The move by ABC to make The Muppets into a faux reality show may not be the brightest move, it may take a lot more to move this popular bunch of puppets past Jim Henson’s old 1976 “behind the scenes” variety premise. The UK produced show, Henson’s muppets were filmed in Ellstree Studios, worked well and while the new series has imported the two “old fogey’s” this “behind the scenes” reality format “a la documentary” does feel a little stilted at first.
Although the change in format does work well in many cases. The camera follows the back stage scenes behind putting on Miss Piggy’s talk show instead of the old variety style show popular “back in the day.” Variety shows are no longer part of television scheduling, unless one counts Glee which is a variety show in disguise.
Show format change aside, there is a new problem facing The Muppets. Rather oddly, there is a “mother’s group” who are complaining about the show. Their problem? That the show is too sexual, or as they put it, perverse.
Not to put a pin in their collective complaint balloon, but looking back at the “old” The Muppets show, that too had plenty of sexual innuendo. But let us face facts here, there is enough humor to appeal to all ages. These are family favorites, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, et al.
For example, in answer to the charges that the new series is perverted, take this old skit with Rita Moreno (star guest) and Sweetums:
Sweetums: Nice lady not want Sweetums to hold cue cards?
Rita Moreno: Uh no.
Sweetums: Nice lady want Sweetums to hold something else?
Rita Moreno: Sure you can hold anything you want.
Sweetums: Great! That best offer Sweetums have all week.
[Sweetums picks up Rita like a football and walks off with her while Kermit shrieks]
Certainly an adult would have reacted much differently to “Sweetums” pronouncement of “grabbing something else” and the Rita carry would have amused young and old alike. In essence whatever it is these gutter-minded mother’s have pointed out in the new series, it will be above the heads of most children.
These puppets may have become childhood faves via the auspices of Sesame Street, but The Muppets is not a child edutainment program. Watching the premiere, the television series follows the type of humor one expects from Muppets Take Manhattan or any of the other Henson-based films. (Or as pointed out, the old show from the 1970s.)
It appears that the show’s creators, Bob Kushell and Bill Prady are aware of this mom’s group with their ludicrous complaint that the new series is “perverted.” At the start of the half-hour comedy show, Sam the Eagle has a running gag throughout where he says what is and is not allowed according to broadcasting mandates.
At one point the muppet character says that the touching of hands is not allowed. “Because that can lead to [sic] having sex.” That must be aimed at the puritanical mother’s group.
Watching the series opening episode, with guest star Elizabeth Banks and Imaginary Dragons as musical guests, the show does feel a little awkward. Still, it works as only the muppets can. The one-on-one interviews are done well, and are quite funny in a couple of instances, plus Banks kills it in her scenes with Miss Piggy and Kermit’s assistant.
Highbrow comedy it ain’t, but The Muppets season one opener Pig Girls Don’t Cry has some great bits that will appeal to different ages for different reasons. Fozzie’s “budding romance” with Holly (Riki Lindhome) and Jere Burns (Justified, Burn Notice) playing it straighter-than-straight as Holly’s dad is just brilliant.
Kermit has a new girlfriend and the concept of the two former lovebirds, Piggy and Kermie, being separated but still doing a show together, feels a lot like a muppet version of The Sonny and Cher Show. The main difference being that Miss Piggy is hosting her own TV talk show and not a variety show…and that they are both puppets…
This new series is funny enough that everyone should enjoy it. The smaller fans will not get the more “adult” styled humor and the older ones will appreciate the innuendo, although they may be hard pressed to find too much. Whether the show will please as much as the older original version remains to be seen but thus far, ABC have a done The Muppets proud.
The Muppets airs Tuesdays on ABC. Tune in and entertain your inner muppet…