Thursday, September 24, 2015

I've not felt it

Tonight I watched the pilot episode of The Muppets, the new ABC comedy series starring... Well, that part's obvious, isn't it? Can't say I recommend it.

In the main it follows Kermit the Frog in his job as producer of Up Late with Miss Piggy,, a talk show starring his now ex-girlfriend. Here we already have two problems.

First, the concept is an obvious mix of well-regarded single camera sitcoms: a mockumentary (like The Office) that goes backstage at a talk show (like The Larry Sanders Show) and focuses on a beleaguered authority figure (like 30 Rock). Not necessarily bad in itself, but indicative of an identity crisis. Whether the crisis comes from the creators or network interference I know not.

Also, the idea of Kermit getting out of a serious relationship with Miss Piggy - and getting into one with a network executive who's also a pig - is misguided. Watch the old Muppet Show and it's pretty clear that she's mostly after him because of his status and he's too smart to get involved with her in that way. They've never had to work for audiences as a serious couple.

The main problem, though, is that it's just off. Kermit doesn't feel like himself, and neither does Fozzie Bear. Gonzo is defanged, even though technically he can get away with more outrageous stuff. Only the members of  Dr, Teeth and the Electric Mayhem show their old signs of life. Zoot waking up in a writer's meeting and introducing himself like he's at an AA meeting until Floyd cuts him off actually made me laugh, God help me. Too little did.

As a parody of variety shows, The Muppet Show was self-aware. This one is self-aware about being self-aware, with the glib assumption that we're all self-aware now. A lot of the charm is lost.


semiconscious said...

there's this powerful 'synergy' that's risen in prominence within our culture: the desire of the public seeking to re-experience 'the thrill', combined with the desire of the corporation to re-experience the massive success/profit. just speaking in terms of video games, it often shocks me just how appealing games that do very little if anything new from one iteration to the next seem to be with young people. when given the choice between re-experiencing the familiar, or exploring the unexplored, there's really no contest. it's a very chicken/egg thing. i appreciate the fact that a love of ritual is somewhat inherent to human nature. but i also suspect that there're other forces at work, busy convincing us that every time we do this thing it will be every bit as much fun as the first...

the good news: tho they may not be in decision-making positions, there're a huge number of very talented/clever people involved in the production of this stuff, so it needn't necessarily be intrinsically awful. the bad news: it's highly likely that, given free reign to do whatever they wished, these talented/clever people would be coming up with all sorts of fresh, interesting creations...

tl/dr: more 'fraggle rock's, less 'muppet show 2's, please :) ...

Ben said...

The link to the guardian is interesting. Not many people really understand social psychology. The "popular science" stuff is pretty hollow. But the psychology of crowds can be pretty dark, powerful juju. Not that the powers that be want to recreate the Stanford Prison Experiment on a wide scale basis, but people are certainly motivated to comply with certain things without much though.

Talented and clever people working for those who either disregard or actively resent those qualities seems to be the norm. You have your work cut out for you getting around that one.

Hear hear!