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Careful observers may have noticed unique advertising on ESPN in recent days, brief segments featuring the words “Muppet Night Football.” And now “Muppet Night” is here.

ESPN’s Week 15 “Monday Night Football” broadcast of the Steelers vs. Bengals game will feature multiple appearances of the famous Muppets characters, including Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. The puppets will be involved in an opening segment at 8 p.m. ET along with a “Carol of the Bells” music video before kickoff, and they’ll reappear throughout the broadcast. With Pittsburgh a two-touchdown favorite in a lopsided matchup in Cincinnati, the Muppets could prove to be the high point of ESPN’s telecast.

“Who’s not a fan of the Muppets?” Julie McGlone, the senior coordinating producer of ESPN’s Creative Content Unit, said in a release. “I think they transcend generations.”

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Why are the Muppets on ‘Monday Night Football’?

The Muppets will mark the third consecutive year that ESPN creates a special holiday presentation for “Monday Night Football.” In 2018, the broadcast’s open featured Scrooge (A Christmas Carol), and the 2019 edition used an adaptation of the story ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

According to ESPN’s release, the discussion about using the Muppets for the holiday theme began in October. Director/producer Rico Labbe watched a Muppets version of A Christmas Carol on YouTube and knew, “This is it. This is what we want to do.”

Because ESPN and the Muppets are both owned by Disney, there wasn’t an elaborate rights negotiation. It just served as a sort of crossover production.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the production shoot to take place with the Muppets working remotely at their puppeteers’ homes. The Muppets will be the latest Disney crossover theme on “Monday Night Football” this year, with previous broadcasts also featuring The Mandalorian and Marvel.

Who are the Muppets?

The Muppets are an ensemble cast of puppet characters created by Jim Henson in 1955. They gained major notoriety for appearances on Seseme Street and for The Muppet Show (1976-81), which won four Primetime Emmy Awards.

Disney acquired the Muppets in February 2004, bringing the characters to greater exposure. The Muppets have received recognition from the American Film Institute, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Library of Congress and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Some of the most famous Muppets include:

  • Kermit the Frog
  • Miss Piggy
  • Fozzie Bear
  • Gonzo
  • Rowlf the Dog
  • Scooter
  • Rizzo the Rat
  • Statler and Waldorf
  • Animal

How will the Muppets take part in ‘Monday Night Football’?

Have your televisions tuned to ESPN right at 8 p.m. ET if you want to see the first appearance by the Muppets. Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy will introduce the broadcast with Fozzie Bear on the field, Statler and Waldorf in the stands and Animal on the drums.

There will also be a Christmas-themed “Carol of the Bells” music video performed by the Muppets just before kickoff.

ESPN’s release also writes that “there will be elements from the Muppets several times throughout the game.” Hopefully Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Brian Griese have to each say “Muppet Night Football” at least once. 

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December 22, 2020
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