Following the R-rated zaniness of 2018's The Happytime Murders, puppeteering mastermind Brian Henson shifted his focus to a far more family-oriented project, Disney+'s latest original TV series Earth to Ned. A non-topical talk show hosted by the massive alien Ned, along with his put-upon sidekick Cornelius, Earth to Ned features an array of excellent guest stars, including Rachel Bloom, Joel McHale, and the almighty Star Wars vet Billy Dee Williams. But despite this Henson production sharing its Disney+ home with The Muppets, none of those beloved characters made an appearance.
The lack of Muppets on Earth to Ned definitely wasn't an issue, since the new series has more than enough moving parts to keep audiences entertained through the first ten episodes. But considering the show was put together by a former Muppets head honcho, it was certainly curious. CinemaBlend had the pleasure of talking to Brian Henson ahead of Earth to Ned's series premiere, and when I voiced my hopes of seeing the "Pigs in Space" crew in future episodes, Henson had a surprisingly logical reason for the Muppets' absence.
I didn't want to do it in this first season. I didn't even ask Disney to put The Muppets on. I didn't want to do that yet, because I was creating a whole world with Ned's world, which involves believing these aliens came from outer space and they buried their ship under the crust of the earth, and they're spying on us and broadcasting a TV show. I didn't want to bring in any fantasy characters – well, I guess I did, I did bring one in from Star Wars. [Laughs.]
As Brian Henson put it, the already complicated nature of Earth to Ned's backstory already requires a lot of suspended disbelief on the part of the viewer. Ned, as voiced by Paul Rugg (most beloved by yours truly as the voice of Freakazoid), seeks to learn as much as he can about humanity, so it wouldn't make a lot of sense for him to bring in fantastical characters that aren't inherently human. Minus the Episode 3 appearance of Star Wars' fan-favorite droid BB-8, Earth to Ned's guest list featured real-world celebrities as themselves, as opposed to any fictional entities. Of course, RuPaul showed up on both Earth to Ned and the equally enjoyable Muppets Now, so there is already connective tissue.
Now does that mean the Muppets will never show up on Earth to Ned? Don't think so pessimistically! Thankfully, Brian Henson already believes that the day will come when at least a couple of Muppet characters will get transported onto Ned's ship in the future. In his words:
But yeah, I decided we didn't need to go there yet, but I'm pretty sure that in another season, we will. Once Ned is now established as a show, then I think we will likely bring a Muppet or two on as a guest.
Huzzah! Now we can start an office pool focusing on which of the many Muppet characters Ned will bring on. If Muppets Now didn't already have Swedish Chef heading up a cooking show, that would have been a go-to guess. Gonzo would be an excellent choice, considering he's the further thing from a human in that universe, but maybe having "real people" like Statler and Waldorf would be the more proper choice for Earth to Ned. Fingers crossed the producers can also swing a Sesame Street character or two for the same episode.
Earth to Ned is a show that, to quote Brian Henson himself, is "all about the absurdity of us as people," and even if it largely avoided referencing other fantasy worlds, the show's guest list still features lots of people who embrace absurdity, usually through comedy, such as Paul Scheer and Reggie Watts. Like The Muppet Show of decades previous, this series leans on guests that appeal more to adult viewers, such as Thomas Lennon, Eli Roth and NeNe Leakes, though there are some that younger viewers will know quite well, such as Disney vet Raven Symone and second-generation wildlife experts Robert and Bindi Irwin.
Well, we wanted to make what was format-wise a late night talk show. Being, though, that it's on a streaming service, there's no [timeliness]. But that's what we wanted. We wanted what felt like a late night talk show, but we wanted it to be totally family-friendly. So the topic of the discussion can become sophisticated in an adult sort of way, but never inappropriate for kids to listen to. Just maybe sometimes something they're not the most excited about listening to. But part of the way it works really well for kids is that Ned is a moron. I mean, that's not the right word; he's an idiot. He doesn't know anything about humanity, but he thinks he does. He thinks he's an expert on people, why people do what they do and why they like what they like. He wants to be a person. He loves people so much, he's trying to make himself into a great person. But he gets it all wrong all the time, and that actually probably makes the show even more family-friendly. And in terms of choosing the guests, we definitely were choosing people that we thought would be fun, who would have fun, and who weren't worried about embarrassing themselves or humiliating themselves. Going into we were like, 'Oh, we might have politicians or we might have sports people,' but for the most part, where we ended up was with people who are great actors, but also could have fun, and could be real fun. That was a guiding principle for the casting.
So no "Kermit the Frog meets [fill in the blank with your politician of choice]" episodes yet, but maybe one day soon, if enough people are watching Earth to Ned to convince Disney+ to keep the show going for a few more seasons.