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It’s Time to Skip the Muppets With Some Muppet Flops Tonight

January 31, 2019

From The Muppet Movie to The Muppet Show to Sesame Street, everybody loves the Muppets, the brilliant puppet comic creations of Jim Henson and company. But not everything with “Muppets” in its name has been a success. Here are some rare Muppet misses. 

Muppets

Little Muppet Monsters (1985) 

It’s kind of hard to believe, but a spinoff of one of the most popular Saturday morning cartoons of all time, and which was part of one of the most enduring franchises in TV history, was one of the most quickly canceled shows in TV history. In 1984, Muppet Babies debuted on CBS’s Saturday morning schedule and quickly became the most watched kids show on TV. It imagined the most famous Muppet characters — Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, etc. — as babies, only they were cartoons instead of puppets. CBS quickly commissioned another Muppet show for Saturday mornings, to premiere in the fall of 1985: Little Muppet Monsters. A live-action, puppet-based show, it was about three young “monsters” named Tug, Molly, and Boo who make a TV show (which were animated segments) in their basement. CBS canceled it after three episodes. The reason: While 13 episodes were done, the animation studio didn’t finish the cartoon parts in time for their first scheduled airings. CBS got so mad they replaced the show with Muppet Babies reruns. Little Muppet Monsters has never surfaced on home video. 

Muppets from Space (1999) 

The various Muppet movies suffered from diminishing returns, particularly after the death of Jim Henson in 1990. After the box office and critical hits of ‘70s and ‘80s films like The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan, the series floundered in the ‘90s with Muppet Treasure Island and Muppets from Space. The latter, released in 1999, concerned a maudlin, lonely Gonzo learning that he isn’t just a “weirdo,” he’s an alien. It grossed just over $20 million (the least of any Muppet movie). It was so poorly received that no Muppet movie hit screens for 12 years. 

The Muppets (2015) 

In 2011, sitcom star and screenwriter Jason Segel revived the Muppets with The Muppets, a huge hit that saw the Muppets reuniting to “get the band back together” as it were. A mistaken identity / crime caper sequel in 2014 called Muppets Most Wanted also proved successful, leading Disney-owned ABC to bring another Muppet show back to TV. The Muppets was presented as an update of The Muppet Show. In the original, 1976-1981 series, Kermit the Frog tried (often in vein) to put together a theatrical variety show each week. On The Muppets, he barely got a talk show starring Miss Piggy on the air each night. Plus it was a “mockumentary” like Modern Family or The Office. And unlike virtually every other Muppet project to date, it was adult-oriented. For example, Kermit and Miss Piggy have split up, and Kermit dates a much younger pig puppet. Parent watchdog groups urged viewers to boycott the series, but many did of their own accord: It finished #90th in the ratings and was canceled after one season.

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