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The pretend Muppets reality show is more exciting than reality TV

The pretend Muppets reality show is more exciting than reality TV
Kermit and Gonzo, stars of ABC's new faux reality series The Muppets. (Photo by (Eric McCandless/ABC)

As a child of the 1980s, I’m predisposed to love the all things Jim Henson, especially the Muppets. Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock were must-watch shows, and The Muppet Christmas Carol is still my favorite version of A Christmas Carol.

I did not, however, like either of the two recent films. They seemed like alternate universe Muppets, not the ones I grew up with and loved. (I felt a little vindicated when I read that Frank Oz said he decided not to participate because, “I wasn’t happy with the script. I don’t think they respected the characters.”)

So I was skeptical about the ABC series that’s debuting this fall. After seeing the previews alone, however, I am 100 percent on board.

The conceit is that the show is a documentary reality series following the Muppets behind the scenes of their latest television project, Up Late with Miss Piggy. Like was true with The Office and Parks and Recreation, there’s more creativity and–ironically enough–authenticity here than in many other current reality shows. And I’m more excited about it than I am about any other reality series this fall.

No doubt that’s partially because no broadcast network is debuting a new reality show during the fall season. Not one! Sure, from ABC’s Shark Tank to CBS’ Survivor Second Chance, there are returning shows I’ll eagerly watch, and others, like Fox’s Masterchef Junior, I’ll at least give an episode or two.

But it’s also because The Muppets manages to strike the perfect tone: earnestness, wit, and meta-commentary all in one. The Muppets are back to their pre-reboot days. Just watch and be delighted:

A behind-the-scenes Muppets mockumentary

It’s all very self-referential and meta, and that was certainly the case today, when Kermit and Miss Piggy appeared before TV critics at the Television Critics Association press tour.

At one point, co-creator Bill Prady, who also co-created The Big Bang Theory, was talking about the complexity of writing and filming a series that captures “raw,” “unscripted” moments, with Muppets. And he basically couldn’t continue because Kermit and Miss Piggy were right there and he didn’t want to refer to them as not real, especially since critics were talking to them and asking questions about their, uh, lives.

“There is a to a certain extent, from the production side, this is a magic trick,” Prady said. “And it is it is going into a world that guys, I don’t know how to say this with you here.”

He did say that the show will be directed by Randall Einhorn, who was a director of photography on The Office. And he also added that the show “is going into this amazing world and getting it to look haphazard and casual and getting the documentary shots that are dirty and messy and catch things that you’re not supposed to catch.”

That sounds, and looks, splendid. Now if only some creative, new reality TV shows would attempt the same.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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