Image: Jeff Christiansen via Flickr

The timeless appeal of The Muppets

“It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights, it’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight”. 

It seems hard to believe that a show about talking, singing, dancing puppets was such a hit when it premiered in 1976, especially when you consider that the show featured an anthropomorphic frog, mad scientists, singing chickens, a cringey stand-up comedic bear, and pigs in space. A brief ‘Muppet News Flash’ will perhaps explain their legendary status. 

The current television landscape is awash with shows. We can click through a variety of channels and cycle through a multitude of streaming services, choosing whatever tickles our fancy.  An entire family can now all watch different TV shows in a single room at the same time, allowing us to seek out the content that specifically appeals to us. But in the 1970s, this wasn’t exactly the case. 

The Muppet Show  had something that all ages could find amusement in

With only three television channels in the UK, TV required universal appeal. People sat down together on the sofa to watch what was being broadcast, so successful shows had to cater to absolutely everyone, and that’s exactly what The Muppets did. Adopting a variety format, The Muppet Show had something that all ages could find amusement in. Children could relish in the weird and wacky sketches by the likes of ‘Gonzo the Great’ or the Swedish Chef; adults were able to snigger at the proliferation of innuendo; and the elderly perhaps felt an affiliation with the OAPs, Stadtler and Waldorf. Each episode even featured a celebrity guest, and who, in their right mind, wouldn’t have enjoyed seeing the likes of Julie Andrews and Elton John cosy up to a bunch of puppets? 

It is this format that has allowed The Muppets to have such longevity and remain in the public consciousness in the nearly 50 years since their debut. Whether it’s Kermit the Frog singing about ‘making whoopie’ with Ulrika Jonsson (look it up), performing concerts at the O2, or their frequent posting on social media, their wild and zany antics have seamlessly fit into the changing tides of pop culture, remaining relevant for both old and new fans. Nothing makes this more evident than the eight feature films and numerous TV series that the franchise has spawned. 

I didn’t grow up watching the original series, though; my first foray into the ‘Muppetverse’ came when my parents dragged me to the cinema to see 2011’s The Muppets. Some may ask ‘how can you be a fan if you didn’t watch the classic series?’ Yet, that is what is so great about them. You can watch any of their content and fall in love with the vast array of characters on screen. Personally, this has manifested in a borderline dangerous obsession with Miss Piggy. I simply cannot write this article without paying respect to the true supermodel of our time. 

Jim Henson was able to craft a show that … allowed us to find something profound in the art of puppetry

Miss Piggy is a true feminist icon who embraces body positivity, preaches self-love, and karate chops anyone who stands in her way. Her feisty, powerful demeanour has, quite frankly, made her my favourite celebrity of all time. She now adorns my phone case, and when she announced her breakup with Kermit, I don’t think I’ve ever known pain quite like it. 

You may think I am being ridiculous, but to me it’s a testament to the brilliance of The Muppets.  In Elstree Studios, right here in the UK, Jim Henson was able to craft a show that softened hearts around the world, brought families together through laughter, and allowed us to find something profound in the art of puppetry. 

I believe nothing is a more profound example than perhaps their most famous song, ‘The Rainbow Connection’. Kermit the Frog starts the tune atop a log, plucking a banjo before being joined by his friends, where they sing the lines “Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me”. In the bleak world in which we live, it’s hard not to listen to this message, shed a tear and be filled with hope. And the fact that this can be done by a Muppet? Well, I think that’s magical. Don’t you? 


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