It was close to a year ago when The Muppets (2011) co-screenwriter Nicholas Stoller indicated that Jim Henson's iconic characters might soon be returning to their TV roots, after the lukewarm critical/commercial performance for 2014's Muppets Most Wanted (which Stoller also co-wrote). We recently learned that Disney Junior has developed a short form series called Muppet Moments (which premiered today), but it turns out there's another Muppet-centric program in the works for more general audiences.
That would be a new Muppet variety television show in the vein of the classic The Muppet Show (which aired in the late 1970s), as well as the ABC program Muppets Tonight that aired in the late '90s. This new project is also been developed for ABC, with Bill Prady (co-creator of the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory) co-penning the script for a pilot presentation.
THR reports the plan is to present the new Muppet series (which is currently filming a proof of concept) to Madison Avenue advertisers next month - with the idea being that, if all goes to plan, the show will be ordered straight to series. CBS' Supergirl TV series pilot, which completed production this week, will be shown to marketers around that same time, ahead of a planned Fall 2015 premiere - meaning, the plan may be to debut a new Muppet show near the start of the 2015-16 TV season too.
Prady, who also contributed to shows like Dharma & Greg and Gimore Girls in the past, is no stranger to the world of Muppets. He also wrote for Fraggle Rock and The Jim Henson Hour in the 1980s, before scripting the popular Muppet*vision 3-D short that's been shown at Disney theme parks on through to recent years. However, it's worth noting that Prady pitched a Muppets TV show that Disney passed on before his success with Big Bang Theory - a reminder that there's no guarantee that his second attempt will be picked up, either.
The new Muppets series has a showrunner attached in the form of Bob Kushell: a sitcom writer/producer who's contributed to such TV series as 3rd Rock from the Sun, Malcolm in the Middle, Samantha Who, and (most recently) Anger Management. Kushell is co-penning the pilot script with Prady, based around the following premise (as described in THR's report):
Sources say the concept for the presentation includes the regular cast of characters created by Jim Henson — Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Animal, among others — gathering at ABC Studios for a meeting about the new Muppet Show. However, the show won't move forward unless Miss Piggy signs on, and her current relationship with frequent love Kermit is on the rocks, preventing the show from getting off the ground. Early plans call for two celebrity cameos — including Miss Piggy's current co-star — as well as new roles including Fozzie's girlfriend and her parents.
Make what you will of that setup, but it seems most Muppets fans would agree: as much fun as their movies can be, these characters tend to be at their wildest and most irreverent (and thus, most entertaining) in the variety show format and similar forms of presentation - see the various Muppet internet skits released over the years, for case in point. It would certainly be nice to see Kermit and Co. back on the small screen and up to their various shenanigans on a regular basis, for that reason.
In other words: ABC and/or Disney decides to give this new show a shot, there's sure to be a fair-sized audience that tunes in, from the very beginning - in the hope that the final result will be another memorable addition to the Muppets' legacy.
We'll bring you more information on the new Muppets series when we have it.