That’s how the New York Post referred to ABC’s The Muppets, in reference to its “jokes about Miss Piggy’s bikini waxes to gags on boob jobs, tummy tucks, and butt lifts.” Not to mention similar cracks about “bears” and an entire subplot about Tinder. But the aspect of the show that’s received the most criticism and “you murdered my childhood” anti-nostalgia is, to quote New York Magazine, “The Muppets Should Not Be Having Sex, People.”
Kermit boning Denise, everyone’s least-favorite Muppet, is one thing. He’s a Muppet, she’s a Muppet. Makes sense. Then there’s Piggy boning, or at least getting to second base, with Liam Hemsworth, Topher Grace, Nathan Fillion, and, in an episode where that reveals her sideboob, Josh Groban. Also, Fozzie is trying to bone Riki Lindhome, much to her parents’ dismay. This all may sound horrific, and it is (never search Google for “kermit having sex”), but Muppets wanting to get it on with humans, or vice versa, has been in their DNA since The Muppet Show‘s pilot, all the way back in 1976.
Except now S-E-X is all the Muppets can think about. Subtext has turned into horny text. It’s no longer played as a gag, or a friendly, flirty chat between Kermit and whoever the guest was that week. The line between Muppet and human has been blurred to the point where Groban doesn’t care that Miss Piggy isn’t human; he’s just happy she’s a woman. It’s a different version of the Muppets than the one we’re used to seeing, and exactly the same.
It would be progressive (we’re no longer seeing skin color, be it white, black, or green), if it weren’t so weird. Let’s take a look back at how The Muppet Show used to handle romantic passion between Muppets and people, well before sentences like “please stop f*cking, Muppets” existed.
1. Juliet Prowse
Things get unorthodox, right from the get-go. Kermit complains to Juliet Prowse that he wanted to be a dancer as a tadpole, but, “You know what they say, the first thing to go on a frog are his legs.” After some harmless teasing, Prowse admits that she finds Kermit attractive, that he’s the “Robert Redford of frogs.” Then they kiss, which, alas, doesn’t turn him into Redford. Or even Paul Newman. He’s still a frog, and she’s still a human.
2. Rita Moreno
Humanoid Muppets are the scariest Muppets — Uncle Deadly looks like Robin compared to the walking nightmare who dances with Rita Moreno in a Paris cafe. And by dancing, I mean she tosses him around the joint, like he’s a trash bag full of leaves she’s throwing into a Dumpster. She drinks, he flirts with a pig, they roll around on the floor and kiss, and she elbows him in the stomach after drinking a shot. Their relationship isn’t just sexual; it’s abusive.
3. Rudolf Nureyev
Piggy confronts Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev while he’s only wearing a towel in the steam room. This is weird for two reasons: 1) They sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” with Piggy taking on the role of the host who won’t let her guest leave; it’s pioneering (the gender roles are flipped), but the song makes everything super uncomfortable, and 2) they’re both half naked, and Piggy uses force to keep him in the room. It ends with her pulling Nureyev’s towel off.
4. Cleo Laine
Animal has no chill. In her dressing room, Cleo Laine says to herself, “I hope the Muppets like me,” at which point Animal pops out of nowhere and screams, “LIKE? LOVE, LOVE CLEO LAINE,” while jumping on her shoulders and all but eating her hair. He keeps yelling “LOVE LOVE LOVE,” until Laine interjects, “Hey, hate me a little.” Animal keeps going. No means no.
5. Julie Andrews
Kermit’s so successful with the ladies that he got Julie Andrews — as in, Oscar-winning actress Julie Andrews, of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music fame — to write him a song about when he was a tadpole and she was a fish. She saw him swim by with a smile in his eye, “and I loved you from that moment on.” It goes on like that, right up to the final line, when Andrews sings, “I’m so glad that you love me, too, ’cause I’ve loved you.” No.
6. Raquel Welch
It’s Raquel Welch. Of course the male Muppets are going to act like perverts, none more so than Kermit, who introduces the One Million Years B.C. star as “one of the sexiest ladies alive.” Yes, it’s strange hearing Kermit say the word “sexiest,” and it’s even stranger when “the curvaceous, the tantalizing, the desirable” Welch dances in a Muppet-friendly version of her famous bikini with a giant spider. Kermit later says of Welch, “Well, she might be changing her image, but you wouldn’t want her to change the rest of that,” because he’s got the thirst.
7. Lesley Ann Warren
If you’ve ever wanted to see a famous actress in a shredded red dress disco-dance with a pig, here you go. The actress: Lesley Ann Warren. The pig: Link Hogthrob. The song: “Last Dance,” which turns Warren into a sexpot who won’t let Link out of her clutches. Not that he wants to go anywhere, with the amount of physical contact they’re sharing. That must have been a weird day on set.
8. Sylvester Stallone
All the lady Muppets go wild for Sylvester Stallone, to the point where, thanks to Scooter, they storm into his dressing room so they can talk and, more importantly, see him. He happily obliges, though the rabid groupies are less than thrilled that he’s still wearing a shirt. This episode also has Stallone dancing with a lion while dressed as a gladiator. Just saying.
9. Lynn Redgrave
In an episode-long parody of Robin Hood, where Gonzo gets tortured and a stray arrow almost kills the guest, the most peculiar moment is probably when Lynn Redgrave and Kermit sing “I Still Love You” to each other. There’s a lot of yearning and intense gazing in the deserted, romantic woods. They even nearly kiss, until Piggy interrupts them, totally killing the moment.
10. Mark Hamill
The Star Wars episode of The Muppet Show aired on February 21, 1980, before The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were released, and before anyone knew that Leia was Luke’s sister (spoiler, I guess?). So, the only thing odd about Piggy-as-Leia fawning all over Hamill-as-Luke is a pig trying to take her relationship with a human to the next hyperdrive level.
11. Christopher Reeve
I like the way Piggy thinks. Only one week after being obsessed with Hamill, she’s moved on to Christopher Reeve, plastering her dressing room with photos of the “beautiful brute” as Superman. Later, Piggy ends a duet by smooching him all over. Alas, it’s not meant to be. Reeve makes a joke about Piggy’s weight, which, not cool, bro. The Man of Steel should know better.
12. Melissa Manchester
And finally, we have Melissa Manchester singing “Your Cheatin’ Heart” to Link, which implies that they’ve had sex or at least have gotten far enough along in their relationship that they’re exclusive. I’d say I’m glad The Muppet Show waited until season five (when this episode aired) to get around to Muppets and humans Doing It, but clearly, they didn’t. I blame Denise.