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August 30, 2017

The Brand-New, Same-Old Kermit

Filed under: Commentary,Feature — Tags: — Ryan Roe @ 9:00 am

You know, before there was internet video, it was harder to watch a new thing over and over again and obsess over every detail.  Back in the day, if there was a noteworthy new Muppet thing, and you didn’t happen to tape it, you would have to hope that it re-aired or find a friend to make you a VHS copy. 

But now there IS internet video, and there’s a noteworthy new Muppet thing, which means we’ve all spent the past two days watching it over and over again and obsessing over every detail.  How many times have you watched Kermit the Frog’s new “Muppet Thought of the Week” featuring the debut of Matt Vogel as Kermit?  Here, watch it again: 

What a world we live in, that the new performer for the most important Muppet character is introduced not in a TV special or movie, but a YouTube thingy.

Anyway: It’s Kermit!  And he sounds pretty good!

As I write this, the video is #30 in trending YouTube videos, with over 255,000 views.  By comparison, the previous Muppet Thought of the Week is at 37,000 views.  People outside our little Muppet fan bubble are clearly paying attention.  It’s gotten so much attention that a delightful second Muppet Thought, featuring Walter and Animal and posted on Tuesday, has gotten lost in the shuffle. 

“Voice actor?!” This again?

I’m always fascinated by how things play out when there’s a newsworthy development in the Muppet world.  First the fans notice it.  The video was shared among Muppet geeks seemingly within seconds after it was posted.  Then a few pop culture-based websites pick it up.  That’s happening now.  The video was posted Monday, and by Tuesday mid-day, places like The Nerdist, Uproxx, and the AV Club had written about it.   

The next step isn’t guaranteed, but it’s the part where the mainstream news picks it up.  This is the phase when your Aunt Cloise writes you on Facebook and says something like, “I saw on The Today Show where the Muppets are in a new movie with Tina Fey and Phil Dunphy!” 

So far that hasn’t really happened yet.  Is it coming?  Or is a 27-second video not significant enough to make the front page?  Honestly, 27 seconds aren’t much to go on.  Kermit starts speaking at the 6-second mark and exits at the 19-second mark.  That’s about 13 seconds of the whole video devoted to Kermit’s Thought of the Week, several of which are spent offscreen.  He says 26 words.  Just 26 words!  (And he utters a few grunts.)  That’s such a small portion of Kermit. 


Not that it’s stopped anyone and everyone from rendering an opinion.  So far, my impression is that the response has been mostly positive, although I can’t wait for folks to tell me I’m wrong about that.  But although there are enough unimpressed viewers that the video has 248 dislikes (countering its 2,000 likes), the majority of comments I’ve seen on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and various websites (Am I unhealthily obsessed with tracking Muppet-related internet discourse?) has been cautiously optimistic to celebratory.   

Maybe my general outlook is too sunny and not doom-and-gloom enough, but as a fan who’s looking forward to more Muppet stuff in the future, I’m relieved to see that kind of response.  It’s reflected in a lot of the news items too, with The Fix going so far as to headline their article “So, the new Kermit the Frog sounds exactly like the old one.” 

Speaking of which, it’s a relief just to have the video, isn’t it?  For weeks, we anticipated this Muppet Thought’s release.  Then, for a few more weeks, we resigned ourselves to the likelihood that it would never be posted.  It was the Muppet Thought of Someday.  And now, here it is. We can exhale.  Kermit has returned, a simultaneously old and new frog, and he’s successfully delivered 26 words and two grunts.  I hope we get more words and grunts as soon as possible.

Other scattered thoughts: 

  • As with anything ever, there’s nothing near a consensus, specifically on whether Matt Vogel sounds authentically Kermit-like.  I’ve seen a lot of people comment that it sounds remarkably like Jim Henson, and also a lot of people who say it sounds nothing like Jim Henson.  I hope Matt Vogel’s not reading comments. 
  • On that note, I know some people hated the new Kermit as soon as they heard him.  I completely understand why, and I realize some of those fans may always dislike this incarnation.  But I hope any who are on the fence can remember that recasts always require adjustment, and only time will tell how the new era of Kermit will develop.
  • Several of those pop culture websites are concluding their reports with statements to the effect of “This is the only new Kermit thing now, and there’s nothing planned for the Muppets in the near future.”  Did these writers miss the announcements of the Hollywood Bowl show?  Where have they been? 
  • Apparently this reminded some viewers of a meme centered on Kermit riding his bike the wrong way?  I don’t know.  I may be obsessed with comments, but life is too precious to spend time keeping up with Kermit memes.
  • One of my favorite things about the video is that it undercuts the fortune-cookie platitude about dreams not just with Kermit’s tossed-off “I’m headed this way,” but also with his going the wrong direction.  I’m okay if we don’t hear Kermit talk about following dreams for a while. 
  • Hey, what are the chances that someone will suggest that this “Thought of the Week” is a coded reference to politics?  Kermit initially states that he’s headed that way, and gestures to his right, before realizing he’s made a terrible mistake and heading to his left.  That seemingly innocuous case of mixed-up directions could prove to be the most controversial thing about this video.
  • Okay, okay, I looked up that stupid Kermit meme.  Click here to see it. (WARNING: It has bad words in it!)

Click here to be liked 255,000 times on the Tough Pigs forum! 

by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com

                                                       



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