Adaptations are tricky. You want to engage those who love the previous iterations of your characters and their stories, while also being accessible to a new audience. It may take time to find that voice, but so often in today’s crowded television landscape that time simply doesn’t exist.
I watched The Muppets when I was little, but remember very little about them. I recognized the characters, and at the very least remembered Kermit and Miss Piggy’s personalities, but aside from that I entered this with a fresh point of view.
The show revolves around the behind-the-scenes action of the in-universe late night show “Up Late with Miss Piggy”. Essentially, the pitch seems to have been, “What if we combined ‘The Larry Sanders Show’, ‘The Office’, and ’30 Rock’, but also they’re all Muppets?” The end result is less jarring than it sounds, and there is plenty of promise in both the premise and the show’s willingness to poke fun at its mockumentary format.
The action here revolves around Miss Piggy’s feud with guest Elizabeth Banks, apparently tangentially prompted by her breakup with Kermit. Meanwhile, in what feels like a cringe-worthy attempt to equate Muppet-ness to race, Fozzie Bear struggles to gain the approval of his human girlfriend’s parents, as they don’t want her dating a bear.
Speaking of cringe-worthy… it’s time to address the jokes. Again, there is potential here, and we also must account for attempting to reconcile with the humor of previous installments of The Muppets (or so I assume; again, I don’t really remember that). Nonetheless, the jokes in the pilot are hit or miss, with the balance leaning toward misses. In one particularly groan-inducing flashback bit, Miss Piggy blows her audition for “The Hunger Games” because she thinks Katniss is supposed to want to play the game, and because she is hungry. The show is only going to get so far on Miss-Piggy-is-fat jokes; these characters are being treated like humans, so they’re going to need to be as three-dimensional as humans. There has to be more there, and it’s not yet apparent if there will be.
I wanted to give this a C+ or even a C, but as I kept writing and thinking, I started softening my view. There is plenty here to work with, and presumably the popularity of The Muppets will give the show the ratings needed to allow it a chance to work through its flaws.
- ABC placing the word “FUNNY” in the corner seems a bit excessive. Come on guys, have enough faith in your comedy shows to assume viewers will, at the very least, identify them as comedy shows.
- A bit heavy on the cameos here, especially for a pilot episode. Elizabeth Banks, Tom Bergeron, and Imagine Dragon, who I thought had disappeared. Hard to tell if this is them taking a cue from “The Larry Sanders Show” and its frequent guest stars showing up under the guise of appearing on its titular in-universe show, or just a gimmick.
- Yikes, that’s a corny episode title.