Muppets among New Shows Fit for Family Viewing in Fall TV Lineup
September is the traditional month for broadcast and cable networks to premiere their new fall series. This fall, several of the most-anticipated family programs adopt throwback themes.
Few new shows are gaining more advance attention than The Muppets. Scheduled to debut on ABC September 22, it appears this prime-time version of the classic The Muppet Show will be targeting adults as well as kids.
“But it looks like our fuzzy friends will still be accessible to teens and families in this mockumentary-style series,” says Polly Conway, TV Editor for CommonSense.org, who lists The Muppets among her Five Top 2015 Fall TV Picks for Teens and Families. “Viewers get to follow Kermit and his crew as they work together on Miss Piggy’s late night talk show.”
The Muppets have come a long way since Jim Henson created them in 1955, and their popularity surged on Sesame Street beginning in 1969. Since then they’ve had their own movies and no fewer than two dozen TV specials. Co-written and produced by The Big Bang Theory‘s Bill Prady and Bob Kushell and directed by Randall Einhorn, this new Muppets program will appeal to a slightly older crowd.
Conway predicts that life will be “complicated” on the set of the Up Late With Miss Piggy Show. “Fozzie’s dating a human, Kermit’s attached to (gasp!) another pig, and Gonzo’s still weird (some things never change),” she writes.
While The Muppets might reek of rehashed nostalgia, Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, writes: “. . . but at least The Muppets is an is an ever-evolving franchise, not an opportunistic attempt to wring one more dime out of a flash in the pan. . . . ABC’s The Muppets looks to be one of the better viewing options among a familiar, mostly disappointing lot.”
With guest stars including Reese Witherspoon and goofy humans amid the puppets, The Muppets looks like a good bet for tweens and teens.
Of course, network television is no longer the exclusive domain for new shows or for quality programming. Conway suggests the video-sharing website Vimeo could have a quirky hit with Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures, set to debut on September 15.
“Think Harry Potter meets Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and you’ll start to get the vibe,” Conway says. “Young Doctor Oscar ends up manning his uncle’s hotel for a very special class of visitors, most of whom definitely aren’t human.”
Other shows worth a look:
Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris debuts on NBC, September 15. From Doogie Howser (1989–1993) to How I Met Your Mother (2005–2014) to hosting the Academy Awards, the Tony Award-winning Harris brings on-stage and social diversity to the host’s role on a show that aims to put a hip spin on old-fashioned variety shows. Best Time, based on the popular British show Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, will feature musical performances, skits, contests, and pranks performed in front of a live and interactive audience. Although Harris can veer off-color, this show should be relatively tame for family viewing. That said, if NBC sticks to its 10 PM Tuesday time slot, it will gravitate toward an older audience. Upcoming: NBC has also enlisted Ellen DeGeneres and Steve Harvey to produce and host an all-kids variety show called Little Big Shots. Eight episodes featuring extraordinarily gifted child performers are in production, but the debut date has not been announced.
Welcome the female Clark Kent. In her day-to-day life, Supergirl Kara Zor-El (played by Melissa Benoist) is an executive assistant to her boss, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). But Kara, who escaped the planet Krypton during its destruction, eventually embraces the super powers she shares with her famous cousin, Superman, and turns hero. Flockhart, the former Ally McBeal, says the show delivers a message of confidence for female viewers: “One of the things I love about the show is that it’s a celebration of girl power,” Flockhart says. “It’s a great show for moms and daughters.” Young children might not be ready for the violence, but Supergirl, which will air Monday, October 26 in the 8:30 PM slot, promises plenty of action and will likely garner considerable attention for CBS this season.
Teens might enjoy Heroes Reborn, scheduled to debut September 24 on NBC. Drawing on the original series Heroes (2006–2010), some old favorite characters will return and others will emerge with special abilities. Writes Conway: “Anticipate twists, turns, mysteries, and more as the characters make alliances—tough decisions—while they come together to save the world.” Victoria McNally, after previewing Heroes Reborn at San Diego Comic-Con wrote: “Things are very different with this series. . . . They’ve shot all over the world and can create much better special effects. The series picks up five years after the original, where Evos are being hunted down by Zachary Levi and Judith Shekoni, who are the bad guys in this series.”
Can’t wait for Heroes Reborn to start? Check out on the six chapter prequel YouTube series, Heroes Reborn: Dark Matters, giving us a sneak peak of what to expect. Follow Phoebe Frady (played by Aislinn Paul who starred in Degrassi: The Next Generation) as she learns how to control her power and adapt to living in a world where super-powered humans fight for their rights against registration.
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Seth Livingstone is a veteran writer and editor who has spent much of his career in sports journalism covering multiple Olympic Games, Super Bowls, World Series, and Daytona 500s. He covered the Boston Red Sox throughout the 1980s and 1990s before joining USA Today and Baseball Weekly in 1999. He maintains his membership in the Baseball Writers Association of America and is a Hall of Fame voter. Seth holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and has also worked as a substitute teacher (all grades and subjects). He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and has two grown children.