The Muppets return to television on ABC Tuesday night, and they’ve aged well. Which is to say, they look great — there’s a brightness to Kermit’s green that sometimes glows like emerald, that handsome devil — and The Muppets features fine technical polish: The puppetry and however the heck they film these creations display excellent technical artistry.
Alas, The Muppets arrives with two flaws: rather less funny, and with too much Miss Piggy. I freely admit that I have a long-standing antipathy toward Miss Piggy. Chalk it up to decades of people over-using Piggy’s faux-shocked catchphrase, “Moi?,” and my general feeling that with the ascendance of Piggy as a popular character in the 1970s, the Muppets as created by Jim Henson lost some of their bite.
So the news that this sequel to The Muppet Show would center around the backstage shenanigans of a talk show, Up Late with Miss Piggy, didn’t thrill me. Neither did the pre-premiere publicity that Kermit and Miss Piggy had broken up — I know millions of people have fond feelings for these characters, but the media’s assiduous playing-along-with-the-joke, let’s-pretend-this-is-real strains my normally jovial nature.
My bias against this kind of thing is borne out by the first two episodes of The Muppets available for review. It seems as though most of Tuesday’s premiere is spent either with Miss Piggy or talking about Miss Piggy. The show, as conceived by producer-creators Bill Prady and Bob Kushell, has a lot of direct-to-camera talking in the manner of The Office, and so Kermit, playing the executive producer of the Piggy talk show, laments his star’s temper tantrums with lines such as, “My life is a bacon-wrapped hell on Earth.”
More promising are the subplots involving Fozzie Bear, who is dating a human and encountering prejudice, and, in the second episode, getting into trouble while attending a party thrown by Jay Leno.
As for the few scenes in which we see Miss Piggy actually hosting her talk show — well, I don’t mean to be a stickler for believability in this make-believe context, but Piggy is definitely made to seem more stupid and naïve than she’s ever been before. Hey, I don’t really like the bratty animal, but one thing I’m sure of is, she’s smart.
The Muppets airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.