As you may remember, I am pretty darn passionate about Muppets. But given my reaction to the revival movie (where it put me off to the point I couldn't bring myself to watch the sequel), I was worried about the new show. Would it be more flailing to prove they're still part of the pop cultural landscape without any sincerity or would it actually be, y'know, good? So I noted my reactions and concluded that it is... decent.
First, the Pros:
- There is no flailing around and begging for relevance; the show follows the Muppets as the crew of a TV show, not as sad relics. The lack of "OMG, you guys, remember this" posturing alleviated one of my biggest fears.
- Second, they don't try to tie things into the movies, which I was convinced they would do just because it worked for Marvel. I'm sure dull-as-dirt Walter will show up eventually, but for now, it's its own thing.
- There were quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, and they were all largely based around character work. This ties into everyone being properly in character, including Gonzo. For some reason, he hasn't been handled well in the newer stuff, maybe because he has more than one hook (no, I don't mean his nose, either).
- Statler & Waldorf, patron saints of hecklers, are there.
- Lastly, the way they handled the big, ballyhooed break-up was surprisingly heartfelt and touching. It was a make-sense split, and whoever now performs Piggy really sold it. So already it has 100x more heart than the movie.
Of course, there are always Cons:
- While she's a flat character right now (it is only the first episode), I wasn't really bothered by Denise aside from her awful, awful design. Her eyes just do not look right. Don Salein would not approve.
- This is, at its core, a workplace sitcom. A majority of the gags are backstage bits & they mostly work, but don't expect an actual variety show like the original. Comparisons to shows like The Office really are apt.
- Also, this first episode had a good mix of plot lines to focus on, but they have set things up in such a way that it could turn into a show all about the break-up. And if you're anything like me, that's not something that would be enjoyable.
- The celebrity guests were mostly filler. Tom Bergeron didn't do anything but show up for one scene, Elizabeth Banks had a little bit to do in her two scenes, and the musical guest, well, see below. Either make them a real part of the show or dispense with guests entirely.
- Speaking of musical guest, you couldn't find someone livelier than Imagine Dragonzzzzzzzzz...
- Not really the show's fault, but I wish ABC had scheduled it with their actually funny Wednesday shows and not a show about a horrifically abusive mother that Tumblr thinks is totes empowering. I really hate Fresh Off the Boat, and watching actually funny characters shill it is just painful.
So as far as first impressions, The Muppets didn't really disappoint me, but it didn't really wow me either. It's better than anything with the characters outside of YouTube has been, but let's be fair, that's a low bar (and if we factor in the YouTube shorts, nothing here surpasses the pretty high bar of "Muppet Bohemian Rhapsody"). It's good so far, though, so I'll keep watching. I just know my personal track record with network sitcoms that make a big deal about romantic plotlines, so you can understand why I'm wary.