Last night on ABC, a creepy-looking blue dragon-man was responsible for some of the most genuinely affecting moments I’ve seen on television this season. It happened in “Got Silk?”, another triumph of the new, improved, brighter The Muppets.
Does Miss Piggy have friends? I had never really thought about it, but come to think of it, she is light on good buddies. Sure, she’s an essential member of the Muppet group, but even before this series, she was always just slightly removed from all the other characters except Kermit. This notion was previously touched on in the episode “Pig Out,” in which Piggy strives to make her staff think she’s cool, but it’s explored in a more personal way here.
When Piggy comes to the sobering realization that she has no real friends, she’s desperate to make some, with the help of her faithful and supportive wardrobe guy Uncle Deadly. Fortunately, Janice wanders in just in time to tell Piggy about her aerial contortion class, which is full of potential Piggy pals. I love that the show has given us so much good Janice. By embracing her spaciness and New Agey-ness, The Muppets lets her be more than just the girl who says “fer sure.”)
Now, Janice could have been on her way to a transcendental meditation session, or a vegan book club meeting, but the writers chose instead to send the characters to an aerial contortion class. The shots that followed, of Piggy swaying and tumbling in the aerial silk thingy, are among those “Wait, how the heck did they make THAT work?” moments the show loves delivering on a regular basis, and while I’m sure it was more time-consuming and expensive than a simpler scenario would have allowed for, it’s all worth it.
The aerial silk doesn’t actually get much screen time for an episode called “Got Silk,” but the title presumably also refers to what’s happening with the Up Late writers, who are seduced by the silky, fashionable clothes and the silky smooth words of Pizza (“Pache”), our designated villain with the ulterior motives. It makes complete sense to me for Pepe and Rizzo to be manipulated into doing Pache’s billing, but I’m not quite sure I buy Gonzo being so quick to go along with it. After all, this is a guy whose sartorial choices tend toward the plain (years spent wearing a gray sweater vest) or the wa-a-acky (chili pepper ties!) rather than the stylish.
This B-plot includes some (gasp!) Muppet-on-Muppet conflict when Kermit scolds the impressionable trio for so quickly jumping on Pizza’s product placement train. But it doesn’t take long for everyone to realize Pizza pulled a fast one, and to use Up Late to foil his plan to compromise the show’s integrity. The resolution — a twist on Yolanda’s idea of having a celebrity guest judge Muppets’ clothing designs — hits several satisfying notes: It celebrates creativity and Muppet solidarity, and it allows the Swedish Chef to wear a hat that looks funny on him. I don’t know if “Kermit and friends thwart Pizza’s plans” is an endless source of stories, but there’s certainly a lot more potential for future episodes.
But the Piggy/Deadly story is the heart of the episode. This episode, like last week’s, nailed the perfect Miss Piggy combination of sympathetic vulnerability plus amusing ego-centrism, which is a difficult feat. You see, she’s a pig. A pig who wants to be a star! But she also has feelings. And she has a friend in Uncle Deadly, even if she’s oblivious to that. And as it turns out, he has an equally good friend in her. I felt a welcome twinge of emotion when Deadly stood off-camera helping Piggy through her duet with Ingrid Michaelson, and I felt it again when Piggy brought all the Muppets to see the black-box theater production of Clueless directed by Uncle Deadly — and featuring him in the lead role, in a nice acknowledgement of the character’s origins as a stage actor.
Miss Piggy isn’t perfect, but on The Muppets, she’s become aware of those imperfections. We’re watching her make herself better and better… and in an astounding coincidence, we’re watching The Muppets make itself better and better, too.
Best Joke: I enjoyed the writers’ exchange regarding lunch choices, when Rizzo expresses his distaste for an island-themed burger… Gonzo: “You’re a rat! I’ve seen you eat garbage.” Rizzo: “Not with a pineapple on it!”
Best One-Liner: Yolanda: “How about we get a celebrity designer to judge crew fashion choices? Some of them dress ridiculous. I mean, Sweetums looks like he’s part of a car wash!”
Best Physical Gag: For whatever reason, the sight of Pepe slapping Gonzo with all of his arms cracked me up.
Lamest Joke: I really can’t think of any that totally missed the mark for me. I’m not going to complain that I have nothing to complain about!
Best Puppetry Moment: It has to be those shots of Piggy in the silk thingy. I was also impressed that they bothered to show us Pepe and Rizzo helping Gonzo take his too-fashionable pants off.
MVP (Most Valuable Puppeteer): It’s a tie! Eric Jacobson sold the heck out of Piggy’s mini-crisis, and Matt Vogel made me believe a monster named Deadly could be the best friend anyone could ever ask for.
Guest Star Watch: Ingrid Michaelson’s duet with Piggy was lovely, and the song was a nice fit for the scene. RuPaul made the most of his fairly limited screentime — not many people can make Santa Claus boxers look good. Maybe not even Santa Claus.
Adultiest Content: You know, there wasn’t a lot of it this week. Even when Yolanda became suddenly attracted to Rizzo in his new suit, things never got risqué.
One More Thing: I can’t tell if Denise leaving Kermit a box of his stuff means she’s gone for good. I suspect she’ll still make one more appearance in the season finale, which will likely further the “Kermit and Piggy still have feelings for each other” arc. Poor Denise. I kinda feel sorry for that poor, under-written pig.
Okay, One More Thing: The theme song was cut down this week, reduced to just those familiar eight notes over the title card. If it meant we got 15 more seconds of comedy, I’m okay with it, but I hope we haven’t seen the last of the full version.
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by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com