As I write this, we still have three episodes of The Muppets left to air, and there is no official word either way on whether the show will end after the two-part finale on March 1st or if we’ll be treated to another bundle of Muppet half-hours.
This is quite possibly the most frustrated we’ve been in the Muppet fan community. And we’ve dealt with our fair share of frustrations in recent years: Wondering why the turnout for Muppets Most Wanted was so underwhelming, slapping our heads at the release of specials like the Lady Gaga Christmas or Studio DC, and most of all, the wasteland of the early 2000s when nothing was happening with the brand at all. But this time, we know there’s a quality product, it has a strong following with vocal fans and critics, and we’re crossing our fingers week-to-week hoping that enough people give it a second shot and drive those Nielsen numbers up.
The frustrating part comes when we realize that there’s not much we can do. Here at ToughPigs HQ, we’ve been doing as much as we’re physically able: Timely reviews, social media banners, sharing press photos, and downright begging people to watch. But beyond that, Muppet fans can only hope that the unseen masses change the channel to ABC on Tuesdays at 8:30.
Now, this article that you’re reading at the moment isn’t to warn you that The Muppets is DOOOOMED!, or that we need to overtake the ABC offices Oregon-militia-style. We just want to share a few thoughts about why the show deserves a stay of execution, and if an ABC executive happens to read it and agree with our thoughts, then we all win. Especially all of those good-looking, well-dressed Disney executives who use their amazing talent, charm, and brains to keep the Muppets on TV where they belong. (Sorry, I think I got a little butter all over my argument.)
So here we go: Reasons why The Muppets deserves a second season!
The Muppets started off strong, but it slowly improved over the first few episodes. And then after the break, it got a lot better. The trajectory has been incredible, and it would be awful to be deprived of what could be even better than what we’ve already seen. Just think of it: More dogs and frog and bears and chickens and whatever! Glorious.
After Kristin Newman took over showrunning duties, the show underwent some fantastic upgrades. We got more characters, less hatred for Miss Piggy, more songs and sketches, better celebrity involvement, and most importantly: More joy. And that was just from a couple months off to oil the greasy wheels. Just imagine what would happen if they took an entire summer off! By taking their time to tweak what needs to be tweaked, The Muppets could become exactly the sort of show the haters wanted to see way back on episode 1, fitting that perfect balance between the old Muppet Show and all of the updated concepts.
It’s pretty rare that a first season of any classic TV show hits it out of the park. It’s much more likely that a great show would start out weak, and then improve significantly for the second season. For example: Star Trek, The Office, Parks and Recreation, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, M*A*S*H, and, believe it or not, The Muppet Show. All of those series skyrocketed in quality, critically, and in viewership with a second season. Sometimes you just have to let a show learn from its mistakes and gain its audience, or else be relegated to the Brilliant But Canceled list that includes Firefly, Freaks and Geeks, and My So-Called Life.
Between her stellar work on The Muppets and two successful seasons of Galavant, showrunner Kristin Newman could be ABC’s wunderkind for musical comedy. She’s only worked on about 6 Muppet episodes, and what she’s done goes far beyond just potential. I think she can do great things if she’s given the chance to really delve into a series and make it her own. But that can’t happen if she doesn’t, y’know, have a show.
I know, there are already around 20,000 Muppets in existence, but for the longest time we’ve only been able to focus on the core characters. With a continuing weekly series, we can spend a little more time with Muppets like Big Mean Carl, the Newsman, Chip, and Yolanda. We can also bring forgotten/obscure characters to the forefront like Uncle Deadly. Having more characters gives the Muppets a bigger palette to play with, and that extends to merchandise, future films, YouTube videos, social media, and the public conversation. In essence: People care more when there’s more to care about.
