Recent articles posted here have been heavy so let’s lighten things up around here, I will instead do a TV piece. You may or may not be aware that The Muppets are back on TV with a new series about their latest project, a late night chat show hosted by Miss Piggy. However, the show also does the behind the scenes of the show within the show in a mockumentary style, essentially modernising the old Muppet Show format by fusing The Office and Conan O’Brian’s chat show into one thing but with puppets. Sound good? Well…
The show has a promising start, Muppet humour is there from the beginning. Beaker gets abused, there’s a misdirect by Honeydew, the whole “Piggy is the star but she’s an actual pig, ergo she is heavy and such” stuff, jokes that would not be out of place in the old films. However, we get a taste of the adult humour with Zoot mistaking the team meeting for an AA meeting and Sam playing the ‘concerned mothers of America’ voice as he goes combing through the scripts for even the vaguest of innuendos and curse-like words. I guess it puts us on the same page as the writers then, it’s the characters we love in a way we don’t normally see them. After some easy jokes, we get to hear what to expect – ‘The Muppets’ is the story of our favourite characters working on a new TV concept whilst being recorded in a documentary, the format immediately being ripped on by Gonzo, who is in turn made the target of an obvious joke. Things are okay so far, not exceptional but it looks like something worth watching at least, let’s see where they take it.
Well, cue Piggy. Miss Piggy, poor Miss Piggy, is just bad in this appearance. The sassy yet sexy glamour pig of our past who was always a little self-centred but fundamentally charming is hacked apart by people who have clearly reduced her down to a handful of traits – namely dolled up, loud and bossy. She shouts at staff for no real reason, her first line is a line of abuse and she tears the efforts of others apart without mercy before hounding Kermit for the most trivial stuff. Piggy only gets worse later on but I’m doing this review in the process of the episode so each thing as it happens for now. So, the show must go on, Fozzie is the warmup act for the crowd before the main event and fails in his usual fashion, getting savaged by Statler and Waldorf, the only characters who are still their old selves.
The ‘show’ goes on whilst Kermit has thoughts to himself, the fact he uses the world ‘hell’ in these thoughts is remarked upon negatively by Sam, who I guess has gone from a patriot to a pansy. After that, he books a guest star, Tom Bergeron of Dancing With Stars, called in to replace a guest Piggy can’t stand. Kermit is rather negative in his appearance here, more on that later because we now have to see into Fozzie’s love life. Yup, cue easy joke about the dual meaning of bear as both an animal and a burly gay man. Fozzie is subjected to… bear racism, by his girlfriend’s dad and the scene is just… yeesh… bad. Less said the better but the barrel was scraped for these racism analogies using salmon and toilet habits, because jokes about bears are finite people, cut them some slack, Henson exhausted the good ones thirty something years ago.
Cut back to the writer’s office, Gonzo shows Kermit a skit he’s been working on and Kermit says he hates it, not in a disdainful but ultimately lets his friends have their way Kermit sense but more a “You are paid for this job? For real? I fucking resent that” tone of voice. Gonzo doesn’t seem bothered by the criticism and then we have Denise, the subject of controversy and Kermit’s new squeeze, a prettier skinnier pig with this cheeky playful demeanour. Yeah, Kermit dropped a feminist for an airhead, go figure, kinda sketchy when you think about it. Adult humour is brought in here with Denise giving her drink straw some puppet fellatio in the background of Kermit’s talking head section and Kermit even refers to “We met at a cross-promoting event and ended up… ‘cross-promoting'”. This is jarringly weird, the Muppets are making references to fucking each other, these are not the characters for this sort of humour, either make new puppets based on the Muppets to do this show or just cut the sex references, sure a kid won’t get them but it’s just uncomfortable to watch.
So, Piggy is brought back up, shouting abuse at her personal trainer this time, she seems to take out her frustration on people set on making the most of her potential, is this something extremely clever or did the head writer just say “Make Miss Piggy into a colossal fuckhead”? After that, Denise reveals the reason she thinks Piggy didn’t want former guest Elizabeth Banks in the show, they auditioned for a film together and Piggy wasn’t picked for a part, boo-hoo. Kermit then decides that’s a stupid reason for cutting a guest from a show and brings Banks back in without consulting anyone, he just does it, he views it as decisive action but I see it as weedy and cowardly, he’s not facing up to Piggy, he’s going behind her back to undermine her. Note, there is no scene in which he cancels Tom’s appearance, we just go onto the next day, Banks is there and Kermit tells everyone to just deal with it and that Piggy can essentially suck his green one if she’s unhappy. Kermit then shouts down all who oppose his irrefutably clever move, horribly even, he takes on Animal and Gonzo like they aren’t friends, they’re idiots holding him back. Denise thinks this is a sexy take-charge frog but Kermit has gone against the protocols and asked for no opinions from anyone, he’s assumed because he’s in charge of the behind-the-scenes stuff he can just do whatever.
