Last Tuesday, I was waiting eagerly for the premiere of "The Muppets" on ABC-TV (Chicago's Channel 7). I was a little old for "Sesame Street," but I loved "The Muppet Show" of later decades.
I spent last Tuesday with the old show's theme song rattling around in my mind's ear:
"It's time to play the music!
It's time to light the lights!
It's time to raise the curtain
on 'The Muppet Show' tonight!"
Well, stop the music, dim the lights, and drop the curtain. I won't be watching the second episode of the new version of "The Muppets."
I was stunned by how bad the new show is. Instead of counting the ways, let me tell you the words -- the words for qualities I expected, and missed, in the program's premiere:
Liveliness -- The new show was slow and dull. My dictionary says "lively" is "full of life; active; vigorous." It also lists "lifelike" as a rare definition. The active Muppet characters I expected were neither active nor vigorous, and surrounding them with so many humans takes away the "lifelike" side of the definition.
Originality -- Instead of the characters "being themselves," the cast imitated a documentary style which (I'm told) was used in the show "The Office." So much for one of the great qualities of the old "Muppet Show," originality -- "the quality or state of being original." (P.S. "The Office" itself has been canceled.)
Silliness -- There was one good silly moment, two Russian mice "Dancing with the Czars" when the host of "Dancing with the Stars," Tom Bergeron, was one of the human characters nearby. I expected much more silliness on that level, the dictionary's "quality or state of being silly," which is itself "having or showing little sense, judgment or subtlety." I watch the Muppets to laugh, not to have to figure things out.
Wit -- The old formula of one or two humans in a sea of Muppets was fodder for wittier situations than the new setup, single Muppets in various places in the human world.
Innocence -- Romantic breakups, Kermit? Fozzie Bear meeting his human girlfriend's family? The whole "adult" tone of the new show is just unbelievable, especially compared to the light touch of the Kermit/Miss Piggy romance of the old days. This isn't more than I want to know, it's more than I can believe.
Fun -- Silliness, wit and general anarchy once made the Muppets wonderful satirists of science fiction ("Pigs in Spaaaaaaace!"), music, and anything else within their range. Now, when the world so badly needs a laugh, it seems that these Muppets have no sense of fun.
So I'll have better things to do with my Tuesday evening. I'm sorry about that.
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