Even Disney’s flops get their own corner of the gift shop to sell their wares. For some reason, the Muppets never got much attention through two movies and a sitcom, but there’s so much potential there for more toys, t-shirts, and classic DVDs (Muppet Show seasons 4 and 5 would make a great companion!). Who wouldn’t jump at the chance at buying an Uncle Deadly doll (with Gloria Estefan in a removable papoose)?? Plus, the fact that the new series has been bringing a lot of C-list characters back into prominence means a lot more potential for cool stuff people might actually want to spend money on. And it’s not like any other ABC prime time show has the potential to sell this kind of merchandise (except maybe Agents of SHIELD) – Would Dr. Ken lend itself to stuffed animals?? Getting more eyes on the show via additional episodes can only mean more stuff at the toy store.
Disneyland and Walt Disney World provide a great cross section of all of Disney’s big properties. They’re all represented in the forms of rides, shows, restaurants, gift shops, and so on and so on. With the potential closing of Muppet*Vision 3D, a second season of The Muppets may keep it around for a while longer (or justify an updated version). And a successful sitcom could even allow for a second attraction (maybe that rumored Muppet restaurant??).
One thing the Muppets have never had before is ongoing storylines. The movies are all standalones, and each episode of the other TV series are continuity-free. But The Muppets has can hit different story beats over the course of a season. The Kermit-Piggy-Denise love triangle, for example, gave the Muppets more press than they’d seen in years. But the important takeaway is this: The Muppets finally allows the opportunity to do something new with the franchise. Keeping the show around will help keep them from getting stale, or falling into the same patterns of lame jokes, bland YouTube videos, and unwatchable guest appearances. (Of which there are so, so many.)
Arguably, some of the best work the Muppets have done in recent years are their YouTube videos. They’re funny, musical, Muppety, and are quite possibly the closest we’ll ever get to an updated version of The Muppet Show. But without a show on TV, there isn’t much need for them. It would be tragic to deny the world more of those videos, and if it takes an extremely expensive TV series to keep them going, then I think it’s worth the investment. You know, for all that sweet, sweet viral video money.
That’s the word of the day when it comes to Disney stuff, isn’t it? The Muppets are unique in that they’re among the only fictional characters that can make live appearances. Mickey Mouse can’t show up on The Chew, Anna and Elsa won’t be promoting their inevitable sequel on Modern Family, and any human Disney star would likely make appearances as themselves and not their characters. But the Muppets can go on talk shows, ride in parades, cameo on sitcoms, or come hang out in the apartment of a lonely Muppet blogger. Basically, they can do whatever Disney wants them to do, without requiring months of notice and a team of Korean animators. Without a reason for them to show up elsewhere on our TVs or computer screens, Disney is missing out on an opportunity to keep all of their brands tied together (not to mention a reason for uninspired talk show hosts to ask about Kermit and Piggy’s relationship again).
Frog forbid, if The Muppets doesn’t get renewed for a second season, it won’t mean the end of the Muppets as a brand. They’ll keep making YouTube videos, TV specials, straight-to-DVD movies, and if we’re lucky, another feature film. With a continuing Muppet TV series, they’ll never have to re-introduce audiences to the characters, keeping them in the public eye and building an actual franchise, rather than just giving us a production here and there. No one would ever wonder who Fozzie Bear is again! (Spoilers: He’s the bear. No, the other bear.)
The Muppets are a brand. The Muppets are a family. The Muppets are an institution. They are classic and new. They are joyful and chaotic. They are full of potential. They can be unaging and immortal. They work on TV, on the big screen, and on a smart phone screen. The Muppets are beloved by millions, and most importantly, they are representative of a larger legacy. On a purely symbolic level, they deserve a little more time on TV, if only to help some people remember what the Muppets mean to us all.
Remember, keep tuning in to The Muppets, streaming it online, setting your DVR, and buying the episodes on iTunes or Amazon. ABC is paying attention, and we owe it to Kermit and his pals to do our part in keeping his dream of making people happy alive.
(Art by Smig!)
Click here to just renew it already on the ToughPigs forum!
by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com