As we reported earlier this week, The Electric Mayhem are getting their very own series on Disney+! That’s a good thing!
It is a good thing… right?
Since hearing the news about The Muppets Mayhem, I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions. The idea sounded incredible at first, and then terrible, and then back to brilliant, and so on until my brain unraveled. I just can’t decide. And with literally no information to go on beyond the press release, I’m forced to vent my hopes and fears here in a ToughPigs article. Strap in, gang.
The idea of an extended story about a group of Muppet characters to be released on a premium streaming network is thrilling. After the missteps of Muppets Now and the success of Muppets Haunted Mansion, it seems that Disney is honing in on what we want to see from Kermit and his pals. So quality-wise, I’m not too worried.
And who doesn’t love the Electric Mayhem? Animal in particular has long been a popular favorite amongst casual fans, and hopefully they’ll be clamoring to Disney+ to see more of his antics. The rest of the band ooze coolness, and their series is basically guaranteed to create memes and merch and all those buzzworthy moments that will carry the franchise through the next few years. And hey, the more we can get the normies into Muppet stuff, the better for all of us.
But then I started thinking about what else the Mayhem has done since their mid-1970s inception. There are a lot of classic moments, but narratively-speaking, they’ve only shined when used sparingly. On The Muppet Show, they had plenty of incredible musical moments, but only a few genuine storylines (i.e. the Kaye Ballard, Don Knotts, and Dudley Moore episodes). Animal and Floyd have had a few extra episodes in the spotlight as individuals, but that’s pretty much it for the rest of the band.
And up until the 2015 series (more on that in a moment), it’s been a good thing! The Mayhem have absolutely shined as the too-cool-for-school band who comes in, rocks the joint, and then leaves. The Muppet troupe is so huge, not everyone needs to have a third dimension, and a lot of characters have become beloved thanks to their uncanny abilities never overstay their welcome.
When they do overstay, it’s glaring. The 2015 sitcom The Muppets is a perfect example, where Janice became involved in a half-written extended storyline where she’s oblivious to Sam the Eagle’s advances, Floyd ditched his hipness and became a conspiracy theorist, and the rest made constant and thinly-veiled jokes about pot. You could almost see the writers taffy-pulling these characters to try and add nuance, but instead only added elements that later productions would try and retcon.
BUT! Maybe that’s exactly what the Electric Mayhem needs? Uncle Deadly was just a fan-favorite before the 2015 series, and now he’s an incredibly complex and popular character. Does Zoot need a backstory? Should we see where Janice lives? Does Dr. Teeth have a sordid past and a generations-long mystery to solve involving buried treasure??? If any of those things might shift these characters from “recognizable” to “universally beloved”, then it’s worth the gamble.
Although of all the Mayhem members, I worry most about Animal. He was specifically designed by Frank Oz to be simple and one-dimensional. His personality is described with just five words (sex, sleep, food, drums, and pain). As the popular kid in the group, he’s already demanding too much screen time. I may be in the minority on this, but his involvement in the main storylines in productions like Muppets From Space and Muppets Most Wanted is just too much. He’s either being driven into a complexity that doesn’t fit his personality, or he’s an overly simple character shoehorned into an unfitting story arc. The best Animal moments have always been the ones where he can run in, shout something funny, and disappear again. With a full series about him and his bandmates, that may not be possible.
Of course, we don’t know a whole lot about The Muppets Mayhem yet. Maybe the show will use the Mayhem members sparingly, focusing on the goings-on around the studio and the new characters and… ugh, that sounds even worse. Unless they’re going to stack an Electric Mayhem show with more of our favorite Muppets, it’d be too much of a tease to promise the band and not deliver. And one thing I think we can all conceivably agree on is that we don’t want a Muppet show that’s all about the humans.
But the potential of a successful Electric Mayhem series is too much to ignore. If it’s a hit, we’d get more Mayhem – be it on Disney+, in more live shows (like 2016’s Outside Lands concert), or in the form of sweet, sweet merchandise. We’ve been waiting for over 40 years for an Electric Mayhem album, and considering it’s part of the plot of their new series, I’d be shocked if we didn’t get one by the end.
A successful series would also mean a potentially deeper love of these characters, and more opportunities for them to bring a little comedy or storytelling to our screens. If, say, Lips becomes a breakout character, Disney would want to get more Lips into our lives, which means more Muppet projects. That can’t be a bad thing.
And if it’s a hit, that means we’d have two popular Muppet projects in a row that focus on secondary characters, leaving Kermit and Miss Piggy on the sidelines. That’s actually a good thing, since the Muppet cast is so large and projects are so few and far between, not many characters get a turn in the spotlight when Kermit and Piggy demand the bulk of our attention. More projects like this mean a more well-rounded ensemble. That could only result in more diverse storytelling and more opportunities for the writers and producers. It certainly seems like this is a deliberate direction Disney wants to go with the franchise, to build the world around our core characters before giving them something genuinely huge, like a new movie or a Muppet Show reboot.
In the end, more Muppet stuff is rarely a bad thing. I’m jazzed (and rock ‘n’ rolled) for a whole series about the Mayhem, and while I’m going to hold onto a few of those fears for a little while longer, I have enough faith in the producers that they can do right by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com