ABC Mixes Muppet Absurdity With Mockumentry Format

3.5 stars

What happens when you introduce Chelsea Handler, one of Hollywood’s raunchiest comedians, to Scooter, the shy and dorky Muppet stage manager for Staying Up Late with Miss Piggy? A beautiful and perplexing romance unfolds. Here, we see a romance that actually symbolizes the new ABC Muppet show rather well. As strange as it is to see episodes of a Muppets show focus so much on dating and relationships, whoever’s controlling the little felt puppets sure knows what they’re doing.

Let’s face it—this show isn’t going to be on for very long. The Muppets, working off of the (at this point) cliche Office/Modern Family mockumentary formula, has been a lot of fun to watch so far, but there’s no way this show could prop itself up for more than two seasons. The show isn’t doing well. Critics pan it for replacing the archetypes from NBC’s Office with the beloved Muppet cast, its viewership has been dropping sharply, and it struggled to garner ABC’s backing for the entirety of its season.

To a large extent, criticisms of the show are grounded. The Office and 30 Rock have already done everything the show is putting out. We’ve seen the same relationships, the same stories, and the same gimmicks. This show just threw puppets into the same blueprint. Also, The Muppets has put a lot of its puppets into romantic relationships with actual people. Critics and some outspoken parents feel that giving the Muppets these relationships and having them be the focus of the show is distasteful and overly bawdy. Taking these points into consideration, if the viewer can move past them, The Muppets is actually a really funny show.


 

 


The writing’s quick. The mockumentary style is actually done really well, and the puppeteering itself is hysterical. Each of the three central Muppets (Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Fozzy) have gotten a proportionate amount of screen-time and focus. While Fozzy’s focal episodes are probably the funniest, Kermit’s episodes have an intriguing and heartfelt moral lying at the end of them.

The show’s also been pretty consistent. The only episodes so far that have faltered from the show’s standards are episodes where Miss Piggy is the main character. Piggy has always been a self-absorbed and annoying pig, but this show has taken things too far with her. Especially without the masterful Frank Oz doing her voice, she really has no redeeming quality. On the other hand, Fozzy Bear and Kermit have kept the show standing on its feet since day one. Fozzy’s naivety has never been depicted as well as it is here. Watching him stumble from one embarrassing situation to the next, shrouded in his adorable humility and sentimentality, has been a blast. We’ve also gotten to see a darker side of Kermit. Kermit, the executive producer for Up Late with Miss Piggy, will do anything to keep Up Late going. He’s manipulated his friends, lied to them, and been a real hard-ass on set. Just when you feel he’s gone out of character the show reels him back in with a moralizing or embarrassing moment where Kermit realizes the consequences of his actions.

The expressions and motions the show’s puppeteers give to their characters have been noticeably outstanding on this show. Kermit’s face has been scrunched up in this many ways before. There’s a spectrum of very distinct and noticeable faces that these puppeteers have given to their characters and this helps viewers ignore the fact that they’re watching puppets. The show’s creators have also redesigned some of the puppets in very minute, yet noticeable ways. Fozzy looks a little more innocent and wide-eyed. Gonzo looks rather disinterested and cynical. These changes may be rather small, but long-time fans of the Muppets will notice and appreciate these improvements.

The Muppets isn’t Masterpiece Theater. It’s probably taken many viewers out of their comfort zones. Sure, it’s weird to see the Muppets in these romantic situations and swearing a bit more, but it’s not like they’re up to anything too obscene. They’re still the Muppets. The Muppets isn’t innovative comedy, but it’s witty and most of all just fun. It won’t be on television very long, but it’s making the best with what’s it got. And that’s all true Muppets fans really wanted from The Muppets.

Featured Image By ABC Studios

About Chris Fuller 166 Articles
Chris is the Arts & Review Editor for The Heights. He is obsessed with 'Star Wars,' The Bee Gees, and funk in general. He tries to live life to its fuller. (Get it?)