We were all ecstatic in late October when ABC announced a full-season order of The Muppets. However, less than a week later we learned that showrunner, co-creator, and executive producer Bob Kushell was exiting the series. Furthermore, it was disclosed that the show would have a ten-episode run, followed by a winter hiatus, to return on February 2 with a final run of six new episodes for Season 1. It was also reported that the show would be retooled during the break.
The Muppets has performed well for ABC in its timeslot, although now it’s been moved from 8pm to 8:30pm (7:30pm Central). The Nielsen ratings for the series have been solid, and ABC seems to be firmly behind the show. Kristin Newman has been named as the new showrunner. Ms. Newman has a lot of great credits to her name including How I Met Your Mother and the musical comedy Galavant.
While I have thoroughly enjoyed the new series overall, there are some areas which could use improvement. As has been discussed by many Muppet fans (including The MuppetCast), the overall quality has often been hit-or-miss. I do love the venue and the format, and the puppetry has been outstanding. The show got off to a somewhat slow start, but has been steadily improving, with episodes 9 (“Going, Going, Gonzo”) and 10 (“Single All the Way”) standing out as the best. I believe the show is on the right track, and its solid footing grows with each new episode. Virtually no new TV series is perfect right out of the gate, and I don’t expect that from The Muppets either.
Recently, I saw the following quote from Jim Henson on a wall at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta: “There is a sense of our characters caring for each other and having respect for each other. A positive feeling. A positive view of life. That’s a key to everything we do.” While I think Jim would have been very supportive of the new series, it occurred to me that this particular notion was missing from some of the early episodes of this season.
As the show returns to finish out the first season, what would I like to see? A lot of the same…the show features some absolutely hilarious scenes. It’s wonderful to see so many “lesser known” Muppets featured in memorable (and often very quotable) ways. I love Uncle Deadly, Scooter, Yolanda, Zoot, Lips, Bobo and Big Mean Carl on the show. Heck, I can’t think of a character I don’t like. Continue with more storylines that show the Muppets supporting each other while letting the zaniness and chaos shine. I associate the Muppets with great music. The karaoke scenes in episode 4 (“Pig Out”) captured some of that magic perfectly. “Rainbow Connection” was a welcome part of the closing of episode 7 (“Pig’s in a Blackout”). Take more advantage of the talk show segments. This is the perfect venue to occasionally sneak in a skit or musical number, and it would not be out of place in this context. Give Rowlf the opportunity to provide more nuggets of wisdom.
And “Weird Al.” The show needs an appearance by “Weird Al” Yankovic.