People often have a fixed idea of what Jim Henson’s Muppets are and what they are always supposed to be — which is typically what the Muppets were when they were children. But the only real constant has been the Muppets’ adaptability. In 1976, Jim Henson chose the then-popular variety format for The Muppet Show. In 1984, the Muppets got animated and became Muppet Babies, introducing the characters to another generation of kids. 1989 brought The Jim Henson Hour, which featured segments that felt as though they were playing off the MTV generation’s obsession with music-video countdown shows. And in 1996, more than six years after Henson’s death, Muppets Tonight premiered as a part of the TGIF lineup, mimicking The Muppet Show‘s basic premise. In between and after, there have been movies and specials where the Muppets have recreated The Wizard of Oz and A Christmas Carol and been rebooted by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. In 2015, we now have adult Muppets with adult problems that talk to the camera in a show that has, perhaps wisely, chosen to use the mockumentary format. Sacrilege and cynicism, some have cried, but beyond some risqué jokes, these are still your Muppets, as much as they ever were.
Launched by Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Prady, who also cut his teeth working alongside Jim Henson on The Jim Henson Hour and co-wrote the heartbreaking Muppet tribute to Henson following his death, The Muppets still centers around Kermit’s never-ending effort to put on a great show. This time, however, it’s a late-night show hosted by Miss Piggy, but the show isn’t really the story here. Instead, it’s Kermit’s exhausting existence as a producer. We see him wrestle with his star’s ego, deal with mundane production problems, and be disappointed by his writing staff while trying to juggle his complex personal life. Kermit is essentially playing Liz Lemon while everyone else is playing the cast of The Office, providing talking head interviews and generally going about their lives in full-view of the cameras.