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Press Release

New PTC Research Finds ABC’s The Muppets Exposes Kids to Adult-Themed Content Every 3 Minutes

Nielsen Data Indicates Over One Million Children Ages 2-11 Watch Each Week

By: Kelley Oliver

Release Date: 10/20/2015

LOS ANGELES (October 20, 2015) – New research from the Parents Television Council shows that the over 4 million children ages 2-11 who watched ABC’s The Muppets were exposed to adult-themed content every 3 minutes and 38 seconds during the first four episodes. The iconic stars of the show, Kermit and Miss Piggy, have delivered nearly half of all sexual innuendos and references on show. Additionally, one bar scene in the 4th episode was long enough to consume almost one-quarter of the show’s screen time, during which Muppet characters were shown drinking and becoming drunk from beer, wine, and hard liquor.

Contrast that with The Muppets Series Producer Bob Kushell’s recent comments: “We know our audience is going to be families watching, adults watching with their children, so we’re not pitching stories or thinking of stories that are, like Norman Lear stories from the 1970s.” (Source: TV Line)

Nielsen data indicates that over one million children ages 2-11 have watched The Muppets each week. And of the children who are watching, the ratio of young children ages 2-11 is more than twice that of older children ages 12-17.

“Kermit and Miss Piggy, please meet Joe Camel. It is a tragedy that one of the most iconic children’s television shows in history, The Muppets, would be so filled with adult content – sexual innuendoes, sexual references, drugs and alcohol, to be exact – that it would become too toxic for children. Our research shows that The Muppets isn’t a show for kids, yet it was supposedly created for families to watch together. Perhaps that’s why ratings for the show have continued to sink every week,” said PTC President Tim Winter.

“It’s hard to imagine another primetime TV show that, in theory, should be safe for parents and children to watch together other than The Muppets. But you have Miss Piggy talking about having plastic surgery on her breasts and buttocks, Kermit talking about ‘cross-promoting’ with a female character, and a variety of characters drinking at a bar. The disconnect Hollywood has from the rest of America over a definition of ‘family programming’ is astounding.

“Make no mistake, children are inherently attracted to The Muppets, and over a million young children are watching the program each week. No matter how ‘edgy’ ABC or the show’s producers want to make The Muppets, kids still reasonably believe the show is for them. We urge the network and everyone involved with this program to re-think the dangerous direction of this program. And in the meantime, we urge parents to be warned about letting their children watch The Muppets.”

RESEARCH BACKGROUND:

The Parents Television Council’s Research Department reviewed the first 4 episodes of The Muppets for the 2015-2016 Fall season and examined them for adult-themed content and messaging. Violence was not included in the analysis. However, the few instances of violence were mild. Also, there were a few instances of mild language (e.g. “suck” and “hell”). These were not counted in the data. Therefore, relative to “language,” only sexual language was included in the study. The episodes included in the study aired on the following dates: 9/22/15, 9/29/15, 10/6/15, and 10/13/15.

MAJOR FINDINGS:

  • In just four episodes, there were a total of 33 instances of adult-themed content. That is equivalent to one instance of adult-themed content airing every 3 minutes and 38 seconds.
  • Most of the adult-themed content within the show consisted of sexual innuendos or alcohol and drug references/depictions.
  • Forty-six percent of all the adult-themed content was sexual (45.5%).
  • Fifty-five percent of all the adult-themed content consisted of alcohol or drug references and depictions (54.5%).
  • The following Muppet characters delivered sexual, alcohol, or drug-related content: Miss Piggy, Kermit, Fozzie, Scooter, the band, Yolanda, Animal, Rizzo, Sam, Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Bobo, Waldorf, Floyd, Uncle Deadly, Pepe, Sweetums, and Swedish Chef.
  • Over 70% of all alcohol and drug references/depictions aired in the two most recent episodes (episodes #3 and #4) (72.2%).
  • The number of instances doesn’t tell the full story of how much adult-themed content a child watching The Muppets would consume. Screen time (the amount of time allotted for a scene, actor, subject matter, or show) is also important to consider. One bar scene in the fourth episode of The Muppets was counted as one instance. However, the scene was long enough to consume almost one-quarter of the show’s screen time. During this scene, the Muppets were drinking and shown becoming drunk from beer, wine, and hard liquor.
  • Eighty percent of all the sexual content aired in the first two episodes (80%) was in the form of sexual innuendos (e.g. “too many women, too many towns”); sexual references (e.g. “sex it to me sake boy”); and anatomical references (e.g. “I’m getting this thing hiked over Hiatus”).
  • Almost half of all sexual content in the study was delivered by the two most famous, iconic children’s characters: Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy (46.7%).  

Additional information about this research, including charts, graphs, and dialogue examples, can be found here: http://www.parentstv.org/MuppetsStudy2015

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The Parents Television Council® (www.parentstv.org) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media.

This national grassroots organization has more than 1.4 million members, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children.

The PTC™ also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.

Visit the new PTC Watchdog Blog at www.parentstv.org/blog.

Follow the PTC on Twitter: @ThePTC.
 
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To speak with a representative from the Parents Television Council, please contact Kelly Oliver at (703) 307-9404 or email at kelly@kellyoliverpr.com.