Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: These characters are, of course, Jim Henson’s creation; this particular incarnation was created by Bob Kushell (Suburgatory, Anger Management) and Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory — but also a bunch of Jim Henson productions from the ’80s). They wrote this first episode, which was directed by Randall Einhorn (The Red Road, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). The three of them executive produce along with Bill Barretta (a long-time Muppets voice actor and producer), Debbie McClellan, and Kyle Laughlin.
The Cast & How You Know Them: It’s tempting to cite the main Muppets as though they’re real — you might know Kermit from his work in The Muppet Christmas Carol! — but no. We are adults and we are taking a stand. They are fictional, and you know their voice actors primarily from these and other puppet-related roles.
The Premise: The Muppets is a documentary-style workplace comedy set behind the scenes at Miss Piggy’s late night show — which is executive produced by her ex, Kermit, and staffed by all the familiar Muppet faces you (presumably) love.
What Works: I liked this way more than I’d expected; I was wary based on everything I’d read, but I found this to be much less of a departure from my personal Muppet worldview, at least, than a lot of reviews had suggested. I love behind-the-scenes shows like this in general, and thought the jokes around that — the writers’ room, network notes, guest star booking — worked nicely. Fozzie’s plotline this episode was a nice encapsulation of what I hope the show can do regularly — funny, poking at social issues, a great cameo (here Jere Burns) — as he met the speciesist parents of his human girlfriend. I found the Kermit/Miss Piggy breakup scene to be genuinely moving, and as usual, I like when my comedies make me cry. And really? They had me at the Dancing with the Czars sketch. DANCING WITH THE CZARS. COME ON. How could you not love it?
What Doesn’t: Some of this has an edge that might be a little nastier than necessary, and I could do without the constant fat-shaming jokes, most directed at Miss Piggy. The tone is, in general, a bit uneven, and some of the jokes don’t work — we’ll see whether the show finds its feet in coming weeks. Most of the Elizabeth Banks stuff fell flat for me this week, and it will be interesting to see to what extent the enjoyability of each episode depends on the guest star(s). (Next week Miss Piggy is interviewing writer Reza Aslan, and it seems like that could be great or terrible.)
Our Favorite Line: “When your online profile says ‘Passionate bear looking for love,’ you get a lot of wrong responses. Not wrong. Just wrong for me.”
You Might Like This if you like the Muppets, it’s tempting to say, but I don’t think that’s quite true – as with many reboots and adaptations, if you REALLY love the source material, you may be turned off by the changes. This show probably works best if you, like me, like The Muppets but don’t feel that watching Kermit date other people pigs, say, would retroactively ruin your childhood. This new show is drawing a lot of comparisons to The Office, but what it most reminded me of was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip — late night TV! Exes working together!
(Photo courtesy of ABC.)