Monday, September 21, 2015

ABC Fall Pilot Review: The Muppets - Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 22; 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Award Winners

The Muppets

The Muppets - Tuesdays at 8:00PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 8:00PM ET/PT


by Vincent

The Muppets return to primetime with a contemporary, documentary-style show. For the first time ever, a series will explore the Muppets' personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, breakups, achievements, disappointments, wants and desires. This is a more adult Muppet show, for "kids" of all ages.

Cast Details:

Steve Whitmire as Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler, and Lips
Eric Jacobson as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam Eagle
Dave Goelz as Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen, and Dr. Benson Honeydew
Bill Barretta as Pepe the King Prawn, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Teeth, The Swedish Chef
David Rudman as Scooter and Janice
Matt Vogel as Floyd Pepper, Uncle Deadly, Sweetums
Peter Linz as Walter

Steve Whitmire is a puppeteer, best known for performing as Kermit the Frog and Ernie from Sesame Street. He has performed as both characters since the death of Jim Henson in 1990.

Eric Jacobson is a puppeteer known for his work on The Muppets and Sesame Street.

Dave Goelz is a puppeteer known for his work on The Muppets and Sesame Street. He has also worked on shows such as Dinosaurs and Bear in the Big Blue House.

Bill Barretta is a puppeteer who has primarily worked on many varieties of Muppets films and specials. He has been performing with the Muppets since 1993.

Matt Vogel is a puppeteer with The Muppets and Sesame Street. He also did puppeteer work in an episode of 30 Rock.

Peter Linz is a puppeteer who has performed as the character Walter on The Muppets since the character's debut in the 2011 feature film The Muppets. He also appeared on shows like Blue's Room and The Puzzle Place and worked as a puppeteer for the Broadway musical Avenue Q.

Pilot Plot:

We have watched the first two episodes for review. Descriptions of the episodes are listed below:

"Pig Girls Don't Cry (Pilot)" (Airs September 22 at 8:00PM ET)

Miss Piggy is furious that Kermit booked Elizabeth Banks as a guest on her late night talk show Up Late with Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear meets his girlfriend's parents, and Grammy Award-winning rock band Imagine Dragons performs their new single "Roots."

"Hostile Takeover" (Airs September 29 at 8:00PM ET)

In an attempt to make Miss Piggy happy, Kermit sets her up with Josh Groban who fills her head with ideas on how to make Up Late with Miss Piggy better. Meanwhile, Fozzie is invited to a party at Jay Leno's house and everyone is annoyed that Bobo is selling cookies for his daughter's troop.

Analysis:

The Muppets has already sparked a lot of buzz over the summer, thanks to well-plotted PR stunts about how Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog have broken up after a decades-long relationship. The reaction to these stunts was about on par with some of the real celebrity break-ups that took place over the summer, which just goes to show the level of passion long-time Muppets diehards have for these characters. The entire stunt rang a little hollow, blatantly trying to cash in on people's nostalgia and adoration for The Muppets for a marketing campaign...and yet, there was something about it that was kind of fun, and that sucked you in spite of itself. You kind of questioned why it needed to exist, and why you cared so much, and why it was working on you. But it did work on you. And that kind of sums up this entire new Muppets project in a nutshell. It feels a little unnecessary, and like it's trying very hard to pull at all of your childhood feelings for these characters while simultaneously feeling modern and "cool." But, at least in its first two episodes, it pretty much works!

Centering around the backstage antics of a Ms. Piggy-hosted talk show, The Muppets is being touted as a more "adult-friendly" vehicle for these characters, boasting a concept similar to 30 Rock and a format reminiscent of shows like The Office and Modern Family. Given that there are some pretty blatant jokes about Kermit's sexual escapades with his new girlfriend in the first 10 minutes of the pilot, it becomes clear that the target audience for this show isn't necessarily kids, but the people who grew up with these characters as kids. (That said, it's probably fine to watch with your kids - content-wise it's mostly pretty tame, and the sexual innuendo is all very mild and likely to go over the heads of any young viewers.) It is also more "adult" in how it handles the relationship between its characters. The major anchor of the show, thus far, is the broken courtship between Kermit and Ms. Piggy, and how the destruction of their personal relationship has affected their personal relationship. Their actual break-up scene is flashed back to in the pilot, and it's the best scene of the show thus far, far more emotional and raw than you would expect a scene in The Muppets to be. Similarly, a sub-plot like with Fozzie attempting to impress his girlfriend's parents despite their judgement of him has some well-utilized earnesty that, if doubled down on, could lead to The Muppets sustaining itself as a quality television show and not just a marketing ploy. On the other hand, the series gets a little clunky when it's attempting to shoehorn figures like Jay Leno and Tom Bergeron into the proceedings, where the joke of the scene seems to amount to little more than "look at these people talking to these characters you love!" There are lots of moments where The Muppets looks like it wants to take itself seriously as a TV show that's holding up a beloved institution. And then not long after that, Imagine Dragons plays us off with their new single. There is plenty of potential in this updated version of The Muppets, but it'll have to resist the urge of being a showbiz marketing tool and actually take its characters seriously.

