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Monday, 5 October 2015

Did Sky make the right choice buying The Muppets?

Contributed by Mo Walker 

After watching episodes one and two of The Muppets, I am pleased to state your childhood (or even adult) memories are safe.  I would be more concerned about Miss Piggy if the Piggate allegations are correct.


I seriously doubt Kermit wants to go across the pond so soon after the events of the 2014 film, Muppets Most Wanted.  Though I am sure Kermit would be happy to know the television show is being transmitted across the Atlantic.  The Muppets is not a game-changing comedy.  However the show knows its target audience and its premise is easy to understand.  Spearheading the small screen reboot of the Muppets is The Big Bang Theory’s co-creator Bill Prady.  Prady is no stranger to the Muppets’ brand; he worked with Jim Henson before Henson’s death in 1990.

The ABC  show which was quickly snapped up by Sky and will broadcast on Sky One soon is a behind the scenes look at the characters’ lives as they work on Miss Piggy’s late night talk show, Up Late with Miss Piggy.  Kermit is the show’s executive producer, with Gonzo serving as the head writer.  Fozzie Bear is the show’s sidekick and is the comedian responsible for warming up the audience.  Like most late night American talk shows, there is a house band.  Providing the psychedelic melodies for Up Late with Miss Piggy is Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.    The Muppets is a mockumentary-style series so your favorite and not-so-favorite creatures are able to have their moment in the spotlight.


Someone obsessed with Muppet chronology may be a bit irked with the first episode.  If you watched The Muppets’ trailer, you may be expecting episode one to focus on the creation of Miss Piggy’s talk show.  Viewers are not subjected to any Steven Moffat style timey-wimey business.  Unfortunately writers Bill Prady and Bob Kushell do not establish how long Miss Piggy’s show has been airing.  I have mixed feelings about how episode one started.  For individuals (such as me) who are familiar with the property it is easy to pick-up.  Good luck if you are watching The Muppets with a younger family member or an adult with limited knowledge of the characters.  My suggestion is focus on the core Muppets (Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and Fozzie) if you are feeling overwhelmed; I also recommend using online resources to help figure out the rest.



Another frustration with the opener is its ending.  I thought it was abrupt and did not focus on The Muppets.  I was more concerned about my felt-like protagonist then a special guest(s).  Nothing against the guest(s), but this is a Bill Prady show and I expect a particular type of ending.  I always feel odd when Sheldon, Leonard, and the others are not the final scene’s focal point.  Clearly someone figured this out because episode two was a big course correction.  I am a little concerned about the types of ‘celebrities’ who will be appearing on the show; the guests primarily featured in the promotional material for this show were the stars of other ABC shows.  Episode one featured Tom Bergeron the host of Dancing with the Stars, the American equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing.  U.K. viewers unfamiliar with Bergeron can just imagine Bruce Forsyth instead.  One of episode two’s guests is an actress who currently appears on an ABC-related property.  Hopefully Prady and the other executive producers remember The Muppets will be aired outside of the United States, and keeps this in mind when selecting guests.

Recently  the internet gasped in horror when news of Kermit and Miss Piggy’s break-up was announced.  Though I was saddened by the news I understood why this was necessary.  Long-running shows thrive on their ‘star-couple’ facing obstacles.  Denise, Kermit’s new pigfriend, is a welcomed hurdle.  Unlike Miss Piggy, Denise is supportive and tries to encourage Kermit.  Denise offers storyline opportunities because she works for the network.  Also, the Muppets could benefit from another female character.  Bill Prady clearly understands the tortured romantic couple; fans of The Big Bang Theory have endured Leonard and Penny’s romantic entanglements for nearly a decade.

Though not groundbreaking or a runaway success, The Muppets is an enjoyable 22-minute diversion and is a good of a pre-watershed show that families can watch together.

This version of the characters uses coarser language in a few instances, but it is nothing too outrageous.  In order for The Muppets to succeed the production team will need to make sure the guest stars do not overshadow the characters.  This reviewer noticed improvements from episode one to two; I hope the crew will continue to fine-tune the show.  The show needs to do a better job of identifying various characters through dialogue, at least initially.  Not everyone is coming into The Muppets with the ability to instantly recall the name of a random creature.  If viewers want to care about characters other than Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and Fozzie the first thing audience members need to know are their names.  Finally, Rowlf needs to make an appearance!  

The Muppets arrives on Sky One soon.

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