In this episode, our hero Nora has to work out problems in two relationships in her life. The first is her friendship with Moog, who wants to produce the album she’s trying to get made, but she just doesn’t have faith in him. The other is with her sister Hannah, whom she previously insulted. Her ex JJ is also hanging around, trying to buy the record label where she works.
It’s a lot to deal with for ol’ Nora, but (spoiler) it all works out just fine in the end. She hears Moog’s demo and decides that he’s definitely the best guy to produce the album. Thanks to the intervention of a mutual friend, she also patches things up with Hannah, and they’re going to be buddies from now on.
You know who I didn’t mention in that summary? The Electric Mayhem, because they barely matter in this episode’s actual story! I cheated slightly, because the “mutual friend” is Janice, but she’s the only one who affects the plot in any way. And indeed, she does get some nice character development, as we see that she’s too focused on fixing others to fix her own problems. But the rest of the episode stays with the human characters, and it’s kind of a drag.
This show has two goals – one is to make us laugh, and the other is to give us a sentimental tug at our heartstrings. For the most part, the Electric Mayhem is here for comedy and the human characters are here for heart. There’s overlap, of course – last week’s sweet moments were about Floyd and Animal, and the human characters do get to be funny. But by and large, the series has three human leads so there’s someone to tell a story about.
This is a huge change from every previous Muppet series, where humans only existed as guest stars. The Muppet Show had a featured guest every week, and they got to sing, dance, be in sketches, and generally make us feel good all over. It was a formula that worked, so The Jim Henson Hour and Muppets Tonight both used it as well.
But in the 2010s, two things happened – 1) The Muppets feature film in 2011, a movie that definitely stars Jason Segel more than it stars the Muppets, and 2) The Muppets sitcom in 2015, which did focus on the Muppets but put them into typical sitcom plots. The movie was a hit, and the TV show wasn’t.
Understandably, the creative team for The Muppets Mayhem learned from those two projects that maybe the Muppets shouldn’t be the focus of a TV show’s dramatic storylines, and maybe it’s fine to have some human characters to bear that load. In theory, I’m perfectly happy with that decision. And certainly, Lily Singh, Saara Chaudry, and Tahj Mowry are all talented and likable.
That would be fine if the characters were funnier or more distinctive. I realized while watching it that if the band were a regular human band, almost nothing about the Nora/Moog/Hannah/JJ scenes would change at all. It would just be some generic sitcom with good performances but an unnecessary love triangle and only so-so jokes, and I’d probably have stopped watching it by now.
This is a pretty good TV show, and the Muppets are very funny in it! I just wish the human characters were treated with the same care.
Most Valuable Muppet: Floyd is one of the leads of this TV show, and that’s the most valuable thing about every episode in my opinion.
Most Valuable Human: Hannah, because she and Janice have good chemistry, but also because my family has enjoyed Saara Chaudry’s work in Canadian children’s television, and I’m glad she’s on a Muppet thing.
Musical Highlight: “God Only Knows” is one of the greatest pop songs ever written, and Matt Vogel absolutely nails it. What a joy to hear Floyd sing that song!
Best Joke: Honestly, the biggest laugh for me was when “Ave Maria” popped up in the opening public domain medley.
Weakest Joke: There’s a gag where Moog keeps trying to finish Nora’s sentences, and he’s always wrong. The timing on that bit feels off every time, and it’s never funny.
First Appearance of…: Janice’s mysterious long-lost twin sister. We only see her in a photograph here, but maybe she’ll show up in a future season. Our own Joe Hennes suggested that she should sound like Eren Ozker’s version of Janice from The Muppet Show season 1, and now I really hope that happens.
Notable Muppet Fan Easter Egg: The Mayhem drive by a friendly neighborhood Pizza Twins location. I hope they’re still not-a-making them, they’re just-a-delivering them.
Adultiest Content: Dr. Teeth and Penny Waxman play some sort of sexual “This Little Piggy” game. It’s bad and I hate it.
Notable Cameo: The joke of Cheech and Chong’s cameo is exactly the same as Beauregard’s cameo in The Muppets (2011): They’ve been sitting in the same location for decades waiting for someone – anyone – to show up. But it was funny then, and it’s still funny now.
One More Thing: I don’t know the music of today, so I have nothing to say about most of the other cameos.
Okay, One More Thing: Early on, we watch a clip of “Rockin’ Robin” from The Muppet Show, and it’s truly wonderful to hear Richard Hunt’s Janice for a moment.
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by Anthony Strand
Next episode review: “Break on Through” (coming soon)