The Muppet Show (2015 TV series) (Johnsonverse)

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The Muppet Show logo.png
Genre: Comedy
Running Time: 22 minutes
Country: United States
Network(s): WBC (US)
ITV (UK)
Created by: Tim Johnson
Based on characters by Jim Henson
Production companies: The Jim Henson Company
The Muppet Studios (2015-2018)
Distributed by: Johnson Television (US)
ITV Studios (UK)
Starring: Steve Whitmire
Eric Jacobson
Dave Goelz
Bill Barretta
David Rudman
Matt Vogel
Peter Linz
Kevin Clash
Leslie Carrara-Rudolph
John Kennedy
Brian Henson
Julianne Buescher
Tyler Bunch
Ryan Dillon
Seasons: 6
Episodes: 102
Photography: Color
Picture format: 16:9
Release Date: September 22, 2015 - present
Previous show: Muppets Tonight (1996-1998)


The Muppet Show is an American-British variety show, based on the television series of the same name that ran for five seasons from 1976 to 1981 on ITV in the UK and on CBS in the US. Developed by Tim Johnson and produced by The Jim Henson Company in collaboration with ITV Studios and, until the Henson acquisition in 2018, The Muppet Studios, the show has aired on WBC since September 22, 2015 in the US, and since March 6, 2016 on ITV in the UK.

Unike the original series, which was shot at Elstree Studios in the United Kingdom, the new Muppet Show is shot at the Johnson Studios lot in San Jose, California. Since its premiere, it has received critical acclaim for staying true to the original. It has been renewed to the 2024-2025 television season.

Premise

Much like the original show, Kermit the Frog hosts a variety show in the Muppet Theatre. Many sketches and songs are featured in almost every episode, as well as skits taking place backstage. Each

Production

Conception

In 2014, Tim Johnson, looking to release a new Muppets series in primetime to keep the franchise relevant, saw a pitch for a proposed adult-oriented series created by Bill Prady (who also came up with the idea to bring the Muppets back to primetime television) and Bob Kushell. However, he rejected the idea, feeling that Jim Henson wouldn't want an adult-oriented Muppets series. He immediately greenlit a revival of the classic Muppet Show, demanding that the franchise return to its vaudeville roots, with himself, Prady, and Kushell as showrunners and executive producers, allowing Prady to concurrently continue performing his duties as executive producer on The Big Bang Theory, which CBS had renewed through its tenth season, for the 2016–17 season. WBC ordered a pilot script and a 10-minute proof of concept filmed presentation, which was filmed at the Johnson Studios lot in May and delivered just in time for WBC schedule consideration. The pitch presentation, which was first screened to the public on July 11, 2015, at Comic-Con to an overwhelmingly positive response, was released online on July 21, 2015. The pitch presentation's release became the top-trender on social media.

Development

Among the writers that Johnson got for the show outside of himself included Jack Burns (for the first five seasons until his death in January 2020), David Odell, Joseph A. Bailey, and Chris Langham, all of whom had written for the original series, performer David Rudman, his son Adam, former Fraggle Rock writer Jocelyn Stevenson, Prady, and Sesame Street performer and writer Joey Mazzarino, who is also a performer here.

Puppeteers who worked on the original series included Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Kathryn Mullen, Karen Prell, and Louise Gold. The set used is the former Stage 28 in Johnson Studios (formerly Universal Studios), and was decorated with the same set pieces used in the 2011 film The Muppets. Sets must be raised four and a half feet so that the Muppet performers will have room to operate the characters, and all sets have platforms which can be moved. The opening sign used is the same one that had been used on the original show from its second to fifth seasons, and the intro is a shot-for-shot recreation of the intro for the third season, but with the Animal and Lips/Dolores solos from the fifth season intro, while the credits are a recreation of the fifth season credits, though with the addition of Janice to the orchestra next to Floyd Pepper, playing the banjo. Christophe Beck, who had composed the score for the 2011 film The Muppets, conducts an orchestra for the new series.

