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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Worth the Watch: ABC’s modernized “Muppets” reboot really sucks

    Full disclosure: I have an unexplainable love of “The Muppets.” I may or may not have a Muppets poster in my room, it’s possible I had a Muppets lunch box in high school and I cannot confirm or deny that I went to the midnight premiere of “The Muppets” movie back in 2011.

    There’s just something ineffable about this band of misfit puppets. Much like the nostalgia-fueled love for old Disney classics, the Muppets’ greatest asset is their inescapable goodness. The goofball puppets reliably transport their audience to a world where good always overcomes evil with a surplus of fun and laughter along the way.

    In essence, the Muppets bring out a heartwarming smile and chuckle from anybody. I didn’t think it was possible to wreck the Muppets. Which is why ABC’s new sitcom featuring the Muppets flat out sucks.

    When “The Muppets” new TV show was announced last spring, I was cautiously optimistic—skewing more toward the cautious than the optimistic, but hopeful nonetheless. After the excellent Jason Segel led the reboot in 2011 and a lackluster follow up in “Muppets Most Wanted,” a return to its TV roots made sense. Kermit and the gang cut their teeth on the small screen, and their recent success in movies indicated that the Muppets still possessed the cultural relevancy to triumph.

    The first three episodes of the new “The Muppets” show have dissolved any remaining optimism that a triumph is still coming. 

    It seems more and more likely that the success of the rebooted “The Muppets” can be credited to Segel. The actor co-wrote and starred in the 2011 reboot, which simultaneously captured the essence of the Muppets while acknowledging the very real concern that maybe the 21st century doesn’t have a place for this oddball band of puppets. 

    Segel has gone on record stating his love of the Muppets, calling the chance to bring back the Muppets a dream come true. With catchy songs—I still find myself questioning myself via song if I’m a man or a Muppet, or perhaps just a Muppet of a man—and a simple but heartfelt story, the film latched onto the genuine goodness of “The Muppets” and parlayed it into an excellent film.

    After the departure of Segel for the next installment, “Muppets Most Wanted,” the franchise began to go off the rails, delivering an adequate movie at best. 

    Now comes “The Muppets” reboot TV series, which replaces creative captain Segel with “The Big Bang Theory” co-creator Bill Prady. Unlike Segel, Prady brings the Muppets into the 21st century without retaining their core identity. 

    The show undercuts the simple, genuine goodness at the heart of the Muppets. In the past, they existed in a world that mirrored our own, but eschewed the bleak and bad parts of the life in favor of celebrating the goodness of friendship, kindness and compassion for one another. 

    The 2015 TV show attempts to cross the void into the hyper-realistic world, one where reality trumps simple truths. This world ranges from one where the words “sexy” and “hell” are components of Kermit’s vocabulary, to Fozzie and Kermit going out for beers after a depressing day at work. One in which Gonzo catfishes a woman through online dating into thinking he looks like Liam Hemsworth, and apparently the Swedish Chef may be a transgender Muppet named Megan. The list goes on.

    None of these things are inherently wrong, but the show does not work because these directly contradict the identity and appeal of the original “The Muppets.” The show has the air of a middle-school-aged child rebelling against expectations, and stops just short of having a character do something outlandish while exclaiming, “I’m so edgy! Look at me!” 

    We have a tendency to infuse nostalgia into the childhood things that taught lessons of goodness, virtue and various important messages. That nostalgia can be very, very potent. Why else would Disney own half the world and have Disney parks able to charge such ludicrous prices compared to other theme parks? Because Disney, and in this case “The Muppets,” stands for something that resonates ardently inside all of us: the way the world should be. The new Muppets show takes our nostalgia-laced heroes, champions of genuine goodness, and throws them into the same cynical world the rest of us truly live in.
    No thanks. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

    Worth the Watch: NO

    Follow Alex Furrier on Twitter.

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