The Muppets: Kings of Queen?

Published: December 5, 2009
Categories: Commentary, Feature

How many times have you watched the “Bohemian Rhapsody” video on YouTube? Five? Ten? Fifty? With its mercurial rise to the top of the viral video charts, it’s a pretty sure thing that most people are watching the Muppet version of the Queen rock epic more than once. The coolest thing about it is that it’s a new Muppet production that’s both good and popular, which is a combination Muppet fans aren’t used to these days. The response has been amazing… and yet, I feel like I’m supposed to be more excited about it than I actually am.

The video itself is head-spinningly entertaining. There are so many Muppets in it! And they all get their little moment in the spotlight, from the major Muppet stars like Fozzie and Animal, to guys we don’t see nearly often enough, like Johnny Fiama and Beauregard. Not to mention the Muppet bananas. It looks great (Watch it in HD!), it sounds superb, and they even manage to censor the original song’s lyrics (apparently Muppets don’t put guns against heads or get stoned/spit in their eyes) in clever, character-appropriate ways. Then there’s the tag at the end with Kermit and Scooter, which is a perfect punchline to the whole thing.

It is a very, very good Muppet thing. And it is popular — sweet baby Ray’s, is it popular. Since November 23, it’s been watched nearly 10 million times. Ten million! It’s even been stolen and re-posted by various sneaky YouTube users, and most of those have views in the thousands. It’s been blogged, Facebooked, and tweeted more times than you can shake an arm-rod at, and it’s been featured on various TV shows. I bet more people have seen this video in two weeks than have seen Muppets From Space since it was released in 1999.

I’m not even sure why it’s so popular. The Muppets have been posting videos on YouTube since summer 2008, and they’ve all been wonderful, but even the Webby-award-winning “Ode to Joy” took over a year to reach its current tally of 7 million views. So what it is it about “Bohemian Rhapsody?” Is it the fact that there are so many beloved characters in it? Maybe it’s because “Rhapsody” is a hit rock song rather than a centuries-old Beethoven tune. Maybe it’s because the selection of such a grown-up song reminds people that the Muppets are (as they say) not just for kids. Orrrrr, maybe it’s just because it’s so dang good.

bohemian-bobobeakerBut here’s the thing. A lot of folks — both casual fans and hardcore geeks — have declared this to be the first sign of the Muppets’ “comeback,” but I just can’t join that parade yet. For one thing, the video is only four minutes and 47 seconds long. People are enjoying the Muppets while they’re wasting time at work, sure. But would they sit still for an hour-long TV special? Or a two-hour movie? Or (We can always hope!) a new TV series?

Also, clicking on a YouTube link is free. The current promotional push is presumably paving the way for an eventual new movie, but movie tickets cost more than free. And anyway, by the time a film is ready for release “Bohemian Rhapsody” will probably be two years old, and who knows if anyone will still care by then?

Yecch, okay. That’s enough Mr. Cynical-Pants. I will be delighted if my fears prove unfounded. This video is amazing, and I will continue to re-watch it and re-re-re-re-watch it. We already know there are more videos on the way — “Carol of the Bells,” “American Woman”, “Stand By Me,” and “Dust in the Wind,” which I’m especially intrigued about — and any of those could turn out to be just as huge.

If they can keep up this momentum, keep making these excellent videos, keep doing public appearances (and keep believing, keep pretending), then they can make sure audiences don’t forget two simple facts: 1) The Muppets are still around, and 2) They are awesome. And then we can all scaramouche, scaramouche and do the fandango.

Click here to wax rhapsodic on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Ryan Roe –

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