These Are Not The Muppets You’re Looking For
I have been a fan of the Muppets ever since I can remember. A Muppet Christmas Carol is my favorite Christmas movie. If the movies are on Netflix, I’m watching them. They have always been clever, punny, hilarious, witty, and completely endearing.
The Muppets on ABC are not those Muppets. In the new sitcom, we get a behind the scenes look at all of your favorite Muppets as they work behind the scenes on a late night show titled “Up Late with Miss Piggy”. Various Muppets fall into fairly expected roles on the show: Fozzie is the warm-up act, Miss Piggy is the star, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem are the house band, Kermit is the executive producer, Gonzo heads the writers’ room, and Sam Eagle works with Standards & Practices.
Behind the scenes includes interviews with the cast a la The Office or Parks and Recreation, a device that gets mocked in a meta fashion in the pilot. And while this is a unique take on the Muppets as characters, as a show, it doesn’t quite work.
Sure, there are some funny jokes. I laughed very loudly when Kermit mentioned licking his third cousin and seeing the walls turn colors in the third episode. That is the style of joke that I expect from the Muppets, even though the context doesn’t quite fit. This joke comes on the heels of Fozzie being basically stoned because he was shot with tranquilizer darts. And this is not the first drug reference the show has made.
In fact, the show does not shy away from references to the Muppets doing drugs, drinking, having sex…basically things that no Muppet has ever referenced doing before. I’m no prude, but the Muppets have always been incredibly wholesome, and that has only added to what makes them great.
You see, sex jokes, drinking jokes, drug jokes: these are all easy targets. They are the lowest common denominator of jokes. Without those types of jokes to fall back on, the Muppets have had to be far more creative and clever than other shows and movies. After all, these are the characters who once had to turn left at a fork in the road, and did so when they encountered a six foot tall fork sticking out of the road. But that type of joke is nowhere to be found on this show, which is truly disappointing.
The other side of the coin, however, is that a lot of the jokes that are made on the show are really, really funny….or would be, if they were said by humans and not Muppets. If these situations were happening to people that we were just getting to know, then they would be great character building moments. But instead, we are left watching, going, “Wait, Fozzie would never do that.”
It all makes me wonder if this is simply not the right format for these characters. In the original The Muppet Show, there was a throughline to each episode, but it was broken up by acts: songs, dances, sketches, etc. And in the movies, the stories are able to be told over a longer period of time, but even so, the story is broken up by songs throughout that give us a break from the plot, but also help to move it forward. In a half hour standard sitcom format, however, you’ve got twenty-two minutes for your A story, your B story, and not much else, so songs and sketches are right out. Which, really, when you think about it, are what make the Muppets truly great.
I still love the Muppets, but I really don’t see this show making it past it’s first season once people realize that these are not the Muppets they’ve known for the last 50 years. That said, even though I won’t be watching the show week to week, it does bring joy to my heart that the Muppets are out there again, and I can’t wait to see what they will do next.