Jarrod Fairclough – Last week we shared the rumor that a new Muppet series was being developed for Disney’s streaming service, set to debut next year. Though only a rumor, we’ve seen a comment here or there suggesting that it might be more than that, so perhaps raise those excitement levels just a little, not much. Yet in every comment section in every post we’ve seen about this show, one thing is very clear – this show should just be new episodes of The Muppet Show. But today, I’m wondering – should it?
There’s no arguing that The Muppet Show is the best of the various Muppet series. It showed what The Muppets do best, and that’s putting on a show, with lots of songs and sketches and backstage antics. And I absolutely believe that that’s what this new series should be. My concern is that the original series was a product of its time. Variety shows were such a big thing in the 60s and 70s, that it was rife for parody, which was basically what The Muppet Show was. However these days variety shows don’t really exist, at least not in any format recognizable to those, so should a Muppet series stay down that path and risk feeling dated? Or should it try to find a way to adapt and do something different?
The ABC series, while critically panned, wasn’t a bad show at all. Each episode had moments in it that made us laugh, and it was nice to see a variety of characters get a chance to shine in ways they maybe haven’t in the past. And while the series could have benefitted from a few more songs here and there, I think we can all agree that the show really shined when we were treated to actual footage from Up Late with Miss Piggy, whether it was she and Kermit singing, the moon flailing wildly while Joseph Gordon-Levitt sang Fly Me To The Moon, or Ru Paul’s trash fashion show. And that’s what I think these new producers need to take in to account, and maybe base this new show on. Don’t make it a straight continuation of The Muppet Show. Take what worked from the ABC series – make this new show a talk show!
Think about it – a talk show would be the perfect way to update The Muppet Show‘s premise, with backstage antics and guest stars doing sketches and songs, and characters getting to do what they do best, but in a way that’s familiar to audiences these days. Have Kermit host, putting him back where he belongs. Have random episodes of Pigs In Space, or Veterinarian’s Hospital, or Muppet Labs interspersed throughout different episodes. Have the one interview per episode go astray 2 minutes in when Gonzo and Animal start playing badminton with a chicken! It appeases those who just want new The Muppet Show, while still giving audiences something different. It’s integral that the backstage stuff stays, just make it more zany and Muppety than the ABC series did, you know? Less ‘Miss Piggy tries to make female friends’ and more ‘Miss Piggy gets turned to stone from a magic incantation’! The audience knows these characters aren’t real, so treat them as unreal characters! That’s where the ABC series failed, and that’s what any new show needs to understand.
But this new show shouldn’t just be The Muppet Show, and I think any attempt to recreate that exact premise wouldn’t be worth trying. I say that, of course, with no idea what a new season of that show would look like, but I think Disney have enough understanding now of what has and hasn’t worked with these characters, and, hopefully under the guidance of a veteran Muppet writer like Kirk Thatcher, or at least giving the performers a more vocal role in the direction of the show, we’ll end up with something we can all agree is great.