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Sunday, March 06, 2016

'The Muppets Review & Renew' by Nicholas Napoli

MuppetsHenson EXCLUSIVE 

Once again we are privileged to have another fantastic article written by an amazing writer and friend to MuppetsHenson, Nicholas Napoli. This is a really special article and a MUST READ for all fans of ABC's "The Muppets". Please share it with all you know. 

- Brian Knatchbull

'The Muppets Review & Renew'

In 2004 Disney acquired the rights to The Muppets and soon after released The Muppets Wizard of Oz, The Muppets Show Season Sets (1-3) and slowly started introducing The Muppets to the internet (It’s Time To Play The Music). In 2008 we were treated to a Muppet Christmas Special, the start of a series of numerous Muppet YouTube Videos and let’s not forget The Muppets began using Facebook too (It’s Time To Light The Lights). Seven years after being purchased by Disney The Muppets finally got their long awaited return to the big screen and The Muppets (2011) was released to the World. The Muppets hadn’t made a movie since 1999, heck The Muppets hadn’t had any regular televised screen presence since 1996/7 on their short lived TV show Muppets Tonight yet people around the world were still willing to pay to meet The Muppets once again (It’s Time To Meet The Muppets). The Muppets never went away, for the last few years The Muppets have been very busy keeping their current fan base happy but they hadn’t had the proper chance to expand and find a bigger fan base, not until now anyway. They’ve been active since they first began as an ensemble on The Muppet Show back in 1976 but to the casual non-Muppet viewer The Muppets had basically disappeared for the last few years. 

The Muppets (2011) addressed this by having The Muppets reunite after being separated from each other for a few years to put on a show again, people wanted to know where The Muppets had gone, people had anticipated their return and it was very well received. Then in 2014 came Muppets Most Wanted and as amazing as it was, sadly it didn’t have the same strong numbers the first one did, was it a bad movie? In my opinion as a Muppet Fan it was better than the first and the first one was amazing. As a Fan I would watch anything The Muppets do but the important thing here is not only to keep the Fans happy but also gain new ones both young and old along the way, creating a bigger fan base so we can finally take on all those Star Wars nerds. Whilst watching The Muppets (2011) two and a half years earlier had the casual non-Muppet-life-long viewer found a favourite Muppet? Had they developed interest in the Muppets relationships be it romantic or friendship? Had they laughed enough and remembered the characters well enough to warrant getting out of their house, going all the way to the theatre and spending their money… again? No matter how entertaining the first one was. Its Human nature, if something you enjoy suddenly stops and doesn’t properly continue until a few years later then you lose enthusiasm. I know it happens to me when most shows reach their season finale and don’t return for a few months and that is only a few months not years. Unless you’re a huge fan then when a show returns you aren’t as invested enough as you once were when you last watched it. In 2015 The Muppets were finally given the chance to do what they do best, entertain us by putting on a show on a weekly basis (On The Muppet Show Tonight) and not every few years or so. 

The Muppets Season One has come and gone, the foundation for The Muppets grand return has been set, The Muppets have finally had the chance to begin showing us just how entertaining they can be (It’s Time To Put On Makeup). Were there a few bumps along the way? Yes there was, every Season One has to find its tone, every Season One makes a few adjustments (It’s Time To Dress Up Right). In my opinion The Muppets began making those adjustments very early on but it wasn’t until the last few episodes where I as a Muppet Fan finally found The Muppet Show I had been waiting for since 1996. Sixteen episodes later and I feel I know The Muppets much better now than I had over the last twenty years. The Muppets Season One has allowed The Muppets to grow, develop and properly reintroduce themselves as characters, all from the comfort of our living room without us having to spend a penny or even put on our shoes. Each Muppet has been given the opportunity to shine, to become their own fan favourite, speak more than three sentences in the lasts ten years and most importantly they are once again current, popular and as entertainingly trending as humanly possible. 

