The following article was written by Tough Pigs’ close, personal friend Peter Papazoglou. Thanks for the review, Peter!

As a loyal and – let’s face it – masochistic fan of the Muppets, you have no doubt had the pleasure of reading my girlfriend Leah’s review of Studio DC: Almost Live. So it should come as a surprise of John-McCain-endorses-Barack-Obama proportions to find out that Leah agreed to host a viewing of the show’s second installment for some cable-deprived fellow Tough Pigs.

So how does the latest episode fare?

Unfortunately for Studio DC, it blew its guest star load in the series’ first installment. Hosts Cole and Dylan Sprouse notwithstanding, Miley Cyrus, Ashley Tisdale, and the Jonas Brothers have actually made the transition from Disney Channel teeny boppers to MTV Video Music Award teeny boppers. Like it or not, they’re the biggest names that the Muppets have worked with since, well, Ashanti.

In this episode, though, the Disney Channel trots out its second string: host Selena Gomez, The Cheetah Girls (sans, of course, Raven-Symon?ɬ©), and the cast of The Wizards of Waverly Place. If this were an episode of The Muppet Show, it would be hosted by Miss Mousey and featuring musical act the Gogolala Jubilee Jugband.

Which makes this a show with a chip on its shoulder. Within a space of 45 seconds, both Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato separately “consider” plugging their upcoming Disney Channel Original Movie Princess Protection Program. Later on, David Henrie slips a mention of his upcoming DCOM Dadnapped into an “improvised” song with Floyd. The only two musical numbers this time around are from The Cheetah Girls: One World and Camp Rock. Camp Rock, I served with High School Musical. I knew High School Musical. High School Musical was a friend of mine. Camp Rock, you’re no High School Musical!

Which is, like, really really sad.

Oh, wait. The Cheetah Girls: One World, I didn’t mean to leave you out. You suck too.

You know what also sucked? Grease 2. A musical sequel tied to the original in theme and setting only but featuring a brand new cast of kids with a handful of adults carried over for continuity’s sake, Studio DC hosted by Selena Gomez is Grease 2 with Kermit and Piggy as Coach Calhoun and Principal McGee. And these kids know they’re no John Travolta or Olivia-Newton John. They just hope that in ten years one of them might turn out to be Michelle Pfeiffer. They rehearse sketches like “Banana Montana” and “High Stool Musical.” They talk about how cute the Jonas Brothers are (Kermit and Rizzo: “Ditto!”; Jasons Dolley and Earles: “No homo!”). Kermit gets text messages from Ashley Tisdale; Miss Piggy continues her quixotic pursuit of “Zacky” Efron. These kids may be nobodies, but they’re gonna be stars, goshdarnit. Sing out, Louise! Smile, Baby! Hurry, before the pubes come in!

Which, to be fair, makes them kind of like the Muppets. Hardscrabbled, bootstrap-lifting gypsies, hoofers, and chickens and things. Now, I know what you’re thinking: What about the Muppets. And you’re right. What about the Muppets? Well, nothing falls quite so flat here as the Suite Life sketch, but then again, nothing shines quite like “Bop to the Top” (although I must admit that Demi Lovato shows genuine chemistry with Beaker in their duet of the blandly inoffensive “This Is Me.”) The plot, which remains essentially the same, is on the one hand more comprehensible this time around, but on the other, essentially the same.

Still, there are highlights. There’s a cute puppetry bit in which Kermit waddles through the set in snowshoes. A penguin tugs gently at someone’s scarf. A blinged out Rizzo raps while Pepe yodels. Gonzo makes a funny turkey gobbling noise. Yeah, it’s that kind of show, the kind that you rewind to listen to Dr. Teeth and Floyd’s one line apiece (Scooter gets two) and argue about the quality of the recasts (they’re all pretty good, by the way).

But nothing in this middling special quite makes up for seeing the Muppets show their age next to today’s tween stars. Kermit doesn’t know what ROTFLOL means. Piggy is sidelined by the Cheetah Girls and, when she finally forces herself into their number, is too tired to finish. Statler can’t even high five without breaking his wrist. And even though (or maybe because) I know that the Muppets are resilient and have survived this kind of mess before, by the time the too-long half-hour comes to an end, I find myself identifying with the unseen, omnipresent director: “He’ll be fine, me not so much…wake me when it’s over.”

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