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The Muppets: A reboot

This fall, the new shows which premiered on the major networks have some interesting subject matter.  We’ve got a government agent who takes drugs to solve crime (Limitless), an FBI agent who’s actually a terrorist (Quantico), and a Las Vegas conglomerate that bets on crime (The Player).

So who is being lambasted by critics and everyone’s pro-family advocacy group, One Million Moms, but The Muppets.

If you hadn’t heard, the late Jim Henson’s Muppets have been re-vamped for the current season in prime time on ABC.  But it’s not quite The Muppets you might remember.

In the latest version of the show, Kermit and Miss Piggy have had a bad break-up.  The format is also a little different.  While we still see the backstage shenanigans during the show, the style is more The Office meets After School Special.  It’s certainly an acquired taste.

And One Million Moms isn’t happy.  The group has called the new show “perverted” and feels that “children expecting to see the original Muppets will likely be exposed to the show’s many adult themes.”

Okay, where exactly would today’s children have seen the original Muppets?  And if they did, would they even want to see more?

According to the critics – and I have to agree – there was a lot of charm and innocence in the original.  However, in the seventies, we were still a very innocent audience.

Today’s viewers expect a little edge in their comedy.  And amid a glut of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the like, those plugged-in kids are learning things earlier.  So what I laughed at while still in single digits is not going to tickle the funny bone of today’s children.  They simply have different expectations and frame of reference for their television.

However, the show was never just for the kids.  I was a child when Fozzie Bear brought me Dr. Bob and “the story of a quack who’s gone to the dogs.”  I laughed at some skits and didn’t understand others.  Meanwhile, my parents – for reasons I could not fathom – loved Sam the Eagle and the two old farts who heckled the show.

The fact is, Henson and company not for the kids, but for the kid in all of us.  And that kid changes with each generation.

Furthermore, OMM’s claim that “ABC and Disney need to stick to entertaining families instead of pushing agendas” is a little late.  ABC and Disney have been producing programming that illustrates a variety of family structures beyond the traditional for years.  The intent is to introduce topics in a benign setting that encourages discussion.

Nobody expects Father Knows Best or Leave It to Beaver to live forever.  That’s why TV comedy moved on to Different Strokes, Roseanne, and Modern Family.  If you want the innocence of the original, buy the DVD’s.

However, keep in mind that the original Muppets show had a bumbling Swedish Chef who spoke practically no English.  Today, he would be considered racist.