Apart from a few slips along the way The Muppets have stayed true to themselves yet upgraded to today’s TV culture, they have become more mature without losing their uniqueness, innocence or any of their loyal fan base, congratulations to the Writers, that I imagine is something very hard to achieve and at the moment The Muppets are working on every level. Their entertaining kids, tweens, teens, twenty-something’s, adults, oldies and most importantly their Fans who have been waiting years for this to happen as have the Performers and everyone involved, well done everyone on a terrific Season One. The Muppets (2015) began aiming at a more mature audience but as the episodes progressed they have finally found that perfect balance, that balance where The Muppets can be enjoyed as a family. The adult humour is still there yet it can easily go over kid’s heads, the Celebrity cameos are entertaining and fit alongside the storyline nicely rather than feeling odd and out of place. The story lines are captivating, the physical comedy is perfect, Fozzie’s silly jokes, Dr Bunsen Honeydew’s crazy inventions, Beaker’s unfortunate tortures, Swedish Chef’s accent, Gonzo’s stunts and most importantly The Muppets goofy charm, now this is a show the whole family can enjoy. Not only have both Kermit and Miss Piggy been allowed the chance and time to grow and develop into more than just classic characters but they have also made us truly wonder if they will ever get back together or not, they’ve made a very old relationship very interesting again. I always thought Kermit and Miss Piggy would end up together sooner rather than later but after Miss Piggy decided to waffle on Kermit and leave for Thailand I’m very worried that this might not be as simple as I thought. I am truly invested in this relationship and I imagine the rating prove most everyone else is just as interested, have we found our new Ross and Rachel? 

It’s not just Kermit and Miss Piggy, all our main Muppets are back in true form including Gonzo, Fozzie, Animal, Dr Bunsen, Beaker, Sam the Eagle, The Swedish Chef, Statler, Waldorf and Pepe. Then there are all those other classic Muppets who we have been waiting to return in larger roles than they have in the past few years. Is it safe to say Sweetums has not spoken as much as he has this Season as opposed to what he had spoken over the last ten years? The same applies for many old classic returning Muppets such as Rizzo, Scooter, Rowlf, Janice, Floyd, Dr Teeth, Zoot heck even Lips is talking now. Even Robin had his big return, an episode devoted entirely to him, when was the last time Robin had a big featured role? If I’m not mistaken it was back in 1992 when he played Tiny Tim in The Muppets Christmas Carol. There is also the grand return of many old favourite who I imagine to the casual Muppet viewer must seem like new characters including Uncle Deadly, Bobo Bear, Yolanda Rat, Big Mean Carl, Chip, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Beauregard, The Muppet Newsman, Foo-Foo, Beautiful Day Monster and even Andy Pig and Randy Pig silently sitting in the background. Let’s not forget our first brand new recurring Muppet Character Gloria Estefan. 

Yolanda Rat has been around since 1984 when she first appeared working at Pete’s Diner in The Muppets Take Manhattan and finally after so many years she’s finally got the big role she’s always deserved. Yolanda Rat is not only one of my “new” favourite characters but she is the first step in creating something very important that The Muppets have been lacking in for a very long time, more leading Female Muppets. Sure we have Miss Piggy, Janice and Camila but other than those three the female presence in The Muppet community is very low both in characters and fans and I’m very happy to see it slowly becoming larger. The Muppets Season One has introduced us to a group of new strong female Muppet characters many who have been silently around for years. I’m surprised it has taken this long for Janice to reach her full potential seeing as for one she is the only other female Muppet other than Miss Piggy to have been part of the main core group of characters since The Muppet Show first aired. Janice is a very strong female role model as is Miss Piggy, Yolanda, Big Mean Carla and why not Camilla since we’re at it and even Denise who I hope does not disappear into the forgotten Female Pig club alongside Annie-Sue Pig, Spamela and Miss Pooggy. Speaking of Female Pigs I was also very happy to meet Alynda who is basically a grown up version of Belinda who last appeared back in 1992 playing one of Miss Piggy and Kermit’s twin daughters in The Muppets Christmas Carol. The Muppets need more female character which will easily help create a bigger fan base amongst women. Technically now that Disney owns Marvel (I assume that includes Marvel Animation) does that mean Skeeter might be able to pop up one day on set to visit her twin brother? 

