In 2015, following the success of two recent motion pictures, Disney released a new prime-time series simply titled The Muppets.
The conceit of the show was rather interesting; a mockumentary following the exploits of Miss Piggy’s late night talk show. Like the original Muppet Show, this allowed for a steady stream of celebrity guests, comedy routines, and musical numbers. Unlike the original, though, it was almost completely void of charm. The show lasted only one season with viewership declining on a weekly basis over its 16 episodes and a personnel change mid season sought to correct course on some character missteps but it was too little too late.
Now the show can be streamed on the new Disney+ app and even a few years removed from its initial run, the show still falls short of the greatness it could have been. At the core of the conflict is the ongoing narrative of Kermit and Miss Piggy’s breakup which may have been interesting upon the show’s launch but should have been reversed quickly as their relationship is a critical component of what makes the Muppets work.
Then there was the humor. Gone are the days of subversive double-entendre where kids and adults were essentially watching two different shows simultaneously. Instead, script writers preferred to go a more adult route (unfairly garnering boycott calls from parent groups) and now life long fans of Jim Henson’s creations finally get to hear them say things like “sexy” and joke about gender fluidity.
What makes these jokes fall flat isn’t that they’re being said by treasured characters but, rather, that they wouldn’t be funny if they were said by people. The comedy of this show leans far too much on the fact that things are funnier when a felt frog says them but the original series would have still been funny if it was human actors.
As the season continues, this lazy joke writing begins to grate on the nerves of the viewer and knee-slappers are far out numbered by flops that even Statler and Waldorf couldn’t heckle.
It is a shame that the original Muppet Show, which aired from 1976 to 1981, isn’t included on the initial release of Disney+ because despite the celebrity guests often lacking in current relevance and the musical numbers anchored in a bygone era, the show has enough heart and timeless humor to engage fans young and old.
Once the novelty of this revival wore off, fans were left with a gimmicky series forced to utilize shock value where quality ideas for charm and hart should have gone.