Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Henson talk show on Disney+ to confuse matter of what is and what is not a Muppet all over again

Pictured: The stars of Earth To Ned. Not pictured: Any Muppets
Photo: Disney+/The Jim Henson Co.

Here’s a dose of pedantry to send you into the weekend: Since 2004, the word “Muppet” and all associated films, television series, characters, and products have been the property of the Walt Disney Company. Sort of: The agreement struck by the Mouse House and The Jim Henson Company covered Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, and their Muppet Show/Muppet Movie co-stars, but not the Muppets of Sesame Street (which stayed with Sesame Workshop) or the stars of Fraggle Rock, who were billed as “Jim Henson’s Muppets” right in the title sequence. What this all amounts to is a sensational, inspirational, celebrational tangle semantics and branding, where Muppet-like puppets portrayed by frequent Muppet puppeteers in productions like The Happytime Murders or No, You Shut Up are not, strictly speaking, Muppets. It can all be a bit confusing, even if you appreciate the Muppets (or Henson puppets that used to be Muppets, but are no longer legally so) on a much deeper level.

Into this post-modern quagmire—where it’s easier to spot Kermit at the Henson Company’s Hollywood headquarters than it is some 30 miles away in Disneyland—steps Earth To Ned, a series produced by Henson for (wait for it) Disney+, the streaming service that lives under the same corporate roof as Fozzie and Gonzo (but not Elmo or Gobo). A talk show hosted by extraterrestrials who came to our planet as the first wave of an invasion but wound up falling in love with Earthly entertainments, Earth To Ned is hosted by a blue, googly-eyed fish thing named Ned, and a porcine-snouted sidekick named Cornelius, neither of whom are Muppets. Their show will stream side by side with the previously announced short-form series Muppets Now, as well as library content like The Great Muppet Caper, 2011’s The Muppets (the one with Jason Segel and Amy Adams), and 2015’s The Muppets (the one where it was a mockumentary, except now they’re assholes). Those all have Muppets in them. Earth To Ned will not—unless the Muppets Now cast winds up appearing as some of Ned and Cornelius’ guests, in which case we look forward to having this conversation all over again.

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