Since the holidays, the show has improved — but has not attracted more viewers.
Ever since its premiere in September 2015, ABC’s mockumentary-style sitcom The Muppets has been struggling to find its audience. The series takes place in Los Angeles and follows the lives of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and a seemingly endless list of crazy felt-covered characters. They all work on the fictional late night talk show Up Late with Miss Piggy, which is hosted by, you guessed it, Miss Piggy. Kermit is the frog in charge as the talk show’s showrunner, Fozzie is the warm-up guy for the live studio audience, and Gonzo serves alongside several other Muppets on the talk show’s writing staff.
There was an immediate concern from fans of the original series, who were upset to find these beloved childhood characters portrayed as working adults in the sometimes superficial world of the entertainment industry. The first 10 episodes of the first season showed a real lack of awareness of, and even a purposeful push-away from, the traditional motivations of the characters. The Muppets now seemed like they were more concerned with the Hollywood trappings of fame and fortune. The show’s creators Bill Prady and Bob Kushell specifically went this route in order update the Muppets for younger audiences, but this choice was the ultimate reason why the future of the series was left in jeopardy.
After the holiday hiatus, The Muppets returned in February to finish the season with its final six episodes; but a significant difference in the show’s attitude was evident. This overall change was due to an overhaul of the series that began with Bob Kushell leaving his position as showrunner back in November, right before the mid-season finale. ABC promptly appointed Kristin Newman to the showrunner position, and announced that the show would be rebooting the direction of the series. Newman said in a statement, “There are people who want it to be more adult, and people who want it to be less adult, and people who hate this character, and the people who love that character — so my job is to listen to what everybody is saying in common. And what they were all saying was, ‘We want the tone to be more joyful. We want the Muppets to be the Muppets.’”
Newman admits to being a fan of the Muppets long before she took the position. As the showrunner, Newman helped create a storyline that would bring the joy and positivity back to the program.
One of Newman’s biggest changes to The Muppets were the addition of the wackier, more obscure characters that might have been forgotten by even the most diehard fans. Another major change was the introduction of a new villain that would cause the Muppets to unite against him. This new villain is a selfish, egotistical hipster named Pizza that was appointed by the network executives to help rebrand Up Late with Miss Piggy.
The most important change of all is that of Miss Piggy, and her transition from a delusional diva to an amazing ally. Upon the show’s return after the hiatus, Miss Piggy declares that she is a new pig after a life-changing trip to Argentina. She returns with a new vigor, self-awareness, and confidence that is noticed by her ex-boyfriend Kermit. In the season finale, it is teased that Miss Piggy and Kermit may become couple again; but just like the actual show The Muppets, the changes might have been too little, too late.
In the end, Miss Piggy decides to buy a ticket to Thailand, and Kermit surprises her by joining her on the airplane. This was how the season ended, and it is very likely how the series will end. ABC has not announced whether or not the series will be given the green light for a second season. According to the ratings, even the changes to the second part of the series weren’t enough to bring in the viewers the network was hoping for. Maybe the beloved characters will get a second or third chance to garner a loyal audience; and in time, this show could be one of ABC’s most successful series…as long as they stay true to their family-friendly brand.