The Muppets Lead the Old Comeback Kids

The returns of acts ranging from The Muppets to Black Sabbath to Woody Woodpecker give us reboots to be thankful — and hopeful — for.

Perhaps the highlight of the latest "Saturday Night Live" came early on when The Muppets invaded Jason Segel’s opening monologue, razzing their human movie partner in song — only to be quickly panned by armchair critics Statler and Waldorf, sitting in the audience at Studio 8H.

Statler said he hoped that musical guests Florence and the Machine brought a time machine — "so we can go back to before we heard that song."

You can be forgiven for thinking we're all in an entertainment time machine these days. While the reboot genre dipped to its hellish bottom with this season's short-lived revival of "Charlie’s Angels," we've been treated to a spate of recent reports of comebacks to be thankful for — or at least hopeful for — as Thanksgiving approaches.

Ozzy Osbourne is reuniting with Black Sabbath for a tour and album. Even if the efforts don’t sate a metal jones, they seem certain at least to satisfy some morbid curiosity (what’s Geezer been doing all these years, anyway?). The long neglected Woody Woodpecker, meanwhile, is due for a big screen return, The Hollywood Reporter notes. (Just keep the raucous redhead away from head-chomping Ozzy.)

Joss Whedon told Yahoo! Movies a sequel to the terrific 2008 Internet mini-musical "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" is slowly coming along, and we learned last week that the planned new episodes of "Arrested Development" will be shown on Netflix as a prelude to the cult classic TV show's long-awaited big-screen debut. Speaking of movies, we're even warming to the idea of Billy Crystal stepping in to host the Academy Awards after an eight-year absence.

We’re most excited, though, about The Muppets, who return to theaters Wednesday in a new film co-written by Segel that we hope lives up to the hype, even if the flick can never match Jim Henson's peerless original 1979 outing.

Comeback attempts are fraught with the risk of not living up to expectations — especially for acts that hold special places in the collective imagination. Successfully changing with the times while maintaining the original charm seems as unlikely as, well, a healthy relationship between a pig and a frog. But even the slightest chance of renewing treasured (rainbow) connections keeps us coming back for more.

We’ll see how the Statler and Waldorf in us all react to the returns of Kermit, Ozzy, Woody and the rest. In the meantime, check out Segel’s "SNL" monologue, conducted with a little help from his felt friends:

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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