• History

Why Grown-Ups Loved The Muppet Show

1 minute read

When The Muppets debuts on Tuesday night, the new show will have big shoes to fill: by the time the long-running original Muppet Show reached its third season, in 1978, it was the most popular TV show on Earth, with 235 million people in 106 countries tuning in for their weekly dose of Kermit.

And it wasn’t just kids: The Muppet Show just might have been, per TIME’s take, both “the only adult show on television” and “give or take Saturday Night Live, the funniest show on television.”

The Muppets’ unique satirical voice got most of the credit for why grown-ups loved the show, but the reason ran deeper than that, according to TIME’s 1978 story:

Kermit, rueful and dithered, frees a part of our own natures so absurd and defenseless that we would never let a human actor hold it in his hands. This freedom is wonderful, but there is a price. What these puppets mean to the millions of people who have watched them is almost embarrassing to express, because the feeling they evoke is nothing less than love.

Read the full story, here in the TIME Vault: Those Marvelous Muppets

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Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com