The Muppets are back with a primetime series for the first time in over 17 years and, as a lifelong Muppet fan, I could not be happier! I have watched the Muppets’ movies and TV shows for as long as I can remember, so I have looked forward to this show more than any other in a very long time.
The hype for this show was huge, with a very public break up between Kermit and Miss Piggy announced on social media at the beginning of August. This was followed by a literal media storm, with articles about the break up going viral and fans taking to social media to declare, “Love is dead!”
This break up was followed by Muppets making appearances on – what seemed like – every other talk show to promote the show under the guise of discussing the break up. It was rather brilliant, actually. They got a ton of free publicity and got the world talking about the Muppets again.
So, now that the series premiered, does it live up to the hype? Let’s find out.
This episode, “Pig Girls Don’t Cry,” opens on an interview with Kermit, and right away we can see that this show will be a mockumentary in the same style as The Office or Parks and Recreation. This interview reveals the plot of the series: Kermit is producing a late night talk show, called Up Late With Miss Piggy, and the two are definitely broken up.
The scene moves into a time lapse shot of the crafts services table, where a revolving cast of Muppets quickly demolishes the table full of food. We then cut to the title, which is punctuated by a seven note musical cue from the original Muppet Show. It was beautifully simple and I loved it.
After the title we move into a morning meeting during which the Muppets discuss the day’s agenda. There are a lot of very funny bits here, such as when Dr. Honeydew tasers Beaker to get everyone’s attention and when Zoot hazily mistakes the work meeting for an AA meeting.
There is a lot of exposition in this scene and the next, which moves into the taping of that night’s show. We find out that Sam the Eagle is in charge of standards and practices, Bobo the bear is the stage manager, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem are the house band for Piggy’s show, and Fozzie is the co-host and opening comedian. The rest of the Muppets are there in various behind the scenes jobs, except Statler and Waldorf, who heckle Fozzie from the audience as always.
As Fozzie warms up the audience, Piggy flags Kermit down and gives him a long list of impossible demands (including that Kermit get rid of Elizabeth Banks, who is the main guest for the next night’s show). With very little time left, Kermit has Scooter go to the set of Dancing With the Stars and find a backup for the next show. Scooter ends up bringing back Tom Bergeron, which Kermit is not too happy with as there are obviously bigger stars than Tom on Dancing With the Stars.
That night we follow Fozzie as he goes with his girlfriend Becky, a human, to meet her parents, who are quite unhappy that their daughter is dating a bear. This results in a humorously uncomfortable scene, as her dad is played as a stereotypical racist, except against bears (species-ist?,) and her mom who, while trying to keep the peace, is frequently unintentionally offensive as well. Desperate for their approval, Fozzie invites them to the show the next day to meet Miss Piggy.
Later that night we go to the writer’s room where Kermit meets with the writers, and Gonzo, Pepe, and Rizzo who are spitballing ideas for Tom Bergeron’s guest spot. This scene has one of the Muppet-iest gags of the whole show, which involves a sketch idea called Dancing with the Czars. It was hilarious.
In the middle of the meeting they are interrupted by Kermit’s new girlfriend Denise, another pig. Kermit leaves with her and tells her about Piggy’s demand that he get rid of Elizabeth Banks. Denise, who thinks she knows the reason for her attitude, pulls up a YouTube video showing a screen test for the Hunger Games in which Miss Piggy, auditioning for the part of Katniss Everdeen, opposite Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, blew the audition. Kermit, upset that her fit seems to be caused by something that was her own fault, declares that Elizabeth Banks is back in the show.
The next day, at the morning meeting, Kermit reveals to the others that he is not cutting Elizabeth and tells them that Piggy is not to find out until she walks out on stage and it’s too late for her to do anything about it. Much to Kermit’s dismay, Elizabeth chooses that moment to show up and says she came early to hang out with Miss Piggy. Thinking fast, Kermit sends Scooter to take her away and keep her occupied for the rest of the day. This plan fails spectacularly, resulting in a fight on a moving golf cart and Scooter being launched through the air twice.
Before the show, Fozzie arrives with his girlfriend and her parents and tries to introduce them to Piggy just as Elizabeth comes back in. Miss Piggy has a fit, calls Fozzie a worthless piece of fur, and runs off. Fozzie tries to brush it off as an inside joke and, to prove it, calls the first Muppet that walks by the same thing. That Muppet happens to be Big Mean Carl, who punches Fozzie across the stage and behind Miss Piggy’s desk.
