It seemed strange when word spread in the '80s that the Japanese were trying to buy our national parks, but then another Journey single came out and we forgot all about it. Last month, though, someone sold a real national treasure, and hearing the news was like hearing that our bestest friend had been shipped off to military school in Gnome. A German media group purchased the Jim Henson Company. They didn't get "Sesame Street," but they got the Muppets.
Now, that's a loss. Seriously, in a national garage sale, which would you mark down, the Liberty Bell or Kermit? Kermit is our friend. The Liberty Bell was a lemon from the first bong. If you could keep only one, which would it be, Alabama or Beeker? Duh.
The buyers say they'll revive the Muppets, but there's something foreboding about that, like when your mom promised she was taking you for ice cream, but once she got you in the car you discovered she meant AFTER she took you to get your tetanus shot.
I know Germans. I was raised by Germans. Some people might attempt to put a positive spin on the German psyche by describing German people as serious, conscientious and hard-working. These people would not be German.
The Japanese are also known as serious, conscientious and hard-working, but also as enthusiastic, fun and inventive, having given the world Pokémon, karaoke and Godzilla movies. When was the last time you heard of anything German that really delighted the kids? Even German fairy tales are Grimm, with titles like "The Boy Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was," and the original Cinderella, in which the stepsisters cut off their toes and heels to try to fit into the glass slipper. This is the giddy Germans' idea of a bedtime story.
So the thought of German Muppets (maybe "Mope-Its") is just depressing. Picture sad socks, making movies like "The Muppets Take Poland," "The Muppets Annex the Sudentenland," "The Sorrows of Young Elmo" and "Also Sprachen Beeker," all filled with sprightly tunes such as "It's Not Normal Being Green," "The Rainbow is an Illusion" and "God, You're Lazy."
Bork, bork? Nein, nein
If the TV show ever gets revived, it will not be the loopy vaudeville act it was. Imagine the music-hall theme song replaced by an urgent casio, with the lyrics changed to "It's time to get things started, and yet we are filled with a vicious despair. Das ist der 'Muppet Show.'"
As host, Kermit and his bourgeois pleasantness will be replaced by Sam the Eagle, because Sam is svelte, powerful and worried. Incapable of light banter, he quotes from favorite German funbag philosophers like Schopenhauer: "Life is a sorry business." The deposed frog loiters in the wings, smoking indolently and playing mind games on the younger pigs, wondering aloud how long before the new owners make feltwurst out of them.
The yuks are left to Fozzy, who, despite his weight, wears a Speedo. His jolly nature is now punctuated by drunken crying jags, the beer being provided by Miss Piggy, who can carry four steins per hoof. She is still a zoftig wench, but her natural optimism has faded, and she now projects the jadedness of a withered cabaret star, an exhausted decadence one never wants to see in a pig. The audience shows their appreciation by looking defensive.
Martha Stewart is the obvious inaugural guest, due to her massive U.S. appeal and because she is was born to be a favorite of the Germans. She can do everything better than everyone, and Germans respect that. Also, her expertise lies in making everything harder than it is. Martha never tires of deconstructing the world to figure out how she can do it herself and thus engage in needless work (known among real people as "crawling up on the cross"). Germans enjoy deconstructing life in the same way, taking it apart until you find the problem. You have to seek out what's wrong, or you are in danger of thinking everything is fine.
Martha could eek through a few songs like "Sleep Is for the Weak." Then she and Dr. Honeydew could whip up a batch of cure for the common cold, after which she could replace Dr. Teeth's gold chopper with a uniform porcelain. But look out when she starts eyeballing the other Muppets for improvement, suggesting how to make them more aerodynamic, spreadable, quiet or whatever quality she imagines will appeal to her guests. When that happens, the show is over.
I know it's a bleak vision. That is because I thought of it, and I'm German, which proves my point. In a zleek und efficient vay.
Now get back to work.