Muppets in the Age of Streaming

As a child of the 80’s, I grew up watching the Muppets. The movies, the merchandise, the catchphrases and songs (Someday we’ll find it – the rainbow connection) were a part of my childhood, and I loved the antics of the frog, the pig, the… Gonzo.

Kermit and crew have had a solid run of entertaining kids and adults alike: The Muppet Show ran in syndication from 1976 – 1981, and the felt creations enjoyed cinematic success with The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984). The Muppet Babies cartoon soon followed, then more movies: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), and Muppet Treasure Island (1996).

Muppets Tonight, which debuted in 1996 on ABC, was a return to TV and a spiritual successor to The Muppet Show, but it got mixed reviews and lasted only 2 seasons. In 2004, Disney acquired the Muppets; since then, they have been trying to find their groove. The movies continued, with relative success – though the general sentiment was that the Muppets had passed their prime.

But ever the lasting property, 2011’s The Muppets movie with Jason Segal and Amy Adams seemed to give the puppets the shot in the arm they needed to grab America’s attention again. A few more movies later, and ABC once again took a gamble on the small screen: in 2015, The Muppets debuted. This mockumentary-style (post-The Office and Modern Family) sitcom showed the behind-the-scenes workings of a Muppet variety show, along with the ‘pets personal lives.

This time, however, reviews were not mixed – the show was pretty much hated by all. No one really wants to explore what would happen if Kermit and Miss Piggy were forced to work together after they break up, do they? Drama and Muppets don’t mix… unless they’re parodying it, a la “Veterinarian’s Hospital.”

Since their last TV venture, the television landscape has changed dramatically; gone (thankfully) are the mockumentary style sitcoms, and multi-cam comedies with laugh tracks are on the decline. In their place are shows that drop full seasons at once, are binge-watched in a weekend, then promptly forgotten until the next binge-worthy show premiers.

Enter Muppets Now, a new Disney+ show that debuts on July 31, with new episodes releasing weekly.

Still owned by Disney, in case you forgot

The new show is the Muppets for the digital age: short segments in a YouTube-esque format with celebrities, your favorite Muppets new and old, and of course, comedy. This show feels like old-school Muppets, adapted for the digital age.

The premise of the first episode is that Scooter, most beleaguered of all the Muppets, is at his deadline: Muppets Now needs to go live; you’re meant to believe the Muppets have been hard at work creating this show and now it’s being released for the world to see (so, what’s really been happening, I guess?).

I found myself laughing at each of the segments (but again, I may be biased here):

LifeSty(le) with Miss Piggy is a show where the host gets to impart her wisdom on all things style to her viewers. She gets by with some help from her friends, including Taye Diggs and Linda Cardellini.

Even the Muppets have mastered Zoom

The next segment has Walter asking Kermit how he became a great photographer; Kermit explains he’s actually a great photobomber:

Kermit is not in fact making a rude gesture. Plus Sam the Eagle!

Next the Swedish Chef (one of my personal faves), in the Okey Dokey Kookin show, cooks alongside YouTube chef Carlina Will… with interesting results.

Carlina Will shows Beverly Plume how not to cook like the Swedish Chef

And finally is “Mup Close and Personal” with RuPaul, where Kermit’s one on one interview goes off the rails.

Kermit can’t catch a break

I really liked the first episode of Muppets Now, and think if they can keep up the antics while mocking the YouTube/TikTok/Twitch content we’ve come to know and love (and sometimes loathe), the show can be a great success.

Some things people post are just begging to be parodied, and the Muppets have always been great at taking ridiculous things and making them even more ridiculous. Here’s hoping a new generation of kids, and kids at heart, get to enjoy the Muppets and learn all the words to “Rainbow Connection.” M

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