The New Muppets

How can cultural elitists like ourselves put TV in the Culture category? Well, where the hell else is it going to fit?
rabble
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The New Muppets

Postby rabble » Wed Sep 23, 2015 8:43 am

We have watched the first show and are still trying to figure out what we just saw. That was freakin weird.

I am trying to come to grips with the fact that I would not be comfortable watching this with my grandchildren. I don't know how I would answer some of the questions they would ask.

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby HawkHead » Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:06 am

Obviously, they are trying to go after the 40-50 crowd which were kids when the original series aired. I was hoping for something similar to what it was. This is like a completely different show using the same characters. It didn't even feel like The Muppets.

rabble
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Re: The New Muppets

Postby rabble » Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:27 am

I understand the theory behind using the Late Night format instead of the variety show. Back then, the main medium was variety shows so that was what they spoofed. Now it's late night talk shows so that's what they're satirizing.

But that didn't mean they had to go so dark, jaded, and mean-spirited. Jeez.

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Wed Sep 23, 2015 12:36 pm

I dunno, it felt (no pun intended) like The Muppets to me.

I think a lot of the complaints about this show are kinda overblown and I question whether folks who make'em have actually sat down and watched The Muppet Show recently (let alone Kermit's actual stint as a guest host on the Tonight Show or various other guest appearances over the last 40+ years.) They always had adult humor peppered in there (and even the Sesame Street Muppets make jokes aimed directly over children's heads to their parents) and plenty of inappropriate-for-your-grandchildren episodes like the ones with Raquel Welch and Alice Cooper. Have we all forgotten that Gonzo liked to have sexy time with chickens? Do you recall the episode of Pigs In Space where Link Heartthrob and Miss Piggy have their minds and bodies switched and Link-In-Piggy makes a grab for Piggy's tits before Piggy-In-Link reprimands him, "Don't you dare touch you!" Here's the Swedish Chef threatening to shove a skewer up a live turkey's ass. And what to make of this demented rendition of a Shel Silverstein song? That the show could run the gamut from totally cornball to insane anarchy to downright dark and depressing is one of the reasons it was so great. Henson and Co. always had a dark side and never wanted or allowed themselves to be pigeonholed as children's entertainers.

Now, I'm not suggesting this first episode was any kind of masterpiece, but hey, it was a pilot, and they're always a little creaky. But I didn't find it particularly mean-spirited. Let us not forget that this is a comedy troupe whose sketches quite often ended either with someone exploding or one of its members eating another one, after all.

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby rabble » Wed Sep 23, 2015 1:19 pm

Perhaps you're right. Maybe there were times when our family was watching the old muppet show and we all sat there looking at each other when it was over and went "how come I feel like I've just watched an adult comedy and why do I want to keep children away from this? Should I be okay with explaining 12 step programs to toddlers?"

Maybe next week's show will be different. Today, I feel like it ought to be aired at 11 PM.

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Wed Sep 23, 2015 2:05 pm

Really? You think this show was more adult or inappropriate than the gazillion other shows that air during primetime? Do you shield your family's small children from Bugs Bunny cartoons too? Sorry, but this seems like a pretty extreme overreaction. Three easy ways to deal with this come to mind: 1) Don't watch what you consider adult shows with small children, 2) Feign ignorance when they ask a question you don't want to answer and/or give'em a bullshit answer, 3) Take the opportunity to actually discuss mature topics with your young family members on your own terms. There was no mention of 12-Step Programs (and why such a topic would be off-limits I cannot fathom anyway), just a joke about "meetings".

