ABC's update of The Muppets, which premieres Tuesday at 8/7c, takes a big risk. Although the comedy brings back the tried-and-true formula — the gang puts on a show — its modern-day tone creates a dissonance that is mildly disturbing.
It's a simple conceit: While the Muppets work on "Up Late with Miss Piggy," a documentary camera crew follows them around to delve into their private lives on set and away from work. The idea should work, but the execution is a little rough for now. Any gags dealing with Piggy's show seem to land fine, but it's the manufacturing of the Muppets' personal lives that needs work.
While Kermit and Miss Piggy's breakup takes center stage, it's fortunately not the cringeworthy circus that ABC's overzealous media blitz made it appear to be. Kermit's new pig Denise, however, is a little too amorous for our comfort. Similarly, Fozzie meeting the parents of his human girlfriend seems forced. This is not to say we're anti-Muppet romance. Gonzo joining the online dating scene sounds promising, especially because of his penchant for poultry.
Despite its tonal unevenness, the show delivered enough feel-good moments in its first two episodes screened for critics that makes us eager to see more. Here's why The Muppets is our new TV obsession:
1. Bad jokes for days This might sound counterintuitive but like Statler and Waldorf, we delight in the really bad puns and jokes, as long as they're deliberate. The lamer, the more groan-inducing, the better. If Gonzo's Dancing with the Czars pitch is any indication, we'll be in dad-joke heaven. Not many shows can get away with this, but the Muppets' inherent innocence and earnestness sell it.
2. We feel like kids again Watching cartoons and other shows from our childhood often make us just feel old, but the magic of Muppets is that we are forced to accept that these gesticulating felt creations, which are tangible and exist in our world, are real. And, for those lucky enough to have seen the original series, there are enough echoes in the new Muppets to place us right back into that childhood zone while watching. (Perhaps that's why we don't like the new, wink-wink adult humor that much.)
3. Celebrity guests act like kids again Stars can't seem to resist The Muppets either. Throughout the gang's history, there have been no shortage of stars willing to act opposite Kermit & Co., often making fools of themselves in the process. Beyond just the scripted jokes, watching a celebrity having the time of their lives on the show is pure joy. In the first two episodes, Elizabeth Banks, Dancing with the Stars' Tom Bergeron, singer Josh Groban and Hannibal co-star Laurence Fishburne gleefully embraced their roles to the point where I'd love to see them return.
4. More time for the lesser-known Muppets We don't necessarily need more elaborate plots written for the B- or C-level Muppets, but a weekly show at least gives them more screen time. In particular, we'd love to hear more from the "shout"-ier characters like Animal and Big Mean Carl, in addition to seeing what Pepe the King Prawn will do (and wear) next.
5. Miss Piggy's fashions are on point Miss Piggy has always been the epitome of timeless Hollywood glam, and her style still reflects that: sumptuous fabrics, elegant gowns, elbow-length gloves and tasteful pearls. But we've also noticed that she adopts some more modern looks that are still very classic.
For example, this half updo is flawless:
And we seriously want to steal this look:
The Muppets premieres Tuesday at 8/7 on ABC.