Why ABC Is Rushing Its Muppets Revival to Air

Despite split, Miss Piggy and Kermit will continue to work together

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Just a year after their fairy-tale wedding, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy are splitting.

"Piggy and I have gone our separate ways romantically," said Kermit during ABC's Television Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles today. But the two will continue to appear together on ABC's revival of The Muppets, which is being rushed to air just seven months after getting the green light.

The Muppets will be the first Muppets series in prime time since Muppets Tonight, which ran on ABC from 1996 to 1998. The original Muppet Show aired from 1976 to 1981. 

"To get back to prime time takes a while. We were owned by multiple people!" said Kermit, referring to Disney's acquisition of them in 2004. "Like most Hollywood stars, we are a wholly owned subsidiary of a large company."

Instead of the variety-show approach of the original Muppet Show, this iteration will feature the mockumentary format seen in shows like The Office, Modern Family and Parks and Recreation. The new show will go behind the scenes with the Muppets as they work on a Miss Piggy-hosted late-night talk show, called Up Late with Miss Piggy. 

"We tried a version of this show; we pitched it about eight years ago. It wasn't quite timed right," said writer and co-executive producer Bill Prady. Prady, an executive producer on The Big Bang Theory, started his writing career with Jim Henson and the Muppets.

When one of the Muppet performers suggested he try again, Prady met with ABC in early February. "They said, 'Let's do a pilot.' I said, 'There's no time,'" said Prady, who had instead hoped to be in contention for the following year's development cycle. But ABC was eager to get it ready for the 2015-16 season, which gave Prady and co-ep Bob Kushell just enough time to film a 10-minute presentation in the spring, instead of a full pilot.  

The network released that presentation online last month:

"There's no part of me whatsoever that did not want to wait" longer than a few months to make the show, admitted Prady of the quick turnaround. "It makes the work harder." The show will bow Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Despite the accelerated development, Prady and Kushell have mapped out their vision for the new series. "The goal here is to be exactly the same and completely different" than the previous Muppet programs, said Prady, explaining that the new format will make it feel contemporary, while the characters themselves will feel comfortably familiar to audiences who grew up with them.

As was the case with the previous series, "there's going to be a big celebrity every week," said Kushell, explaining how the show will feature celebrities—including Reese Witherspoon —booked on Piggy's late-night show.

And yes, the Piggy-Kermit split will be a plot point, though the separation seems unlikely to last.

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.