Ever since its launch in November of last year, Disney Plus is rapidly becoming one of the big players of the streaming world, competing head on with the likes of established services such as Netflix and Hulu. This, of course, shouldn’t come as a surprise since the streaming platform provides a wide array of Disney properties, from classic Renaissance era films, nostalgic Saturday morning cartoons and even modern blockbuster hits such as the 2019 Lion King remake and both Frozen movies. The service also features all seasons of The Simpsons, all Star Wars films as well as most of the films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe. All in all the price tag of $6.99 (£5.99) a month is a good deal considering the amount of content that users have access to.
DISNEY’S ROCKY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MUPPETS
While the streaming service has become a home to a number of iconic franchises, there is one property that is lacking on the platform: The Muppets. Although Disney purchased The Muppets back in 2004, it has so far not tapped into the potential that the franchise has to offer. Ever since the 2004 acquisition, Disney only produced two Muppets films, one Muppets series, and a revival of Muppets Babies. When the 2011 film titled The Muppets became a commercial and critical success, many Muppets enthusiast thought that this was the beginning of a new film franchise, but a lacklustre sequel released in 2014 would put that hope to rest. The lack of Muppet property on Disney Plus reflects on Disney’s neglect of the franchise; up until recently the service only included the six Disney produced films and the 2015 TV series. This is strange considering the fact that there are hours of Muppets content that can be uploaded into the streaming service.
The most glaringly missing Muppet entity is the original Muppet series The Muppet Show that ran from 1976 to 1981 spanning five seasons and 120 episodes. The original show was a fictional variety show that consisted of sketches, musical numbers and guest celebrity appearances such as Elton John, Steve Martin and John Cleese. Kermit the Frog would act as the show’s show runner and production manager who tried his best to get the show running smoothly, but would often be met with antics and hi jinks from the other Muppets. The original Muppet show was beloved by audiences and critics, and it would prove to be a tough act to follow since none of the shows that came after it could capture its success.
From 1996 to 1998, Muppets Tonight aired, again this was produced a sketch show, however unlike the original Muppets show, Tonight’s premise was that it was a late night comedy show hosted by Clifford a laid back humanoid Muppet, while Kermit was a behind the scenes producer. The show was a modest success as it only spanned two seasons before it was cancelled. Then in 2015, a new show stylised as the muppets. aired. The 2015 series is often referred to as “The Office Muppets” since it follows the mockumentary format that was made famous by The Office. The show drew criticism from parents advocacy groups as they thought that the show was inappropriate for children since it involved “crude humour”, dating plotlines and mentions of “taboo subjects” such as plastic surgery. Little did they know, The Muppets was always meant to be a bit cynical and a bit raunchy. As a matter of fact, one of the pilot episodes for the 1970s Muppets show was titled “The Muppets Show: Sex and Violence” and as the name implied it was a parody of the prevalence of sex and violence being shown on TV. This original pilot shows that the Muppets were meant to be a lot more adult, and in all honestly its something you have to see to believe, at one point in the pilot Kermit the Frog actually utters the word “sex” during one of the sketches. Sorry to go on a tangent, but I feel that not many people know about the Muppets’ more raunchy origins. Anyway, the 2015 show also wasn’t successful as it only lasted one season.
Fozzie Bear in "Muppets Now." (Disney+/TNS)
MUPPETS GET THEIR FIRST STREAM EXCLUSIVE SHOW
In 2019, Disney announced that a new Muppet show called Muppets Now would be airing exclusively on its streaming service. The show made its debut last week, and the premise this time is that the Muppets are making an online variety show with segments corresponding to various Internet subcultures such as beauty/make up tutorials and cooking tutorials. The segments between the sketches involve the Muppets talking to each other via video calls. Again the show involves a myriad of celebrity guest stars that interact with the Muppets.
I enjoyed the pilot episode of Muppets Now as it featured some genuinely funny sketches. My favourite sketch was the “Lifesty” segment, which featured Miss Piggy and actor Taye Diggs trying out “slap facial massages” and without giving any spoilers the segment has some hilarious slapstick humour. Nevertheless, not all segments were as funny, as I felt that the Swedish Chef part overstayed its welcome. Another aspect I wasn’t too thrilled about is Kermit’s new voice, which has been taken over by his new voice actor Matt Vogel. Vogel replaced Steve Whitmere as Kermit’s voice actor in 2017, following the latter’s dismissal from the company. While Vogel has been growing into the voice for the past three years, he’s still not able to capture Kermit’s vocal cadence. Although no one could replace Kermit’s original voice actor, Jim Henson, Whitmire seemed to be able to emulate Henson’s Kermit voice. All in all, the Muppets Now shows the potential to be a good show; it has something for everyone to enjoy especially families with young children. For me, personally, I would have liked the show to have more of that cynical Muppets humour, but that’s just my taste.