Review: The Muppets Mayhem, Episode 8 – “Virtual Insanity”

Published: June 28, 2023
Categories: Feature, Reviews
Moog looks at the Electric Mayhem, all of whom are on their smartphones

There’s a Twitter joke account, @seinfeld2000, that I’m often thinking about. This account, which parodies both modern reboots in general and the @seinfeldtoday Twitter account in particular, distills the world of TV revivals down to nine words: “what if seinfeld still on TV? jery get ipad.”

The tweet, while simple and intentionally weirdly-formatted, touches on a truth in so many reboots: suddenly the showrunners of a new version of a show inevitably feel they need to tackle every current fad, where the joke simply becomes “we’re talking about this current fad.” Of course Jerry would get an iPad. We all have iPads. But that isn’t funny on its own, and it’s not like every episode of the original Seinfeld was about Kramer learning MS-DOS. 

Anyway I’m thinking about this right now, since I’m supposed to be thinking about the end of The Muppets Mayhem.

Episode 8, “Virtual Insanity,” starts the final arc of the show, which ultimately involves the band finishing their album, the band getting addicted to social media, and Nora’s final decision between JJ and Moog. This episode juggles setting up all three somewhat adeptly. However, it’s an omen of things to come that the next episodes will truly shift the major focus of the show to be “what if mayhem still on TV? dr teeth get iphone.”

So what exactly happens here? Well, JJ, in a bid to impress Nora, gets the band smartphones. This leads to the same jokes we’ve heard again and again. What’s the cloud? Phones don’t have buttons! Autocorrect is annoying! Break the Internet! Geez, that last one had its big moment in 2014: nine years ago. Come on now.

When autocorrect messes up Dr. Teeth’s tweet and he winds up insulting “all of music,” fans of Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga show up to destroy the band. It’s a fun set piece, but once again, I’m wondering about just how dated this will feel soon. I fully believe those four musicians will be remembered for years, but the specific quirks of their fans? I’m less sure.

In the end, the band performs a concert in front of millions of fans to cheer everyone up and spread togetherness. Is it an amazing, show-stopping scene? No. It’s on Minecraft.

Yes, I know digital concerts exist, but look: they aren’t happening on Minecraft. They also aren’t happening on TV shows, a visual medium where we’re already virtually seeing the band via streaming Internet. The Mayhem’s triumphant concert is just depressing: we see them play it alternatively as little block avatars or in all-black mo-cap suits.

I don’t want to see the Mayhem do either. I want to see them rock, as puppets, in triumph. I know we’ll see that later in the show, but this whole moment just winds up feeling hollow. Am I supposed to be glad they made the Creepers in the audience happy? All the Minecraft scene does is highlight how colorful the show could be, while the live action scenes remain washed out and gray. 

Look, The Muppets Mayhem is still an enjoyable show, clearly made with a lot of love. I can’t hate this episode, or even the (worse) ones that follow. Rewatching it, I still found myself grinning from ear-to-ear at some of the memorable lines and songs. There’s amazing puppetry and funny jokes. The show is dripping with talent. 

I just feel like this is a weird zone the show gets stuck in, and I truly wish it didn’t.

Most Valuable Muppet: One of my favorite jokes in the entire series is Janice’s monologue about “the free-spirited lass whose heart was like, totally torn between two very different suitors.” I love it so much, I’m going to give the MVM award to her, even if everyone has great moments in this.

Most Valuable Human: There’s a lot of celebrity guests in this, and sadly, they’re almost all severely underused. Could you even identify Rachel Bloom as the leader of the Swifties? However, Joe Lo Truglio is really, really funny as the guy running the motion capture.

Best Joke: Besides the aforementioned Janice monologue, I adore Moog and Lo Truglio’s lines about the warring fandoms: “The BTS Army, Rhianna’s Navy…” “…Even the Natalie Merchant Marines!” I mean, maybe someday we’ll forget Natalie Merchant but it’s such a well-constructed pun I can’t be mad.

Weakest Joke: I think I addressed that throughout. Please, we get it, phones are bad. Tell us something new.

Musical Highlight: I really, really enjoy “We Are One.” It is the kind of showstopper this episode needs to work and it just makes me feel good.

Notable Muppet Fan Easter Egg: Jeff Yorkes worked so hard to get Floyd’s Riverbottom Nightmare Band line into the show. Let me assure him: I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Notable Disney Fan Easter Egg: Referring to Moog (played by Tahj Mowry), Penny asks “Who is this smart guy anyway?” I got that reference!

Adultiest Content: I thought it might be the joke about not remembering Woodstock, but it’s definitely Nora, desperately telling Floyd he can’t send emojis of bananas, tacos, hot dogs, and donuts to people.

One More Thing: I should note, this episode brings back the “Floyd believes in conspiracy theories” character beat from The Muppets sitcom. It works a lot better here than on that show, since we all know there are genuine reasons to believe our phones are spying on us. Does this mean that show is still canon? Is Ricki Lindholme both Fozzie’s ex and a Belieber? The world may never know. 

OK One More Thing: I really need Rachel Bloom to do something more substantial with the Muppets. Why hasn’t she done more yet?

Click here to learn MS-DOS on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Becca Petunia

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