Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Classic Reborn: Muppets Tonight (1996)

Hi-ho! The Muppets returned to television in 1996, this time on ABC, in a brand-new series, Muppets Tonight. ABC ordered 13 episodes, but only aired 10. Why? It aired on Sunday nights at 7 (ET). Then, as now, that means 60 Minutes provided the main competition. Parents accustomed to the newsmagazine opted against turning the set over to the kiddo's for a half-hour, so ABC cut bait.

The Disney Channel picked up the show and ordered 9 more episodes, airing the 3 that ABC passed on, plus the 1st 10, for a total of 22 episodes. The series ended in 1998, rather quietly.

Nearly 20 years after Muppets Tonight launched, however, comes word that Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang, fresh off two very successful feature films, will make another go at primetime TV, again on ABC. This time, ABC & the Muppets are under the Disney umbrella, so there's a greater chance for a corporate synergy and cooperation.

Muppets Tonight was formatted similarly to The Muppet Show (1976-81), except that it was set at a television studio instead of an old theatre. Scooter's uncle leased the studio to Kermit and friends, but wasn't afraid to join the party, participating in some skits.

Episodes have been posted to YouTube, but in 3 pieces each. We'll settle for the intro, and you'll meet Clifford, the show's "host" (Kermit still welcomes viewers, but is now a producer):

Had ABC scheduled this on another night, like, say, Saturday, and promoted it better, maybe it doesn't migrate to cable, no?

Rating: B.

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