Review: ‘The Muppets’ Premiere Offers Few Laughs

“The Muppets” have returned to television on ABC, centering its plot on the behind-the-scenes activities with a show, “Up Late with Miss Piggy.” As might be expected, Miss Piggy comes out in full force as a veritable drama queen, rejecting Kermit’s booking of Elizabeth Banks (“30 Rock”) for one evening. Kermit, the executive producer, feels exasperated for most of the episode as he corrects the crew in staff meetings. It ends up leaving one rather disappointed about a comeback that fails to hit the mark.

The Muppets

Photo credit: ABC

Styled in a mockumentary format, the jokes seem particularly forced with innuendo that does little to raise a laugh. Kermit’s frustrations also don’t rouse much sympathy but instead come off as tiresome. Much has been made in recent weeks concerning the breakup between Kermit and Piggy. Fans are perplexed about the frog’s new choice for a girlfriend, Denise from ABC Marketing. She might be a nice pig, but Kermit’s fascination with her and the flirting are flat out awkward to watch.

In spite of the dragging of the major thread here, two or three small scenes prove to be fun. First, there’s a screen test with Elizabeth Banks and Miss Piggy for “Hunger Games,” in which Piggy latches onto the “hungry” aspect rather than the popular novel series. Fozzie Bear is worried about impressing his girlfriend’s parents, who are quite rightly astonished at finding him to be a bear. He admits to getting his fish at Costco. Later on, Scooter and Elizabeth Banks have a fight on the studio lot.

Kermit turns out to be in the wrong and makes his apologies to Piggy. Both characters are still hurt by the breakup and working together on a show will continue to be a challenge. Overall, “The Muppets” on ABC is a far cry from the more uplifting and entertaining Muppets film of 2011. Tom Bergeron (“Dancing With the Stars”), Imagine Dragons, and Gonzo contribute lines, but all three are sorely underused in this episode. Throwing in cameos for the sake of a cameo is a waste of time for everyone. The program also needs to develop its own style, rather than simply being a tired amalgamation of “The Office” and “30 Rock.” Thus far it’s not a promising start, but don’t count “The Muppets” out yet on ABC.

“The Muppets” airs on Tuesday evenings at 8|7c.

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