Muppets Now continues to roll on with their third episode. In what’s supposed to be a modernized update of a beloved variety show is starting to fail when it comes to actual variety. The whole setup for Muppets Now hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been fairly sound. Four segments in the form of online shows are framed together thanks to quick bits of Scooter tossing them up online with his “Rainbow Connector.” Considering it’s the variety of characters, talents, and behaviors that make the Muppets work, this channel surfing style can definitely succeed if done correctly.
The problem is that after three episodes, they haven’t done too well in terms of mixing things up. For instance, the second episode brought back two segments from the first episode (the ones starring Miss Piggy and Swedish Chef) and that’s fine. It’s just that episode three brought back all four segments from episode two. These episodes aren’t even themed, so it’s not like they’re bound by what order and batch to release these in. The only reason they probably couldn’t shake things up is if we’re really getting six segments of Okey Dokey Kookin’ and Lifestyle with Miss Piggy throughout six episodes.
And man, I really hope we’re not.
This time around, the framing device is so perfect a concept that I’m surprised it took three episodes to get there. Scooter is told that he needs to show each segment to a test audience and said test audience is none other than Statler and Waldorf. It’s an awesome idea that’s only hindered by how quick these in-between segments are and how one of them is just the two sleeping instead of giving us an easy zinger.
Our first segment is Okey Dokey Kookin’, where this time Swedish Chef is up against Chef Roy Choi. Outside of host Beverly Plume undressing Chef Choi with her eyes, there’s nothing especially new about this bit. The idea of a celebrity chef making a competent dish while Swedish Chef is off on the side being incompetent has been run into the ground and there’s no fresh take on it here. At least last week had the novelty of Danny Trejo bringing his charisma to the table.
The next segment is Muppet Labs. Like last week, Beaker and Bunsen are outside doing something that’s supposed to be genuinely silly but just slightly educational. Their idea is to use a catapult to fire pizza and pizza-related foods at a target wall. They’re joined by pizza delivery guy and celebrity guest Al Madrigal whose main task is extorting money from Beaker. It’s weird how we’re so used to seeing Beaker get brutalized by experiments, but something seems kind of over-the-line about Bunsen forcing him to pay hundreds of dollars for pizza and over-tip.
They’re trying to go Gallagher on this bit, but it never really works. It looks like they filmed the footage, didn’t get the messes that they wanted, but pushed it forward anyway due to deadline.
Miss Piggy’s Lifesty/Lifestyle bit is next, where once again, Linda Cardellini pops in and does absolutely nothing. It’s getting rather impressive. This time, the topic is about relationships, which gives it a shot in the arm, because we get to see some prime Piggy/Kermit dynamic. Kermit is brought into Piggy’s Zoom call and comically goes through different lengths to distance himself from the conversation, including pretending he’s going through a tunnel despite the fact that he’s on camera.
Now, for an episode that does the same sketches as the previous week, the biggest improvement is the order. Starting weak and ending strong is a better structure and we end strong with Pepe’s Unbelievable Game Show. Once again, Pepe the King Prawn takes a game show setting and pushes it into his own brand of chaos while being charming as all get-out. You know you’re in for a good time when Pepe immediately starts the show with the lightning round because of his whims.
This also gives us the only truly great improv gag this week when Pepe gets one of the contestants to talk about his dead dog, much to Scooter’s horror. The Muppets on Disney+, everyone!
I really wish the show had more of the energy of the Pepe game show stuff. It’s so fast and frenetic that only way after the episode do I realize, “Of course Pepe abruptly excuses himself before Big Mean Carl shows up. They’re played by the same performer!”
We’re halfway through the season and it’s just okay. It’s kind of funny to me that a show that’s constantly joking about how reluctant it is to get constructive feedback really does need that feedback to move forward. At this point, I’m more interested in a potential second season when they know what works and what doesn’t.
I don’t know. Muppets Now is making me think of that crappy Avengers cartoon from 2000 where they went out of their way not to include Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man for the most part despite identifying them as the “big three.” Just replace them with Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo, who have done so little through the last three episodes.