Today’s article was written by ToughPigs’ own Leah Hooper. Special thanks to Leah for all her hard work!

Last night I sat down to watch a television special that recently aired on the Disney Channel. Entitled Studio DC: Almost Live!, the show purported to feature the Muppets, which is how I came to be watching the program to begin with.

First, some background: I’m a fan of the Muppets, but not a Fan. My boyfriend, Peter, is the Fan in our house. He knows which episode of The Muppet Show featured Clive Cahuenga; I can’t tell the difference between Clifford and Jar Jar Binks. But I watched Sesame Street and The Muppet Show as a kid — the latter with my parents, who would laugh at mysterious jokes that eluded me and suggested that the comely, curious puppets on screen were more than just kids’ stuff. So I’ve always had an affection for — if not an encyclopedic knowledge of — Hensonia and its inhabitants. Which brings us to Studio DC.

Joining us for the viewing were two other Muppet Fans who, like Peter, were anxious if unoptimistic about possibilities of Studio DC: Almost Live!. Watching these fans await the premiere of this new Muppet endeavor was a little like watching the law of entropy in action: no matter how excited you want to be or how well you want it to end, you know the chaotic tragedy is predestined. Outside Sesame Street, which continues (“Elmo’s World” notwithstanding — just ask a baby) to live up to its legacy as outstanding programming, it seems that many recent Muppet offerings continue not just to disappoint but to be lost in a frenetic, Disney-crafted phantasmagoria of cross-marketed incoherence. It was in this tradition, and not in the beauty of “Turn the World Around” or the sanguine whimsy of Gilda Radner and the Seven-Foot-Tall Talking Carrot, that Studio DC continued.

The show begins with an announcer oozing Cool over a pre-fabricated bass beat that I can only assume was meant to indicate to the pre-teen audience that this is not your older cousin’s (no, not that one; the one who just started at Arizona State — yeah, that one) Disney Channel. You know, the Disney Channel that actually showed Disney cartoons and had no commercials. But whatever.

Then the hosts come out, Cole and Dylan Sprouts, or something like that. They’re starring in a show on the Disney Channel that I think is supposed to be, like, if Eloise had a sex change and instead of running around the Plaza bossed around her single mom and a black guy. As the hosts arrive on screen, I realize that I saw them in Big Daddy. I don’t know who the other kid is, but I swear the one of the left is Adam Sandler. Only he got fat. Pepe and Rizzo show up and tell a joke that could have been written by a baby seal, post-clubbing.

Next, Billy Ray Cyrus sings part of a song. Where’s the rest of the song? Maybe he’s hiding it in his soul patch for later. Then Billy Ray’s daughter, Rhoda Minnesota or something, sings her hit song called “G.N.U.,” a ballad about a party-loving equine mammal. Her back-up band was the Electric Mayhem, but they seemed a little more like the Battery-Powered Tameness. At least Animal got a chance to cop a feel on Billy Ray’s daughter. I wish Annie Leibovitz had gotten a photo of that.

I started to suspect that things were going downhill when I could actually understand something the Swedish Chef said. And the situation only got worse. Have you noticed that I’ve not mentioned the Muppets much? That’s because Studio DC didn’t either. Zac Efron got more play, and he wasn’t even there.

A plot rubbed its sleepy eyes, looked around, tried to muster the strength to get up and start the day but ultimately decided to hit the snooze and stay in bed for the rest of the show. So much the better; I wouldn’t want the product placement to get obstructed.

Then an Olympics-themed commercial aired for the Disney Games, featuring the Cheetah Girls. Are they the ones who sing “Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Legal Like Me?” In any case, I’m glad to see the Disney Channel is building a cavalcade of players that I’m sure will rival “Your Show of Shows” in the glory days. With more lip-synching, of course.

Studio DC recommences, and I’m starting to feel like I need something to restore my faith in mankind and my optimism about the future. Say, a mushroom cloud? A speech from Dubya? A Seth Green movie?

Now Ashley Tisdale shows up and asks Kermit, “Where’s Miss Piggy?” My thoughts exactly. Presently Titsdale shimmies around speaking white-lady-talking-to-gardener Spanish and THEN THERE IS AN AMAZING PIECE OF PUPPETEERING WHEN STEVE WHITMIRE MAKES KERMIT DO A KICK. Mucho gusto, indeed.

A few minutes later, Miss Piggy joins the Jonas Brothers for a song. The Jonas Brothers, as you may know, made a fortune last year in cloning and then spent it all in waxing services and Hot Topic merchandise. And I notice that Piggy, unlike the Jonases, isn’t wearing a promise ring. The whore.

And then Adam Sandler and his co-host show up and I think the show ended. At least that’s when credits came up and Statler and Waldorf started cracking jokes. This was the part that hurt the most, because it made the distance between Studio DC and The Muppet Show all the more glaring, since The Muppet Show is where Statler and Waldorf’s choleric heckling began and ripened to full vaudevillian juiciness. Maybe it’s because Peter and I have been watching so many episodes of The Muppet Show, which represent, to my inexpert audience mind, a television Camelot of Muppetdom, full of artistic and comical beauty so great that it imbued even a bulbous nine-foot blue monster with a kind of knightly comeliness. Whatever the reason, watching Studio DC: Almost Live felt like seeing Jackie Kennedy trawling the Port Authority area, with one tooth, offering to do the no-pants dance with you for a pack of Newports. You keep trying to reconcile this image with the older one, the better one, and they simply don’t match up.

But like I said, I’m not a Muppet Fan, I’m a fan. That’s why I don’t jump at any chance to see the puppets doing, say, an appearance on The View or selling Ginsu knives on QVC. I want the Muppets, and they were nowhere to be seen in Studio DC: Almost Live. And, no, it doesn’t deserve the exclamation point. Period.
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