Oh, how my Facebook feed erupted with joy when ABC announced it was bringing the Muppets back to prime time. Then came a publicity shot of Kermit and the gang poring over scripts at a table reading. (Genius.) Then came the news that the show would be “sort of adult.” (I dig it.) And then there was the press release about Kermit and Piggy breaking up. (Wait, what?)
Well, now they’re here, and maybe The Muppets is a bit too adult. Not only are they cynical and mean, but they grope their private parts and talk about their sex lives. In fact, it’s such a deviant display that One Million Moms, the Christian activist group, warned parents against the show, deeming it “perverted” and “sinful,” and explaining that it encouraged “promiscuity” and “interspecies relationships.” Critics were no less puritanical. “A travesty!” exclaimed The Telegraph.
It’s as if a nation of overgrown children just walked in on their stuffed animals having sex. Here’s what triggered the trauma …
Kermit is a bummer. Wasn’t he the one who always had it together, the calm, level-headed eye in the Muppet-mayhem storm? More importantly, didn’t he always love his job? As the producer of Up Late With Miss Piggy, the new Kermit is a corporate, budget-obsessed tool who yells at Scooter about C-list guests (sorry, Tom Bergeron) and rebounds with a slutty swine named Denise. “[We] want to see Kermit and his furry friends overcome all the odds to put on the best show they can,” The Telegraph’s Jonathan Bernstein wrote. “[We] don’t want to see a weary, beaten-down frog toiling on the terrible late-night talk show fronted by his unhinged ex-girlfriend.”
Piggy is a bitch. She was always a princess, but updating her into a cellphone-wielding, fame-obsessed nightmare diva frames her in a rather unforgiving light. Hopefully they’ll let some of her former vulnerability surface in future episodes, but for now, she’s the cliché terror and the butt of many fat jokes. “Is Miss Piggy really so heavy, anyway?” asked Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen. “I never thought so.” It’s tough being a pig in show business.
Yet another mockumentary. Like The Office and Modern Family, The Muppets is shot in handheld, faux-documentary style, complete with winking asides to the camera and one-on-one interviews. This gimmick is beyond overused by now, so Gonzo has to make an even lamer joke about it, proving that David Foster Wallace was right about irony. Who needs Statler and Waldorf in the audience when these Muppets are pooping on themselves?
Too much Muppet genitalia. Piggy makes repeated references to her boobs getting “hiked” and nearly moons Elizabeth Banks. Fozzie’s in a relationship with a human whose father disapproves. (“What if you have kids?” he asks, making me imagine things I don’t want to imagine.) And there are the billboards for the show, which picture Kermit with a towel slung over his shoulder and the tagline, “Finally. A network TV show with full frontal nudity.” Kermit doesn’t have a penis. I know this. But now it’s the only thing I see. Kermit’s. Penis.
The Muppets are we. If the show feels a bit dark, the reviews are downright depressing. Rolling Stone went so far as to say everything we know about the Muppets is a lie, that they were just doing the TV shows and the movies to pick up a paycheck, that our image of them wasn’t—gasp!—real. But Grantland’s Alex Pappademus nailed it in every sense of the word. “We are a terrible, dispirited society, and we finally have the terrible, dispirited Muppets we deserve.” With a Peanuts movie on the horizon, I pray we haven’t corrupted Charlie Brown, too.