Cast

  • Steve Whitmire as Kermit, Statler, Beaker, Rizzo the Rat, Bean Bunny, the Newsman, Link Hogthrob, Lips, Andy Pig, the Swedish Chef (hands), and others
  • Eric Jacobson as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle, George the Janitor,
  • Dave Goelz as Gonzo, Waldorf, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot, Randy Pig, Beauregard, Muppy, Chip,
  • Bill Barretta as Rowlf, Pepé the King Prawn, the Swedish Chef (head), Dr. Teeth, Bobo the Bear, Mahna Mahna, Johnny Fiama, and King Rupert the Second (a.k.a. King Goshposh)
  • David Rudman as Scooter, Janice, Wayne,
  • Matt Vogel as Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, Camilla, Pops, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Uncle Deadly, Sweetums, J.P. Grosse,
  • Peter Linz as Walter, Nigel,
  • Kevin Clash as Clifford
  • Leslie Carrara-Rudolph as Dolores (Trumpet Girl)
  • Brian Henson as Sal Minella,
  • Julianne Buescher as Denise and Wanda
  • Tyler Bunch as Thog
  • Ryan Dillon as
  • Kathryn Mullen
  • Karen Prell
  • John Tartaglia
  • Louise Gold
  • Artie Esposito
  • Frankie Corderro
  • Carmen Osbahr
  • Joey Mazzarino
  • Jennifer Barnhart
  • Stephanie D'Abruzzo
  • Alice Dinnean
  • Tim Lagasse
  • Bruce Lanoil
  • Mike Quinn
  • Drew Massey

Seasons

Season First aired Last aired Episodes
1 September 22, 2015 March 1, 2016 16
2 September 20, 2016 March 7, 2017 16
3 September 26, 2017 March 6, 2018 16
4 September 25, 2018 March 5, 2019 16
5 September 24, 2019 March 3, 2020 16
6 October 27, 2020

Episodes

Season 1

  • Episode 101: Elizabeth Banks (aired September 22, 2015) - For the show's comeback, Kermit has booked Elizabeth Banks as the first guest star. Chaos inevitably ensues since everyone is rusty, as there hadn't been a mainline Muppet series since Muppets Tonight ended in 1998. Meanwhile, an unexpected visitor comes in, someone who was thought never to appear again in any Muppet production.
    • Statler and Waldorf opening - WALDORF: Can't believe we have to sit through more of this. STATLER: At least there's more to heckle at! (Doh-oh-oh-oh-oh!)
    • Gonzo's trumpet gag - Gonzo's trumpet makes a steam engine horn sound. GONZO: All those years and it still happens?
    • Statler and Waldorf closing - STATLER: You know, our adult show concept was a better idea. WALDORF: How? STATLER: Anything is better than this! (Doh-oh-oh-oh-oh!)
  • Episode 102: Josh Grobin (aired September 29, 2015) - With everything under control,
    • Statler and Waldorf opening - STATLER (singing): Let's not get this started! WALDORF: Better yet, this shouldn't have made it to the drawing board! (Doh-oh-oh-oh-oh!)
    • Gonzo's trumpet gag - Gonzo's trumpet pulls out a "HONK!" flag.
    • Statler and Waldorf closing - WALDORF: Well, whaddya know? This show has yet another first! STATLER: That's right, the first celebrity who'd rather be elsewhere! (Doh-oh-oh-oh-oh!)
  • Episode 103: Liam Hemsworth (aired October 6, 2015) -
    • Statler and Waldorf opening - WALDORF: This should be fun. STATLER: That is, if nobody's in it! (Doh-oh-oh-oh-oh!)
    • Gonzo's trumpet gag - Gonzo's trumpet blows out a cloud of helium. GONZO: (voice getting increasingly high-pitched) Why does my voice sound so funny? Oh... right.
    • Statler and Waldorf closing - STATLER: Could be worse, Waldorf. WALDORF: Yeah. The bear could have been in it. FOZZIE: In where, guys? BOTH: Oh... (fainting)
  • Episode 104: Ed Helms (aired October 13, 2015) - After a
  • Episode 105: Reese Witherspoon (aired October 27, 2015) -
  • Episode 106: Kristin Chenoweth (aired November 3, 2015) -
  • Episode 107: Jason Bateman (aired November 10, 2015) -
  • Episode 108: Chelsea Handler (aired November 17, 2015) -
  • Episode 109: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (aired December 1, 2015) -
  • Episode 110: Mindy Kaling (aired December 8, 2015) -
  • Episode 111: Utkarsh Ambudkar (aired February 2, 2016) -
  • Episode 112: Joan Jett and Ian Ziering (aired February 9, 2016) -
  • Episode 113: Ingrid Michaelson (aired February 16, 2016) -
  • Episode 114: Lara Spencer (aired February 23, 2016) -
  • Episode 115: Willie Nelson (aired March 1, 2016) -
  • Episode 116: Jack White (aired March 8, 2016) -

