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ABC Rolls Out Muppets and Serial Killers for 2015-16
August 4, 2015  | By Ed Bark  | 1 comment

Beverly Hills, CA – Hey, hey, they're The Muppets. And their existence pre-dates both the birth of The Beatles and the cancellation of the original I Love Lucy.

That's longevity, and they're not finished yet. ABC's The Muppets, potentially the lone bright spot among the network's lackluster quintet of new fall series, premieres on Sept. 22 as Tuesday's prime-time leadoff hitter. It will take a "mockumentary" backstage look at a big gaggle of Muppets on the staff of a late night show hosted by Miss Piggy. The first star Muppet, Kermit the Frog, is executive producer, with Fozzie Bear acting as the self-important sow's on-air sidekick and warm-up act.

Co-executive producer Bob Kushell references HBO's The Larry Sanders Show and says the approach will be somewhat similar. That means occasional cuts to Miss Piggy's show (where Reese Witherspoon is the first announced guest), but a main focus on all the attendant chaos.

"We wanted to hold true to what people know about these characters," Kushell said after a formal panel session for the show. "But at the same time we don't want to bore them with just showing the same things they've been seeing for the past 60 years."

"The goal here is to be exactly the same and completely different," co-executive producer Bill Prady earlier told TV critics.

The late Jim Henson birthed The Muppets in 1955 on Sam and Friends, a talk show originating from WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. They had their greatest TV success with The Muppet Show, which ran in syndication from 1976-81 and introduced the vainglorious Miss Piggy's as Kermit's long-time antagonist and sometime girlfriend. For the purposes of the ABC show, they've broken up again.

A year earlier, The Muppets went several steps beyond fuzzy-wuzzy as featured players on Saturday Night Live's inaugural 1975 season. ABC's initial description of this latest incarnation touts a "more adult Muppet show for 'kids' of all ages." Kushell says that doesn't mean Kermit will be working blue.

"It means we have to be clever with our risqué humor, but there is humor that is more adult," he said.

The Muppets were delivered into the clutches of, er, acquired by The Walt Disney Company in 2004. ABC, owned by Disney, didn't bite for a while but now has fast-tracked The Muppets to the point where its show-runners didn't have to do a pilot and now are working at breakneck speed.

"There's no part of me whatsoever that did not want to wait (until midseason)," Prady acknowledged. "This went very fast and it makes the work harder."

Miss Piggy, who typically arrived late to join Prady, Kushell and Kermit on the panel, found no reason to worry.

"What's the big deal?" she asked. "All you've got to do is follow me around with a camera."

The four of them sat at a black-draped table to hide the human hands and voices that Miss Piggy and Kermit depend upon.

"I'm sitting on a giant stack of phone books," Kermit noted. "But nobody uses them anymore anyway."

Kermit also aired out his new romance with Denise the pig, who works in ABC marketing. "I do have an attraction to pigs," he admitted.

Miss Piggy later sniffed. "It was inevitable that Kermit would drop down to the ground while I stayed in the heavens," she said.

Yes, we're actually quoting hand puppets here. So let's briefly segue to yet another drama series about serial killers.

ABC's Wicked City (below), which also will air on Tuesday nights, is unlikely to be promoted within The Muppets, no matter how adult its content.

Set in 1982 amid the "rock 'n' roll, cocaine-infused revelry of the Sunset Strip," the series centers on a "Bonnie and Clyde-like serial killing couple" played by Ed Westwick (Gossip Girl) and Erika Christensen (Parenthood). Their principal pursuer is a homicide detective played by Jeremy Sisto (Suburgatory).

But unlike Fox's The Following, Showtime's Dexter or NBC's Hannibal, this show will be an open-and-shut case in its first season before moving on to a hoped-for second season in which new characters and a new setting will take hold while some of theactors may return in different roles.

There's a lot of this going around, too. FX's American Horror Story and Fargo, HBO's True Detective and ABC's American Crime have been taking the same route.

Charter American Crime cast members Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton and others will return for Season 2 in a "completely different" story that toggles between "elite" and public school settings, ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee said.

Lee also championed Viola Davis' Emmy nomination for her lead role in ABC's How to Get Away with Murder.

"I think Viola Davis should win that Emmy," he said without prompting, terming her performance both "fierce" and "sexy."

ABC's last Emmy win for lead actress in a drama series went to Sally Field in 2007 for Brothers & Sisters.

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Mary Bolduc McKeown
not necessary to publish this, or just omit my name, but I was wondering if, even given how spoiled Miss Piggy is, the Rolling Stones would play "You Can't Always Get What You Want" for her or, Jimmy Eat World would play that other consolation song, name escapes me at the moment, on an upcoming show.
Aug 8, 2015   |  Reply
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