The Muppet show was one of the first global shows in television history. After its premiere, on September 26, 1976, it amassed an audience of 235 million weekly viewers. The Muppets themselves became pop superstars: Kermit the Frog was the first puppet to co-host a late-night show (specifically, Johnny Carson’s in 1979). This is not only in the United States. Across the pond, in the eighties, the same frog, known as Kermit in his country of origin, was put in the face of French President François Mitterrand: from there came a character, Kermitterand, very popular in Le Bébête, a comedy show of the time. And this not only then. Last Friday, Disney + recovered the five seasons that the series lasted around the world and has plunged the indefatigable dolls into a new wave of popularity. The publication of articles with historical curiosities of the 97 classic chapters has multiplied, as well as conversations on social networks, although not as much as searches on Google, which have risen 47% worldwide compared to last week and 80% if we go back five months. The last time the bugs registered a similar peak, in 2015, they were premiering a new series. Now, however, they achieve something almost as effective and without shooting a single shot. They premiere a classic series in its new natural habitat: a streaming platform.
This new television order was confirmed again on Tuesday and also on Disney +. The platform premiered Star, a new mixed bag of series and films that have ended up in the hands of Disney, some unpublished in Spain, some already broadcast. On the side of the new series there were not inconsiderable contributions: With love, Victor, the first series with a queer protagonist signed by Disney, for example, or Big Sky, by David E. Kelley, creator of Big Little Lies. There’s also Trust, a . biographical series designed by Danny Boyle, or Helstrom, with Marvel characters. At any other time, the landing of so many novelties together would have been a triumphant day for series fans.
On Tuesday, however, the headlines, trending topics, and viewings went headlong to the other side, to the known: in the Star package there are also classics never seen in streaming in Spain, such as Futurama or Bob’s Burgers, together with others who have spent years wandering from platform to platform, such as The Walking Dead, Family Guy, The X-Files, Desperate Housewives, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Modern Family. Soon, M * A * S * H *, starring Alan Alda in the seventies, will also arrive. More has been said about all this than about any premiere with aspirations to the phenomenon of all 2021 (with the exception of The Scarlet Witch and Vision, a series of superheroes that is also on Disney + and that, coincidentally, plays to resemble sitcoms of yore). Streaming is like a place where news stops but the classics send.
In a world that has produced over 500 series a year for years, it is rare for anyone to aim for the triple bullseye of being original, popular and critically acclaimed at the same time. Some fictions seek to be one thing, others the next, and, at least since the end of Game of Thrones in 2019, the genre has lost the unifying power of audiences that has given it so much relevance in recent years. What stands out in this sea of novelties, where everyone sees their own and ignores the rest, is the familiar. In 2020, a year of historic television consumption where the only possible audiovisual novelty were series, the most watched title was The Office (2005-2013), like the previous year and the previous one. In 2018, Netflix paid $ 100 million to have Friends (1994-2004) in its catalog for one more year: by then, traditional networks had already realized that the only way to overshadow the streaming giant was to strip it of series classical. Between 2019 and 2020, The Peacock was created, which in the US has the entire NBC catalog, and HBO Max, which uses the HBO brand to treasure the Warner catalog (and current home of Friends).
In recent weeks, Netflix has released Behind Your Eyes, a story with a vocation for a phenomenon. Other platforms have sought to be the first success of 2021. In the end, the one who made the most noise has turned out to be Disney +, the one that plays to show off in the background of the catalog. Nobody has been able to do what Kermit the Frog. It is what works in streaming.