Well, the Muppets finally worked out the kinks and put together their best episode of Muppets Now, and they managed to do it just in time for (*checks notes*) their final episode??? Well, dang.
Despite our mixed reviews, we’ve been giving Muppets Now a lot of leeway for being a collection of shorts that was never meant to be packaged together as a half-hour show. That’s resulted in a lot of inconsistency in tone, major characters who barely show up, and a weird structure that you don’t see in many other sketch shows.
I have no idea how they filmed the segments that make up Muppets Now, or if what we’re seeing is even the order in which they were produced. But for each of the ones we’re seeing this week, it’s like they’re finally figuring out how to maximize the humor, structure, and character. They might not be at full speed yet, but if we were expecting another half-dozen episodes, this would be a good sign that they’re getting over their first season slump.
Our first sketch – Bunsen and Beaker’s Muppet Labs Field Test – has been plagued with two big problems. The first is that the pseudo-sci-fi of Muppet Labs has been left behind in favor of actual science. (With bonus educational content! And a pop quiz at the end that will be worth 25% of your final grade.) The other issue has been the rotating forgettable guests (which have included the Alexa-esque BEAK-R, a pizza delivery guy, the Beepalyzer, and a disembodied voice on Bunsen’s phone. Of those four, I’m betting you only remembered two of them, max.
We’re still left with actual science gobbledygook in this week’s Field Test, but it’s all much more digestible thanks to our solution to problem #2: Character find of the year Joe the Legal Weasel! Muppet fans have glommed onto Joe since his reveal over a year ago, thanks to his adorable appearance, surprisingly deep voice, unique laugh, and his cute little suit and briefcase. Plus, he actually has something to offer the Muppet troupe as their legal proxy (and often unintentional adversary). Until now, Joe has mostly been seen in promotional videos and introductions to the Muppet Labs Field Tests, so this is his first long(er)-form appearance. And he nails it. Joe is funny, informative without being preachy, and able to act as both schlemiel and schlimazel. Forget Bunsen and Beaker – just give Joe his own Muppets Now segment in season 2.
This week’s Øk?ÿ Døk?ÿ Køøkïñ (ugh, I hate typing all of those umlauts) isn’t the best – that honor goes to the second episode, which featured both Danny Trejo and a Muppet mole. But you can sort of see how this segment is starting to evolve. Beverly Plume is inching her way closer to becoming an actual character (please please, if Beverly is going to stick around, give that girl a personality!), and the Swedish Chef does a bit more than just make a mess. The best classic Swedish Chef sketches involve him completely misunderstanding a recipe, and his giant meatball is certainly closer to the mark than, say, being so dumb he trashes the kitchen for no reason.
One of my big complaints about Muppets Now has been the lack of certain characters, whether they be Gonzo and Rowlf, or tertiary characters like Lew Zealand and Sweetums. This week’s Mup Close & Personal amends that by giving Fozzie Bear his first proper spotlight of the series, as he attempts an interview with noted famous guy Seth Rogen. To help distract them, a couple of those fan-favorite Muppets show up in the form of a couple babies. After their scene-stealing moment in Muppets Most Wanted, I’m surprised we don’t see those scamps more often! Unsurprisingly, the babies steal yet another scene by simply entering the scene holding things like poison and scissors. Hey, maybe that’s why we haven’t seen the babies in a while…
Of all the sketches in Muppets Now, I’m not sure why Miss Piggy’s Lifesty(le) gets the honor of appearing in all six episodes (and not, say, Walter’s Muppet Masters, which was a delight). There’s a lot of good and bad in this one. Good: More Uncle Deadly! Bad: Taye Diggs apparently got paid to just sit there. Good: They got an “old lady using Zoom” joke in before the COVID crisis! Bad: Linda Cardellini apparently got paid to just sit there. The highlight, surprisingly, was Miss Piggy’s blatant advertisements for Leakey Bucket, her eventual anger toward it, and then acceptance. Leakey Bucket rules.
All in all, it’s hard to tell if this episode of Muppets Now is unequivocally good or not – I can only compare it to the five episodes that came before it. I’m pleased to see that it’s one of the better examples of what the Muppets are capable of, despite its flaws. Best case scenario, it won’t be long before the Muppet performers are back in the studio to keep up the momentum they’ve built up through this series, either for a second season or for something else. Heck, now that we got Miss Piggy’s Lifesty(le) out of our systems, maybe Disney can finally refocus for a new season of The Muppet Show??
MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): I have been informed by our corporate proxies that Joe from Legal is the Most Valuable Muppet. Ergo, propter hoc, overruled.
LVM (Least Valuable Muppet): Fozzie Bear. Not because he doesn’t do a great job in this episode. He’s just a terrible babysitter.
MMM (Most Missed Muppet): Robin, who wasn’t quite missed in this episode, but he sure was before we saw his little froggy face in the bookend material with Scooter.
Best Joke: Kermit walks in front of the camera a couple times in Øk?ÿ Døk?ÿ Køøkïñ. It’s a simple gag, but it was one of the best moments in any of the Swedish Chef’s segments.
Missed Opportunity: How about literally anything to signify that this season is officially over? If for no other reaons than to give Scooter some closure after all of those technologically delayed deadlines.
One More Thing: As in every episode, Scooter’s segments are all great for pausing and looking for Easter eggs. Among some of the Muppets who chime in to virtually cheer Scooter on are: Thog, Johnny Fiama, Sal Minella, Bubba, Yolanda, Lew Zealand, Rowlf, Wayne, Wanda, Nigel, Beauregard, Emily Bear, Crazy Harry, Bobby Benson, and Louis Kazagger. It’s just a shame that we never actually got to see any of them in this show.
Okay, One More Thing: One of our eagle-eyed ToughPigs forum community members (Brad D. – thanks Brad!) noticed a video editing software watermark flash across the screen a few times. Look, I know Scooter’s on deadline and all, but oof, that’s an embarrassing gaffe. I’m sure someone will fix it soon, so enjoy this screengrab – the only evidence that it ever existed!
Click here to pail in comparison to Leakey Bucket on the ToughPigs forum!
by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com