It’s always a treat to see the Muppets in a headline on a website I frequent. (Including ToughPigs, which always has Muppets in their headlines.) A couple days ago, I was excited to see a photo of Kermit and the gang scroll by on Cracked.com. What I didn’t love were the words attached to that photo.
The article in question, written by Cracked staff writer Matt Solomon, argues that the Muppets have had five failed TV series in five years, and that’s more than enough chances. First of all: How dare you, Matt Solomon? Second of all: You’re all kinds of wrong.
Okay, sure – if a franchise has failure after failure, it likely means that it’s time for it to take an extended break. I had some fears about this exact thing after the back-to-back under-performances of Muppets Most Wanted and The Muppets sitcom. Despite the quality moments from each, if the audience isn’t going to show up, why would Disney continue to fund their efforts? For what it’s worth, I’m glad it wasn’t a death sentence for the brand for a myriad of reasons, which we’ll get to momentarily.
But this isn’t what the article is arguing. They’re adding three more “failed” programs to the list. They also call out the recent Muppet Babies series, which was legit the opposite of a failure. Unless you’d consider 71 episodes over 3 seasons voluntarily ended by the showrunners a failure?? (Spoilers: It’s not.)
The next “bomb” on their list was Muppets Die Another Day – the Josh Gad-led series that never made it to production. So hey, call me crazy, but a show can’t exactly fail if it was never made in the first place? From what we heard, the scripts weren’t up to the Muppets’ usual standard, with way too much focus on the humans. If anything, it’s just as likely that this was a failure dodged, not a sign that the Muppets are ready to pack it in.
The last example given was Muppets Now, and… okay, that one wasn’t great. But Muppet fans know that the series was filmed as a collection of shorts that were repackaged into an unfortunate Frankenstein variety show. I wouldn’t expect the Cracked writers to know that, but at least we can point to a real reason beyond “people don’t care about the Muppets”. Also, for some reason, Cracked linked Muppets Now to Muppets Haunted Mansion – a special that was extremely well-received by the fans.
Oh, and the article says these all came and went in five years, but that’s not actually how math works.
Even if it was true that every Muppet series was a pitfall, putting the franchise to sleep is an awful idea. The Muppets have been around for over 50 years, and they’ve experimented with different types of productions over and over again. The only way they’ll stay in the public eye is to throw a bunch of crap against the wall until they start sticking.
Look back at The Muppet Show for a prime example. Jim Henson took his new characters onto variety shows, then produced The Muppets Valentines Show and Sex and Violence before hitting on the series that would define the entire franchise.
Even beyond the slim possibility that any new Muppet project could lead to a resurgence, the #1 thing that would kill any Muppet momentum is to take a break. We’ve seen extended breaks before, and every time it damages the brand to a point where nobody cares when they come back. Their strategy to keep a steady stream of specials and miniseries on Disney+ is a solid one, which (unless they all really stink) can only lead to more productions and subsequent attention.
Besides, do we really want to live in a world where the Muppets are being put on a shelf for an indefinite amount of time? What would that say about the legacy of the brand? About our impact as fans? About human nature at its very core??? If you love something, you don’t let it go – you do whatever you can to make it better. That’s how you get to share that love with the folks around you. Heck, that’s the moral of The Muppet Movie! Maybe the Cracked writers should try watching it.
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com