Disney+ Premieres ‘Muppets Now,’ But Do You Remember the Muppets Then?
Wocka wocka! The Muppets are finally coming back to live-action TV thanks to Disney+ and a little help from celebrity guest stars RuPaul Charles, Aubrey Plaza, Taye Diggs, Seth Rogen, and—oops. “No details about celebrity guests or content may be proffered at this juncture,” Joe the Legal Weasel mandates in Disney+’s trailer for the upcoming series Muppets Now. “Over my dead legal briefs!”
Yep, this is the zany, madcap Muppets action you know and love, back on television—and unscripted, no less!—four years after ABC axed their own live-action series, The Muppets. Believe it or not, the Muppet franchise has graced the small screen—off and on—for more than six decades.
Kermit thinks it’s not easy being green? Well, he got his start in black and white in the 1950s series Sam and Friends. Scroll down for details on that show and more Muppet series that have aired since.
Sam and Friends
Jim and Jane Henson’s puppet show on Washington, D.C.’s WRC-TV station centered on a human named Sam and his motley group of scene-stealing pals—Kermit included. It aired from 1955 to 1961. The opening scene in the video above features Kermit getting to know Muppet-ized versions of NBC news anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.
The Muppet Show
We have the U.K. to thank for this show—it was commissioned by the British broadcaster ATV and filmed in England, and it aired stateside in syndication. Lasting from 1976 to 1981, the series took the form of an accident-prone variety show hosted by Kermit, and it introduced Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo. The series also featured appearances by celebrities including Steve Martin, Elton John, and Diana Ross, and it won the 1978 Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy – Variety or Music Series.
If you’re a millennial or a Gen X-er, there’s a good chance you can sing the theme song to this animated CBS series, which aired from 1984 to 1991 and featured Dave Coulier, Howie Mandel, and other actors voicing infant versions of the Muppets.
Little Muppet Monsters
With the success of Muppet Babies, CBS ordered another half-hour series to air immediately afterward in 1985. Little Muppet Monsters followed three Muppets—Tug, Molly, and Boo—who use a little creativity and ingenuity to start a TV show from their basement. Unfortunately, only three episodes aired. Amid production delays on Little Muppet Monsters, CBS filled in the gaps with Muppet Babies episodes, and when those episodes delivered good ratings, the network gave up on Monsters.
The Jim Henson Hour
NBC got in on the Muppets game in 1989, airing this Walt Disney Presents-like series in which Jim Henson introduced standalone segments featuring his beloved puppets, including new iterations of The Muppet Show’s MuppeTelevision variety show and repackaged episodes of his British series The Storyteller.
Henson died in 1990, but his family and production company soldiered on, debuting Muppets Tonight on ABC in 1996. Once again, the show took the format of a variety show, but this one was emceed by Clifford, a Muppet from The Jim Henson Hour. Sandra Bullock, Whoopi Goldberg, and Prince headlined episodes during the show’s two-season run.
Kermit returned as the beleaguered producer of a show-within-a-show in ABC’s The Muppets, a half-hour, mockumentary-style sitcom documenting the production of Up Late With Miss Piggy. Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Liam Hemsworth made guest appearances, but ABC nevertheless canceled the series after one season in 2016.
Disney Junior and Disney Channel rebooted Muppet Babies in 2018, bringing back Baby Kermit, Baby Piggy, Baby Gonzo, and even Miss Nanny—the caretaker seen only from the shoulders down—this time voiced by Jenny Slate. Disney renewed the show for a third season last year.
“Overflowing with spontaneous lunacy, surprising guest stars, and more frogs, pigs, bears, and whatevers than legally allowed, the Muppets cut loose in Muppets Now with the kind of startling silliness and chaotic fun that made them famous,” touts a press release for the upcoming Disney+ show.
Muppets Now, Friday, July 31, Disney