In a world where controversial ‘Hot Topics’ are abuzz, Brian Gawlak finds the teachable moments in trending issues.
The “pro-family” group One Million Moms is at it again: they have declared that ABC should cancel the new show, “The Muppets” for being perverted.
I think it is safe to say I have not thought of “The Muppet Show” in more than 30 years. I remember when I was young tuning in every weekend (at 7 p.m. if memory serves correctly), and watching the antics of a likeable group of puppets and celebrities putting on a variety show. I remember thinking Miss Piggy was a bit of a stalker, or at least I did in later years when my adult brain developed. I realized there was a cutting edge to the original show I had never picked up on.
Things have changed since the 70’s and 80’s. ‘Children’s entertainment’ has morphed into ‘family entertainment’ and writers and directors are now deliberately catering to audiences young and old.
“Shrek” is by far and away my favorite animated film series, being the first I shared as a new father with my then very young daughter. I remember doing double takes at the double entendre and the too-young-for-her-to-understand, but too-funny-not-to-watch-appropriate-enough material. Genius! A generation of filmmakers created material that kept my daughter entertained and kept me entertained at the same time! I finally understood, after watching “Shrek,” why they pay such high profile actors and actresses to appear in animated films – I not only took my daughter to all the sequels, but looked forward to each and every one (and pine for more).
My daughter is eleven-years-old now. When we watch Shrek and the character Lord Farquaad comes on screen, she says his name fast three times much like she did when she was little – though now getting the “joke” I got when she first said it innocently as a two-year-old. I give her “the look” and remind her it is a character’s name and not an 80’s insult. She and I both chuckle (though if she ever did that in public she would be so grounded).
So, “The Muppets” is going to do something much worse than this? I immediately set my DVR (so as to protect my children from having to see Kermit have “the moves like Jaggar,” or Miss Piggy perform a pole dance). Bravo, One Million Moms, I watched a show I had never even heard of to discover what all the hoopla was about! The boycott brought on new viewers!
I assume no one from One Million Moms bothered to watch the show (or like me did not follow the hype leading up to the premiere). This is not “The Muppet Show” folks grew up with in the 70’s and 80’s, and that is to the surprise of no one who watched it! This show is geared at generations x and y to catch up with “old friends” in a mock reality show world where Miss Piggy and Kermit the frog have grown up. The show picks up post break-up, where they are still working together in the entertainment industry.
Much to my glee, the same format as the original show is in play, complete with celebrity guest host and musical guests. In the premiere episode, the always delightful Elizabeth Banks plays herself as a guest on Miss Piggy’s talk show, and the group Imagine Dragons appear a few times in the episode. Gone are karate chops and “Pigs in Space,” and in their place are the realities of a separated couple working together in the entertainment industry, along with all the original Muppet’s classic character contributions (gripe – where was Beeker? #morebeeker).
With this series, one needs to expect more along the lines of “The Office” or “Thirty Rock,” and less “Sunday family fun.” This would be apparent to anyone who watched the first five minute introduction, or who followed how the show was marketed or hyped.
The show comes to a close with the song “Roots” being performed by Imagine Dragons. Yes, indeed this show allowed my 41-year-old self and my 41-year-old wife to get back to our roots. It was like watching another reboot (not remake) catching up with our old Muppet friends and where they are now. Kermit had a moment and looked in the mirror at his steadily growing gut after Miss Piggy pointed it out. Watching his (yes, a puppet’s) experience, I found myself checking my posture and sucking in a bit and exchanging a laugh with my wife. I laughed equally hard when my wife asked, “Does Miss Piggy look a little bit more like Jennifer Aniston these days?” I couldn’t believe she said that until I saw it. “Why, yes, dear – yes she does!”
I would be more likely to allow my 7-year-old twins to watch this show than I would my 11-year-old daughter because quite frankly, anything inappropriate would be over their heads. I do think the show should be rated TV14 because my oldest would “get it,” and she is too young for that much blatant innuendo and commentary that was never intended for her. This is not her show, nor is it her sisters’ show. This show is for those who grew up watching “The Muppet Show” to catch up with old friends and find some tongue-in-cheek-nostalgic-cutting-edge-humor.
“The Muppets” not only brought me to my childhood roots with familiar warm feelings and a sense of love for the characters I grew up with, the show also connected with my current roots: at the end of the episode I said to my wife, “nothing draws a crowd like a little hoopla. I’m glad we watched that!” I looked on in horror as she hit “series record” on the DVR screen.
Yes, dear, I’m glad we watched “The Muppets” to learn what it was all about, but now we have another television show we won’t watch together?
Photo: Flickr/Kevin Dooley