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» It’s time to play the music. Brian Farrey Books

It’s time to play the music.

The New York Times has an interesting article on the history of the Muppets franchise and how, essentially, it’s been almost destroyed several times over by mismanagement since Jim Henson’s death.

I’m a huge Muppets fan. HUGE. Don’t believe me? Here’s our wedding cake.

While the article refers to MUPPETS CHRISTMAS CAROL and MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND as bombs, I liked both movies.  Liked, but didn’t necessarily love.  They both have their moments.  Odd as this may sound, I believe one of things that’s led to a sense of disembodiment for the Muppets is the strange decision to put Kermit into the background.

In both the aforementioned movies, Gonzo has a more prominent role and the disastrous MUPPETS IN SPACE centers around him.  MUPPETS TONIGHT (which I did love, if it was a little uneven) gave hosting duties over to Clifford. (I like Clifford a lot but, again, I kept wondering why Kermit wasn’t featured more.)  I think in most people’s minds, Kermit is the heart and soul of the Muppets. It’s always been peculiar to see him relegated to second banana duty. (Full disclosure: I’ve never been much of a Gonzo fan.  He tends to irritate me. So my analysis may be biased a bit. But you can’t deny a correlation between the downward spiral of the Muppets and the sudden, inexplicable prominence of Gonzo….)

I agree with the article that the Muppets are best when they’re being themselves, not when they’re taking on roles in THE WIZARD OF OZ or such. I have high hopes for the movie that’s coming out this fall.  It sounds like the people working on it have returned the Muppets to their roots.  Definitely a step in the right direction.

I still watch episodes of the original Muppet show and wonder why they aren’t more prominent in today’s culture.  There’s something timeless about the sketches. (OK. Not all of them.  The Mummenshanz?  Seriously?)  Or maybe nostalgia provides a sheen that mimics timelessness.  Sales on the DVDs have been iffy at best.  I just don’t get it.

Well, I sort of do. I think this article hits on some ugly truths.  And an ugly reality is: can the Muppets unique style and brand of humor compete with evolving tastes and technology? DOCTOR WHO essentially re-invented itself when it rebooted in 2005, shedding the shaky sets and awful SFX for cinematography and spectacle more in tune with 21st century audiences.   BATMAN was been re-imagined so many times, it makes the original comic books look cutesy and quaint by comparison.  Is there such a revamp that can make the Muppets hip again? Or are they destined to become memories of a different time with a different sense of humor, going the way of Little Orphan Annie, Captain Kangaroo, and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie?  And will such a reboot remove what made the Muppets who they are?

A lot is riding on this new movie. No pressure, though.

Published in: on April 11, 2011 at 8:57 am  Comments (2)  


  1. Greatest. Wedding cake. Ever.

  2. I love the Muppets! I do have some old episodes and films, but need to catch up- who’s Clifford?
    I think the ensemble casts of the characters on adventures, based around friendship and the American Dream of average frogs, pigs, chickens and things really made the early films work (and the cameos! always great). It does seem like they lose their appeal when they do adaptations. And of course, it hasn’t been the same since Henson died. I’ll definitely be seeing the new film, though.
    Do love that cake 🙂

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