Jim Henson’s lovable legacy was reintroduced to a whole new generation back in 2011 with The Muppets, earning glowing critical notices (read our review) and $165 million worldwide box office (the second highest-grossing theatrical Muppet film adjusted for inflation). However, its 2014 sequel Muppets Most Wanted failed to meet expectations, leaving Disney with a decision about how to best proceed with the franchise.
Just a couple months after that film’s release, the answer quickly became apparent: the Muppets belonged back on TV. After all, Kermit the Frog and his quirky friends first shot to fame on The Muppet Show from 1976 to 1981. More recently, details about the new show – which will take a mockumentary approach delving deeper into the characters’ personal lives – have trickled out.
Now ABC has officially announced that the show, titled simply The Muppets, will premiere this fall on Tuesday, September 22. It marks their first network television series since Muppets Tonight, which aired from 1996 to 1998. Bill Prady – co-creator of The Big Bang Theory – is developing and co-writing the new show’s pilot with Bob Kushell (Anger Management), who will serve as showrunner.
This new series is certainly good news for Muppet fans who may have worried that the disappointing performance of the most recent film would cause the franchise to fade away again. After all, the 2011 reboot was the first theatrical film for the characters since 1999 release Muppets from Space similarly disappointed at the box office.
The more modern (and extremely self-referential) nature of the Muppets footage we’ve seen so far might not be everyone’s taste, but opting for a somewhat more high-brow sense of humor may benefit the show if it hopes to capture older fans (as well as kids who recently discovered the characters). Besides, simply returning to the format of the original Muppet Show would only invite unfair comparisons and could essentially doom this show to a premature cancellation; just look at what happened to Muppets Tonight.
Starting fresh with a new spin on the old concept may be the best way to go, even if a number of devoted Muppets fans aren’t thrilled with this direction. However, few can argue that it isn’t exciting to see Kermit and the gang back on television. As the saying goes, it’s (almost) time to light the lights and meet the Muppets once more.
The Muppets will premiere on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 8pm on ABC.