We also got to meet Debbie, Gonzo’s online date and although she only appeared once, that was something I really enjoyed and have seen more of as the season has progressed, more Muppet Whatnot’s living in this world which are not just part of the Muppets crew. One of the few underrated movies to get this right was It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie where they mixed The Muppets and Muppet Whatnots nicely into one world which is the same impression I’m getting from this show. The balance between The Muppet Show characters and Muppet Tonight characters has always been a little off throughout the years and again It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie got this right as has this entire season of The Muppets (2015) which as a Muppet Fan is really important to me. The casual Muppet viewer are meeting “new” characters whilst Muppets Fans are salivating over the return of classic favourite ones for example Bubba. The Season Finale was amazing, in one single shot we got the return of Old Tom, Zippity-Zap, Droop, J.G, Link Hogthrob, Pops and even Howard Tubman who best of all manages Geri and the Atrics, Bobby Benson’s Baby Band, Marvin Suggs and his Muppaphones and most importantly Mahna-Mahna and The Snowths! There were so many The Muppet Show and Muppet Tonight characters I never thought I’d see again and they all appeared in one episode, this made me very happy, excited for what’s to come and best yet there are still so many more Muppets to be reintroduced next season. I want more Muppets! I want Johnny Fiama, Sal, Clifford, Bean Bunny, Dr Julius Strangepork, Bobby Benson, Angel-Marie (speaking role), Mildred, Polly Lobster, Clueless Morgan, Mad Monty, Emily Bear, Koozbanians, Dr Phil Van Neuter, Mulch, Blind Pew, Baskerville Hound, Waldo C. Graphic, Walleyed-Pike, Thog, Doglion, Boppity, Gloat… I want them all but most importantly where’s Walter? I hope Walter finds his way back to The Muppets one day. 

Uncle Deadly has also become a huge fan favourite and his relationship with Miss Piggy was an unexpected delight, I remember at one time if you searched for Uncle Deadly on Google unless you wrote “Uncle Deadly Muppets” then all you got were pictures of dead uncles yet now without adding the word Muppets Google directs you straight to Uncle Deadly. According to Muppet Wiki when you search for Uncle Deadly on Google it shows the top searches for Uncle Deadly are Uncle Deadly Amazon/Plush/Stuffed Animal, people are willing and ready to buy Muppet Merchandise. The Muppets (2015) has done what The Muppets (2011) and Muppets Most Wanted (2014) did not have enough time to do, give people their own new favorite Muppets. People saw Rowlf, Scooter, Janice, Sam the Eagle, Sweetums amongst others in the last two movies but now they’ve finally had time to get to know the characters well enough to desire the need to buy Muppets! That happened to me when I was three years old. There are tons of new Muppet toys and collectables being released at the moment and in the near upcoming future including a brand new line of Action Figures by Diamond Select as well as Muppet MiniMates and hopefully soon more Muppet Funkos. Muppets Fans start buying your Muppet merchandise as it becomes available because trust me it’s going to get competitive soon, it won’t be as easy as we’ve had it for the last few years, granted there hasn’t been much merchandise to spend our cash on but by the looks of things that’s all about to change. When you know a Sweetums, Janice, Scooter, Uncle Deadly, Yolanda Rat or even a Howard Tubman stuffed Toy might sell out at The Disney Store then you know The Muppets are doing something right. 

The Muppets (2015) is a perfect mix of The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie including characters introduced to us throughout the years blended nicely into one show. The Muppets are unique and the show itself shows this by being unique on its own, there is no other show like this on prime time TV, especially one where every character can appear at live events be they real or not. There’s something special and different starting here and I hope it’s given the chance to expand and continue showing us just how much fun The Muppets can be for the whole family. If The Muppets doesn’t get renewed for a second season then what’s the plan? Make a few YouTube videos here and there, bring them back in a few years for a TV holiday special and maybe a movie or two in the next seven years? 

By that time those new fans The Muppets have just made will lose interest unless they keep turning on their TV and finding The Muppets looking right back at them for the next few years. The Muppets, The Performers, The Team, Everyone involved have done the hard work it takes to grab an audience during its premier season, using a franchise older than most of us. Now it’s time for The Muppets to have some fun and do what they do best and continue putting on a show each week. There is no need to review season one (which was terrific by the way and I will be reviewing in the future) to support the argument that bringing The Muppets back for a second season is the right move for everybody. It’s the first chance The Muppets have had to show the world how entertaining they can be when given the right opportunity. 

It’s Time To Get Things Started 
On The Most Sensational, Inspirational, 
Celebrational Muppetational, 
This Is What We Call Season Two! 

- Nicholas Napoli 

Coming Next: 
The Muppets Season One Review 
Muppet Relationships (#TeamJam) 
Muppet Character Developments 
A Guide To Collecting Muppets

1 comment:

  1. I'm so hoping for a Season 2! Btw I think Gonzo's online date was named after and looks like Dave Goelz's wife...just guessing