News Articles

New Muppets ‘too toxic for children,’ PTC says

NASHVILLE (BP) — In a study of “The Muppets,” the Parents Television Council reports that the new TV show includes a preponderance of sexual innuendos and other offensive content not suited for children.

The first four episodes of half-hour comedy featuring characters created by the late Jim Henson decades ago included adult-themed content every 3 minutes and 38 seconds, the PTC found.

The PTC joins another critic of the series, the morality watchdog group One Million Moms, in saying the show is not the kid-friendly offering it once was.

“It is a tragedy that one of the most iconic children’s television shows in history, The Muppets, would be so filled with adult content — sexual innuendoes, sexual references, drugs and alcohol, to be exact — that it would become too toxic for children,” PTC President Tim Winter said in a news release. “Our research shows that The Muppets isn’t a show for kids, yet it was supposedly created for families to watch together.”

The characters, headlined by Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog, hadn’t been featured in a series in 17 years. The series is especially cunning because it features characters that appeal to children, but casts them in adult story lines, the groups said.

Family blogger Michael Foust agreed.

“We live in an age where nearly every so-called ‘children’s movie’ contains adult dialogue and inappropriate language, so it’s not surprising that ABC is pushing the envelope with a ‘Muppets’ series catered to adults,” Foust told Baptist Press. “But, for once, I wish one broadcast network or one Hollywood studio would make a major decision based on common decency instead of the almighty dollar.

“ABC claims it has warned families about the adult content, but what it fails to grasp is that children are naturally attracted to puppets,” Foust said, “and that parents will naively let their kids watch it, assuming it is the mostly innocent show of their youth.”

He called The Muppets “filthy mouthed,” and said his children are not allowed to watch. “Just as our society long ago rejected candy cigarettes, it’s time that we push back against cartoons and puppets that sneak adult content into our children’s minds.”

The show slid in the Nielsen ratings, garnering 1.3 percent of viewers for its Oct. 13 episode, Nielsen reported, but the PTC said many children still watch the show.

“Make no mistake, children are inherently attracted to The Muppets, and over a million young children are watching the program each week,” Winter said. “No matter how ‘edgy’ ABC or the show’s producers want to make The Muppets, kids still reasonably believe the show is for them. We urge the network and everyone involved with this program to re-think the dangerous direction of this program. And in the meantime, we urge parents to be warned about letting their children watch The Muppets.”

One Million Moms (1MM) called for a boycott of the show before it debuted Sept. 22.

“1MM suspects there are going to be a lot of shocked moms and dads when they discover that the family-friendly Muppets of the 1970s are no more. No subject is off limits in ABC’s Muppet Show aimed at a mature audience, and it is not suitable for family viewing,” 1 MM said in on its website. “Children will not enjoy this perverted humor on topics they are far too young to comprehend or understand. ABC has ruined The Muppets by introducing adult subjects to children.

“How many adults,” 1MM asked, “will want to tune in to watch The Muppets, only to end up having an embarrassing conversation with their children?”

While the original Muppet characters were featured in story lines that were considered kid-friendly 40 years ago, Henson’s original intention was to feature the characters in plots that also would appeal to adults, Tech Times reported.

Tech Times quoted Henson’s pitch for the original Muppets variety show: “Small children will love the cute and cuddly characters. Young people will love the fresh and innovative comedy. College kids and intellectual eggheads will love the underlying symbolism of everything. Freaky, long-haired, cynical hippies will love our freaky, long-haired, cynical Muppets because that is what show business is all about.”

Pilots for the show hinted at adult content, including the 1975 pilot “The Muppets Show: Sex and Violence,” Tech Times said.

“Skits like ‘For the Birds,’ ‘Mount Rushmore’ and ‘The Seven Deadly Sins Pageants’ featured jokes and commentary that was more suitable for adults,” Tech Times said, “yet children would still be able to be entertained by the furry creatures without really catching the innuendos. However, neither of the pilot episodes [was] picked up by American TV networks after execs were still not convinced the show would target adults and not just kids.”

The Muppets eventually were shown in the U.S. in syndication beginning in 1986.

PTC Study

Among the top findings in the PTC study, “An examination of iconic children’s characters delivering adult-themed content”:

— Most of the adult-themed content referenced sex, alcohol or drugs; with 46 percent referencing sex and 54.5 percent referencing alcohol or drugs.

— Just over 72 percent of all alcohol and drug references aired in episodes three and four.

— 80 percent of all the sexual content aired in the first two episodes was in the form of sexual innuendos, sexual references and anatomical references.

— The iconic characters Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy delivered nearly half of all sexual content discovered in the study.

Simple numbers don’t reveal the total picture, PTC said. For instance, a bar scene in the fourth episode was counted as one instance, but was lengthy enough to consume almost one-quarter of the show’s screen time, the study found. The scene showed the muppets becoming intoxicated by drinking beer, wine and hard liquor, PTC said.