The never-make-an-off-color-joke version of the Muppets in your head never existed, whether this new iteration is more adult or not (and I would agree that it is, just not to the degree you think.) I saw The Muppet Movie when I was 7 years old. It was rated G. The plot involves Kermit on the run from an insane fast food frog leg entrepreneur who is so determined to get Kermit to star in his commercials that he pursues him with ever-increasing intensity during a cross-country pursuit (prompting Kermit's heart-wrenching observation about "millions of frogs on tiny crutches") culminating in the hiring of a black-clad bounty hunter to assassinate him. It also has a crazy German scientist who tries to fry Kermit's brain and makes jokes about Miss Piggy not being kosher, an extended scene set in a very seedy bar that ends with a gigantic brawl and includes a joke about ugly dancing girls, a jaunty song about why women should be avoided as nothing but trouble, a running gag about Hare Krishna there's no way any small child would ever get plus another running gag at the expense of people who lisp, Kermit drinking a whole bottle of wine to drown his sorrows after thinking Piggy stood him up, Gonzo making lewd comments to Piggy about how he'd be up for a fling but thinks she'd be hotter as a chicken, The Electric Mayhem very obviously stoned out of their gourds, and so on. I musta watched it 50+ times before I turned 10. Obviously, I had shitty parents.
Last edited by Prof. Wagstaff on Wed Sep 23, 2015 3:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

rabble
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Re: The New Muppets

Postby rabble » Wed Sep 23, 2015 2:28 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Obviously, I had shitty parents.

Yeah. Obviously.

Sorry I touched a nerve there.

I'm looking forward to the twelve paragraph explanation of why I didn't touch a nerve.

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Wed Sep 23, 2015 2:41 pm

rabble wrote:I'm looking forward to the twelve paragraph explanation of why I didn't touch a nerve.

It doesn't take twelve paragraphs to say, "Huh?"

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby Violet_Skye » Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:36 pm

I don't think it's a kid's show anymore, either. I think they're trying to capture a 30 Rock/Modern Family kind of vibe. But my kids are young adults now, so maybe people let their little kids watch this stuff now. Most of the dark or heavy stuff will go over their heads, of course. I used to watch 'In Living Color' with my little girl, and made up some pretty great stories to answer, or rather incorrectly nonanswer, her questions. I did the same for inappropriate song lyrics questions.

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Sep 24, 2015 12:01 am

Violet_Skye wrote:I don't think it's a kid's show anymore, either. I think they're trying to capture a 30 Rock/Modern Family kind of vibe.

My point above was that The Muppet Show was never a kid's show. It was a family show, meaning it was intended for audiences of all ages, a balancing act few attempt and even fewer succeed at. If you watched it as a young child and haven't seen it since, it's easy to remember it as a kid's show, but there are plenty more examples like the stuff I mentioned above that demonstrate it really was not. (And the tone varied a lot from episode to episode depending how tailored they were to the guest star.) The new show is clearly not aimed at all ages, to be sure, but then it also airs later than The Muppet Show did. Remember, The Muppet Show was not a network show, it was syndicated. So while it ran at different times in different markets, it aired before the prime-time blocks began.

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby TeachInPeace » Thu Sep 24, 2015 7:25 am

Just about any show I remember watching and loving as a kid is completely "inappropriate" when watched as an adult - because the idea used to be that families watched TV together, so it had to be ok for everyone, but interesting for everyone too - now people just want to park kids in front of the set and disengage. As a kiddo I thought the Muppets Tonight/Muppet Show was boring except for the opening song, but every single muppet movie I have ever seen, going back to Muppets Take Manhattan was rife with innuendo - which I never noticed until I was much older. Same with Golden Girls, Married With Children, even Full House had it's share of "really?" But I never noticed, or if I did, I asked my mom - usually I just let it go. Perceptive kids will ask, and yes *gasp* you might need to address some things. How else do they learn about the world?

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby Henry Vilas » Thu Sep 24, 2015 7:40 am

I remember the same debate over the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, although the adult humor was much more tame back in the early 60s.

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby rabble » Thu Sep 24, 2015 8:03 am

Henry Vilas wrote:I remember the same debate over the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, although the adult humor was much more tame back in the early 60s.
My high school history teach said he didn't understand why they called Rocky and Bullwinkle a kid's show. More than half the humor was over the head of your basic fifth grader back then.

