How To Fix A First Season Failure

Muppets-TV-Show-2What’s wrong with The Muppets?

This question has been the topic of discussion on all sorts of major entertainment blogs and sites after the first few episodes of the new ABC mockumentary show starring pop culture’s favorite felt creatures.

The ratings have been strong for the series that reveals the behind the scenes mishaps of The Muppets putting on a new late night talk show starring Miss Piggy. But the response online has been mixed, mainly due to the show’s slightly more racy sense of humor and storylines focusing on romantic and sexual relationships.

If you’ve already chosen to give up on “The Muppets” I respect your decision. Life is too short to watch TV shows we don’t enjoy.

As for me: I’ve seen the first few episodes. I’ve heard the criticism. And as for now I’m not giving up on The Muppets.

“The Muppets” is not the greatest show ever. It’s not even the greatest Muppet production by any means. And I think most of the critiques have been fair if a little on the harsh side. The show seems to be trying too hard to be current instead of relying on the timeless humor The Muppets are beloved for.

Still, I enjoy the show so far. I’ve laughed and chuckled at bits from each episode. Fozzie Bear is still my spirit animal. There’s enough of that classic Muppet spirit though that I’ll continue tuning in.

There are hints and traces and elements of the original Muppet Show still evident in this show’s DNA. I’m hoping more and more of those bubble to the surface and the edgy, relationship based humor fades to the background.

The first season of a new TV show is typically full of failure.

The best series often take a little time to find themselves. That’s partially because there’s no instant feedback when it comes to producing these shows. Typically a dozen or so episodes are already in the can before the first one ever airs to the public. So you don’t really see any changes or adjustments based on the audience’s reaction until about halfway through a season.

Shows like “The Office”, “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation”, some of my favorite shows of all time, really didn’t take off until their second season. They eventually succeeded in the long term because they saw the things that weren’t working in their original episodes and shifted to emphasize the things that were.

Instead of giving up altogether because the show doesn’t quite work yet, I hope the team behind “The Muppets” will take a step back to review and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. I think that’s really the key to fixing a first season failure.

What if we applied these lessons to the “First Seasons” we face in life?

We all face first seasons – the moments when we begin working on a new project, relationship, job, idea, etc. Just like with new television show, the first seasons of our life are often full of failure as we try to feel things out.

For example, the first season of my career as a youth pastor was nothing to write home about. The first event I ever planned for the youth group? No one showed up.

Oh, and I also made two students cry. In back to back weeks. All because of the games we played as part of Wednesday Night Bible Study.

I was all about having the craziest youth group games each week. I thought the games we were playing would make kids laugh. Instead they backfired.

The first week one kid got his feelings hurt as the butt of a joke that I mistakenly thought he would be ok with. The next week a smaller kid got squished by a bigger kid in a pile up and cried out in pain.

I was a young, reckless and unsupervised kid right out of college with no idea what I was doing. I can’t believe I kept my job. And I can’t believe God didn’t give up on me.

As I drove home after those failures I thought about calling the pastor and turning in my resignation and nearly wound up in tears myself. I wondered if I was really cut out for full time ministry.

It was clear what I was doing wasn’t working in those early months. But instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I took some to reevaluate my goals and my mission.

I focused on things that were working – like my teachings and my relationships with students – and took a different approach to the games and events I was planning.

Despite those first season failures that youth group managed to turn into something pretty special. (I went an entire 3 years until another minor youth group injury!) We did mission trips in Jamaica and Los Angeles. We produced students who were valedictorians and went to top level schools (I can’t take much credit for that, but I still think it’s pretty cool).  We brought the best out of students and inspired them to find life in Christ. We changed lives.

You wouldn’t have believed what we were able to do if you just looked at our early episodes. And it would have never happened if I had cancelled the whole endeavor after a few early failures.

muppetsIf you’re going through the first season of a project you will have to face some failures. You will be tempted to cancel the project altogether.

When all else fails and your first season seems irreparable, remember that God always stays tuned to what you are doing. He will continue to believe in you even when you fail to believe in Him. He is ultimately generous in His renewals.

So take a step back. Review what you’re doing. Listen to feedback. Do some tweaking. Think back to what made you believe in the project in the first place. Stick with it. And remember no success story ever happens without a few first season failures.

What are your thoughts on the latest incarnation of The Muppets? Have you ever struggled through a first season failure?

For more musings on The Muppets check out these posts:

What The Muppets Taught Me About Faith

Fozzie Bear And The Power Of Persistence

A Lesson From Elmo On Happiness


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