Season 2

  • Episode 201: Huey Lewis (aired September 20, 2016)
  • Episode 202: Tom Bergeron (aired September 27, 2016)
  • Episode 203: Vivica A. Fox (aired October 4, 2016)
  • Episode 204: Judge Judy Sheindlin (aired October 11, 2016) - Judge Judy comes to the Muppet Theatre to preside over Kermit's lawsuit against Miss Piggy for harassment. Piggy countersues for... not requiting her feelings. Petri Hawkins-Byrd and Jerry Bishop guest star, and the lawsuit scenes were filmed on the Judge Judy set, with many of the set pieces being raised to accommodate the performers. All the seated Muppets are animatronics. The British version instead features guest-star Robert Rinder of Judge Rinder fame.
    • Statler and Waldorf opening - STATLER: You know, the Muppets are so bad... WALDORF: They should be sued! (Doh-oh-oh-oh!)
    • Gonzo's trumpet gag - Gonzo, about to blow his trumpet, is suddenly locked behind bars, and Byrd comes from out of nowhere and takes away his trumpet. GONZO: You didn't tell me my Miranda rights!
    • Statler and Waldorf closing - WALDORF: I told you trying to sue Her Honor wasn't a good idea. STATLER: Now we're forced to stay here and watch more Muppet Shows for at least 30 years! BOTH: Oh, no!
  • Episode 205: Jimmy Fallon (aired October 18, 2016)
  • Episode 206: Vanna White (aired October 25, 2016)
  • Episode 206: Bob Saget (aired November 1, 2016)

Season 3

Season 4

  • Episode 401: The Stars of Star Wars (aired September 25, 2018) - Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Tom Holland), along with C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (R2-D2) arrive at the Muppet Theatre.
  • Episode 402: Dan Castellaneta (aired October 2, 2018) -

Season 5

  • Episode 501: The Stars of Sesame Street (aired September 24, 2019) - Kermit's friends from Sesame Street (Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Cookie Monster, Grover, Big Bird, Oscar, Bert, Ernie, Zoe, Prairie Dawn, Rosita, Telly, Count von Count, and Mr. Snuffleupagus) have been invited to the Muppet Theatre. This episode was made in celebration of Sesame Street's 50th anniversary.
    • Statler and Waldorf opening - STATLER: If the red guy's in it, this show is the worst. WALDORF: I think he is in the show. STATLER: It's already the worst then! (Doh-oh-oh-oh-oh!)
    • Gonzo's trumpet gag - Gonzo blows out the first few notes of the Sesame Street theme.
    • Statler and Waldorf closing - ELMO: Elmo invites you to visit Sesame Street for a day with his friends. WALDORF: Well, you were right, Statler. It's the worst show we've ever watched. STATLER: All thanks to that red menace! (Doh-oh-oh-oh-oh!)
  • Episode 502: Adam Driver (aired October 1, 2019) - When Adam Driver comes to the Muppet Theatre, his acts upstage those of Miss Piggy. Her response is to try to sabotage him and ruin his reputation.

Broadcast history

International versions

Like the French and German versions of the original Muppet Show, the title card is replaced for all foreign versions with a new one showing the foreign-language title. In most cases, however, these versions feature local guest stars in most episodes, replacing the originals, with their segments shot at that version's studio (though Muppet-only skits are kept, with references to the guest star being redubbed).

COVID-19 pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show was put on hiatus, and was replaced with Netflix original Muppets Now. However, Tim has said that the show would reenter production eventually. The show reentered production on October 10, 2020, with the sixth season set to air in December of that year. New social distancing measures were taken, with some celebrities appearing through Zoom. Other performers living outside of California recorded a track that substitute puppeteers would perform to.

Reception

The show was universally acclaimed. On Rotten Tomatoes, the series has a score of 100%, with the critic consensus reading, "With high production values, top-notch guest stars, and quality humor, The Muppet Show has successfully recaptured what made the original show fun to watch". The episode guest-starring Judy Sheindlin, in particular, is cited as the best episode in either this series or the original. Variety called it "a fun show that would have done Jim Henson proud".