Since Jim Henson’s death, the Muppets have starred in four live-action TV shows: Muppets Tonight, The Muppets, Muppets Now, and the upcoming Electric Muppets Funtime Mayhem Variety Hour. Maybe the next show will be a masterpiece, but so far, the 2018 revival of Muppet Babies blows them all away. It’s the most consistently entertaining TV show the Muppets have made in the past 40 years, and I’m so glad we got seventy episodes of it to treasure forever.
Full disclosure: I have two young children (ages 3 and 7), and they both love this show. I’ve seen a whole lot more of it than I would have otherwise, so maybe I’m overrating it due to the joy on Iris and Miles’s faces. But I truly believe there’s a whole lot to enjoy even for the discerning child-free Muppet fan. The jokes are funny, the songs are terrific, and the characters feel like themselves.
But most importantly, the show has always had a deep respect for Muppet history. Episodes are full of nods and in-jokes for long-time Muppet fans. Additionally, the show brought in an increasingly deep roster of established characters in baby form*. The series is very much for children first, but in classic Muppet fashion, it’s designed for everyone to enjoy.
(*This character frenzy reached its peak in the third and final season, which has multiple stories starring Jill the Frog! Yes, the one from Muppets Take Manhattan!)
For the series finale (a single half-hour story, for the first and only time!), they decided to go all in on the references. It’s the last day of daycare before summer, and Kermit doesn’t want to leave. So he decides to keep all of his friends busy by putting on a never-ending variety show. It’s called The Muppet Babies Show, and the bulk of this episode is a full-blown homage to The Muppet Show. In that spirit, I’m going to do my own homage and write the rest of this review in the format of our classic Muppet Show 40th Anniversary reviews.
Best Joke: In a desperate bid to extend the show, Kermit drags Sweetums, Sam, and Rizzo on stage to do an impromptu dance number. We don’t get to see it for long, but I laughed very loudly at their enthusiastic performance, and especially at Sam’s closing “That was most acceptable!”
Lamest Joke: The Swedish Chef accidentally brings back the Meatball Monster from the season 2 classic “Meatball Mayhem.” I don’t know that I’d use the word “lame” to describe it, but I sure wasn’t expecting that guy to get a featured cameo in this finale.
MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): I’m gonna give this one to Potato, Gonzo’s faithful sidekick and best friend. Potato has recurred throughout the show’s run, and I was so relieved to see that Gonzo takes him home for the summer at the end of this episode.
Most Classic Moment: Piggy and Rowlf initially plan to sing a song together, but they change their plans at the last minute to do Vet’s Hospital instead. It’s a pity that Janice was never a character on this show, but it’s still such a joy to see those two doing dumb jokes together again.
Should-Be-Classic Moment: Muppet Labs’ Switcheroo Remote, which switches objects with one another, and after a malfunction accidentally causes people to swap brains. This is such fun nonsense, and it’s executed perfectly.
First Last Appearance Of…: This is most likely the last time we’ll ever see Summer Penguin, the most prominent new Muppet character created for the series. Over the course of three seasons, she’s grown from “generically cheerful” to a multi-faceted kid who loves to investigate mysteries, celebrate penguin culture, and teach Kermit how to dance. Someone get Julianne Buescher a puppet version of Summer!
Musical Highlight: It wouldn’t be The Muppet Show without that iconic theme song, and the episode gives us a near shot-for-shot recreation, including an off-key trumpet gag from Gonzo. This is the perfect way to set the tone, because the whole episode is a love letter to the series.
Missed Opportunity: It’s amazing that the Leprechaun Brothers get to do their act in this episode, but it’s a little disappointing that they perform a rockin’ version of “The Wheels on the Bus” rather than a rockin’ version of “Danny Boy.”
Obscure Character Watch: Neither character is obscure on his own, but it’s such a delight to see this show give the people what they really want – the Sweetums/Robin team, back together again as part of the audience.
Adultiest Content: I mean, it’s Muppet Babies, so not much. Nice to see the Swinetrek even though the sketch is called “Muppet Babies in Space” and there’s only one pig on board.
One More Thing…: The first 68 episodes of Muppet Babies are currently streaming on Disney+, where you can choose to watch them instead of the 2015 sitcom. Hopefully the last two episodes will be added to the service soon!
Okay, One More Thing…: I watched this episode with my kids, so I asked them for their thoughts. Here’s what they had to say:
Iris: “It’s really funny! Statler & Waldorf are in their same booth, and that’s really cool! Look! Baby Newsman! BABY NEWSMAN!”
Miles: [Sees Sweetums, Sam, and Rizzo] “It’s big, medium, and small!”
Iris “The Bunsen & Beaker sketch was really funny. I also like the meatball monster! I would not eat an anchovy & rhubarb sandwich [like Gonzo does]. That’s disgusting!
Miles: “I like all the parts! My favorite episode was this one!”
Iris: “Can we watch one more thing of Muppet Babies after we finish this recording?”
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by Anthony Strand