October 29, 2015

Habitat for Humanity Takes Center Stage on ‘The Muppets’

A jealous Miss Piggy provokes a fight with Reese Witherspoon at a home-construction site.

When Miss Piggy and Reese Witherspoon battled to prove which leading lady is more charitable on Tuesday’s episode of The Muppets, they toppled a wall frame at a Habitat for Humanity construction site — and provided a half hour of national publicity for the nonprofit.

Producers for The Muppets, ABC’s modern reboot of the classic The Muppet Show, ran the idea of featuring Habitat for Humanity by the corporate citizenship and social responsibility staff for Disney ABC Television Group to see how it fit with the department’s goals, said its executive director, David Ambroz.

"We have a long history with Habitat for Humanity," he said, including arranging employee volunteer days and making donations of cash and set materials. "This brings our philanthropy full circle with an actual scripted story."

The show then contacted Habitat for Humanity International in late July to ask permission to feature the charity, said Donald Bonin, the nonprofit’s senior director of marketing, branding, and publications. Nonprofit leaders reviewed the script, provided its signature hard hats and T-shirts for extras to wear on the show, and flew out to watch the production.

"It was a great opportunity to be associated with the Muppets," Mr. Bonin said.

During the episode, Miss Piggy is jealous of Ms. Witherspoon’s acting success and attempts to outdo the Hollywood A-lister while building homes for Habitat for Humanity.

"Charity work is all about the entrance," she declares as she arrives at the construction site in her limo. Disappointed to find no paparazzi to document her charitable work, Miss Piggy stirs up drama by provoking Ms. Witherspoon into a construction competition. Highlights include Miss Piggy severing a wood plank with her signature karate chop.

Several Habitat for Humanity chapters seized the opportunity to tweet about the episode in advance, and Miss Piggy tweeted a photo of herself next to the nonprofit’s logo.

Ms. Witherspoon jumped into the fray, exchanging jabs with Ms. Piggy on Twitter to help promote the show and the charity.

"We would certainly welcome her involvement any time," Mr. Bonin said of Ms. Witherspoon.

And, presumably, Ms. Piggy’s help, too.

Send an email to Rebecca Koenig.