Kermit chases after Piggy, and demands to know why she wanted to kick Elizabeth Banks off the show just because of an embarrassing screen test. Piggy reveals that that screen test had nothing to do with it and tells him it was because of Pitch Perfect 2, also featuring Elizabeth Banks, which was the movie they saw the night they broke up. This segued into a surprisingly emotional flashback of the breakup, told through paparazzi footage. This scene was almost heartbreaking and was one of the best dramatic scenes I’ve ever seen the Muppets do.Following a couple of brief scenes in which Fozzie realizes he’s completely failed to make his girlfriend’s parents like him and Big Mean Carl confesses that he feels bad about what he did to Fozzie, Kermit goes to Miss Piggy’s dressing room to apologize. They decide that the best thing to do would be to just be honest with each other. Miss Piggy takes that opportunity to tell Kermit that she doesn’t know what he sees in Denise, and that he’s getting “A little tummy.”
After they make up as best they can, Miss Piggy puts on a happy face and interviews Elizabeth Banks (while Tom Bergeron walks sadly away, as no one had told him he was cut). There is some amusing banter between Piggy and Elizabeth, and the musical guest, Imagine Dragons, plays out the episode with the Electric Mayhem.
So, did the show live up to the hype? I think so. Personally, I loved it. I’ve watched it four times while writing this, and I’m sure I’ll watch it a bunch more on my own time. So far it has not gotten old. The writing is excellent, and the humor is on point. It wasn’t perfect though, so let’s break down the good, the bad, and the whatever.
This show is very well written, but, with Bill Prady of The Big Bang Theory at the helm, I was not expecting anything less. Prady also has a long history with the Muppets, so the show is in good hands.
The Muppet humor was spot on throughout the whole thing. With the exception of Kermit and Piggy, which I’ll get to later, every Muppet was just as they have always been. The characterization was perfect.
The Muppet Cameos
I’m assuming (hoping?) that just about every Muppet that has ever been created is working for Up Late With Miss Piggy and it is so much fun to see faces popping up in the background that I haven’t seen in years. I was delighted to see Big Mean Carl get a rather large chunk of screen time this episode, and I look forward to seeing who else is highlighted in the weeks to come.
The Guest Stars
The Muppets are known for their guest stars and cameos and this episode was no exception. Aside from the obvious huge guests – Elizabeth Banks, Tom Bergeron, and Imagine Dragons – we also had Riki Lindhome as Becky, Fozzie’s girlfriend, Meagen Fay as her mother, and Jere Burns as her father, all of whom, I assume, will be recurring roles. We also had Tracy Anderson in a very brief cameo as herself, working as Miss Piggy’s trainer at the gym. I know there are a few other big name stars lined up for the future, including Josh Groban and Jay Leno, and I can’t wait to see who else shows up.
The Muppets have always had one big thing going for them: their ability to balance their crazy, off-the-wall humor with their heart and emotion. This episode definitely leaned more toward the humor side, right up until the flashback. That was one scene I was not expecting in a million years, and it caught me completely off guard! The Muppet performers are to be commended for the emotional punch they were somehow able to get through perfectly.
Kermit and Miss Piggy’s Attitudes
Kermit and Miss Piggy spent the whole show bickering, right up until the big reveal of the breakup scene. Kermit has always been a sweet, lovable character, but that seems to have vanished almost completely in this show. Yes he is known to fly off the handle from time to time, but this breakup really seems to have done a number on his spirit. Miss Piggy was always a diva, but she seemed even more diva-y than normal. I hope this is only temporary, though, as they did seem to make a big step toward a resolution at the end of this episode. I actually expect the show to chronicle their eventual reconciliation and have them get back together in a season finale somewhere down the road.
There was a bit of a controversy surrounding how “adult” The Muppets was going to be. And, while the disparaging comments that went viral on social media were completely uncalled for, there is a slight, noticeable edge to the show. Not that this is anything new, from day one the Muppets have always had minor innuendo and other content scattered throughout their shows and movies, it just doesn’t usually stand out very much. Let’s be clear, there was nothing offensive in this episode at all, unless you are offended by things like a single use of the word “Hell” or the passing mention of a shrimp getting married when she was pregnant with “Like 4000 babies.” It just seemed to me like they were trying a bit too hard to be edgy. Personally I don’t mind, as long as they don’t go overboard. I don’t want it to seem forced and take away from the genuine humor.
The Music (Or Lack Thereof)
The Muppets have always been about music. But aside from the brief opening musical cue, which I loved, and Imagine Dragons playing out the show with under a minute of one of their songs, the show was very lacking in the music department. What was there was excellent, but it really left me wanting more. I suppose that is to be expected in a show of this format, but I’m still hoping for more in the future.
I loved The Muppets. It has some areas in which it can improve, but that is to be expected of any show just starting out. I am so glad the show was this entertaining right out of the gate. Most shows I’ll watch once and that’s enough for me, but, with The Muppets, I was already planning to watch it multiple times even before I knew I would be reviewing it. It was well written, fun, funny, and had a lot of heart. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
What did you think of The Muppets premiere? Do you agree with this analysis?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes