Wednesday, September 23, 2015

On The Air: The Muppets (2015)

In 1998, ABC dropped the axe on Muppets Tonight, which finished its run at step-cousin Disney Channel. 17 years later, Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and the gang return to ABC, this time in a completely different setting, which to some seems unsettling.

The Muppets copies the basic format of ABC stablemate Modern Family and the former NBC series, The Office, from which the show gets its logo. This time, in addition to the mockumentary format of the other shows, The Muppets serves as a parody of late night talk shows, positing the fictional Up Late With Miss Piggy as airing in back of the popular Jimmy Kimmel Live, meaning that if this was for real, it'd replace Nightline. As with their previous series, the Muppets interact with humans, especially considering the workplace environment remains in the entertainment business.

In the run-up to last night's season opener, it got out that Kermit (Steve Whitmire) had split with Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson, who has the enviable task of following Frank Oz), and is dating another pig, Denise. Having not seen the two feature films released in the last four years, I didn't see this coming, and, come to think of it, no one else did, either. Considering that the franchise was big on inter-species relationships, should it surprise anyone that Fozzie is dating a human woman? In the context of the Muppet universe, of course not.

Unfortunately, someone had to throw shade on The Muppets because of the adult content. One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association, railed, whined, and complained in the press today, claiming to be concerned more about the children who are the Muppets' usual target audience. Give me a break. As usual, these moral zealots miss the point of the parody. Sam the Eagle serves as the moral compass on the show, and if they don't like that, then they've got an issue. You have to assume parents are watching the show with the kiddo's, and have to explain things like the inter-species romance angles. Given that the AFA and OMM are based in the South (Mississippi in particular), one wonders if they actually understand modern humor, or are they so stuck in the past that they can't acknowledge the here and now?

What I liked was Fozzie showing some emotion while having dinner with his girlfriend and her family. Piggy's jealousy comes into play with her refusal to have Elizabeth Banks appear on her show, prompting Kermit to book Tom Bergeron (Dancing With The Stars, ex-America's Funniest Home Videos, Hollywood Squares) on short notice. Bergeron's even doing infomercials in his spare time, just to stay busy.

The overarching storyline, obviously, is whether or not Kermit & Piggy get back together by season's end. Well, with The Flash returning in 2 weeks, The Muppets don't have a whole lot of time to keep the young folks' attention. Right now, here's a trailer:

In fact, I think what could help the show is people using On Demand or their DVR's, if not also online viewing, especially beginning next month.

Rating: B+.


Samuel Wilson said...

Oz is retired, not dead.

hobbyfan said...

Oh, big difference. I'll correct the initial post, Sammy, thanks.