If you know me well, or even a little bit, you know a few things. I love sports, I hate short sleeves, and the Muppets are a religious experience to me.
I don’t know when the Muppet love really started, probably with a Kermit appearance on Sesame Street, but I have taken and used this love is plenty of ways. In college I performed a monologue about Alice in Wonderland as Kermit it was my best solo work in the class by far. In high school I got to be Beaker in our variety show entitled Muppets take Hollywood. I even made this video!
If it’s not clear by now, I take the Muppets very seriously, this is not some fly by night operation (and if you don’t believe me ask @miscastmusic about the time I called him minutes after seeing the Jason Segal movie and wouldn’t shut up.) There is value and substance to them, there has to be or they’d wouldn’t continue to appear as they have again, now as a primetime TV show.
One episode in, and they’ve got me. Not quite hook line and sinker, but the format and the setting are going to let them be very funny. There is a lot of adult humor which isn’t foreign to a Muppet production, but it isn’t as subtle as it was in previous iterations, and I think that’s fine. This isn’t a show for the Sesame Street audience. It’s a show for teens and folks my age who grew up watching the Muppets.
There are problems for sure the voices aren’t the same which only really matters if the loss of that muppet performer results in a loss of that muppets character. I don’t get that sense at all, at least not yet. Kermit is still mostly Kermit (he will never be as good without Jim Henson). Miss Piggy is still a diva, but without Frank Oz seems a little softer and vulnerable. Fozzie Bear is still the bearification of a doubted determination. Gonzo’s role seemed marginalized a bit, which is odd as I believe he is one of the few original muppet performers still performing his original character, but I attribute that to time constraints. And those are the 4 most important Muppets, you get them right, or right enough, you’ve got an audience. If you don’t know me you’ll have to trust I know what I’m talking about, but this promo photo basically proves I’m right.
I don’t say that to minimize the rest. My favorite Muppets are Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem. (Shocking a music major likes the band!) There are problems there though, the voices struck me as poor imitations that took me out of the show momentarily. (Especially with Janice where the voice was mediocre as a match in tone, but seemed completely off in terms of cadence.) It’s not overcomeable and its likely 100% of the audience didn’t have that experience. And I don’t say that to as discouragement for you to watch, it’s simply an observation from a studied Muppet observer.
So I’ll watch every week, on demand (and come on ABC get this on Hulu, I don’t want to watch on my desktop), I can’t be a slave to time slots. And I think this version of the Muppets can stick around for a while as long as they keep the tone of adult themes and adult humor as strong as they did with the pilot. I laughed out loud at the joke that ends the trailer below, so check it out because It’s time to get things started, On the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational Muppetational, This is what we (now) call the Muppet Show!