A Requiem for The Muppets Mayhem

Published: November 27, 2023
Categories: Commentary, Feature

Well, here we are again.

We have a lot of feelings after last week’s news that The Muppets Mayhem is not being renewed at Disney+. There’s obviously some disappointment, and yet a sense of satisfaction that we actually got the gift of an entire season of television about The Electric Mayhem – something this writer never thought would’ve been possible.

But also, it’s giving me flashbacks. Back in 2016, ABC was airing The Muppets, the Office-style sitcom that continues to be polarizing among Muppet fans. When the show was canceled after just one season, and considering the fact that Muppets Most Wanted came out the previous year to middling ticket sales, I thought the worst for the franchise. A failed film AND a failed series? Why would Disney ever even consider more in the Muppets?? If I were Mr. Disney CEO, I certainly would’ve asked that question myself.

Back then, I wrote an editorial about the difficulties of being a Muppet blogger at that specific time in Muppet history. If nobody cared to go to the theaters OR turn on their televisions to support the Muppets, was anything we were doing here on ToughPigs making the slightest bit of difference? If no one can see the Muppets, can no one see me? And, less personally, what the heck would that even mean for the future of the Muppets?

Thankfully, as we now know, it wasn’t the end of the Muppets. The unlikely savior was Disney+, a streaming network that seemed to be the perfect new home for classics like The Muppet Show as well as new projects like… umm, Muppets Now?

Okay, so Muppets Now wasn’t the thing to bring the Muppets back into the global consciousness. We knew it back then, but it gave us hope for what was possible. We were just waiting for a quality series to make its way to Disney+ – it was just a matter of time! That’s when The Muppets Mayhem roared its way into our lives, and it was certainly the best gift we could’ve received.

I gotta say, you’ve got to respect the cojones it took to make this show. Building a show around a group of Muppets previously best enjoyed in the smallest of doses, at a time when the Muppets as a whole aren’t at peak popularity, and experimenting with long-form storytelling after a failed series that attempted the same thing? It really shouldn’t have worked, but hot damn did it ever.

I’ll leave it to you to revisit the show and form your own opinions, but I really loved this show. Heck, I liked it so much, I produced a whole podcast about it! It breathed new life into the Muppets, showcasing what they were capable of outside of the variety show format. It elevated the Electric Mayhem characters from the barely-seen house band into comedic (and even dramatic) leads. It proved that the Muppets aren’t just Kermit the Frog and his pals – it’s a true ensemble, where even secondary characters can carry their own narratives. The Muppets Mayhem truly felt like the start of something new for the franchise – helping the Muppets branch out into the potential of infinite possibilities.

And then. Canceled.

Disney+’s decision to not continue the series is a little baffling. The general critical consensus is that the show was a hit. Fans seemed to dig it, and the critics definitely loved it. It was getting awards recognition. It led to the creation of an album, which hit the top of the Billboard charts. It increased the Muppets IP and helped keep them on the radar so that the next time Disney attempts to do anything with the brand, they’re not constantly reintroducing them to audiences. But mostly, it felt like there was something being built, both for a growing franchise-within-a-franchise of The Electric Mayhem, but for varied and eclectic Muppet productions based on secondary characters, which included this show and the Gonzo and Pepe-centric Muppets Haunted Mansion. All of that potential seems to have been flushed down the drain now.

But despite all of this, I’m not as worried as I was in 2016. Back then, it truly felt like the Muppets might be done. But this time, I feel confident in the leadership within Muppets Studios to keep pushing for more content. And with the upcoming merger between Disney+ and Hulu, we were fully expecting a lot of programs to end up on the chopping block. It hardly feels like this decision was about the failure of the Muppets, and more about being unlucky enough to be one of the many shows affected by these decisions made at the corporate level.

I wish I could look a bit into the future to see what the future of the Muppets is. I hope Disney+ (or whatever the Disney/Hulu hybrid monster might look like) will find space for them, perhaps in the form of new one-off specials or miniseries. These continuing series may not be the best fit, seeing that so many Muppet series get cut off before they really have time to find their footing (see: The Muppets, Muppets Now, Muppets Tonight, The Jim Henson Hour… sadly, I could go on!). But mostly, I hope that whoever is making these decisions has the good sense to look back at The Muppets Mayhem and recognize its quality, as well as its potential.

For the first time following a Muppet cancellation, I’m hopeful. Sure, I’m a little sad and not incredibly optimistic, but I have hope that The Electric Mayhem will take center stage again, and that audiences will continue to discover this lovely little show. And I’m glad to see the bar raised for future Muppet projects, which now have to be as good or better than The Muppets Mayhem to thrive. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

Click here to demand an encore on the ToughPigs forum!

by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com

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