Too Hot to Handler Scooter handsMiss Piggy is one of the most popular and recognizable Muppets. Miss Piggy is the star of the show-within-a-show that the whole premise of The Muppets is built on. So what happens when The Muppets does an episode that barely has any Miss Piggy in it? As a matter of fact, it’s pretty good.

That’s largely thanks to Scooter, the latest Muppet to get a relationship-based storyline. (If someone asks me in the near future “What are Muppets?” I’m going to reply “They’re whimsical puppet characters who go on dates.”) I wouldn’t have guessed that Scooter would have a thing for guest star Chelsea Handler, but when Handler tells Piggy during an Up Late segment that she’s looking for a “kind, lovable dork,” it becomes clear he’s… pardon his naughty word… smitten.

Scooter has unexpectedly emerged as a major character on The Muppets, and this episode builds on what we knew about him before the series and what we’ve learned about him on the series to bring us a story where we’re really rooting for him. I’m no great fan of Chelsea Handler, but I found myself hoping she agreed to go on a date with the little guy, especially since I, too, have suffered from I Don’t Know What to Do with My Hands Syndrome in social situations. Of course, we find out he’s the kind of guy who likes to take things slow, but just the fact that he gets to pursue an adult relationship helps make him seem like less of a sad sack after all those “I live with my mom” jokes. Having said that, I would like to hereby challenge the writers to do three episodes in a row without a story about a Muppets’ dating life.

Too Hot to Handler ChipScooter’s dating issues feel like the A-story, but they pretty much share equal time with this week’s Kermit and Fozzie goings-on. Since the first episode of this show, a debate has raged over whether Kermit is a jerk. In “Too Hot to Handler,” we find Kermit being kind of a jerk, but with the best possible intentions, motivated by Fozzie considering a major life decision.

It must be tricky for Muppet writers to find the right balance with Fozzie, to make him appealingly dim but not stupid. His plan to ask Becky to move in with him after a few weeks of dating never would have happened on The Muppet Show, but the enthusiastic naivete behind it feels true to the bear.

And I totally get Kermit’s concern for his old furry friend, especially when he thinks Becky is cheating during trivia night at Rowlf’s. There might be a worse deal-breaker for a romantic partner than cheating at trivia, but I sure can’t think of any right now. So it’s completely understandable that — despite the advice of Denise, appearing briefly to serve as the voice of reason — Kermit attempts to expose Becky as a non-trivia expert in front of Fozzie. But then this is a sitcom, so naturally it backfires amusingly.

Too Hot to Handler Fozzie ElvisThe scene with Kermit and Fozzie resolving their differences is the kind of thing we’ve seen on the show before, but doing it while Fozzie is shooting regional promos was inspired. I just wish they’d gone further with it — Fozzie with a moose head for Anchorage, Fozzie as a showgirl for Las Vegas, all while hashing it out with Kermit.

Fortunately, they manage to work things out. I knew they would, because I knew from Kermit’s testimonial spots earlier in the show that he was trying to do the best thing for his friend. Oh, but two of those testimonials turn out to be fakeouts in which he’s trying to tell his co-workers (Bobo and Sam) what’s going on. It’s a funny enough gag that I was hoping to see it employed a third time — but could it also be a sign that the writers are growing as weary of the device as some of the viewers are? Watching this show evolve is practically becoming a show in itself.

Last week’s “Pig’s in a Blackout” had Muppet fans dancing in their living rooms with a combination of chaos, feelings, and banjo that hit a series high of Muppetiness. “Too Hot to Handler” doesn’t reach the same level, but it’s a pleasant half hour that continues the show’s apparent course correction toward a version of itself that’s more sweet than bitter.

Too Hot to Handler Kermit Denise zip it
Best Joke: It was pretty dumb, but I laughed out loud at Zoot’s “I wonder if I’m a robot… Beep bop boop! Ugh, that came way too easily.”

Best One-Liner: Fozzie’s “You don’t think I’m mature enough! Well, I am mature, so mehhh to you!” It’s obvious, but I’m a sucker for that kind of joke.

Lamest Joke: Scooter, in reply to Chelsea Handler hoping she hadn’t sent him an inappropriate picture of herself: “Yeah, you did, and thank god my mom didn’t see it.”  We get it, Scooter’s a dork and lives with his mom.

MVP (Muppet Valuable Player): I know he just got this spot last week, but I’m going to have to go with Scooter. He’s on a real likable streak.

Song Watch: Unless I missed something, there was only a bit of the usual Up Late music provided by the band.

Cool Puppetry Trick: Kermit thoughtfully chews on a pen. They’re doing so many tiny, subtle things like that on this show, and I love it. But perhaps more notably, RIZZO DOES A SPIT TAKE.  How did they do that?!

Obscure Character Watch: Crazy Harry’s not that obscure, but it was fun seeing him milling around in the background. I also caught a glimpse of what looked like a blue Whatnot I couldn’t see well enough to identify.

Adultiest Content: Fozzie wanting Becky to move in with him is a pretty adult situation, and all the prizes for trivia are alcoholic beverages. I didn’t catch any particularly naughty sex jokes this week.

One More Thing: Scooter did his signature “Scooter fist” gesture when he resolved to talk things over with Chelsea Handler about their status. That’s the kind of thing only nerds like us would notice, but nerds like us really appreciate it.

Okay, One More One More Thing: Animal eats the “Cookies for Robots” set out by his bandmates in one of the episode’s silliest gags. And when Animal eats the cookies, he goes “Om yom yom yom yom.”

Too Hot to Handler Bobo hug
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by Ryan Roe –

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