All properties purchased by Disney have suffered but I think it’s fair to say that the Muppets are the second to the worst. *
My metrics for this are; loss of authorial intent, financial degradation, and metastization of the Critical Race Cult.
Star Wars has had a loss of authorial intent and the CRC has definitely invaded. However, while box-office receipts have fallen there has not as yet been a catastrophic failure. Even Solo grossed $400 million. While that was absolutely a failure, we aren’t talking Pluto Nash here either.
The Muppets on the other hand have suffered badly at the hands of Mickey the Great and Terrible.
When the Muppets were pretty much at the height of their popularity a deal was hammered out between Michael Eisner and Jim Henson to buy the Muppets (that weren’t affiliated with the Children’s Television Workshop). And right before the papers were supposed to be signed, Jim Henson tragically died. And Disney immediately knocked off several million dollars off the deal. Brian Henson said, screw it, and walked away. I’m not certain how good an idea this was.
Kermit and the gang from The Muppet Show began a slow slide downhill. The movies started making less and less money. Public interest declined and worst of all, the next generation didn’t show much interest. The Millennials just weren’t interested. The Muppets were strictly a Generation X thing and we weren’t kids anymore.
The problem was that while Brian was utterly devoted to his father’s business, he just wasn’t his Dad. He pursued his own projects, which is understandable and he certainly had successes in the 1990s. Dinosaurs, Bear in the Big Blue House, The Secret Life of toys and Farscape. However when Farscape was finally hard-wrapped in 2004 a string of financial and critical disappointments. Although there was still the occasional hit that kept the doors open, like Dinosaur Train and Sid the Science Kid.
The Muppets, proper, were clearly viewed as a Golden Goose but it was one that was rather malnourished. Regardless, Michael Eisner finally got Brian Henson to sell the family jewels for an undisclosed sum in 2003.
Then things started to slide.
An attempt to retool them as a Muppet version of It’s The Gary Shandling Show was an abject flop. The core audience firmly and vocally rejected adult-context-Muppets. Breaking up Kermit and Piggy was actually pretty sad. Seriously, who wants to see a comedy about beloved characters who can’t stand each other anymore. I’m sure that Leonard and Penny will eventually get divorced but I don’t want to see it.
But so much worse was to come.
The Happy Time Murders was an utterly repulsive concept. None of the Muppets from the Muppet show were in the cast but the cast was clearly that variety of Muppet. You didn’t need to see Miss Piggy giving blowjobs in an alley to feel like you had just seen your beloved childhood memories dragged through a sewer.
The Happy Time Murders were pretty much it for every fan of the Muppets. We were done. All of us. It was completely over. Some things are just better off as dreams from distant youth. While not a Disney project, the entire Muppets brand suffered.
When I saw that there was a show on Disney Plus called Muppets Now, I didn’t click on it. I knew it couldn’t be anything good.
Sometime later I heard something that was almost incongruous in 2020, my youngest child’s laughter combined with Beeker’s panicked, “Me-me-me-me!”
I collected the remote ready to end the horrors that I was certain would shortly be on the screen. After a few moments, I sat down with a smile on my face and enjoyed the first new episode of The Muppet Show I’d seen in forty years.
Muppets Now took advantage of a change in entertainment that has happened in the last five years. The original Muppet Show Was a comedy/variety show. This was a format that had been quite common from the start of television until the early Eighties. In a nutshell, the variety show died when audiences that had enjoyed music halls in their teens died. The Muppet Show was the last successful one.
However, with the rise of YouTube has come a revitalization of sketch comedy and that is something the Muppets absolutely thrive on.
The format is that the Muppets are now (effectively) a YouTube channel. Scooter is the Mod and runs the uploads. The various characters have their own shows. Swedish Chef has an Iron Chef type challenge with actual cooks. Miss Piggy has an influencer show. Bunson and Beeker have a Science Guy act. And Kermit strings the sketches together with a little filler.
And as yet none of it is Woke.
If you have found memories of The Muppet Show and are still getting Disney Plus for free then it’s definitely worth a click.
Cataline Recommends With Confidence.
*The worst is Marvel Comics. In level of loss of authorial intent, financial failure, and complete metastization of the Critical Race Cult.