The Muppets, a revival of the venerable Jim Henson created characters which relocated the comedic puppet creatures to the format of a backstage sitcom inspired by The Office, had a difficult season one run on ABC. While high-rated in its premiere, critical reactions were mixed and viewership soon dwindled. A mid-season retooling under a new showrunner earned more positive reviews, but ratings never recovered despite the Muppets themselves remaining ubiquitous in pop-culture and merchandising.
Now, it looks like it won't be getting a chance to improve going forward. ABC has officially canceled The Muppets after one season.
Disney had acquired the rights to the Muppets franchise several years ago and produced a hit with a feature-film revival (also titled The Muppets) with Jason Segel in 2011. But a follow-up feature, Muppets Most Wanted, was a box office disappointment. This lead to the franchise being retooled for television in a high-profile deal that resulted in one of the more hyped series of the Fall 2015 TV season on ABC.
The series attempted to return the characters to the showbiz-backstage satire format of the original Muppet Show, though this time as the staff and production cast of a late night talk show hosted by Miss Piggy and framed largely as a workplace mockumentary - rather than running a vaudeville-style theater operation. Even before airing, the new premise was criticized for embracing more adult-style humor (similar to the original series) rather than the more kid-targeted sensibilities of the later Muppet films; in particular, with regard to a subplot about Kermit the Frog continuing to act as producer of the show after breaking up with Piggy and dating a younger ABC Network intern (also a pig.)
Following its midseason break, The Muppets gained a new showrunner and distinct change of pace, including a running story-arc about the show-within-a-show also changing formats and pushing back on an obnoxious young consultant trying to make Piggy's act more trendy. The characters also underwent a shift back towards their original conception, with subplots about Gonzo buying a bachelor pad (only to re-encounter old girlfriend Camilla the Chicken) and Piggy's show embracing the Muppets' older variety show format. The season then closed out on the promise of reconcilliation between her and Kermit.
This news of The Muppets being cancelled comes amid a flurry of cancellations for ABC network, which also axed the critically-praised (but ratings-challenged) Marvel fill-in drama Agent Carter only hours earlier. Pink slips also went out to Castle, which had already dismissed much of its principal cast in order to make itself more financially attractive for renewal. With both feature film and TV efforts having now returned underwhelming results, it is unclear where Disney plans to take The Muppets next.
We'll keep on you updated on the future of The Muppets franchise as more information is made available.
Source: ABC [via The Wrap]