Last night ABC brought “The Muppets” back to prime time TV but it’s a much different show than the one that we grew up with. Rather than a reboot of the original “The Muppet Show” from 1976-1981, this is more of a reboot “The Office” or perhaps “30 Rock“. The show is from the perspective of a documentary crew covering behind the scenes and the personal lives of the staff and characters of a late-night talkshow. It includes interview segments where the characters talk straight into the camera. They even make fun of this “mock-u-mentary” style while employing it.
Miss Peggy is the host of “Up Late with Miss Piggy” and Kermit is the producer. Fozzie Bear is the on-air announcer sort of the Ed McMahon-type character who attempts to warm up the audience. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem featuring Animal on drums are the house band. The talkshow format gives them the opportunity to have actual celebrities as guest stars. So in that respect it’s a little bit like the original show. However not only resembling “The Office”, it also resembles “30 Rock” in that is not afraid to make fun of its guest stars. Kermit sent Scooter over to the set of Dancing with the Stars to recruit a last-minute guest for the show. Kermit was unable to suppress his disappointment when he brought back Tom Bergeron. “That’s the best you could do?” he says in disgust.
For me the real test of a kid show is its ability to not only keep the kids entertained with funny fuzzy characters but the ability to slip in a few adult jokes that will be over the heads of most kids. This is been a tradition ever since the days of Rocky and Bullwinkle. The Muppets seem to be taking this to a whole new level. Here are a couple of examples…
Kermit is holding a staff meeting going over what went wrong with last night’s show. Dr. Teeth suggests “Uh, perhaps we should dismystify any further misconfusion with a daily confabulation-type meeting.” To which Kermit explains they have just such a meeting every morning and they’re having one right now. Then Zoot the way too cool saxophone player says “Meeting? I’m in a meeting? Okay hello my name is Zoot and I’m a…” But he gets cut off and is told “It’s not that kind of meeting.” Obviously Zoot thinks he’s in a 12 step program. The Muppets were always cool but they were never cool enough to pull off a drug joke. I will be anxious to see if the adult jokes get them in trouble in the media.
The second example surprised me even more. Fozzie Bear is preparing to meet his girlfriend’s parents. He has a human girlfriend named Becky. As he’s driving down the street he’s telling the unseen interviewer “I really want to make a good impression on Becky’s parents. She’s the first girl I’ve dated in a long time. When your online profile says ‘passionate bear looking for love,’ you get a lot of wrong responses. Uh, not ‘wrong.’ Uh, just wrong for me.” So not only did we get a very veiled reference to harry gay men, we even got a wink and a nod to Seinfeld’s classic “not that there’s anything wrong with that” quote.
So not only will longtime fans be pleased with the usual Muppet antics such as Dr. Bunsen Honeydew abusing his assistant Beaker, Gonzo being Gonzo, Animal being Animal and so on… we also look forward to these next-generation inside jokes aimed at the adults. And of course Statler and Waldorf are still in the audience heckling the gang throughout. They now do it from the front row instead of the balcony but it’s the same old stuff.
If you are a fan of the Muppets no matter what your age, you should definitely check this out. I’m giving it a definite “Must-See” on my scale.