Jarrod Fairclough – It’s been a tumultuous week in the world of The Academy Awards. First, rumors flew that no-one wanted the hosting gig. Then, comedian and actor Kevin Hart was given the role. Then, a bunch of his old homophobic tweets were revealed, Then, he gave a weird non-apology, and THEN, he resigned from the position, 24 hours after the initial announcement.
Look, whoever takes the gig is going to be scrutinized by the public, put through the wringer, chewed up and spat out a dozen times before the first celebrity even hits the red carpet. That’s because these award shows are just glorified variety hours, stretched out 300% with the occasional award for Best Sound Mixing thrown in. And with variety shows almost a dead art at this point, it’s time The Academy put in charge the one troupe who still know what they’re doing in that arena – The Muppets.
Over five seasons, The Muppets produced 120 half hour shows, wringing comedy out of old vaudeville numbers, bad stand up spots, and parodies galore. They got big name stars to do things you’d never expect to see them do. And they did every single second of it with a lot of heart. Which makes them perfect for a gig centred around show business, something they’ve been satirizng for almost 50 years.
Let The Muppets put on a show for a few hours, let them wreak havoc onstage and off, breaking up the monotomy of forced celebrity pairings with no chemistry and the introduction of the accountants. The number one complaint from audiences AND the guests is that the show gets dull after the first half an hour. Imagine Kermit MC-ing the night, interrupted by Animal in the bandstand, or Bunsen and Beaker who’ve made some sort of Oscar cleaning machine. Imagine if Fozzie came out and did a stand up spot at minute 45, heckled by Statler and Waldorf who would rightfully be in the balconies, commenting on the winners and losers and musical numbers. Imagine Gonzo getting Emma Stone on stage to assist him in a daring act that sends her flying into the wings during minute 102? Imagine Dr Teeth and The Electric Mayhem singing a rocking ode to film during minute 151? Imagine Piggy finding each nominee for Best Actress backstage throughout the night, attempting to sabotage them so she can take home the coveted gold statue? It would keep the show exciting and fresh, pumping new life in to what is seen as a dying event.
If the recent Hollywood Bowl and O2 Arena shows have proved anything, it’s that The Muppets are thriving in a life environment these days. Disney have finally stopped worrying about letting the audience see the puppeteers, so there would be no need to have strategic coverings around the stage to hide them from the audience. And there’s a certain electricity in the air when the performers are doing their thing. This electricity even permeates through a camera to people watching at home, at least that’s the reaction I’ve seen in comment sections when we’ve shared any live event appearances.
It wouldn’t be the first time The Muppets have attending the show. In 1980, Miss Piggy and host Johnny Carson bickered about her lack of nomination for The Muppet Movie. Later that same night, Kermit appeared to sing his nominated song from the same film, ‘Rainbow Connection’. In 1982, Kermit and Piggy appeared again to sing their duet from The Great Muppet Caper, ‘The First Time It Happens’. In 1986, Scooter and Kermit appeared in a hilarious clip to present an award (joined in a recorded clip by Statler and Waldorf), playing on the fact that they were puppets and couldn’t open the envelope, finally aided by Jim Henson himself. In 1996, Miss Piggy appeared via satellite, interrupting host Whoopi Goldberg’s video link interview with Babe, and finally in 2012, Kermit and Miss Piggy appeared to present an act by Cirque du Soliel. Many of these moments are still recounted as fan favorites, and can be seen online and in various ‘Best of the Oscars’ specials. Even Liz Lemon in 30 Rock mentions one of her favorite things in the world is when The Muppets present at award shows.
By putting to work every puppeteer they’ve used in these live shows, characters can pop up literally anywhere within seconds of each other. And while I know the budget likely wouldn’t necessarily allow for such a large cast of performers, I’m willing to bet a lot of them would do it for a low rate, just for the experience and the joy it would bring both the guests and the audiences at home. Back in 2011, there was a massive fan campaign to get this very thing to happen, something that I don’t know was possible then. Now, things are different, and Hollywood is ready.
This is a no-brainer, Academy. By putting beloved show business legends in charge, you’d be appealing to the masses through both comedy and nostalgia. If Disney really is having some trouble trying to figure out what to do with The Muppets after the ABC series failed, this is where they make that good will back. The Muppets are entertainment royalty. Give them their throne, even just for the night.