In terms of pure nostalgia, about the only pop-culture franchise that can rival Star Wars here at Comic-Con is the Muppets. That’s why fans packed into Room 6A on Saturday for a panel with ABC’s new series The Muppets — and got to share the room with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie, and a few other friends.
Debuting this fall, The Muppets puts a more adult spin on the characters we know and love. The show’s been revamped a bit since the trailer debuted in May; it’s still a mockumentary-style comedy, but now it goes behind the scenes of a late-night talk show hosted by Miss Piggy. (Kermit’s her executive producer, Gonzo’s her head writer, and Fozzie’s her joke-cracking sidekick.)
The show also delves into the Muppets’s personal lives in a way we’ve never seen before. Former lovebirds Kermit and Miss Piggy have split up! And Kermit’s dating a new pig named Denise! (As executive producer Bill Prady says, “He does have a thing for pigs, apparently.”)
Prady (also an executive producer on The Big Bang Theory) is probably the perfect writer to bring the Muppets back to TV; he got his start writing for Jim Henson. “If Jim were looking at television today,” he says, “he’d see shows like The Office… and he’d want to make fun of those shows.”
But enough talking from the humans, right? We want to see some Muppets! And luckily, the panel obliged, with surprise appearances from Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie, Rowlf, Rizzo, and Pepe. And yes, they stole the show.
Rizzo the Rat is a member of Miss Piggy’s writing staff; he tells us, “We’re the writers. Writers aren’t stars. Pigs are stars… and stars are pigs.” How is it writing for Miss Piggy, he was asked? “We pretty much let her say whatever she wants… and we get some of the credit.”
Gonzo marveled at how much TV has changed since they were last on, taking a jab at reality TV: “You don’t have to do a show now. You just walk around and people shoot you.” And Prady and the producers assured us that we could possibly see anyone from the extended Muppet universe on the show. (A Cookie Monster cameo, maybe?)
And now, a few extra tidbits from The Muppets panel at San Diego Comic-Con:
* Filming this show is quite an endeavor: All the sets have to be built four and a half feet off the ground, so puppeteers can work underneath and human guest stars can walk alongside Muppets. “It’s a magic trick,” Prady says.
* When asked which Muppet is the most difficult to lug around, one puppeteer said Bobo the Bear: “It’s like carrying your fat uncle around with you.” Eric Jacobson, who voices Miss Piggy on the new show, added that “she’s not exactly light. I can say that, OK?”
* The crowd exploded when the producers dropped a three-word spoiler for this season: “Gonzo online dating.” Can you find chickens to date online? Heck, you can find anything online, right?
* Kermit’s sweet nature might make life more difficult for him on The Muppets, Prady hinted. “His fatal flaw is that he’s hired his friends. His weakness is that he cares.”
* At one point, Gonzo made moderator Damian Holbrook of TV Guide laugh so hard, the panel had to be delayed for a few seconds. When Holbrook said, “I’m sure we all have skeletons in our closet,” Gonzo shot back: “I have one right inside my body!”
The Muppets premieres Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. on ABC.