You can call ABC’s “The Muppets” many things, but you can’t call it typical. Eschewing the usual family friendly style, this was a new “Muppets” show trying to bring in a 21st century audience through changers that included a Kermit the Frog who was divorced from Miss Piggy and dating another pig. For some reason, the show never clicked with audiences, and it was cancelled after 16 episodes. Original Muppeteer Frank Oz thinks he knows why.
Oz, the man behind Miss Piggy, Cookie Monster and Yoda, has lots of criticism for the recent “Muppets” series, starting with the strength of its puppetry. “My brothers, my sisters, were in there [as the puppeteers]. They did the very best they could. But essentially, they were working with scripts that other people wrote,” Oz said, “Those abilities, to riff and be smart enough, weren’t appreciated.” It’s not that the puppeteers lacked talent, but that the single camera mockumentary style, made popular by “Modern Family” and the “Office,” took something away from the energy in the original “Muppet Show” and “Muppets Tonight.”
His criticism wasn’t just limited to the style and format. In the end, it turns out that Oz is as much a purist as so many other “Muppets” fans. “I felt the show wasn’t true to the characters. There was a purity in each character that was vital. I felt that purity was being moved around to areas that didn’t feel right.” He didn’t elaborate, but one could extrapolate from context that he was unhappy with the show’s adult tone.
“The Muppets” was troubled from the start, with behind-the-scenes shakeups leading to the showrunner stepping away from the show early in production. The Muppets will next be seen in the 2018 revival of “Muppet Babies” in a CGI cartoon made for Disney Junior.
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