There is a special place in just about everyone’s heart who grew up on Sesame Street for the Muppets. Though Kermit the Frog was the only Muppet to crossover to other TV and movie products, their humor is unmistakable. But those fuzzy critters have had their ups and downs over the years. Many of the Muppets appeared on various TV specials before appearing on their own iconic series, The Muppet Show. Led by Jim Henson, the show was produced in the U.K. and later shown in America as a syndicated show from 1976 to 1981. From there, the Muppets appeared in a few movies and became attractions at Disney theme parks before fading somewhat from the public eye. Much of this had to do with the passing of Henson in 1990.
In 1996, ABC tried out a new series that was similar in tone to The Muppet Show where all the characters would perform on TV instead of in a theater. Featuring a bunch of new characters and multiple guest stars, Muppets Tonight aired on the network from March 8 to July 14. The show failed to grab an audience and the show was moved to the Disney Channel.
Then in 2011, talking felt became popular again with a new movie that starred Jason Segel and Amy Adams simply titled, The Muppets. The successful movie was followed by the less successful but still funny, Muppets Most Wanted in 2014. Due to the success of these two movies, ABC rushed a green light for another new series, also called The Muppets, to air in the fall of 2015. This show was more a workplace comedy behind the scenes of a certain pig’s late night talk show, Up Late with Miss Piggy. While The Muppets got great ratings at first, it became apparent early on that the show wasn’t as family-friendly as their early ventures and was even a bit mean-spirited. The show was reworked about halfway through its first season, but by then it was too late and ABC nixed the show from its lineup in the spring of 2016. (Today the series can be found on Disney+)
So, Jim Henson Studios is trying out another bland-titled new show, Muppets Now which is said to be their first-ever unscripted series and the first original series for Disney+. I’m not sure how you do a whole Muppet-themed show “unscripted” given all the work that is involved, but it does sound intriguing. (I am assuming that some basic outlines are created for some of the bits and then they just go from there, but I don’t really know and Disney isn’t offering any info either.)
The six-episode show begins with Scooter (where has he been all these years?) rushing about to make his delivery deadlines and upload the new TV series. However, just when he is about to hit the ‘upload’ button, Kermit inadvertently alerts the rest of the gang that they are about to go live – unleashing an avalanche of last-minute notes, tweaks, changes, suggestions, revisions, and ideas.
The first episode features Miss Piggy trying an impactful beauty treatment with Taye Diggs before dishing on personal style with Linda Cardellini. Muppet fanboy Walter (featured in The Muppets movie) uncovers Kermit’s secret passion for photography, the Swedish Chef challenges Carlina Will to a culinary curry cook-off where things get heated and Kermit talks one-on-one with RuPaul (a questionable choice) for a conversation about multi-tasking, all while fielding requests and interruptions from other Muppets.
“Overflowing with spontaneous lunacy, surprising guest stars and more frogs, pigs, bears (and whatevers) than legally allowed, the Muppets cut loose in Muppets Now with the kind of startling silliness and chaotic fun that made them famous” says the press release.
The first episode begins streaming on Disney+ Friday, July 31. Other celebrity guest set to appear in future weeks include Danny Trejo, Linda Cardellini, Roy Choi, Aubrey Plaza and others.
Main image: Disney+
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.