The last time you saw The Muppets, was on the big screen in 2014 in Muppets Most Wanted. It was another standard Muppets adventure and comedy you could remember, but now ABC has promised fans a new “grown-up” take on The Muppets. Now it’s plain as day that fans of The Muppets would have to be ready to handle the now-knotty personal lives of these internationally renowned felt creations. With the mockumentary format used by well-known comedies such as: Modern Family, The Office and Parks & Rec; we get to jump into the lives of The Muppets. The following is a review of the show, which means it contains SPOILERS. You have been warned.
Let us take a flashback trip to what started it all! The Muppets as a group started their first TV show in 1996’s Muppets Tonight/The Muppet Show and much like what the current show it does focus on the behind the scenes of the production, but now we are taken to a syndicated talk show hosted by Miss Piggy. Every has their cliche role to play: Kermit is once more the harried producer, Fozzie the cheesy warm-up comic, Miss Piggy the top-billed diva, and other favorites like Gonzo, Rizzo, Pepe the Prawn, Animal and the Muppetsicians (Muppet-Musicians) are gathered in the writers’ room. Celebrity guests can drop by as themselves, poking fun at their public image, and Kermit’s new beau Denise generates story drama as a network exec. But while this “reads” like a potentially normal episode of The Muppets, instead we are met with the lack of off of the cuff energy and wackiness, and an overly tweaked version of the classic behind-the-scenes formula that gave Jim Henson’s creations their big break.
The three main story lines to follow for this episode is Miss Piggy being blatantly passive aggressive with the whole break up, seeing Kermit dating again, another pig to be exact, named Denise who is a marketing exec and dealing with the behind the scenes f; and Fozzie Bear, the un-funniest funny guy in showbiz, is embarking on a complex relationship with a human woman whose parents do not approve of their cross-species union and a splattering of side stories that are thrown in for laughs. So let’s dive in!
The story for the Pilot episode, “Pig Girls Don’t Cry” we open with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew calling a meeting to order by Tasering his assistant, Beaker, when Kermit asks the question of it being safe, without skipping a beat points out that he’s wearing gloves…for safety. Oh, silly Dr. Honeydew, his slap-stickery with Beaker will never not be funny. Then we are reintroduced to Miss Piggy who fits right back into her role as the demanding star without missing a beat. She rattles off a list of complaints to Kermit such as: instructing the trash man to cover her trash with other trash so people don’t see what she actually throws away, and complaining that her dressing-room lilacs “don’t smell lilacy enough.” to which Kermit notes on his to-do list: “Talk to God about lilacs.”
The main dilemma in this week’s episode comes right after this odd conversation when Kermit informs Miss Piggy of the upcoming guest on her show, Elizabeth Banks. Miss Piggy isn’t’ having it and demands that Kermit replace her, but not saying why.
Kermit agrees, at first, to remove Banks and in turn replaces her with Tom Bergeron of Dancing With the Stars (who Kermit makes blatantly clear is not his ideal pick, as he insults Scooter for the choice. As Kermit poetically puts it, “…in a stage full of “stars” to choose from, why would you pick him!”)
All the while he is still trying to figure out the source of Piggy’s anger towards Banks. Thanks to his girlfriend Denise, he finds out that Piggy had a bad screen test with Banks for The Hunger Games. The highlight from that scene is the following line, “There are games and people are hungry, who needs to read a script before an audition?”
This prompts Kermit to call Banks back in, but when she arrives early to hang out with Piggy — the only problem is that Kermit hasn’t told Piggy that Banks has returned as a guest — instead he enlists Scooter to distract her. Unfortunately that doesn’t go well, as Banks get tired of the run around and throws Scooter out of the golf cart while touring the studio lot.
With the attempted diversion a complete failure, Banks returns and when Piggy immediately storms away at first glance in her general direction. Kermit decides to swallow his pride and apologize to her, at this point we learn that the real reason Piggy hates Banks is because they broke up the night they were going to see Pitch Perfect 2. Piggy was met with the smiling face of Banks on the poster looming over the whole messy affair, which prompted the knee-jerk response of hating her.
We now move on to Fozzie Da Bear. He of course is seen taking to his role as announcer/warm-up comic , but let’s be real here…his material style hasn’t changed any. He is met nightly with nothing but a silent audience, save for Statler and Waldorf in the front row seats mocking his every joke, as usual.
Fozzie has a bigger concern during this episode, his dating life! His amore is Becky, a human, whose parents are not too pleased with the relationship. Fozzie tries to butter them up by offering to let them meet Miss Piggy, but she has her Banks-related blow-up right before she’s about to meet them.
Becky’s parents aren’t quite sold, but she still loves Fozzie and wants to make it work. Sadly, Fozzie needs more than “love,” he needs it universally, so it looks like the long search for love continues.
(ASIDE: What’s downright sad is that Becky and Fozzie didn’t work out, despite the pointed remarks by Jere Burns’ toward Fozzie , his utter confusion with the whole situation is laughable. Plus, the on-screen chemistry between the two is bubbly and makes you look past that weird plot point of interspeciblahablahblah. )
Now with all this going on I have to say that this whole episode left me in a weird limbo between love/hate. Every time I was about to turn the channel, it would drag me back in with a glimmer of The Muppets show format that I’ve grown to enjoy. The idea that this is a “more adult” Muppets seems a bit contrite. If anything it feels like an excuse to get away with visual sexual innuendos and weird plot lines that don’t quite make sense such as: Kermit talking about his and Denises’ sexual encounter in a very PC manner, and Fozzie and Becky’s relationship “issues” just to name a few.
It seemed that the sidelines had more spark to them than the main characters themselves, who weighed down the show with their adult problems. Rizzo trying to get one of the fellow rats in the writing room to go on a date with him, Pepe the Prawn being Pepe, Statler and Waldrof being snarky about the show that they have front row seats to, and Dr. Teeth and Electric Mayhem band whose constant air-headedness allowed the show to float by without sinking us.
The show gets a C- this week, but of course this is only the first episode and they may fix the kinks by the time episode 2 and 3 come out, but if not…will viewers be there to trudge through The Muppets in this format? Let us know your feelings in the comments below