Television: Muppets Tonight (BBC1)

It's time to relight the light as the Muppets return to the screen. Will their incongruous blend of glamour guests, Yorkshire trolls and faked sneezes bypass today's kids but woo old-timers? By Jasper Rees
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The Independent Culture
Muppets Tonight is ostensibly a children's show but has been scheduled less for those with homework than those just home from work. Pace Blue Peter, children don't want to watch the shows that once amused their parents. But their parents do.

It wouldn't be accurate to claim that the reincarnated show has grown up with its viewers - let's face it, Francois Fromage and his Dancing Cheeses would be fish out of water after the watershed. But Muppets Tonight plainly relies on the vote of those old enough to vote. A lot of the material flies over the head of any new viewers the show might be hoping to seduce. Last night's guest, Billy Crystal, reshot the orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally, only this time Miss Piggy took the Meg Ryan role and faked a sneeze. As it happens, the sneeze was mostly indistinguishable from an orgasm, a long moan with an "atishoo" figleafed over the climax.

The tendency to innuendo might look like an innovation. Hey, guys, we're back, and this time we're doing boob jokes. But their debut was titled The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence, so they've always been this way inclined. The first of the new guests was Michelle Pfeiffer, who'd been double-booked with Miss Piggy. When Pfeiffer emerges from her dressing-room to show off her costume, the whole crew gathers round to slaver at the prospect of her removing her robe. When Spamela Hamderson did the same in Bay of Pigswatch, David Hoggselhoff wheezed with lust and couldn't keep his eyes off her chest.

Jim Henson's influence as a puppeteer has now stretched as far as the Yorkshire Moors. Roger and the Rottentrolls is set in a valley where trolls are called things like Yockenthwaite and Aysgarth. The puppets, invented by Tim Firth and drawn by his father Gordon, were brought to life by two Henson graduates. The show nominally targets the four-to-sevens but if you rushed home to catch the Muppets and somehow made it back three hours early, treat yourself to the knowing voiceover of Martin Clunes. And don't be surprised if, in 20 years' time, the Rottentrolls are reunited for the nostalgia obsessives its knee-high audience will inevitably become.

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