Review: Back to the Rock S2 – Episode 6 ‘Mezzo: Live In Concert’

Published: May 8, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Is it fair for me to compare a rebooted television series with the original? I mean, on some level, yes, of course, it’s inevitable. But I also understand that a reboot is its own thing, with new players and a different vibe.  And yet I find myself comparing Back to the Rock and the original Fraggle Rock more than I’ve ever compared two shows before.

On most levels, it’s pretty similar, and just as good.  The recast characters feel like themselves, I’ve never once thought about the voices being slightly different, and I’m still convinced that Donna Kimball is a sea witch who stole Kathy Mullen’s voice.  Dave Goelz and Karen Prell are in fine form, and the effects are a heck of a lot better than they were back in the 80’s. The humour is still there, in some cases I’d argue it’s actually more comedic than its predecessor, to its benefit.

My main issue comes from the fact that in this reboot, the lessons they’re teaching are about as subtle as an elephant.

It’s well known that Jim Henson wanted to create a show that brought about world peace.  It’s a tall order, sure, and some would argue Bluey is about as close as we’re ever gonna get.  The original series did a great job talking about giant universal life lessons. Death! Famine! Laundry!  Lessons about carpet were actually lessons about blind faith. And these lessons weren’t spelled out. They were taught via interactions between these characters and the world around them, via pared down Fraggle versions of real life situations. They were funny and sweet and subtle.  Yet for some reason, this reboot they seem to just want to spell out exactly what you’re supposed to be learning, and I’m finding it really off-putting as a fan.

Right, let me quickly explain the episode before I continue my rant; Jamdolin has returned to the Rock to let everyone know that music sensation Mezzo is playing a concert that night.  The Fraggles all LOVE Mezzo, but none more than Gobo, who heads to Concert Cave to get the place ready.  There, he gets bothered by some small bugs and tells them to shoo, but when the show starts Mezzo doesn’t show up.  Because, guess what, those bugs were Mezzo and her band! Gasp! He and Red soon find them and Gobo apologises, because he shouldn’t be treating them differently because of their size, and they all return to sing a song. Nawwww, isn’t that sweet?

As an episode, sure, it’s fine, it works, there are some genuinely hilarious moments.  What bothers me is in that lesson they’re teaching about how you treat people because of their size or looks, Gobo’s literal words are, and I quote, “I dismissed them because they were small”. Yeah, no, we’d all figured that one out, bud. Travelling Matt even says the same thing in his postcard. They’re just really making sure you’re across it…

This isn’t a one-off – last season had a literal Echo Chamber – but this has happened a lot this season, the previous episode ‘I’m Pogey’ being a particularly on-the-nose example. We had a gorgeous story about Wembley and Pogey exploring their identities. It’s a subtle look at gender and sexuality, and it absolutely worked. I can see people all around the world seeing themselves represented in these characters, thinking they didn’t fit in any particular box society inflicts on us.  So imagine how much I disliked that Junior Gorg’s subplot WAS LITERALLY ABOUT NOT WANTING TO GET INSIDE BOXES HIS PARENTS INFLICTED ON HIM. Becca mentioned last week how that storyline was controversial on the ToughPigs staff Discord, and I’ll gladly tell you now I was loud and proud about how on the nose it was.
I can see the love the Fraggle crew have for the show they’re making. I’ve been barracking for John Tartaglia for a VERY long time (I could show you a web series from 2008 that proves it. I won’t – but I could).  And I do love that Fraggle Rock is back, and that it’s GOOD! I just wish they’d take a look back at what came before and learn those lessons, even if they aren’t blatantly obvious.

Strongest Moment: The episode had some fun moments, but few made me laugh more than Wembley and Mokey’s performance art piece that leaves everyone, even the unrattleable Jamdolin, truly baffled. Did you know they made it up on the spot!?

Weakest Moment: The aforementioned life lesson thrown in your face with neon signs pointing at it.

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): Jamdolin is a gorgeous puppet, and while I don’t love the choice to use celebrity voices for puppet characters, Daveed Diggs sounds perfectly at home. Jamdolin’s attempts to hold the Mezzo show together are a true highlight.

The Grand Return Of…: There’s a character who would pop up in the background of the original series, who returns here as a character named Little Rago. Her whole shtick is that she keeps thinking Gobo is saying her name when he is saying something totally different. She is my new favorite.

Classic Musical Moment: Do The Sashay is apparently a song from the original series that I’ve totally forgotten. Did Mezzo sing it back then too and some cactus’ stole it? So many questions…

New Musical Moment: I knew the joke of ‘Are You Ready’ was going to be that Jamdolin kept stretching it out, but man it made me smile every time.

Coolest Puppetry Effect: Green screening Mezzo in against a much bigger Gobo and Red looked great, with the two larger Fraggles looking exactly where they should be.

Special Appearance By…: Daveed Diggs is back, and Ariana DeBose plays Mezzo. It’s… fine.

Fraggle Lore: Apparently Fraggles have celebrities and merch?

One More Thing…: Icy Joe is a gorgeous puppet.

Okay, One More Thing…: Jamdolin starts the concert by saying ‘Greetings, savoury and sour’ to which Boober casually replies ‘Oh, thats me, uh, hello.’ I love that goofball.

By Jarrod Fairclough –

Click here to discuss what the Gorg’s and Doc were doing coz I sure didn’t on the ToughPigs Discord Server!

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