Film and TV

Five Music Acts That Make Sense For the New Muppet Show

The small-screen buzz of the month is the ABC television network is dusting off the frog and all the other ones for a new version of The Muppet Show.

Why not? The Muppets won't ever go out of vogue like Fred Flintstone, who smoked cigarettes in TV ads and perpetuated horrible Asian stereotypes in one unfortunate episode. Bugs Bunny still has the whole blackface thing to answer for; why didn't Elmer Fudd just kill you during rabbit season? (Duck season! Rabbit season!!) The Muppets' only known enemies are Statler and Waldorf, the two elderly gentlemen who jeer at them from the balcony of their own show.

In case you're just a snot-nosed come-lately who believes the Muppets' best friend is that oaf from How I Met Your Mother, please be informed that they once ruled syndicated television in the late 1970s. Their half-hour variety show was way hipper than the corny hour-long network shows cut from the same cloth (ahem) — cheesy delights like the Captain and Tennille, Sonny and Cher and Tony Orlando and Dawn. No one on any of those shows was more baller than Kermit or sassier than Miss Piggy, though Cher was a distant second.

Wedged between recurring episodes of "Pigs In Space" and whatever shenanigans the google-eyed, hand-sewn celebrities were into, musical guests were often featured. The Muppets weren't fooling around, either. They had Alice Cooper, Debbie Harry, Johnny Cash and Dizzy Gillespie on the show, to name a few. They were all badasses of music's counter-culture years ago and are legendary cools today.

The Muppets weren't playing it safe when they booked those music acts (I believe it was Scooter who did the booking), so, the hope is the new show will courageously showcase the best music, without caving to Disneyesque acts. Their long history suggests we'll be treated to music that suits a family hour time slot but has enough "wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more" irreverence to it to keep the grown folks interested.

his one's a no-brainer, since FOTC's Bret McKenzie played the Paul Wlliams role of songwriter for the recent big-screen Muppets movies. McKenzie's work was Oscar-winning, and Williams' should have won. He co-wrote the iconic "The Rainbow Connection." It was robbed in the 1979 Academy Awards by "It Goes Like It Goes," from the film Norma Rae. You're familiar with that one, right? No? Well, maybe it's because, unlike the song most associated with the Muppets, it hasn't been covered by dozens of artists like Justin Timberlake, Weezer, Less Than Jake, Dixie Chicks and Willie Nelson.

As a comedy duo, McKenzie and partner Jemaine Clement specialize in absurdity, so they'd easily rub elbows with Kermit and co. While they sing prime time acceptable songs, those who know their work will secretly relish in the fantasy that they, Fozzie Bear and The Swedish Chef might all break into "Too Many Dicks (On the Dancefloor)" or "I Told You I Was Freaky."

Mostly because of this Gonzo video. Gonzo's straight pimpin'.

Obviously, The Muppets are metalheads, so putting Free Press Summer Fest act Mastodon on the show seems likelier then you'd initially think. One can already envision Animal taking the drum intro on "The Motherload" as Mastodon teams with Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem to put sludge-rock front and center on network television. As they literally melt Muppet faces (get to work, Henson Creature Shop F/X geeks), leather-clad Statler and Waldorf bang their heads so hard they fall from their balcony seating to the floor hundreds of feet below. Relax folks, they're just cloth and glue. The best pairing of Mastodon and Muppet would feature a huge song, like "Blood and Thunder," from a huge album like Leviathan, featuring all of the hugest Muppets: Thog, Big Bird, Bear in the Big Blue House and the mastodon's distant cousin, Snuffleupagus, all onstage together. Your widescreen isn't massive enough for all that awesomeness.

Aspiring musicians need the attention a primetime television network show can provide. Even Barnett, the Australian garage-rocker whose debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is getting major accolades as one of 2015's best. What she'd bring to the gig, besides a cool vibe that combines Candy Slice with Rivers Cuomo, is the sort of stylish, coy humor the Muppets have thrived on for years. The songs on her album have telling titles like "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party" and "Pedestrian at Best," setting up all hopes for something far different than the trite crud force-fed to the masses. She then delivers on the promise, with a grinding guitar for support, on lines like "Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you/Tell me I'm exceptional, I promise to exploit you/Give me all your money, and I'll make some origami, honey/I think you're a joke, but I don't find you very funny." Team her with straight-talkin', deadpan Sam Eagle and let the brutally humorous honesty commence.

Accept the dare of recalling one musician whose flesh, bones and outlandish wardrobe choices more closely resemble the stitched and strung life of a Muppet than Bjork. It's like Beaker and Professor Honeydew cooked her up in the Muppet lab. Pretty sure "Bjork" is just Icelandic for "felt puppet." If the show is soon to premiere, the timing will work perfectly for Bjork. Since the year began, she's released a new album, Vulnicura. She's also the current subject of a NYC Museum of Modern Art retrospective. A pretty good year would become great with an appearance alongside the Muppets. Would there be anything better than watching a bunch of puppets ironically accompany Bjork as she ponders the confusion of being a live, sentient creature for a Mupped-out, trippy version of "Human Behavior?" Nah.

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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.