I watch reruns of Rocky and of the original muppets show. I don't get the same feeling from either of them that I got from the new muppets. Yes, often the mechanics of the humor is similar in the new show to the old ones. They use many of the same gags. For some reason, the end result is different. Darker, more depressing. Some laughs, mostly "did they really just do that?"

Maybe that's just me. Probably that's just me. It has to be just me.

I'm sure my grandkids will have seen it at some point. I'll ask about it next visit.

This guy says it better than I can.

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Sep 24, 2015 12:22 pm


Some good examples, I think, of the kind of misremembered, idealized version of the Muppets that perhaps never really was. This, in particular: "And in retrospect, a lot of why Miss Piggy was able to get away with being a total bitch in her previous incarnations had to do with Kermit’s love for her. Kermit loved her so much, and so visibly, that the audience had no choice but to love her too." But Kermit and Piggy's romance was almost always one-sided on The Muppet Show; always dysfunctional and somewhat abusive. Kermit generally did not return Piggy's affections and while she claimed to love Kermit, she was just as likely to fly off in a rage and karate chop him quite violently as to kiss him. They didn't really hook up until the movies began, if memory serves. (The later seasons of The Muppet Show are unavailable on DVD so I haven't seen many of them in quite some time.) The article also draws attention to Animal's "too many women" line as being out of character, but Animal has often displayed lust for women in the past, although exactly what he wants to do with them was never entirely obvious.

Let me be clear: I'm not trying to convince anyone that they have to like the new show or that their feeling that something is a little off is somehow invalid (and as I've said, I do not disagree that this version is the most adult yet, I just think the degree to which that's true is being exaggerated.) I'm not even sure how much I'll like it in the long run. (The short proof-of-concept video they made this summer was superior to the actual pilot, IMHO.*) But every new Muppets endeavor seems to bring this kind of criticism and given how widely their output has varied in quality and subject matter over the years, I just find it strange. A lot of people really seemed to hate Muppets From Space, for example, which I thought was their funniest film since the original Muppet Movie (although it had the most painful celebrity cameos and eschewed songs, a major component of the Muppet aesthetic, in favor of a strangely chosen funk soundtrack. But it was all about Gonzo!) The 2011 re-boot Muppets was widely praised but I thought it was kinda mediocre (although my main complaint there was that it gave far too much screen time to non-Muppets. I never saw the second movie in this iteration.) I thought Muppets Tonight was a fantastic updating of the spirit of the old show but audiences clearly disagreed given how quickly it got cancelled. I've had discussions with people over at The AVClub who insist The Great Muppet Caper is their masterpiece and that the first movie leaves them kind of cold, which I find a strange assessment. (The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that Muppets Christmas Carol is far, far better than it has any right to be.) But I still do wonder how much of the criticism is based on idealized versions of these characters rather than what's actually been on the screen over the years.

*I was particularly disappointed that, despite recycling many of the gags from that short reel for the pilot, Fozzie's best gag was left out (from memory):
"I need to run home and change my clothes."
"But all you wear is a necktie."
"So I'll walk."

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Re: The New Muppets

Postby chainsawcurtis » Fri Sep 25, 2015 5:34 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that Muppets Christmas Carol is far, far better than it has any right to be.)


My folks used to let me watch the Tonight Show on Fridays in the late fifties (back when it was 1 1/2 hours long) and I got hooked on the Muppets then. I watch the Muppet Christmas Carol every year and it is by far one of the best tellings of the Dickens tail (sic). But one of the best Muppet shows is "The Muppet Family Christmas" that aired on ABC in the early eighties.

Fozzie Bear decides to go home to see Mom just as Mom decides that because nobody comes to see her at Christmas she'd just as soon be in Florida. Fozzie comes home to an empty house, invites a bunch of Muppets (everyone in the Muppet universe) over and comedy ensues (think: Swedish Chef and a Big Bird dinner). I saw it when I had no family to speak of at the time and it got me through the holidays.

I haven't gotten to this incarnation yet except for the trailer but the Muppets has always been adult fare in my book much like Rockey, Bullwinkle and the Warner cartoons. I'm looking forward to it.


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