ABC tried something brand new with an old franchise in 2015 when it debuted The Muppets as an adult primetime mockumentary-style comedy. It brought back the classic Muppet characters, including Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo, and it had the potential to be a big hit for ABC. Unfortunately, The Muppets never took off the way it needed to, and ABC cancelled it after one season. Now, legendary Muppet puppeteer Frank Oz has weighed in on where The Muppets went wrong, saying this:
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. They had to do it the way it was. If it was given more air and they trusted the performers, as we had air, it would have come alive more. Those abilities, to riff and be smart enough, weren't appreciated.
It seems that Frank Oz believes that the rigid scripted format of the primetime series was simply not a good fit for the Muppets. In fact, he admitted in his chat with Variety that he only made it through "the first 15 minutes" of the show. Evidently, he could tell straight away that the legendary Muppet magic wasn't there for The Muppets, no matter how skilled the puppeteers were. Of course, there are legions of Star Wars fans who might argue that Oz's fondness for Jar Jar Binks means that his judgment isn't the greatest, but who can really argue with Frank Oz when it comes to puppetry?
Luckily, Frank Oz elaborated on what he felt The Muppets was truly missing:
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.
Interestingly, Frank Oz isn't the only person to think that The Muppets was missing what made the Muppets so lovable in the first place. Back when the show was still on the air, ABC President Paul Lee revealed that The Muppets wasn't working because it didn't have "the joy and the laughter and the heart that it should have." Throw in the behind-the-scenes shakeup that cost The Muppets its showrunner early on and the dwindling ratings after a mid-Season 1 reboot, and it's not all that surprising that The Muppets got the axe from ABC. The show was apparently a few ingredients short of a recipe for success.
We can bet that the Muppets will be back on TV again at some point, and Disney Junior actually has a Muppet Babies reboot in the works, so it's only a matter of time before we see if different handling can produce a successful Muppets TV show. Check out our midseason TV premiere schedule to see everything you can catch on the small screen in the meantime. If streaming is more your style, take a look at our 2017 Netflix premiere schedule.