For years we've heard all kinds of reports of "the new Muppet Show" - from an edgy prime-time variety show on FOX to a spoof of reality TV competitions on ABC. Well earlier this month a short presentation pilot for a proposed Muppet mini-series recently wrapped production. The project is being kept "under wraps" right now it is still in development and subject to change. However the Walt Disney Company is currently considering a series that will relaunch the Muppets back onto television and in the public's eye.
This presentation pilot, completed in January 2007, proposes a mini-series shot in mock documentary style that continues to follow the adventures of the Muppets as they create a new show.
The short pilot uses the television syntax of a documentary (think "The Office" meets "The Muppet Show"). The series revolves around Kermit the Frog as he attempts to reassemble the Muppet troupe and launch a new Muppet show. The mockumentary mini-series would feature fictional English filmmaker Ian Bascombe who, with his film crew, follow the daily happenings Kermit and the Muppets, both on and off stage. Bascombe finds that many of the classic Muppets have gone off to other venues since we last saw them and follows Kermit as the frog attempts to track them down and get the whole troupe back together. For example, Fozzie has gone off to a solo career in stand-up comedy, Sam Eagle is now a security personnel, and Miss Piggy has been a busy actress in Hollywood. Similar to The Muppet Movie, Kermit travels around getting the gang to come together for a common goal – putting on a show. But aside from just getting everyone onboard, Kermit and the gang have to plan and develop the show itself.
This test pilot, which is now beginning to circulate the inner management of the Walt Disney Company, was written and produced by Bill Prady and was directed by Bill Barretta. Muppeteers Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz and Bill Barretta were also involved in the project. Aside from the Muppets, this spec pilot also included cameo appearances from John Landis and Melina Kanakaredes.
Although a presentation pitch was filmed for the series, it is no guarantee that the project will be developed further or see the light of day. Muppet fans may already know that over the past decade more than three similar pilot pitches for a new Muppet show have been made, and almost half a dozen concepts for series have reached different stages of development as well. However insiders are currently hopeful for this pilot; they say it looks great and is truly entertaining and original. Source say that it is likely the Disney executives, after seeing the presentation pitch, will in fact green-light the mini-series to move into production (and possibly air) later in 2007.
Rumor also has it that if successful, the mini-series could be used as a way to launch the Muppets with a new full-time series (which, like the previous Muppet series, would follow the misadventures of the weekly show they've now developed). However that wouldn't be until 2008 or 2009 (if at all).
Needless to say, this is very exciting new for Muppet fans. It shows hope for the franchise, and give some comfort to eager fans to know Disney is actively looking for ways to use and rejuvenate the characters. I will keep you posted as soon as I get more details on the development of this mockumentary mini-series, or any other information on the possible return of the Muppets to television.
Thanks to all the "insiders" (who asked to be kept anonymous) that provided information and details for this report.