Anyway, this take-charge mood is turned on its head when he decides Banks can’t be around where Miss Piggy can see her until the show begins so he tries to offhand her to Scooter but she throws him out of one of those golf-buggy things they use to navigate studios and comes back to ask what is going on. Of course, Piggy walks in and awkward hijinks ensue… by which I mean Kermit is unveiled as an underhanded toad rather than a timid-but-endearing frog. Fozzie is also there, trying to impress his girlfriend and her family by showing them where he works but Miss Piggy shouts at him and calls him worthless, she also forgot his goddamn name earlier on. Are you shitting me? THEY WORKED TOGETHER, this takes place in a continuity after they made films and TV shows together and here she is just being really unreasonably mean to him for just trying to be a showman.
The truth about Elizabeth Banks and Miss Piggy is revealed, they broke up after seeing Pitch Perfect 2, in which Banks starred. Piggy was apparently taking too many selfies and ruined the film for Kermit, who then realises he’s just been a sucker for her abuse for ages and walks away. Kermit has apparently forgotten about this and realises now he is the one in the wrong, he forgot about the whole affair and how Elizabeth Banks was on a poster in that moment. He tries to make peace with her and she then tears apart his life choices and his weight gain after he asks for honesty. The only other thing before the show goes live is the end of the Fozzie arc in this episode – the parents aren’t impressed and leave but the girlfriend stays, she says she loves that brown ball of bad puns no matter what they say and he’s not convinced or satisfied, instead he wonders how he can validate himself by some other means. Geez Fozzie, I didn’t realise you had it so rough, are you trying so hard due to some childhood issue? It’s an odd attempt to add depth to a talking pile of felt and ping-pong balls but Fozzie is one of the characters in this I can watch without wincing, sadly can’t say that for backstabbing Kermit or egocentric she-devil Miss Piggy.
The show goes ahead, Tom Bergeron turns up and realises what’s happened and Kermit feels awful… but not bad enough to send him a personal gift or anything, just a ‘standard gift basket’ package, claiming it’s ‘good enough’. Note, if you think an apology is just enough to meet a standard, that’s insincere, it should be an apology befitting what you did wrong – Tom’s been made a fool of and built up for nothing, that’s unfair on the guy. I get he’s obviously the ‘minor celebrity cameo’ but if we took this as a real life scenario, Kermit is the sort of guy to scrimp on apologies? What a colossal twat. After that, we wrap up with a musical performance by Imagine Dragons with guest drummer Animal and a quick joke from the grouchy old men we all know and love and that’s that, the least outright hilarious thing I’ve seen the Muppets in for a long time…
Review done, let’s address the controversy, is it suitable for children? Family characters taking on a mature style of show? Well, I reckon you could let children watch it, the inappropriate stuff is hinted at so subtly it’d fly over your head until you’re 16 but aside from seeing talking puppets and some occasional slapstick, there’s not much for kids here. The characters are boring, the jokes are mostly one liners and there’s nothing wacky to look forward to – Gonzo isn’t catapulted into space by some bizarre contraption, Beaker doesn’t almost die for some sadistic science project, Animal doesn’t go batshit crazy and Kermit doesn’t do the “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY!” thing any more. I’d worry more about disappointing kids than corrupting them with this, it disappointed me. I get the feeling the writers just looked at what comedy has become and tried to emulate it and in doing so, turned their characters into interchangeable personnas you’d have Steven Merchant play in a sitcom. In fact, someone call Ricky Gervais, I think they probably stole some of his work and passed it as their own. I understand characters need to change and evolve to stay fresh but this isn’t it for me, at least not so far, maybe it’ll improve but the pilot was a lack-lustre attempt to force goofy puppets into roles portrayed by the cast of Extras in a way supposedly engaging for the American audience. As for the controversial character of Denise, she’s got nothing on Piggy thus far, she’s sorta flirty and tries to be funny but I doubt a great deal of thought was given to her, she’s basically a “Hot girl in the workplace” trope at this point.
There you go, my thoughts thus far, I’ll keep watching and hoping and review the series at the end if people are interested (And any especially interesting episodes in between) but if you think you have to see this, you don’t, it’s nothing special, it’s a so-so comedy using famous characters made popular by nostalgia and recent movies to promote itself and it’s sub-par script