In Defense of The Muppets

    ABC's premiere of The Muppets drew in big numbers last night, reaching 8.9 million viewers with tough competition from NCIS and The Voice. Many are surprised by the strong debut numbers, but there's also a lot of backlash forming over the episode... and I'm not talking about the "One Million Moms" petition. It seems that childhood sentiment is standing in the way of some viewers being able to enjoy a more adult-oriented Muppets venture.

    I got to see the premiere episode early for review purposes and felt a little underwhelmed by it. But I watched it again last night and laughed harder the second time around. I think it takes an episode to get used to the new format, which is similar to The Office and 30 Rock. If you can buy into that, it's gold.

    I love that Fozzy-style joke! Most of these characters have been part of pop culture for nearly 40 years now, so it's hard to remember that when The Muppet Show premiered it was edgy. Puppets were for kids and Jim Henson had already achieved fame from Sesame Street where Kermit was a featured character. When Kermit and some new characters moved to primetime in 1976 with The Muppet Show, it featured humor that, at the time, was deemed "adult," but is tame by today's standards.

    Most people nowadays were introduced to The Muppets through their feature films. I remember plenty of inappropriate jokes on Muppets Tonight when I was a kid, which I enjoyed in reruns on Disney Channel. The humor on The Muppets is no worse than it was then. If you look back to the previous show, Bobo the Bear literally told Cindy Crawford that he'd like to come to her house to play with her balloons sometime (not the inflatable kind). And Michelle Pfiefer, in response to Beaker as bachelor #2 on a mystery date show, replied "That's not funny, that's gross!" Nothing has changed, and that's great!

    This is not the first time these characters have engaged in humor and a format aimed at adults. In fact, it's how they made their debut. If you were offended or put off by it, what were you honestly expecting from a modern primetime series?

    Some fans find the series untouchable simply because Kermit and Piggy are no longer together. Personally, I felt like they always played it as if they had to be paired up on screen, but that Kermit couldn't stand Piggy in real life. So their breakup seems uneventful to me.

    Is the show more adult than it's ever been before? I'm a big Muppet fan who was reared on Muppet Babies and have grown with them over the years. The new show is definitely edgy compared to the films and the original series, but it's no worse than Muppets Tonight was. There have always been drug references in regards to Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem and innuendos are nothing new. Until I see some fuzz-on-fuzz action, I don't feel like they've gone too far.

    The controversy over the new series poses an important question: Have the Muppets changed or have we changed? If the Muppets are still doing what they've always done, simply in a new format, why the controversy?

    I can understand fans who don't enjoy the new mockumentary style or feel like some of their zanier antics have been removed, but I advise anyone put off by the humor to check their Muppets history.

    But for me, the new series harkens to some of my favorite recent shows (30 Rock and The Office) in addition to my lifetime affinity for all things Muppets.

    If you enjoyed the pilot in any way, even mildly, I strongly recommend returning next week. While I greatly enjoyed the first episode, more so on the second viewing, I've already seen episode 2 and I loved it! If you're offended by the humor, don't come back because it's more of the same. But it features the funniest and most understandable phrase that Swedish Chef has ever mumbled in the history of the Muppets!