Friends, Romans, countrymen. I come to critique The Muppet Show, not to praise it. Really, I do. Yesterday I saw some anticipated criticism, more or less that the new version of The Muppet Show has corrupted the original and children should be kept far away. I agree with the latter: This version of The Muppet Show isn’t kid friendly, Muppets or not. As someone who wishes he’d never encountered what he did at an early age (my wife says we were all a bunch of hoodlums), I wouldn’t set a kid in front of this version of The Muppet Show. That said, it doesn’t stray over the PG boundary, either. And what some of the critics seem to miss is that the original The Muppet Show wasn’t above the double entendre and edgy moments.
Such as one episode where a robotic Kermit attempts to seduce Miss Piggy. Yes, that was on the original The Muppet Show. Maybe it was lost on the younger set, but Miss Piggy was something of an abusive stalker, with Kermit trying to stay out of her clutches. Then along comes a robotic Kermit who literally says to let him whisper sweet nothings in her ear, and speculates they could have frogletts. That makes Fozzie’s girlfriend’s father’s question, in the new The Muppet Show, downright tame. Or the episode with Rachel Welch in a cave woman bikini, or the one where Alice Cooper tries to get the cast to sell their souls. Then there was the skit with Ralph and Sam, where Sam sings a song loaded with double entendres that Rocky and Bullwinkle wouldn’t have touched.
The younger set doesn’t seem to remember these things, or maybe they associate Muppets with Sesame Street. The difference between the show then and the show now is that the new gags work more on a strictly adult level. Where the kids could enjoy the original The Muppet Show along with adults, this new one doesn’t work on two levels. Yes, it can be done even in our cruder times, and movies like Shriek did it quite well. That the 21st Century version doesn’t is a reflection on the weakness of the writers. Kermit’s comment to his new girlfriend that she doesn’t have to tell jokes in the writer’s room because the writer’s certainly don’t perhaps hits closer to home than they realized.
Fair is fair, though. The original The Muppet Show never reached the semi-burlesque humor of Three’s Company, but in truth neither does the new one. Keep the kids far away, and if you see it, you’ll probably stay far away, too. It shouldn’t be too hard to find better ways to spend your time. Maybe there’s DVDs of the original The Muppet Show out there. If there is, look for a special character who’s an extra. I might have dreamed it, but I think there’s a Muppet in military uniform clothes, a bushy beard, and a green cap with a red star on the front. A reference to Fidel Castro? It’s something worthy looking for.
Too bad I can’t say the same about the new Muppet Show.