'Muppets' Showrunner Exits ABC Revival

Bob Kushell is departing the Tuesday comedy.
Andrea McCallin/ABC

There's another change at the top of of a fall TV show.

Bob Kushell is exiting ABC's The Muppets revival, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. 

Insiders say co-creators Kushell, who served as the series’ showrunner, and executive producer Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory) didn’t see eye-to-eye on the creative direction of the show. There’s talk of Galavant's Kristin Newman stepping in to run the show, but the deal has not yet been finalized. 

Sources say Kushell was well-liked by the Muppets performers, fellow exec producers and the studio but had to answer to Prady — who started his career with The Muppets under Jim Henson. Kushell was tapped to serve as the lone showrunner on the series in a bid to accommodate Prady's busy schedule that included spending multiple days a week on the Warner Bros. Television lot to produce CBS' The Big Bang Theory.

The news comes days after The Muppets was picked up for an abbreviated full-season consisting of only three episodes, bringing its total to 16 episodes. The comedy went into the season as one of the fall's most highly anticipated series. The ratings, however, haven't lived up to the hype — with news of Kermit and Piggy's split going viral and adding to the initial anticipation.  

The series — which sees Miss Piggy hosting her own late-night talk show — has improved the network's Tuesday slot by 69 percent among total viewers versus last season's short-lived Selfie (7.6 million vs. 4.5 million) and 86 percent among adults under 50 (2.6 vs. 1.4).

Picked up straight to series based purely on a 10-minute pilot presentation, The Muppets revival is filmed documentary style and explores the personal lives behind the famed characters, including Fozzie, Gonzo and the rest of the gang in a bigger way than the franchise has ever done before. The series was rushed to the fall schedule, giving producers little time to find the show's voice. 

Critics have often found ABC's new Muppets problematic as the more adult series has transformed Kermit and Piggy into unlikable characters. The series will wrap its fall stretch before going on a midseason hiatus and returning with a rebooted six-episode run after the holiday break.

The Muppets becomes the latest fall TV series to see a change at the top. It joins Fox's The Grinder, NBC's Chicago Med, ABC's Blood & Oil and Shonda Rhimes' midseason ABC entry The Catch. The showrunner turnover comes as broadcasters face more pressure to get series right amid dwindling ratings and, in some instances, a case of too many cooks in the kitchen with varying creative visions in what insiders have dubbed cases of "bad marriages."  

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