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Is The Muppet Show aimed at children or is it a subversive adult comedy?


The Muppets are about to return or have already returned to the big screen, depending on where you live, with that lovely new blockbuster paradigm of a movie that is both a reboot and a sequel (or prequel) at the same time. The Muppets, simply titled The Muppets, starring and is co-written by Jason Segel, a Judd Apatow regular. Brett McKenzie, one half of Flight Of The Conchords, wrote the original tunes. Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, and Neil Patrick Harris are among the many celebrities who appear in Muppet movies.

Is The Muppet Show aimed at children or is it a subversive adult comedy?

The Muppets have always aimed their particular style of one-liners and slapstick humour largely at an adult audience, much like Bugs Bunny, Popeye, and even Mickey Mouse. The Muppets’ journey is full of pushes and pulls between kid-friendly and adult-friendly entertainment. “The years with the Muppets, it was truly all oriented to grownups,” according to Brian Henson, Jim Henson’s son. Everything has to be safe for the whole family at the time. He, on the other hand, was going after adults.” The Muppets were first introduced by Jim Henson in 1955 (under a different name). He produced Sam And Friends, a puppet programme that broadcast live twice daily in five-minute portions only in the Washington, DC region.

Kermit The Frog, an early progenitor of a puppet that would later become a Muppet, was featured on the show. The puppets of Jim Henson lip-synced to big hit songs of the day in the early presentations. Some of the lip-syncing was to songs like I’ve Got You Under My Skin and That Old Black Magic, which are distinctly adult in nature. The show also featured a regular running spoof of the classic Western TV series Gunsmoke and the then-current news programme The Huntley Brinkley Report. Not exactly a six-year-old-friendly satire. Sam and Friends aired from 1959 to 1961. Henson and his new creation, The Muppets, moved on to an even larger audience not long after: The Ed Sullivan Show.

The Ed Sullivan Show was a popular television programme at the time. It was a famous variety show format from the early days of television. It ran at a time when there were only about four channels on TV, and was hosted by Sullivan, a nationally recognised American newspaper entertainment columnist (in most areas). In those days, there weren’t a hundred distinct cable networks catering to different specialised audiences. Instead, they had a single show that catered to all tastes. Jugglers, opera singers, pieces from current Broadway musicals, stand-up comedians, impersonators, Jazz trios, rock n’ roll bands, and, occasionally, The Muppets would all be featured on a normal Ed Sullivan Show episode.

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