The Muppets S01E01 “Pig Girls Don’t Cry” Review
Airing in the UK on Sky One, Mondays, 8pm
Writers: Bill Prady, Bob Kushell, Jordan Reddout, Gus Hickey
Director: Randall Einhorn
Essential Plot Points:
- We meet the cast and crew of Up Late With Miss Piggy, a talk show hosted by the inimitable porcine diva.
- We learn what goes on behind the scenes (namely producer Kermit dealing with his ex-girlfriend being a pain in the ass).
- We discover Miss Piggy hates Elizabeth Banks because she reminds her of the night Kermit broke up with her.
- Fozzie Bear is introduced to his new girlfriend’s parents. It does not go well.
There’s no denying this first full-length episode of the updated, 21st-century Muppet Show is full of laughs, although they do die down as the story goes on – hopefully not an indicator of how the season itself will perform!
Right from the off, we know exactly what we’re going to get here: a cross between the groundbreaking Larry Sanders Show (which began in 1992) and 30 Rock (which ended two years ago), only with the cast filled out with felt Muppets rather than people. It’s also filmed in the hand-held camera, faux-documentary style of The Office (which began in 2001), a format that’s been reflected in countless sitcoms ever since, from Arrested Development (running since 2003) to Parks & Recreation (ended earlier this year). And yes, in case you’re wondering why I keep pumping all the dates into this, it’s to make a point: none of this is new.
And that’s the biggest problem with The Muppets: it should have been done ten years ago. Right now, it feels as if it’s hanging on the coat-tails of a style of television that’s breathing its last gasps, relying too heavily on the novelty value of its puppet cast to make an impact. But they’re not really a novelty, are they? Not when we’ve already seen them in the original Muppet Show way back in the ’70s, on the big screen and in our day-to-day lives ever since. Which means that the show isn’t original and has nothing new to offer… always a worry when you’re really rooting for it to do well (because, despite everything, everybody loves these Muppets).
There’s also the slight ‘ick’ factor that comes from the more adult tone of the series – Kermit actually says the word “sexy” and refers to sex at one point, which just feels wrong. However, the Muppets in general weren’t necessarily aimed entirely at kids (one look at the stoner band in the ’70s series should remind us of that), and so we’ll give The Muppets’ more mature tone a get-out-of-jail-free card for now. Just please, guys, never show us Muppets having sex, okay?
So, now we’ve got some rather necessary complaining out of the way, let’s look at some plus points:
- While we do think the “behind-the-scenes” on a talk show/variety show format has been done to death, it’s worth remembering that The Muppet Show did it too, back in 1976, so they deserve kudos for that.
- Beaker gets electrocuted. Beaker-baiting will never not be funny.
- The writers aren’t allowed to say the word “gesticulate” because it sounds rude. Brilliant!
- These guys:
- Miss Piggy brings the show right into the modern day by telling Kermit “walk with me” as they move down a corridor. Very West Wing/Aaron Sorkin. Who, of course, also made Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, which The Muppets mimics here (only with more laughs, thankfully).
- Elizabeth Banks is glorious. But that’s because she’s Elizabeth Banks.
- We’ll admit it made us laugh when Fozzie talked about how his online dating profile stating “passionate bear looking for love” was misconstrued, but it feels so weird to hear a joke like this in a kids’ show! However, there was also a “bear” joke in Inside Out, so it’s clearly a thing now.
- Someone can’t use apostrophes properly (or at all, in fact).
- Kermit makes a gag about “cross-promoting” and the camera zooms in on a shot of his girlfriend Denise sucking a straw suggestively. Oh my god, my childhood.
And The Random:
- A shorter, pilot version of this was aired at San Diego Comic-Con, from where it leaked onto YouTube. Which might explain why some of it feels familiar.
- Best Quote: Carl (father of Fozzie’s girlfriend): “Alright, I’m just gonna be blunt. What if you have children? How would you raise them? Where would they go to the bathroom? In the woods?” Fozzie: “Okay, that is an offensive stereotype!”
Reviewed by Jayne Nelson