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The Muppets take TV, crash WWE 'Monday Night Raw'

October 27, 2011 |  2:15 pm

Muppets
Word of warning to the WWE grapplers: Miss Piggy packs a mean punch.

She and her Muppet pals are scheduled for their first guest appearance on USA Network’s “Monday Night Raw” on Halloween, where they’ll plug their upcoming musical flick, “The Muppets.”

WWE producers, who routinely script celebrity guests into their live events, won’t say exactly what the Muppets will be doing when they share the ring in Atlanta with the likes of The Viper, John Cena and Sheamus.

But chances are good, if the teaser clip below is any indication, that fans will get Miss Piggy’s signature karate chop accompanied by her high-pitched “hiiii-ya” battle cry. Duck and cover, Kelly Kelly.

Monday’s guest stint is just one of a slew of TV appearances for the Muppets ahead of the Nov. 23 film, their first big-screen feature in a dozen years. The lovable puppets, at once diminutive and larger than life, have been stumping for weeks already and will turn up the heat as the Thanksgiving movie premiere gets closer.

And they’re not sticking to kid-targeted shows and networks. They’re popping up in equal measure in places like late-night TV, where adults make up most of the audience. The goal for Disney, which now owns the iconic Jim Henson-created property, is to appeal to people who grew up with the Muppets so they’ll see the movie with or without kids in tow.

“It’s a classic attempt to get a crossover audience,” said Peter Sealey, former studio marketing chief who’s now a marketing professor at Claremont’s Drucker School of Management. “They can’t get that by just marketing to parents with toddlers.”

The only downside would be the potential to turn off moms who might think such guest appearances signal an edgier movie, Sealey said. (The flick is rated PG for “some mild rude humor.” According to the trailers, there are plenty of fart jokes).

That the whistle-stop tour includes a trip to “Monday Night Raw” makes sense to those behind the sports-entertainment series, which regularly ranks in the top 10 most-watched shows on cable.

“‘Raw’ is a generational show where lots of different ages watch together,” said WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman. “And we reach a lot of families and kids, which matches up well with the audience for this movie.”

Playing on adult viewers’ sense of nostalgia, Kermit the Frog will chat it up on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “Ellen” in the coming weeks. The novelty of having costumed characters in unlikely places like adult-centric talk shows can only be an advantage, Sealey said.

Miss Piggy will stop by “The Tonight Show” on Nov. 4 as a follow-up to a recent appearance. The shapely blond pig opened the show in late August when the band, OK Go, performed its updated rendition of “The Muppet Show” theme with crazy-haired Animal on drums.

The song is part of the movie’s just-released soundtrack, “The Green Album,” which features pop and alternative acts like Weezer, The Fray and My Morning Jacket, giving Disney another way to reach non-kid demographics.

Targeting a fashion-forward adult viewer, Miss Piggy shot a guest judging stint on Lifetime’s new “Project Runway All Stars.” The show, initially scheduled for a November launch, recently was delayed until 2012. Miss Piggy will still be on the series when it airs -- maybe in time for “The Muppets” DVD release? (She’s also the face of M.A.C. cosmetics for the month of November, and the style icon no doubt had some input in the line of Muppet-themed OPI nail polish debuting now in drug stores and beauty supply shops).

On network primetime, where “The Muppet Show” originally hit big in the '70s, the Muppet clan will star in “A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa” on the CW. Though it’s Christmas-themed, with guest stars including Jane Krakowski, Nathan Lane and Uma Thurman, it’s airing Nov. 22, the eve of the flick’s opening.

“The Muppets” got a shout-out on the hit ABC comedy, “Modern Family,” in a recent episode that had Cam (Eric Stonestreet) chastising a dad for bringing his kids to what he thought was a horror flick. Turns out Cam was in the wrong theater, where “The Muppets” was showing instead. (Conveniently, an ad for “The Muppets” aired shortly after that scene).

Show producers said the decision was a creative one and not the result of Disney/ABC synergy at work. “Modern Family” has been known to sprinkle its stories with real-world brands for comic effect.

At the same time, Disney’s masterful at hyping its franchises on all its available media, so don’t be surprised if the Muppets land on ABC, ABC Family and Disney Channel in prominent ways. (Miss Piggy has already been on Disney Channel’s “So Random”).

The characters are likely to float in the “85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” the day after their movie opens, even though it’s on rival NBC.

Across the TV dial, the characters are appearing in lots of TV commercials for “The Muppets,” which also stars Jason Segel and Amy Adams. Meanwhile, Kermit is one of the famous faces, along with the Winklevoss twins, Mr. Bill and Angry Birds, of the current Wonderful Pistachios campaign.

The property also made news recently with a Sesame Street primetime special about hunger in America that introduced Lily, a muppet whose family struggled to put food on the table.

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-- T.L. Stanley

Photo: Scene from "The Muppets" with Jason Segel. Credit: Andrew Macpherson/Disney

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