I'd Be Lying If I Told You This Is The Best of the Muppets
June 11, 2010 12:59 AM   Subscribe

Those wacky Muppets are like everywhere these days, right? (pre-vio-sly). But a part of the muppetty empire called Henson Alternative is working on 'more adult' concepts with unfamiliar felt, and hasn't seen too much success yet. Maybe that'll change with the puppet-celebrity game show that debuted last night: "Late Night Liars". Or maybe not. Here's a clip.

Yes, that's Larry Miller as the token human host. Yes, the announcer's a weasel and the cutest character. Yes, that mummy character is doing a Paul Lynde/Charles Nelson Reilly schtick. And yes, the game is basically a retread of "The Liars Club" without the props (and yes, that is Rod Serling in that 1969 clip uncomfortably playing game show host with the ubiquitous Betty White on the panel). And, yes, it would've been so much better with Miss Piggy. Maybe we should just wait for Henson Alternative's next project: "Mann-ster" (a hapless mall cop who turns into a crime-fighting hamster at night).
SPOILER: In the uncompleted round of play in the clip, the mummy and the poodle were lying, the monkey and the old lady were telling the truth, if anyone cares. In a later round, both human contestants couldn't believe "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" was a real show on Fox, and the bonus round involved alternating statements about Kirstie Alley and the planet Jupiter.
posted by oneswellfoop (32 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
not amusing at all, but tedious.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 1:18 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

How utterly joyless. It felt rehearsed to dust. Even the audience looked shellacked.
posted by biddeford at 1:37 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Jebus that's awful.
posted by delmoi at 1:42 AM on June 11, 2010

So I watched the rest of that, after I posted my comment. It didn't get better. In fact, it's as if joy has been entirely drained from the world. Like. everything seems worse and less funny. It's not just not funny it's antihumor
posted by delmoi at 1:48 AM on June 11, 2010

I cringed a little when the host had to pause and read the name tags so he could greet the contestants. However, if they hit their timing better, I could go for a reincarnation of the Match Game slumming demi-celebrity universe.
posted by zippy at 1:49 AM on June 11, 2010

Yeah but Zippy, this would be like Match Game performed by North Korean ventriloquists with rifles to their necks.
Actually, that might be funnier.
posted by biddeford at 1:55 AM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah but Zippy, this would be like Match Game performed by North Korean ventriloquists with rifles to their necks.
Actually, that might be funnier.
Lol. Okay, that made up for seeing this.
posted by delmoi at 1:59 AM on June 11, 2010

I started out thinking it might be good, and laughed at the first couple jokes, but gave up at at probably four minutes. The "crude humor from puppets" schtick could be very funny, but it can't be every line. There needs to be some reality to the show, some sense of the puppets being real, and the announcer constantly saying things like "I've known these guys for a long time!" on the very first show is just cringe-inducing.

I think it could work if the muppets were gentler and more ad-libby, instead of being so heavily scripted. Maybe something like the Kermit and Fozzie test reels that ran here on MeFi a couple months ago. It should be the occasional elbow nudge, wisecracking most of the time, but it feels like constant brickbats to the head... "wow, we're funny and edgy! We're funny and edgy! We're so, so edgy. No, really!"

It's one joke, over and over, at least up to where I couldn't take any more.

I guess it needs inherently funny people who happen to be speaking through puppets, but then why do puppets at all?

It just occurs to me now... I haven't really watched this style of show since I was a kid. I thought they were ad-libbed at the time, but in retrospect, the various contestants hardly ever stepped on each other's lines. Maybe they were more scripted than I thought?
posted by Malor at 2:00 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

If the contestants weren't actors and if the puppets were voiced by Bob Sagat-esque comedians doing bits they might not get away with doing on TV normally.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:03 AM on June 11, 2010

The puppets-with-adult-themes thing was quite masterfully done by Meet the Feebles a number of years ago and this crap doesn't even come close.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:57 AM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is either brilliant post-modern-meta-anti-humor, or just bad.
gonna defer to the ol' occam's on figuring out which.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 2:57 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah but Zippy, this would be like Match Game performed by North Korean ventriloquists with rifles to their necks.

"My friend Kim is really kinky. He thinks the Juche Tower is a kind of BLANK."
posted by zippy at 2:58 AM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Okay, I actually remember watching "The Liars' Club" in its first couple of versions in the late 60s and 70s, and it never had much spontaneous humor; the celebrity panelists were fully briefed so that the designated non-liars would be accurate and the designated liars would all have different stories, and even with skilled performers on the panel, it was often painfully obvious (and every time I saw the Rod Serling version, he was just as uncomfortable as in that clip).

I think knowing the old show made this muppetized version a little less painful to watch because I was prepared for it to be over-scripted and unspontaneous... after all, these weren't even real celebrities, they were parody characters done with puppets! I saw it as designed to be a satirical swipe at celebrity game shows, and nothing more. Forget the "real people" contestants (but who remembered the contestants on "Match Game"?). But even at that, most of the jokes were cringeworthy and the pacing was way too stiff and slow. Better writing and better directing (and a human host with more energy than Larry Miller) could've helped immeasurably, but, as I said before, so would having Miss Piggy on the panel.

