A new take on an old classic, The Muppets follows the professional and personal lives of Kermit and co. during production of late night talk show Up Late with Miss Piggy.
Warning there may be spoilers ahead.
The Muppets series has a mockumentary style format. Think 30 Rock meets The Office. Of course that has put them in a difficult position. These types of shows are hugely popular so there’s going to be constant comparisons which means The Muppets are going to have to deliver high quality episodes every week if they want to do well with critics and ratings. For me the pilot was a mixed bag; there were some very strong points and then other things just fell flat. However it does show real promise.
Let’s start with the best thing about The Muppets. Miss Piggy. I mean she’s just fantastic. The diva tantrums, her disdain for her make-up artist and her feud with Elizabeth Banks had me in stitches. Although that last one did actually turn out to have a very endearing and sad story behind it. As a talk show host she’s in her element and all those characteristics we love about her are on full display. With such a big cast though, it felt as if she didn’t receive enough screen time. I know it’s important to develop other characters but it’s also good to play to your strengths. And Miss Piggy is their biggest strength.
On the other side of things we have Kermit. I love Kermit, always have. But this version seems depressed and downtrodden. I mean it’s understandable; he’s working with his very demanding ex girlfriend whilst trying to manage a team that is less than professional. But it’s like he’s lost some of that Muppet magic. His dejection does give rise to some great sarcastic one-liners however. My favourite being the one about only sending Tom Bergeron ‘regular salami’ instead of the good stuff as an apology gift. Side note: Tom Bergeron was just brilliant and I’m kind of hoping we get to see him every week. But as for Kermit, I feel as if we need to see him with a little more pizzazz. Or at least have something good happen to the poor frog.
The rest of the characters are slotted in here and there but it’s still Kermit and Miss Piggy’s show. Fozzie Bear gets a surprisingly high amount of screen time with a storyline about not being accepted by his human girlfriend’s parents. It actually comes across as quite sad and maybe more serious than The Muppets should be. Statler and Waldorf are their usual hilarious self and Rizzo romancing his co-worker is fun to watch. We definitely need more Gonzo though.
A lot of debate about The Muppets is focusing on whether such a family orientated classic should be moving into more adult and dark comedy. People seem to be concerned that the whole point of The Muppets is the gentle jokes and light hearted premise. I can see their point. However a lot of people, including myself, enjoy darker humour. In fact it may end up in a funnier show as a whole. My point is it is a new version which means the writers will interpret it in their own new unique way, and we should give them that chance. The real problem however lies in the energy of the show. In places the pilot lacked vigour and as a result the entire episode seemed less funny that it could be. This may be due to the fact that it’s the first episode and they’re still finding their feet. But for a show like this to succeed they definitely need to up the enthusiasm and give it more of an oomph factor. It needs to be at 100% effort for the whole 22 minutes. Do that and the jokes will land better and the show will be more positive.
With a variety of big names like Reese Witherspoon and Liam Hemsworth guest starring in future episodes it’ll be interesting to see if The Muppets TV series manages to impress audiences and prove that the latest instalment can stand up against the rest.
Pilot Rating: 3/5