ABC's Muppet Makeover
Tuesday October 25 7:08 PM ET
By Josh Grossberg
Think of it as the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational reality show around.
After plunking down a whopping $90 million last year for rights to Kermit and cohorts, Disney is hoping to relaunch the Muppets on a prime-time ABC series parodying such unscripted hits as American Idol and America's Next Top Model.
A network rep says the Muppet project is in the extremely early stages of development. But ABC has ordered a pilot script and five additional script outlines for America's Next Muppet, which will see Kermit's crew trying out would-be Muppets to join the pantheon of beloved Jim Henson creations like Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, the Swedish Chef, Scooter, Rowlf, Janice, Dr. Teeth, Animal, Dr. Bunson Honeydew, Beeker and a certain amphibian.
While there's been no official word on who'll judge the contestants, we think Statler and Waldorf would be naturals. And with Paula Abdul and Tyra Banks already tied up with their own day jobs, the diva role would be perfect for, oui, Miss Piggy.
Who knows, if America's Next Muppet takes off, maybe we can look forward to Muppet Survivor, The Amazing Muppet Race or Extreme Makeover: Muppet Edition.
Since assuming control of Henson's iconic characters, the Mouse House has moved swiftly to reintroduce the Muppets to new generations unfamiliar with The Muppet Show, which aired in syndication from 1976 to 1981 and spawned the feature films The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1983).
Henson died unexpectedly of a bacteria infection on May 16, 1990--the same day he was set to sign a deal licensing the characters to Disney. During the 1990s, the franchise floundered, despite movies like A Muppet Christmas Carol and A Muppet Treasure Island and the short-lived TV revival, Muppets, Tonight, which aired on ABC in 1996 before moving to the Disney Channel for one more season.
In 2000, Henson heirs Brian and Lisa Henson sold the pack of puppets to German conglomerate EM.TV for a $680 million. The company quickly announced it was going to revive The Muppet Show.
However, awash in red ink, EM.TV sold the characters back to the Hensons in 2003 for $89 million. That prompted a renewed interest on Disney's part and led to last year's deal.
Soon Mickey's minions began plotting Kermit's comeback. Disney produced the TV movie The Muppets Wizard of Oz, which attracted a solid 7.8 million viewers when broadcast on ABC last May.
And the company is currently celebrating Kermit's 50th anniversary with a world tour that saw the Muppets stop at the Statue of Liberty, run with the Bulls in Pamplona, trade smooches at a kissing booth at the Eiffel Tower, attend a frog-leg festival, climb the Great Wall of China and, naturally, receive a key to Kermit, Texas, where the road show touched down last week.
Even the U.S. Postal Service is getting involved, honoring Kermit & Co. with their own set of stamps.
Who said it wasn't easy being green?