There was one part that almost worked as a real game: the 'lightening round' at the end that moved quickly and actually challenged the contestant. It had two of the puppets alternating making statements about two different topics and you had to pay attention to be clear which was which before even thinking whether it was a true statement. The problem was that they went for a cheap running joke, making the topics "Kirsty Alley" and "The Planet Jupiter", and the "fat planet" wisecracks got in the way of the gameplay.

Based on what the Muppet Wiki said about "Henson Alternative", most of its attempts at shows seemed to have fallen flat. This one just got far enough to do it publicly. Sometimes you just gotta see the failures to appreciate the Muppitational successes.

And I am definitely overthinking this plate of overcooked puppets.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:07 AM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Jim would not approve.
posted by jbickers at 3:39 AM on June 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Ach. You all keep laughing. You're FUCKING PUPPETS. We don't believe the laughter is spontaneous. You need a straight man to keep the narrative flowing, not a bunch of puppets pretending to be having a good time. There's no "Kermit" figure here.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:24 AM on June 11, 2010

NO you do not mix Jeff Dunham and Muppets. NONONO
posted by The Devil Tesla at 5:34 AM on June 11, 2010

Wow. This would actually be IMPROVED by the presence of Alf.
posted by briank at 6:13 AM on June 11, 2010

A couple months ago, I got to watch a pilot for a show that mixed the gritty cop genre, with the gritty puppet genre. You had scenes of puppets puking during the booking process at the jail, anti-puppet-racism ala Alien Nation, and a reasonably funny detective story squeezed in. I thought it was great, and wished I could have figured out a way to save a copy.

And this is what gets green lighted instead?

posted by nomisxid at 6:56 AM on June 11, 2010

Another case of hamfistedly conflating "mature" and "juvenile." You know you're doing something wrong when your show for babies is more sophisticated than your show for adults.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:23 AM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Come on, admit it... "apartheid to the bed post" was pretty funny.
posted by fusinski at 8:23 AM on June 11, 2010

A couple months ago, I got to watch a pilot for a show that mixed the gritty cop genre, with the gritty puppet genre.

Really? Was it The Fuzz? If so, how did you happen to see it?
posted by Greg Nog at 8:26 AM on June 11, 2010

I just learned from one of the "previously" threads that Disney bought the muppets.

Two thoughts:

1.) I can't believe Jim would approve.

2.)Brace yourself for decades and decades of Muppet related things that suck.
posted by Trochanter at 9:16 AM on June 11, 2010

It could be a fun show, but they need really great improv artists working the puppets and a less-starched host.

Those jokes. Wow, was that bad. "What happened when you pulled your finger out of the dike." "Everything got wet." Really? REALLY? THAT'S your punchline? ugh.
posted by ruthsarian at 9:20 AM on June 11, 2010

Who ever thought this would work in the development stage ought to be shot.

Lame from the word go ...

Hansen Alternative should do something like Spitting Image or a muppified version of Bloom County - not a straight up adaptation of the actual strip but something in that vein ... oddball antics from misbehaving cute things with spicy political bite.
posted by hoodrich at 9:24 AM on June 11, 2010

I can't believe Jim would approve.

He probably wouldn't approve of the show in its current form, but he would most certainly approve of a more adult-themed muppet show. In fact he did such a thing happen when Henson did sketches for the first season of SNL.
posted by ruthsarian at 9:26 AM on June 11, 2010


I meant he wouldn't approve of the Disney sale.

Total aside: I was surprised to find out via the "Painted Pipes" thread, that Frank Oz is 6'2". I've thought of him as a smallish man...
posted by Trochanter at 9:33 AM on June 11, 2010

Adult muppets? Bah, it was done a long time ago.
posted by ignignokt at 9:48 AM on June 11, 2010

When I read "'more adult' concepts with unfamiliar felt" I assumed this was an attempt to make Plush Rump a reality—or something more sinister. But no, this is just some lame Crank Yankers-meets-Hollywood Squares thing.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 9:50 AM on June 11, 2010

Disney bought the Muppets in 2004. We have them to blame for It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and The Muppet Wizard Of Oz. I wish I could blame Disney for Muppets From Space, but sadly I cannot.
posted by hippybear at 10:13 AM on June 11, 2010

This is Poochie all over again.

It was so un-funny, I'm going to blot out the memory of it by re-watching that one episode of Angel.
posted by ErikaB at 12:09 PM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I swear that scene at the end where Fred and Wesley are fighting the Horatio Hornblower demon just slays me every time.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:32 PM on June 11, 2010

That clip was pretty terrible. You should check out the Stuff and Unstrung teasers at the bottom as a chaser.
posted by chairface at 1:23 PM on June 12, 2010

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