So many television shows (especially sitcoms) revolve around a “Will they or won’t they?” setup for two of its major characters. More often than not, they’re the protagonists. It turns out The Muppets is making the same move with Kermit and Miss Piggy, despite a number of factors working against the premise. For one, they’ve already pulled the “Will they” several times over, having been depicted as an eternal couple before their current series even aired, give or take a few adjustments depending on the film or TV special in question. For example, they play a fictional married couple in A Muppet Christmas Carol, but a burgeoning couple more in a seeing-each-other phase than a full-on relationship The Muppet Movie.
When The Muppets officially broke up the amphibi-porcine couple, there was a huge fan outcry, which grew even louder and more aggressive as the show progressed through the first half of its debut season. Once new showrunner Kristin Newman took the reins from Bob Kushell, she sympathized with the discontent, recognizing that it’s important to keep the love Kermit and Piggy feel for each other alive, even if they’re not together.
Despite Newman and Bill Prady’s coyness about whether or not Kermit and Piggy would romantically—not just platonically—get back together, the second half of the season has been pushing the two characters in that direction, swiftly getting Denise out of the picture in “A Tail of Two Pigges” and, in “Generally Inhospitable”—the first episode of tonight’s two-part finale—having them each separately profess their love for the other. The romance grows from a rekindled spark to a roaring flame after a broken leg lands Piggy in the hospital. On top of being genuinely concerned for her wellbeing, Kermit does his best to keep her happy, helping her broadcast the latest episode of Up Late With Miss Piggy from her room so Pizza won’t replace her with a DJ as host.
You’d think this would result in Kermit and Piggy’s official reunion by the end of the episode, but it gets drawn out into the second part of the evening, the aptly titled “Because…Love.” Yet even then, we’re left with a cliffhanger. Piggy refuses to reveal her feelings to Kermit until he regales her with a grand romantic gesture, which he finally does after running into Jack White. White fills in for Bruno Mars as Up Late’s musical guest, performing a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” revealed to be Kermit and Piggy’s song back in “Ex-Factor.” But it proves to be too little too late, as Piggy leaves for a spur-of-the-moment trip to Thailand before the episode ends.
And here’s where the stalling gets really inexplicable. After Kermit manages to make it onto the plane and finally confess his feelings to Piggy, her pre-flight Ambien kicks in and causes her to fall asleep before she can respond. This ends “Because…Love” on a cliffhanger that’s not actually a cliffhanger. Are we meant to think that Kermit and Piggy really won’t get back together if the show gets renewed? And if they don’t, then what the hell was the whole second half of the season for? What was the point of Kermit and Piggy’s heartfelt confessions to the camera? What was the point of Kermit’s sweet and quiet therapy session with Rowlf, who convinces him to take the leap? The intended suspense now becomes frustration at a story either resulting in a reconnection we’ve all known was coming for quite a while or—in the event of Kermit and Piggy just staying friends—the biggest troll move in ABC history, the network-TV equivalent to the fate of a certain character on The Walking Dead this past season.
The prolonged catharsis also seems like a gross misuse of the show’s truncated back half. With only six episodes after the winter break (five if you count tonight’s finale as one installment), there’s little time to waste on something that’s likely to happen anyway. The series would be smarter to focus more on its antagonists. Introducing Pizza and network president Lucy Royce in “Swine Song” was an efficient way to unite the somewhat fractured Muppets against two villains. But Pizza’s an entire arc gets too easily resolved once they all lock him in a closet and he reveals to Sweetums that he has daddy issues. Feeling sympathy for him, the gang helps him get in touch with his father and realize his dream of running the family sporting-goods store. He then leaves the Up Late set, redeemed and presumably never to be heard from again. Lucy’s fate is even more ineffective, as she never shows up in either episode. It’s the opposite of the Kermit and Piggy romance, an unpredictable storyline that gets wrapped up too easily. The Muppets’ opponents are the logical plot point to carry over to season two, not the redundant relationship mystery.
On the plus side, both episodes lean on just the right amount of nostalgia. The rapturous applause feels—for once—justified when “Veterinarian’s Hospital” returns in all of its dramatically punny glory, along with a hospital performance of “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson that has the same down-home quaintness of many of The Muppet Show’s best country numbers. In the second episode, writers Scott Weinger and Emily Wilson keep their gaze focused even more intently on the past, featuring Bobby Benson’s Baby Band, Mahna Mahna and the Snowths, and Marvin Suggs’ Muppaphones as possible replacement acts for Bruno Mars before Kermit encounters White. But all of this is secondary to the core reunion of Kermit and Piggy, a story point that once was thrilling, but has now become something The Muppets just needs to get out of the way.
- I’m starting to think that part of why the audience reactions to Up Late With Miss Piggy don’t often work is because they actually show the crowd laughing. The Muppet Show had plenty of unfunny sketches, too, but because the laughter sounded so canned and the audience was rarely seen—and when it did happen, they often consisted of cardboard cutouts—it just came off as another element of the sketch, another tool for comedy, regardless of whether the onstage happenings were funny or not.
- I never need to see Chip’s tongue again. Also, more Chip, please.
- It appears Sam’s attraction to Janice is still in full swing, which is encouraging.
- Am I crazy in thinking that unflattering band manager Howard Tubman is supposed to be the Muppet pig version of imprisoned boy-band overlord Lou Pearlman?
- “First off, I can tell you’re feeling anxious, so…you should pet my head.”
- “Our song? I thought our song was ‘Froggie Went A-Courting’”.
- “It looks like Liberace’s quinceañera in here.” Way to bite the hand that feeds you, Rizzo!
- I really do hope The Muppets gets a second season, not because I’m especially interested in the Kermit and Piggy outcome at this point, but because, all things considered, there was a lot to love in its first year. “Going, Going, Gonzo” ranks among the best Muppet TV moments, and I admire that the show tried—and sometimes succeeded—to do something different with such a familiar, long-running franchise. We’ll see what happens.