‘The Muppets’ Pilot Recap: “I Love Me Just As Much As You Do”

The recent relaunch of the Muppet film franchise may have fizzled after just two movies, but a little setback like that can’t keep a good frog, pig or bear down. Jim Henson’s iconic felt creations return to television this season with a new comedy series simply titled ‘The Muppets’, and it’s the first (perhaps only?) new show of the fall that I unreservedly love.

Some of the off-camera voice actors may have changed over the years, but most of the characters we know and love are present and accounted for exactly as we remember them. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Animal, etc. are back together in a smart reworking of the old ‘Muppet Show’ formula. As we catch up with them in the present day, Piggy has found stardom as the host of her own late night talk show (‘Up Late with Miss Piggy’), and she’s just as much of a diva as ever. Kermit is her producer, Fozzie is the show’s announcer, and the Electric Mayhem are the house band. This format should allow plenty of opportunities for guest star appearances and non-sequitur comedy and musical sketches. In the pilot episode, called ‘Pig Girls Don’t Cry’, Piggy has a petty rivalry with guest Elizabeth Banks while Imagine Dragons rehearse a song in the background.

Some things have changed, however. Piggy and Kermit have broken up, and a flashback showing how that happened is devastating. Kermit has a new girlfriend named Denise (also a pig), who seems like a poor substitute. Fozzie has also found love with a human girlfriend (Riki Lindhome), though the girl’s father (Jere Burns) does not approve of his daughter dating a bear.

The show is staged in mockumentary format, like ‘The Office’ or ‘Modern Family’, as an unseen behind-the-scenes documentary crew follows the characters around. (Gonzo has a good gag about how overplayed that device is.) The writing is incredibly sharp. Much of the humor will play directly to adults and fly right over the heads of children. Fozzie’s line about how his online dating profile attracted the wrong sort of attention is a killer.

Will the show appeal to children? That’s hard to say. The characters are still amazingly endearing, but kids today don’t seem to have much interest in the Muppets anymore. In a lot of ways, the series doesn’t make much pretense of being a kids’ show at all. (Kermit has a line about his life being “a bacon-wrapped Hell on Earth” that I expect will enrage conservative TV watchdogs.) Of course, the Muppets have always played as much to adults as to children, but the crossover here skews more toward the former than the latter.

Regardless, it’s terrific. I hope this finds its audience and lasts a while.

Grade: A

7 comments

  1. Shannon Nutt

    I liked it too Josh – I’m glad to see the show is not exclusively aiming towards kids and allowing for a lot of adult humor.

    The Scooter vs. Elizabeth Banks tour/fight was my favorite part of the episode.

    “Too many towns. Too many women.” – Animal 🙂

  2. C.C.

    -“enrage conservative TV watchdogs.” Dude, it is the left who are banning words and phrases across the board, NOT conservatives. Tipper Gore ring a bell?
    And the fact that one of the characters makes a joke about how tired the concept of the show is, doesn’t let it off the hook for being a tired concept. The Office is is very yesterday. Just a few minutes in and your brain goes “oh not this again”. (Not the Muppets, the format.)

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Tipper Gore has been out of the public spotlight for close to 20 years. Meanwhile, the right-wing Parents Television Council has already lodged complaints against this show for exactly the line I cited.

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