The Muppets are back on TV, you guys! Almost a decade after the short-lived Muppets Tonight, ABC has brought back out favorite bunch of anthropomorphic pals and given them a few modern and more grown-up flourishes.
Tonight’s pilot episode “Pig Girls Don’t Cry” was a well balanced between exposition of what the series is going to be with a decent amount of plot point introductions. It’s set up like most other docu-series (or Mocku-series) shows like Modern Family, Parks & Recreation and of course, The Office: the format we’ve all come to rely on as a replacement to the modern sitcom with straight-to-camera testimonials inter-cut between the show’s narrative.
The show follows the day to day goings on of the The Muppets gang as they all work on Miss Piggy’s appropriately named late night show “Up Late with Miss Piggy” with Kermit serving as executive producer. The rest of the gang all play their part as well, from Fozzie Bear as the show’s warm-up act and announcer, to Gonzo as the show’s head writer and even Sam the Eagle in charge of broadcast standards and practices (a part he was born to play).
Having them still rooted in a world where it’s their job to put on a television show gives us the nostalgic connection to the original Muppet Show while the modern late-night format allows them to seamlessly step into 2015. It works because it feels like the logical progression of what their show may have turned into today. Which, I guess, it actually has.
The humor in the series might be its most daring aspect as there is a distinct attempt to bridge both family friendly humor with slightly risque jokes. Trust that the Muppety puns are there (“Dancing with the Czars”) but it’s refreshing to see a network like ABC give such leeway to innuendo and double entendre to something as kid-friendly as Kermit and co. Nothing in tonight’s episode — nor I doubt in the entire series — will ever reach the NSFW areas of comedy, but there were some bold moves in the pilot, like as Zoot’s confusion about what kind of “meeting” he was in and Fozzie receiving messages for a “Passionate bear looking for love” in his online dating profile. Having said this, I’m sure there’s a ton of parents groups are already planning to boycott the show… which might serve as proof that the show is worth watching.
Speaking of Fozzie though, he’s got a lady-friend! We meet his girlfriend Becky, played by the hilarious Riki Lindhome, at the same time Fozzie is meeting her parents for the very first time. Credit to ABC again for this plot thread that mirrors a “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” vibe when Becky’s father, played by Jere Burns (Burn Notice, Justified), clearly does not approve of their relationship. In what might be the best (or at least my favorite) joke of the episode, Carl asks what would happen should Fozzie and Becky have children. He clarifies what he means by asking, “Where would they go to the bathroom?” This prompts Fozzie to stand up for himself, shouting that things like that are offensive stereotypes. Anytime a “does a bear shit in the woods?” joke gets by on network television is just fine by me. On the other hand, Carl’s intolerance of Fozzie would be fine to fade away after this episode as it can only produce similar gags from here on out.
On the dramatic side of things, we do get some insight as to what caused the infamous split between Piggy and Kermit and even get to see a bit of the actual breakup. Both are clearly hurt about it, but they’re each doing the best they can in a situation where they have to work together on a daily basis. Not an easy task. We also meet Kermit’s new porcine love interest Denise and boy, is she his type. Kermit, aware of his predilections, states, “What can I say? I’m attracted to pigs.”
Overall the epsiode was (and I say this as a total Muppet fan so you know I’m completely biased) pretty fantastic. The guest stars (Elizabeth Banks, Tom Bergeron and Imagine Dragons) didn’t feel shoe-horned in by any means. The office confessionals weren’t overused (yet), the pacing of the episode was great and the half hour run-time seems perfect for what the show is shaping up to be. Every gag got in and got out and nothing was overdone. The episode wasn’t trying to be anything other than good ol’ fashioned Muppet entertainment. It felt very natural, like they never left TV at all. I think it’s safe to say I have high hopes for the series.
Some Muppet Mullings:
- I take it back about shoe-horning in guests. Imagine Dragons seemed out of place. I get they want to have a musical guest on Piggy’s shows but it wasn’t necessary. Hopefully musical guests in the future will either play a bigger role or get out of the way.
- Animal needs to write a book or have a biopic done about his touring habits that lead to the statement “too many women, too many towns.”
- Gonzo, Pepe and Rizzo are in the writers room. Perfect.
- Statler and Waldorf need an intervention. No one makes you go to these shows and yet you’re always there! Just admit you love going.
- More Swedish Chef! I want an entire episode of him.
What were your thoughts of the pilot episode? Let us know in the comments below!