I’ve been a fan of the Muppets for a long time. Since preschool, probably. I’ve only seen a few episodes of the original Muppet Show. I grew up on their early films. I think I saw Muppet Treasure Island in the theater with my family. Point is, these are characters that I am very familiar with and I was excited to see this new take on them.
This is definitely a more grown-up Muppets than we have seen before. That is not to say that it is completely adult. It’s not like that Behind the Music: Electric Mayhem sketch on Robot Chicken. The Muppets are still a family-focused franchise. But the normally G-rated shtick has been changed to PG. Kermit invokes God on two occasions, the word ‘hell’ is dropped, Zoot is hinted to be an alcoholic, and there are some surprising relationship issues.
The gist is that Miss Piggy has a talk show called Up Late With Miss Piggy and the Muppets work on it. Kermit is the put-upon manager who has to deal with the stress of coordinating a bunch of whack-jobs. Scooter is his gofer. Fozzie is the unfunny warm-up comedian. Sam makes certain that the show adheres to broadcasting standards. Electric Mayhem in the band. Gonzo and a bunch of others perform sketches. Statler and Waldorf heckle from the audience, naturally. Strangely enough, I don’t think I saw Rowlf the Dog or the Swedish Chef.
The focus of the first episode is the relationship between Kermit and Piggy. Or more accurately, their lack of a relationship. They’re broken up. The couple’s relationship has always been a bit rocky (that’s part of the charm) but The Muppets takes it up to a whole new level. Kermit has had one too many spontaneous camera hogging (pun intended) from his beau and decided to end their relationship.
The two still have to work together. Piggy is a demanding lunatic. Kermit seeks romantic solace in a new muppet called Denise, who is also a pig. Only she has a slightly southern accent. I think there is supposed to be some commentary here on how longing for one’s ex leads a person to seek out a lover just like them. Denise’s character hasn’t really been explored yet and I’m hoping that we’ll get to know her better.
Kermit comes off as more forceful and condescending than how he is traditionally portrayed. He is downright nasty to Gonzo, Rizzo, and Pepe when they pitch an unfunny sketch. Kermit is clearly breaking under the pressure and the results are a little… off. I don’t want to say that this is totally out of character for him. Seeing him buckle after years of trying to be a nice guy is believable but seeing such a children’s icon act this way is a mite strange.
Fozzie features in a subplot in which he tries to date a human girl and meets her parents, who are disparaging of him for being a bear. I have to admit that I did not find much humor in this subplot. There were jokes, sure, but they felt a little stale. Fozzie is best when he works off of the other Muppets, unlike Gonzo, who is great on his own. Sadly, Gonzo does not get much screen time this episode. I’m sure he’ll get more screen time later.
Elizabeth Banks guest stars as, well, a guest star on Piggy’s show. She even gets into a fight with Scooter. Tom Bergeron from Dancing With the Stars has a cameo. Imagine Dragons (Yeah, I’d never heard of them either) serve as the guest band and play alongside the Electric Mayhem.
The Muppets has gotten a lot of mixed responses from critics. This is mostly due to the slightly more adult content. I think it’s fine. It’s definitely not a stain on the Muppet’s history. Not all of the jokes need to land, but there is enough to keep me invested. I’ll be tuning in next week.
Waldorf: Relationship issues? They need to express their feelings more!
Statler: Yeah, they should take a lesson from us!