Preview: The Muppets 1×1 (US: ABC; UK: Sky1)

The Muppets

In the US: Tuesdays, 8/7c, ABC. Starts tonight
In the UK: Acquired by Sky1 to air in autumn

The Muppets – everyone loves them right? The Muppet Show, all those Muppet movies in the 80s. All just brilliant, right?

Well, probably, although I suspect an element of the memory cheating. Watching The Muppet Show now, it’s clear there was things going over the heads of us children that were intended to only be understood by adults.

But it still a show that was just a couple of age notches above Sesame Street in terms of its intended audience. Largely, it was a show intended to be enjoyed by kids.

The Muppets, on the other hand, is not. This is a show aimed at those kids all grown up now. It thinks that what the Muppets really needed was to come back but all edgy, with depth and relationships and jokes that will appeal to adults – and only to adults.

It thinks we need Miss Piggy and Kermit to have been dating and to have broken up but forced to work together on Miss Piggy’s chatshow. It thinks we need Fozzie Bear dating a human, whose parents are happy to trot out stereotypes about bears eating raw fish and food out of dustbins. It thinks we need Muppets talking to camera, explaining their lives and innermost feelings in a mockumentary.

No, we don’t. For one thing, we’re adults. Muppets are – or at least should be – for kids. If adults watch them, it should be because they’re with their kids.

But more importantly, Muppets are supposed to be relatively innocent creatures. Sure they used to muck around with John Cleese, but they’re weren’t making nasty fat jokes along the way. They weren’t showing us Missy Piggy, devastated and shattered after her break up with Kermit. This is the Muppets, not Avenue Q.

The Muppets has some good points, most of which stem from the original Muppet format. Sam the Bald Eagle’s morality notes about Miss Piggy’s show are entertaining, as are Beaker and Dr Bunsen. Guest star Elizabeth Banks’ Hunger Games spoof is a welcome updating of The Muppet Show’s similar spoofs, and indicates a welcome willingness for guest stars to send themselves up old-school. Well, a bit, anyway.

But without the charm or wit of the original, this is a literally joyless show, a cash-in on hip adults’ memories of their childhood. YMMV, but this first look presentation has a lot of the same jokes as the first episode. Do you think it works?