The Muppets (2015 Series Premiere)


So, the Muppets are back on TV.  When I heard the news, I was… well.  What’s the next step down on the hype-o-meter from “Cautiously Optimistic”?  “Reluctantly Pessimistic”?  I mean, I wanted to be excited, I really did.  I love the Muppets.  I do.  But given their recent history, I haven’t been able to muster up the love like I once did.

See, I didn’t really dig the 2011 “The Muppets” movie that much.  I liked the concept, but I didn’t really feel like they met their potential.  Long story short, the humour in the “The Muppets” motion picture didn’t feel Muppetty enough.  Sure there were songs and famous cameos.  But out of the entire movie the thing that still sticks with me the most as I type this:  How incredibly out of place Fozzie’s fart shoes were.

Add to that the fact that I’m still all #NotMyKermit about Steve Whitmire–even though he’s been Kermit for over 25 years.  Eric Jacobson and his generation don’t stand a chance at meeting my expectations.   (It’s not their fault, the men behind the felt were/are legends and I’m sure the “new” batch would be the first to admit their shortfalls.)  Anyway, “The Muppets” the movie middle roaded its way through my life, so I passed on the Ty Burrell/Ricky Gervais number from a short while back.  Then I heard the Muppets would return to TV, and I was interested again.  They are much better suited to a 30 minute block.  But then came the stupid publicity stunt of Kermit and Piggy’s big public break up, and they were losing me again.

Fortunately, I was checking my TV’s guide for shows to tape (Yes, I still call it “tape”.  I think we’ve established I don’t do well with change, here, people.  Keep up.) and I happened upon their listing.  I decided on giving it a shot. When I got around to watching it later that night, I went from Reluctantly Pessimistic to Cautiously Optimistic to Fully On-Board in the course of about 5 minutes.

The premise of the show is that Miss Piggy hosts a Late Night talk show, Kermit is her stage manager, Fozzie is her Ed McMahon (or Andy Richter for those of you who don’t still reference TV Personalities like its the 1980s) and the rest of the Muppets work various jobs behind the scenes.  They’ve also decided to employ the “mock-umentary” style of narrative used in The Office, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, etc.  It’s a popular style that lends itself nicely to the Muppets.  That style works for those shows because it helps to showcase their characters, and who has crazier characters than the Muppets?

There is a nicely subtle joke in the first few minutes involving Zoot the Sax Player that I just loved, and by the end of that scene, you get a real feel of the tone and direction the show seems to want to take.  By the end of the episode you can see that The Muppets has the potential of mixing the best of The Office, Parks and Rec and 30 Rock with the added benefit of brand and character recognition going into it.  Unfortunately, the show doesn’t always stay as subtle, and some of the jokes start venturing into Fart Shoes territory. For the most part, they do stay solidly funny throughout the episode.

Another issue some might have is the targeting an older audience.  Older than I’d prefer, at least.  The thing about the Muppets, is that they should always target all ages, working in subtle jokes for older viewers that the kids won’t get and–more importantly–won’t ask questions about.  Think “Laser Envy” from Toy Story.  I would have hoped that the show would skew more Ages 6 and Up.  I didn’t find the show to be subtle enough to end up pulling that range off.  It actually comes in more in the Ages 10 and Up category.  Many parents might argue 10 is still too young.

But, if you don’t have a very young family–and you don’t mind a show that uses a Woody Allen imitation as a punch line not once, but twice in 22 minutes–this might just be the show that fills that puppet sized hole in your heart.  If you’ve liked other single cam, mock-umentary shows like the ones I’ve mentioned elsewhere, or are a fan of the Muppets from way back, I definitely think this show is worth taking a look at.



7 comments on “The Muppets (2015 Series Premiere)

  1. I’m going to have to insist you go through and fix your blog post so that you aren’t referring to the 2011 movie as “The Muppet Movie”. “The Muppet Movie” was in 1979, damn it.