Conclusion:

The Muppets is full of potential, and while the first two episodes aren't perfect, there's enough good within them to suggest that fans of the franchise can rest assured knowing the characters they love are in good hands. The question is whether the show can rise above the level of "a marketing tool that will please fans and allow celebrities to come plug their stuff sometimes" and become an actual great sitcom with some beloved characters that even non-fans can jump into and enjoy. It's too early to tell which route it will take, and there's evidence of both paths here. Here's to hoping The Muppets chooses the second option, because it would be a shame to see these excellent characters not used to their full capabilities.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4.5/5
Funniness: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 8:00PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • The Muppets Photo Gallery

    Preview:





  • The 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards aired last night on Fox. Here are the winners!

    OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
    Louie (FX)
    Modern Family (ABC)
    Parks and Recreation (NBC)
    Silicon Valley (HBO)
    Transparent (Amazon)
    Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
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    WINNER: Veep (HBO)

    OUTSTANDING LEAD COMEDY ACTOR
    Anthony Anderson, black-ish (ABC)
    Matt LeBlanc, Episodes (Showtime)
    Don Cheadle, House of Lies (Showtime)
    Louis C.K., Louie (FX)
    William H. Macy, Shameless (Showtime)
    Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth (Fox)
    Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent (Amazon)
    WINNER: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent (Amazon).

    OUTSTANDING LEAD COMEDY ACTRESS
    Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie (Netflix)
    Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
    Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
    Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation (NBC)
    Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback (HBO)
    Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)
    WINNER: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO).

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTOR
    Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
    Adam Driver, Girls (HBO)
    Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele (Comedy Central)
    Ty Burrell, Modern Family (ABC)
    Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
    Tony Hale, Veep (HBO)
    WINNER: Tony Hale, Veep (HBO)

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING COMEDY ACTRESS
    Niecy Nash, Getting On (HBO)
    Julie Bowen, Modern Family (ABC)
    Allison Janney, Mom (CBS)
    Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
    Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
    Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent (Amazon)
    Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
    Anna Chlumsky, Veep (HBO)
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    OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
    Better Call Caul (AMC)
    Downton Abbey (PBS)
    Game of Thrones (HBO)
    House of Cards (Netflix)
    Homeland (Showtime)
    Mad Men (AMC)
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    WINNER: Game of Thrones (HBO)

    OUTSTANDING LEAD DRAMA ACTOR
    Bob Odenkirk, Netter Call Saul (AMC)
    Kyle Chandler, Bloodline (Netflix)
    Kevin Spacey, House of Cards (Netflix)
    Jon Hamm, Mad Men (AMC)
    Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan (Showtime)
    Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom (HBO)
    WINNER: Jon Hamm, Mad Men (AMC). Fitting for the final season.

    OUTSTANDING LEAD DRAMA ACTRESS
    Taraji P. Henson, Empire (Fox)
    Claire Danes, Homeland (Showtime)
    Robin Wright, House of Cards (Netflix)
    Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder (ABC)
    Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men (AMC)
    Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black (BBC America)
    WINNER: Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder (ABC)

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTOR
    Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul (AMC)
    Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline (Netflix)
    Jim Carter, Downton Abbey (PBS)
    Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones (HBO)
    Michael Kelly, House of Cards (Netflix)
    Alan Cumming, The Good Wife (CBS)
    WINNER: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones (HBO)

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTRESS
    Joanne Froggatt, Downtown Abbey (PBS)
    Lena Headey, Game of Thrones (HBO)
    Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones (HBO)
    Christina Hendricks, Mad Men (AMC)
    Uzo Aduba, Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
    Christine Baranski, The Good Wife (CBS)
    WINNER: Uzo Aduba, Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)

    View the full list of winners.


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