ABC’s new comedy, The Muppets, premiered this week. The show is a mix of nostalgia, bringing to mind The Muppet Show (1976-1981), and a modern day drama. Using a page out of the writer’s room of Modern Family or Parks and Recreation, The Muppets follows the crew of a late night television show, Up Late with Miss Piggy, in a mockumentary.
Just as in all the other Muppet related television shows and films, the Muppet characters are treated just as human as the humans. In the first episode, Fozzie goes to dinner to meet his human girlfriend’s human family. The Muppets come complete with their own set of human emotions and human drama.
Perhaps too human for some viewers. According to the family values group, One Million Moms, and other evangelical leaders, The Muppets “will cover a range of topics from sex to drugs.” You read between the lines correctly. The group, who is advocating that viewers boycott the show, was doing so without actually watching the show. The predictions about what the show would be like were all based on the marketing they have seen, saying on their website, “It appears that no subject is off limits.”
The group goes so far to suggest that the 8PM half-hour family comedy will cover the issue of abortion: they provide no evidence to this claim.
Executive producer Bob Kushell told TVLine.com, “Jokes can work on two levels.” That’s true in the first episode so there’s no denying that. When presented with a drug reference regarding the band, Kushell says, “That’s a joke where the adults in the audience get to put two and two together,” while the kids watching have “no idea” what Kermit is suggesting.
TV producers and writers are tasked with portraying human realities to a human audience. And as the Muppets have done for decades, they help us see who we are in a clearer sense.
The truth is, it’s not easy being human.
In this realm of the Muppets universe, Kermit and Miss Piggy have broken up. Kermit is the Executive Producer of Miss Piggy’s show. And there is tension between the two on a personal level, only made more complicated by a disagreement over Elizabeth Banks being a guest on the show.
The focus of this first episode is on Kermit as he strives to overcome the breakup with Miss Piggy. He realizes, perhaps forgetting that the mockumentary cameras are following him, “If you take dating out of the equation, she’s a lunatic.”
And we realize that if Kermit wasn’t Kermit, we might conclude that he’s a jerk (read, “human”). But because he is the “it’s-not-easy-being-green” frog we have all learned to love, we know that Kermit is the Muppet most equipped for atonement.
It turns out that Kermit has forgotten the real reason for Miss Piggy’s uncomfortableness with Elizabeth Banks. It has to do with the day they broke up. When Kermit remembers, he cannot believe that he forgot such an important moment in both their lives.
Upon recognizing that he messed up, Kermit apologizes for his part. And the work of reconciliation can be done between the two. It is hard work, to say the least, for Muppet and human alike. But it is work that has been laid out before us by the One who took up his cross for the sake of humanity.
The writer of Ephesians says, “The Messiah has made things up between us so that we’re now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance . . . . .Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14, 16, the Message).
In other words, through the Cross, Christ reconciled us to one another and to God. Through the Cross, there is no need for us to be separate, to have centuries of animosity between us. The hard work has been done for us, we simply need to remember what we have done, and seek to make it right.
Just another lesson from a frog named Kermit.