September is a landmark month for fans of puppet-themed entertainment, and while we did just refer to them as puppets -- blasphemy! -- it's time to tip our hats to The Muppets on this, their 40th anniversary.
It's hard to believe four decades have passed since Jim Henson's lovable creations first graced the small screen, but time certainly does fly. What's even more interesting is the fact that American television passed on Henson's idea -- not once, but twice. With two failed TV pilots under his belt, British ITV came in and saved the day. "The Muppet Show" thusly premiered in September 1976 in the U.K.
It may have been made in England, but thanks to distribution and syndication deals put in place, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and the rest were seen on television screens all over the world. After 120 episodes, "The Muppet Show" came to an end but that was just the beginning. From "The Muppet Movie" to "Muppets Most Wanted," the gang appeared in 10 feature films.
After "The Muppets Take Manhattan" hit theaters in 1984, Walt Disney Television presented an intriguing animated series inspired by a dream sequence from the film that showed Piggy, Kermit and Ralph as babies. "Muppet Babies" remained a hit cartoon for CBS, airing for eight seasons before finding syndication on Nick, Jr.
In 1996, ABC attempted to bring Henson's fuzzy favorites back to their variety show roots with the short-lived series "Muppets Tonight." Like the original "Muppet Show," the show featured celebrity guests like Prince and Leonard Nimoy who interacted with a variety of characters -- both well known and obscure -- to provide some fun children's entertainment. Unfortunately, the show didn't find its audience and it only ran for one season.
In 2004, Disney bought the rights to Jim Henson's creations and gave The Muppets a huge boost in popularity. A year later, the company teamed with Movies.com with the web-series "Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony." The two famous curmudgeons appeared in over 35 episodes, discussing upcoming movie releases and reacting to trailers.
After 2011's movie reboot -- written by and starring Jason Segel -- and its 2014 sequel, Disney decided to bring the gang back to television. Presenting a more mature Muppets than audiences were used to, "The Muppets" began airing on ABC in fall 2015. However, due to creative issues behind the scenes, mixed reviews and consistently low ratings, the highly anticipated series only lasted one season.
While that could be looked at as a failure, we have a feeling this won't be the last we see of Kermit and the gang. After all, whether it's in a TV show, a movie or an Internet short, the Muppets have proved their staying power over the past 40 years. They're so embedded in popular culture, it's only a matter of time before we're singing along to their next big musical number.
"The Muppets Take Manhattan" can be streamed on Netflix; "The Muppets" Season 1 is available in full on Hulu.