Over at Townhall, I’ve made it no secret that I love all things Muppets. From the small stuffed Kermit the Frog who is my constant desk companion (and sometimes promotes my colleague’s books), to my legitimate distress at hearing the rumors that Muppet Vision 3-D’s days at Disney World may be numbered in favor of Star Wars Land, I am a proud member of the Muppets fandom. Naturally, I was pretty stoked to find out that my favorite half-marionette/half-puppet friends would be returning to primetime television. As I was born in 1991, I was either too young or too unborn to watch every previous Muppets show (Sesame Street excluded, obviously) in real-time, non-syndicated format.
Then the angry critiques started rolling in before the show even aired. I’m looking at you, Allahpundit.*
It was revealed that The Muppets was not going to be aimed at children, and would involve more adult situations like dating and sex. An “edgier” Muppets than say, the Muppet Babies were. One Million Moms threw a conniption, declaring that the Muppets were “ruined” by this new turn. Allah declared that the show would be a “train wreck.”
I’ll admit, on premiere night I was slightly nervous that my beloved Muppets would be reduced to a train wreck. But if the first two episodes are anything to judge, the show is off to a great start and is precisely what America needs right now.
The Muppets is a smart show, which, in light of the proliferation of ridiculous reality shows, is desperately needed. Moreover, it’s able to be smart and funny, in a way that goes over the heads of even some adult viewers. While MRCTV slightly freaked out when Pepe the King Prawn declared that “gender is fluid” while professing his love for Josh Groban, what was completely lost was the fact that gender is fluid—for prawns. (Prawns are born male and eventually change sex as they grow older and turn into females.)
The writing on The Muppets is far more clever than a lot of the crap that passes for network shows these days, and that should be applauded, not derided—even if the characters involved are beloved ones from childhood.
The Muppets’ various television shows have always been written for two audiences—the child and the adult. (Exhibit A, featuring Grover in a parody of an Old Spice ad to teach kids about the meaning of the word “on.”) The Muppets have already had an “edgy” online presence for years, like this cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. Granted, the “just killed a man” verse was glossed over by Animal’s inability to form coherent thoughts, but it’s certainly not a kid’s jam.
So yes, the new Muppets show implies that Zoot from Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem is an alcoholic, the band smokes weed, Kermit the Frog admits that he’s got a thing for pigs, and Fozzie reveals that putting “passionate bear looking for love” in his online profile led to some “wrong responses.” Miss Piggy dates a famous singer and gets a hot-stone massage. While reading these jokes written out sounds a bit horrific and potentially traumatizing for the Gen X-er who grew up watching The Muppet Show, they somehow worked in the show perfectly fine. The jokes are funny, the lines work, and the show pulls it off. While the show is probably not going to be sweeping the Emmy’s this year, it’s certainly not a train wreck.
So far, The Muppets has surpassed my expectations. It’s not a kid’s show, but it’s not supposed to be. Give it a shot and tune in. It’s a refreshing show and one that is willing to take risks with risque dialogue delivered by puppets—and that’s a heck of a lot better than watching Big Bang Theory recycle the same joke.
*In Allahpudit’s defense, he did predict that people under the age of 35 would love this show. I am 24. Interpret that as you may.