TV Review - The Muppets (2015) (Premiere Week)

This series reminded me of 30 Rock, but 30 Rock as done by Jim Henson. It takes the style of mockumentaries like The Office or Modern Family, but more or less satirizes them.

Henson created The Muppet Show in 1976, and it was about these anthropomorphized animals, portrayed using cloth or felt-puppets, as the animals put on a variety-sketch show. Principally, it focused on the hijinks backstage along with the numerous, celebrity, guest stars who breezed in and out.

This series is basically the same thing, but instead of a variety-sketch show. The animals are doing a late-night talk show not unlike The Tonight Show or Live With Jimmy Kimmel. The show-within-this-show is called "Up Late With Miss Piggy," and Miss Piggy is of course the iconic, female, pig character who was the ultimate diva and demanding star.

The main character and the character most associated with Henson is Kermit the Frog. Kermit was the lead of The Muppet Show and he was the protagonist of the majority of the subsequent, Hollywood films. Here, Kermit is again the lead. He plays the executive producer or show-runner of "Up Late With Miss Piggy."

Throughout all of the incarnations of these characters, Kermit and Miss Piggy have always been love interests, the joke being that Miss Piggy is the more aggressive one and generally pursues Kermit. In this show, they play two people who were in a relationship but now are broken up. The story here follows the two of them navigating their continuing, professional relationship post their personal one.

Because Kermit was a character who appeared on PBS' Sesame Street, people consider the Muppets to be aimed at children, but it's not. The Muppet Show was always for adults. In fact, concept-wise the characters on Sesame Street are children. Big Bird, despite his size, is underage, whereas the Muppets are grown-ups. If Kermit and Miss Piggy were human, their ages would probably be in their 30's.

As such, the humor here reflects that age. Fozzy the Bear makes a joke about the gay community. Sam the Eagle makes jokes about Standards-and-Practices, and a member of Electric Mayhem makes a joke about being in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Those jokes are just one-liners that are made more under the breath of the characters. It's not as if the adult humor is in-your-face. It takes the tact of some Pixar films. Children can watch and be amused by things like Scooter getting thrown from a golf cart or references to The Hunger Games. It's also more recommendable to youngsters than Modern Family, but still it feels more apt for ages 14 and older.

However, it is funny. Writers Bill Prady and Bob Kushell do find good humor in the relationship here. Some comedy is terribly obvious, but it's actually more fun with these characters than the most recent films.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Tuesdays at 8PM on ABC.

Note: This show is being reviewed as part of a series of one-episode reviews during premiere week, which for the major TV networks runs from late September to early October.


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