Hit or Sh**: ABC’s THE MUPPETS
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
It’s time to play the music! It’s time to light the lights! It’s time to feel really uncomfortable watching The Muppet Show tonight!
This new iteration of the classic Muppet Show has been a long time coming. Our felty and/or furry friends have been slowly re-branding themselves since the late 2000’s, culminating this past summer in an aggressive viral marketing campaign breaking the news of Kermit and Miss Piggy’s breakup as a bona fide news story. News of the split graced the pages of TIME and The Hollywood Reporter, among others. Half-hearted morning radio hosts delivered the news through gritted teeth, undoubtedly wondering where their journalism career went wrong and regretting not taking over Pop Pop’s law office.
The announcements promised a new inside look at the the Muppets’ “personal lives”, “breakups and makeups”, and all the never-before-seen action behind the curtain. The biggest question going into the pilot was, do we care?
“We care.” – The Furry Community
Our first episode of THE MUPPETS picks up at a weekly production meeting for Miss Piggy’s new talk show: “Up Late with Miss Piggy”. Kermit, still executive producer despite his recent breakup with the host, tries to maintain control of the show and struggles to wrangle his eccentric crew. These characters are all familiar to any muppet fan: Sam the Eagle as Standards and Practices (possibly the best joke in the episode), Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem as the band (and some insinuated drug use that will undoubtedly be a running gag), and Fozzie Bear as the warm-up comic who gracelessly tries to get advice for his upcoming introduction to his girlfriend’s parents (who don’t know he’s a bear).
These all sound like your typical Muppet-y hijinks, but this new Muppet show has proclaimed itself more “adult” than its previous incarnation. Until now, the Muppets’ forays into sexual humor haven’t exactly been… subtle.
Although the Muppets have always tried to reach a little over the heads of five-year-olds to keep undersexed parents interested, a few of the jokes in this new pilot for THE MUPPETS verge on crossing the line.
Bet you thought YOUR significant other was a pig!
Kermit lost no time in securing his new girlfriend, Denise. In an interview with the documentary crew, Kermit explains that he met Denise at a conference about cross-promoting. They met and, as Kermit says, “cross-promoted”. We are then treated to a beautiful rack focus to Denise sucking sensuously on a straw.
I love a little off-color humor as much as the next person. Puppets talking about sex go right alongside children cursing and old ladies rapping as “things that will always be funny”. But OH MY GOD PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME THINK ABOUT KERMIT’S DICK.
And those unblinking eyes… just… watching.
And that’s not all: Rizzo the Rat, Fozzie Bear, and (of course) Animal all have their moment to drive home the point that this is not your childhood Muppet show.
Yet, despite all the gay sex and blowjob humor more at home on places like full tube, it still is your childhood Muppet show in a way. The Muppets’ classic tongue-in-cheek humor and self-awareness translate perfectly to the mockumentary format. They have always been a candid bunch, and you really do get a sense of their personalities emerging when they’re offstage. The staple of campy celebrity cameos is alive and well, from a rivalry between Elizabeth Banks and Miss Piggy, to a crushingly self-aware performance by Tom Bergeron. And yes, it’s funny. The show is very funny.
The tonal shift will be a hurdle for old Muppet fans, but I would urge those fans to acknowledge it as shocking, and not off-putting. The new Muppet show is mature in every sense of the word, and once the shock value wears off, I think we can expect great things.
But I’m never watching it in Coffee Bean ever again.
THE MUPPETS airs on ABC on Tuesdays