One Million Moms slam new Muppets show as “perverted”

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Muppets,’ ‘Scream Queens,’ ‘Limitless’ debut.

The Muppets, Jim Henson’s beloved felt creations, are 60 years old, but feelings for them still run high. While many nostalgic Americans are looking forward to the return of the Muppets to network television on Tuesday, one group is less than thrilled, deriding the new, more adult-themed show featuring the beloved 1970’s felt puppets as “perverted” and calling on ABC to can the program: the pro-family One Million Moms.Premise: Miss Piggy hosts a late-night talk show and terrorizes former boyfriend Kermit, who serves as executive producer. “My life is a bacon-wrapped hell on Earth,” Kermit complains. The canny publicity campaign for their latest venture, ABC’s sitcom The Muppets, “leaked” “news” to the tabloids that Kermit and Miss Piggy had broken up, and Kermit had taken up with a pig named Denise, drumming up attention and ire in nearly equal measure.

Miss Piggy is the host of Up Late, and Kermit the executive producer, a role he took on before the couple’s shocking split this past August after 40 years as a couple. Rebecca Traister, in a piece last week headlined “The Muppets should not be having sex, people,” ably captured the sentiment that the Muppets, perfect and lovely (and, sure, fictional), should not be besmirched by tawdry gossip and innuendo. “Please stop talking, writing, and otherwise promoting the upcoming Muppets television reboot by alluding to them actually fucking,” she wrote. “They are Muppets.” But the new show spends far less time than the (highly effective) promotional materials on the unseemly prospect of Muppet boinking, committing instead a less salacious form of Muppet blasphemy: turning the Muppets into neurotic adults. But the more grown-up topics the show will dive into are what is irking the One Million Moms. “1MM (One Million Moms) suspects there are going to be a lot of shocked moms and dads when they discover that the family-friendly Muppets of the 1970s are no more. What’s good: In this clever spoof of reality series, the Muppets cavort with stars (Elizabeth Banks, Laurence Fishburne), fiercely bicker behind the scenes and skewer show-business follies. In the clip, Miss Piggy scolds her assistant before hammering her amphibian former love with orders: “I’m not happy with the janitor knowing what I throw away, can you have someone put a layer of generic trash over my private trash,” she insists.

The show, co-created by Bill Prady, a muppeteer from wayback, finds Kermit and his pals plagued by work stress, day-to-day irritations and relationship problems. In the second episode, Josh Groban becomes Miss Piggy’s beau and starts interfering in her show. “The Muppets” slyly reveals that Kermit has a romantic type. Kermit has already moved on from the demanding diva, and is reportedly dating a head of marketing at ABC named Denise, who, coincidentally, is also a pig. Penney JCP 0.11% when that retailer featured same-sex couples in its inserts.) While it is true that there is a more adult feel to the show, if the promos are any indication, it could well be that ABC is in fact not aiming at children, but at Gen Xers and Baby Boomers who grew up loving the Muppets and want to relive a bit of their childhood in an updated manner once a week.

It melds the backstage set-up of The Larry Sanders Show or 30 Rock (fans of which will recall that Kenneth the Page already thought everyone on that show was a Muppet) with the mockumentary tricks of The Office: the talking head interviews, the glances at the camera. Which leads to the more important assumption ABC and creators Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory) and Bob Kushell (Anger Management) are making: That you have long harbored some interest in what the Muppets do in their down time. The resulting comedy is knowing, self-referential, low-energy, and a little jaded, perfectly promising qualities in a new sitcom, unless that new sitcom stars a green frog beloved for self-identifying as a “lover and dreamer.” The Muppets turns the rainbow connection grey. The Muppets, historically, have been an ebullient and silly group who love to entertain people, not in some crass or soulless way, but in a generous and good-spirited one. In The Muppets, though, anxiety and overwork creep in. (The mockumentary format is also not a great fit for Muppets, who have many skills, but immobile eyes.

Muppets may offer a slightly more adult take than you’ve seen in other incarnations, but it is not the R-rated puppet show some feared (or some, who remember the delights of Avenue Q, may have hoped for). Moving lids and irises are required for the deadpan glances to camera so necessary to this format.) There is still the occasional bolt of pure Muppet-y sweetness, like a series of jokes that rely on staff writer Pepe the King Prawn’s multiple claws, but the first two episodes largely focus on the bummers and indignities of workaday life. There are a few mild sexual allusions — a joke about bears and Internet dating sites, a quip about gender fluidity — but nothing that’s going to rob any innocents of their innocence. While he’s willing to produce Piggy’s show, romantically he’s moved on to a sweeter, more-soft-spoken porker called Denise. (“What can I say,” Kermit confesses in one of those mockumentary asides, “I’m attracted to pigs.”) There’s fun to be had in Miss Piggy’s tantrums and outbursts (“I look like a half-naked Hawaiian just dug me up at a luau”) and in some of the mild jabs at show business — some of them built around guests Elizabeth Banks, Josh Groban and Tom Bergeron.

Bobo the Bear sells his daughter’s Girl Scout Cookies around the office, but after having little luck he mourns that he’s teaching his daughter “that she can’t rely on her father.” Gonzo struggles to come up with bits that please Kermit. This terrible entry from Ryan Murphy unfolds like a bizarre hybrid of his “Glee” and “American Horror Story.” Emma Roberts quickly grows insufferable as mean sorority sister Chanel. And everyone is working overtime for a nightmare boss, an egomaniac with a horrible temper, unpredictable whims, and a hatred of direct eye contact: Miss Piggy. We’ll leave it to those better versed in the canon to judge whether all the Muppets get their fair due or whether the shift in the Piggy/Kermit relationship damages our connections to the characters.

What matters, for the moment, is that the show is relying too heavily on our built-in affection for those characters and expecting us to do too much of the heavy lifting. Even at her worst—hitting Kermit all the time, for example—she was the sour powder slathered onto the Muppet gummy bears: the lip-puckering tang that made them taste so good. In recent years, Piggy has even become a kind of feminist icon, authoring a piece for Time, “Why I am a feminist pig.” On The Muppets she is, it’s true, a woman with a late-night show, but otherwise she’s a real boor. What a comedown for the network of “24,” “Ally McBeal” and “House.” Premise: The Bradley Cooper movie becomes a weekly drama about an underachieving young man, Brian Finch (Jake McDorman), transformed into a brilliant crime solver by taking a miracle mystery drug called NZT. What’s good: This fantasy has an enticing hook as seemingly lost Brian starts solving mysteries, offering career advice and performing physical stunts worthy of Cirque du Soleil.

The strong supporting cast includes Ron Rifkin and Blair Brown as Brian’s understanding parents and Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”) as an FBI agent awed by Brian’s new-found skills. The dashing McDorman has fun pulling off the character’s transformation, and executive producer Bradley Cooper drops in as a suave U.S. senator making an offer that can’t be refused.

Eventually Kermit hooks her up with Josh Groban, whom she tries to impress by forsaking her own tastes and going highbrow, pushing to interview some authors even though she’s never read a book. Bossy, shrill, hysterical, irrational, moody, and all the other condescending words that are disproportionately used to describe and police women’s behavior, all truly apply to this iteration of Miss Piggy. (Except frumpy. Making Missy Piggy so awful has dour ramifications for the rest of the Muppets: Why are they working so hard for this pig, who can’t even deign to remember Fozzie Bear’s name? The Muppet who comes off worst is Kermit, who spends his days sneakily managing Piggy’s moods, working up the nerve to disobey her, a mild-mannered middle manager.

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