burns) continually rants about his daughter dating a bear in a social commentary that may have been more fitting and relevant as late as the 1990s. Miss Piggy was true to form as the star and diva that she is, but Kermit’s new flame, does not even come close to Miss Piggy’s huge personae. She is dull and Kermit is normally attracted to a certain amount of craziness in both his friends and romantic life. Most critics are upset that The Muppets is too adult and that Jim Henson would be ashamed at the violence and sexual innuendos coming from his beloved characters. Sadly, members of the bandwagon do not realize that the comedic satire of the Muppets was intended for adults and children alike, but included adult humor that the kiddoes (my younger self included) did not always catch. I am greatly pleased that the Muppets are back, even if they are not bringing their A-game. They are relevant and being discussed. Jim Henson pictures and quotes are flooding the Interwebs and it is not just from my posts. Folks that have long forgotten about the Muppets are tuning in and discussing their history and artistry. I have returned to cautiously optimistic that the Muppets will once again find their footing and home on prime time. Tread lightly, Bill Prady. I still have not forgiven you for Muppet Classic Theater. I give the pilot episode of The Muppets 2 out of 5 rubber chickens! The Muppets 1.01 "Pig Girls Don't Cry"Jessica's Rating2.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.