The first time you heard that ABC was airing a new TV show starring the Muppets, you might have been concerned.
The first film in the rebooted Muppets franchise, 2011's The Muppets, was extremely good — okay, it was great — okay, I cry every time I watch it — but the follow-up, Muppets Most Wanted, more or less bombed. It was all too easy to wonder if the real magic behind the 2011 movie wasn't Disney at all but Muppet superfan Jason Segel.
I am walking you through my (and possibly your) anxieties, so that you can first confront and then release them, as they are all about to be assuaged.
ABC has released the 10-minute mini-pilot (known as a pilot presentation within the TV industry) for its new series, after fans who saw it at a Comic-Con screening essentially demanded it be placed on the Internet. Meet The Muppets:
The genius of the Muppets has always been rooted in a total command of comedy conventions. That's evident here, as well: The mockumentary style so popular in TV comedy thanks to shows such as The Office and Modern Family has many conventions of its own, and it's clear the team behind The Muppets has been studying up.
Because the team (which includes Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Prady) understands those conventions so well — the first-person confessional, the camera pulling back at the end of a shot to reveal another character present — they're able to control the genre, rather than being controlled by it. It's not that they're subverting the mockumentary form — they just want to make sure you know they know what they're doing with it.
The actual series will bear little resemblance to the version displayed here — it will be set behind the scenes of a late-night talk show hosted by Miss Piggy, instead — but this presentation's confidence with the mockumentary form is enough to suggest all involved know what they're doing.
Will the new series reach the gloriously silly heights of The Muppet Show? I look forward to finding out.