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.