This fall, Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and the rest of the Muppet gang returned to their original home on TV with a new ABC series called The Muppets. Rebooting the property for modern times, the this version of The Muppets incorporates a mockumentary style to explore the personal and professional lives of the Muppets as they produce Miss Piggy's late night talk show.
Though the premiere episode in September scored high ratings, viewership has decreased as the season moved along. That, combined with a mixed critical reception (read our review of the premiere) reportedly caused tension behind-the-scenes, leading to drastic changes with the creative team.
Deadline is reporting that series co-creator, executive producer, and showrunner Bob Kushell is no longer involved with The Muppets series and will be replaced by Kristin Newman. The move is part of an overhaul of The Muppets to (re)reboot the show following a hiatus after the tenth episode and the news comes shortly after ABC ordered three more episodes to raise the season total to 16. The final six episodes of the first season will essentially be a relaunch for the reboot.
Kushell's removal is likely influenced by growing concerns regarding the show's current direction. Even though The Muppets remains Tuesday's highest-rated new show in the coveted 18-49 demographic, the fact that ratings have steadily been going down is a troubling matter for executives. They have a lot invested in The Muppets, and they want to make sure that it is money well-spent.
The Muppets revival was a unique situation, since it came into fruition very quickly. The show was given a fall 2015 time slot after a pitch presentation was shot and presented to network heads this April. Because the series was rushed into production, the crew was faced with a tight schedule, and creators Kushell and Bill Prady did not have ample time to refine the series' style and tone. It did not help matters that the two also clashed over the vision - a situation that was only made worse by Prady's part-time participation as executive producer (he is also involved with The Big Bang Theory). The rift made it difficult for the show to continue with both, so Kushell was let go - even though he was well-liked by the cast and crew.
While The Muppets certainly has its supporters, many would probably agree that a soft relaunch wouldn't hurt the show. The biggest complaint about the series stems from the emphasis on edgier, adult-orientated humor as opposed to the family friendly entertainment that the characters are known for. The Muppets are arguably at their best when they're performing wacky comedy skits or singing touching songs with musical guests in a variety show setting, and it would be nice to see them return to that tried and true format in the final six episodes.
Regardless of how ABC reboots The Muppets, there will be even more pressure on the creative team going forward to get it "right." The reaction to the new direction could go a long way in determining its future. Fortunately, they'll have the full winter break to take advantage of, so hopefully that gives them enough time to work out any kinks and the Muppets can return in a most sensational way for the spring run.
The Muppets airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.