Muppets Now Episode 4: Sleep Mode – Review

Published: August 21, 2020
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Here we are, finally in the second half of this strange six-episode first season of Muppets Now. And boy, is it appropriate that this episode, “Sleep Mode,” is about Scooter having trouble staying awake, because I’m just… tired.

Look, we’ve said it in our other reviews. You know the backstory here: each segment of Muppets Now was intended to be standalone content, released gradually. Maybe in that format, I’d have more patience for Muppets Now. Maybe if an Øk?ÿ Døk?ÿ Køøkïñ was released this week, and then a Pepe’s Unbelievable Game Show next week, and a Lifesty(le) the next, I’d have more patience and the seams wouldn’t be showing this much.

But we don’t live in that universe and I’m tired of grading on a curve. If Disney wants us to think of Muppets Now as a TV show, I’m going to have to think of it as a TV show. And if I were a more casual Muppet fan, I’m not convinced I’d have made it this far.

I should stress that the bones of a great Muppet relaunch are here. Short segments! Celebrities! Linking material! Excellent puppetry! Approximately 22 minutes of content! Big Mean Carl! And yet, when I woke up this morning, I turned to my partner and said “Oh great, I’m going to have to watch an Øk?ÿ Døk?ÿ Køøkïñ today.”

Let’s start there, even though the Chef isn’t the first segment we see. There have been four episodes of Muppets Now, and all four of them have featured Øk?ÿ Døk?ÿ Køøkïñ. In this week’s segment, the Chef and Giuseppe Losavio are challenged with preparing pasta carbonara. As in the past three of these, they’re clearly riffing on popular cooking YouTube videos, which is an interesting idea for the Chef. But this is harder to follow than, say, an episode of Binging With Babish, leaving me to simply wish they’d cut the “instructions” out completely.

Plus, these “instructions” are severely slowing down the manic pace I associate with the best Swedish Chef segments of old. In this, the Chef barely does anything funny. It’s a little better than in other episodes, I suppose, because he throws some spaghetti around, but the end joke is still that the Chef is lazy(?) and just puts some raw ingredients on a plate at the last minute. You may remember, this was essentially the joke in every other Øk?ÿ Døk?ÿ Køøkïñ. Which I have watched every week for four straight weeks.

In Muppet Labs’ defense, it has only been in 75% of the total episodes so far, so I guess it feels a little fresher? It’s still weird because the segment doesn’t know whether or not it’s educational. Like, the explanation of the one thing I didn’t already know about, Chladni plates, gets cut off for no real reason. I get that this segment is riffing on the multitude of destructive not-really-educational science videos on YouTube, but I miss the surreal sci-fi of classic Muppet Labs, and there’s no reason you can’t mix the two. Heck, Beaker doesn’t even really get hurt in this one.

This episode rounds itself out with two Miss Piggy-themed segments, a Lifesty(le) (featured in 100% of episodes) and a Mup Close and Personal (featured in 50% of episodes but because of Piggy and Deadly this one just feels like an extension of Lifesty(le)). The joke in all of this is that Piggy is self-centered, and you know what, I got it. I have been watching Muppet content for almost 30 years now and I got it. Miss Piggy is self-centered. Are they going to do anything with that? I don’t know.

The best joke here was Aubrey Plaza doing facial reactions to Deadly’s prompts, but we’re at the point where I don’t even have the same patience for Uncle Deadly that I used to.

And here we go, folks. Taye Diggs is good at relaxing and Miss Piggy isn’t! Remember that from the other three Muppets Now episodes?? Linda Cardellini is vaguely disinterested in Piggy but Piggy desperately wants her attention! You remember, like in the other three Muppets Now episodes???

So what’s new this time? Uh, they brought back Miss Poogy to… pretend to play video games? Is that a joke? Did we need to bring back Miss Poogy, a character who we debated the transphobic and racist implications of nine years ago, in 2020? And to do nothing?

If this is a throwback to the variety show format of old, then where’s the variety? Where is the music? The Electric Mayhem literally shows up in this episode to quietly tell Scooter to wake up. They don’t even sing a riff of “Can You Picture That?”

The show has a great setup. It has amazing talent behind it. It’s got the characters we love, and some fun new friends as well. Season 2 could be great if it just was willing to be a little more eclectic. I’m still hopeful that the remaining episodes will prove me wrong. If this were just web content, it might be okay, although I’m skeptical. If we’re treating this as a TV show, and the Muppets’ New York Times-worthy comeback story, it’s not a great one. 

Scooter and I both need a nap after this one.

MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): It’s ironic that after saying so much about characters not telling jokes that the funniest Muppet this week was Pepe, who upstages Miss Piggy by not telling a joke. It works for him, I guess.

LVM (Least Valuable Muppet): I am so sick of the Swedish Chef, folks. He never should be around for more than one minute at a time.

Puppetry Note: This is the second time we’ve ever seen adult Scooter without his glasses, and I’m happy to report that the creepy eyes from The Muppets (2015) have been replaced with the more obvious gag, that he just doesn’t have eyes behind his glasses at all.

Missed Opportunity: The Electric Mayhem doing nothing when they show up.

Best Joke: When Miss Piggy’s soothing sound machine breaks, Chip and Deadly “fix” it by making ocean noises with their mouths.

One More Thing: A Chladni plate, named for Ernst Chladni, is used to study sound vibrations in much the same way Bunsen and Beaker use it in this episode. It’s just a sheet of metal on a standing base that vibrates when near a sound. So I guess there isn’t actually much to explain about it after all.

Click here to throw some spaghetti around on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Evan G

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