The Muppets have made quite a comeback the last few years. After two successful films, the latest Muppet project brings them to ABC in a mockumentary style format similar to shows like Parks and Recreation or The Office (hence the title font) . The most intriguing aspect of this move to late night comedy television is the show’s new tone.
As evidenced by the short pilot video (and the much huffed about Kermit and Miss Piggy breakup) made available some time ago, The Muppets, is going for an older audience. You might be worried that it’ll mean the days of the wacky Muppet tales are over, and unfortunately you’re right for the most part. While you won’t be able to watch it as a family, there’s a great comedy here.
There’s a bit of a jarring transition going into this new status quo. The show follows the Muppets backstage as they work on a late night talk show starring Miss Piggy (think The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or The Tonight Show and you’ve gotten the idea). There’s also traditional bits of character work for the show moving forward: Fozzie’s in a relationship where his girlfriend’s parents don’t approve of their daughter dating a bear, The Electric Mayhem may have substance abuse problems (but that’s in side jokes, don’t worry), and the afortmentioned Kermit and Miss Piggy have split up but maintain a working relationship the best they can. The biggest change has to be Kermit’s new personality. Maybe it’s due to being walked on over the years, or stress from his managerial gig, but this new Kermit’s kind of a jerk. A funny jerk, mind you, but a jerk nonetheless. At least he’s got all sorts of new facial expressions to toss around. The folks at work have made some great renovations to Kermit’s puppetry. He’s also got a new girlfriend, Denise.
That’s the kind of stuff I’m referring to when I say The Muppets aren’t really for kids anymore. They’ve been all ages for years, so there are probably tons of examples you could point to of when the Muppets had adult-oriented humor. But this is the first time I noticed a clear barrier of entry. By the time Kermit refers Miss Piggy as “sexy,” it’s already put all the nails in the coffin for kids. But while the whole family can’t enjoy, I’m sure the Muppets can draw a lot from this new level of sophisticated humor. I laughed quite a few times during this pilot, and they weren’t due to the same kind of slapstick gags or easy jokes you’d expect. Drawing from the more successful aspects of the two films, there’s a greater emphasis on joke writing and staging. So there’s a better balance of the classic Muppets charm without an over-reliance of some of the cornier jokes. Then again, this could all just be too early to tell if the strength of the writing can hold out for the following weeks.
At the end of the day, it’s The Muppets in a brand new package. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting anymore, but it’s the most interesting The Muppets have been in some time.
- Imagine Dragons: “Why won’t you come on tour with us?” Animal: “Too many cities. Too many women.”
- “You went into a room full of dancing stars and came back with Tom Bergeron?”
- “What can I say? I have a thing for pigs.”
- Elizabeth Banks totally kills her guest spot.
- Riki Lindhome showed up in both this and Fresh Off the Boat last night, and the world clearly needs more of her. Her presence is always welcome.