    Anyway, I get what you’re saying about feeling ambivalent about this going into it… and I’m still feeling largely ambivalent about it after watching it. Loved the Zoot joke, laughed at a fair number of the jokes, in fact — more than I typically do with a sitcom (which is to say, I actually laughed some.) But… there wasn’t much there to it. It felt thin. It felt like it didn’t end, it just stopped, only there wasn’t all that much going on to begin with. Maybe part of it is that the promo train has been so heavy on this that I feel like I’ve seen most of it before, but I don’t think that’s all of it. It didn’t quite catch with me the way the classic Muppet Show does. I don’t know. I still enjoyed it, I’ll still keep watching for at least a while, but it’s not a home run for me.

    Although at least we didn’t get 30 minutes with Walter this time.

    • I worked so goddamn hard at not making that mistake 4 years ago, and I just threw it all away! Gone! DAMN IT ALL TO HELL!

      Fixed the post last night. No time to reply, but I couldn’t let it stand.

      I managed to dodge most of the promotions for this show. I only ever seemed to hear about it through unusual sources, talking/complaining/praising the Kermit/Piggy break up. By the time it aired, it really wasn’t on my radar anymore. So I had that going for me, I guess.

      I hear what you’re saying about the ending, or lack thereof, but I think that’s more their perfect parody of the genre in play. So many mock-umentary shows end on exactly that note, exactly that style, and then a joke tag during the credits.

      Incidentally… I really, really hope they continue the possible trend set by the first tag of Statler & Waldorf and a musical guest during the credits end tag. I think that’s genius.

      Another thing I forgot to mention in the initial review, I loved that they tackled the “too adult” issue head on in such a “meta” way, using Sam. “Can’t say hell.” is now right up there with “Why am I here?” and “You’re all a bunch of weirdos.” for me.

      I’ve watched this 3 times now, and even my initial worries have been mostly offset. I still won’t watch it with Charlotte for a while. Regardless of the tones and themes presented, the show isn’t active or animated enough to engage a kid as young as her.

      Another bonus point… How about a big hand for the return of physical violence in any form of live action comedy? When was the last time people hitting each other on screen was still considered a joke? I don’t think we’ll see Crazy Harry blowing up any buildings any time soon, but Scooter and Fozzie ragdolling across the screen was just plain old-school hilarious to me.

      I realize a lot of this wasn’t directly in answer to your comment, but it’s all stuff I’ve thought about in the 48 hours downtime since I first watched the show and the 24 or so since I wrote the review.

      • Heh. Yeah, whoever is responsible for naming the Muppets productions nowadays really needs to step up their game. “We have a new film… we’ll call it… The Muppets!” “We have a new series… we’ll call it… The Muppets!” Even Muppets Most Wanted was originally going to be called The Muppets, Again — and the opening song number in that still very heavily references that fact.

        I guess I haven’t watched any mockumentary shows to speak of, so the fizzle-out ending surprised me. I never followed The Office or Parks and Rec.

        Sam was great. Just the sheer casual drive-by nature of “Can’t say hell” was hilarious. Especially with the added layer of irony that they are, in fact, saying it — and in an earlier time slot than Miss Piggy’s show would have been.

        I agree about the physical violence as well. It’s nice to see that’ll be around in the new show… hell, even The Simpsons has toned down on it over the decades; I don’t think Itchy & Scratchy are quite the constants they were in the first few seasons, and it’s been a long time since Homer strangling Bart was a running gag.

        One gag that should have gotten a big laugh out of me but was a victim of circumstance was the “Dancing with the Tsars” bit. Somehow I saw a meme take on it — no Muppets involved — just a few days ago. I’m guessing somebody watched a leaked preview or something and stole it uncredited. Great gag and if I hadn’t already seen it so soon, it would have gotten a big laugh out of me.

  2. Thanks for saying you liked the episode. I liked it, too. People are so caught up in their wish that nothing would ever change, they can’t see the Muppets need to change to stay relevant. It’s not the 1970s anymore, people. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, and I hope the series is a success.

    • I had enough (good and bad) to say about the second episode enough that I thought about giving it the full post treatment as well. I think I’ll keep it bottled up until at least the mid-season break, though. I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of the season at this point.

    • Loved the first 2 episodes. The 3rd wasn’t as good, but still pretty good. I imagine I’m most likely on board for the rest of the season.

      Thanks for the comment!

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