This Muppets Now review contains spoilers.
Muppets Now Episode 5
Muppets Now ends its first and possibly only season with its sixth episode “Socialized.” I couldn’t imagine a more fitting season finale for this show. Half of it relies on the same tired gags as every episode before it. The other half is fresh and shows that although the show can be incredibly tedious, there’s still absolute gold to be mined in there.
The framing plot this time around is that Kermit’s nephew Robin is the show’s social media intern and is constantly bugging Scooter by showing him how much support he has from the other Muppets. The “support” is really just everyone bitching and moaning about how slow Scooter is. Luckily, there are some funny moments – brief as they are – to be found. I admit, the simple idea of Pepe memeing Scooter and misnaming to him as “Scooper” makes me chuckle.
Throughout the build of the series and the previous few episodes, the new breakout character has been Joe the Legal Weasel. We begin with “Muppet Labs Field Tests,” where Joe truly gets to shine by insisting on accompanying Bunsen and Beaker as they try mixing household chemicals. Not to assist them, but to double-down on the “don’t try this at home” mantra. While Joe is never treated as too much of an antagonist for a buzzkill lawyer character, he is still a bit of a blowhard and having Bunsen respond to his orders by treating them as inspiration for more dangerous experiments is a perfect bit of payoff.
Honestly, the best part here is how Joe tries to explain science through legal terms. It seems too dull and straight to work, yet bizarrely comes off as brilliant.
The second segment is “Okey Dokey Kookin’” and it sucks. I’ve run out of new stuff to say about this thing. Marina Michelson is the chef here. That means nothing to me, but it’s something different, I guess?
Oh, wait. There’s something in there where Kermit keeps walking in front of the shot, but that doesn’t actually go anywhere.
What I do want to talk about is “Mup Close and Personal,” this time with Fozzie Bear interviewing Seth Rogen. This one is not only absolutely hilarious, but I’d easily call this the best of Muppets Now’s 24 segments. Without a doubt. This is what I was hoping the show would be.
Strangely enough, the bit centers around my least favorite of the Muppets, the baby Muppets. I don’t mean in the sense of Muppet Babies, but when there are Muppet versions of human babies. Those things always give me the creeps and they seem more annoying than humorous. They’re still creepy here, but it works. The setup is that Fozzie is supposed to be babysitting and the babies keep interrupting the interview. Rogen goes with it, but the babies keep insisting on doing dangerous things, like trying to ingest poison and run with scissors.
Rogen is improvising and does so perfectly. He knows that sometimes the secret to comedy is outright saying what the awkward thing is. When the babies only speak by saying “Rogen,” he is quick to point out that not only is that weird that it’s the only word they know, but it means that the babies are familiar with his work, which is disturbing.
The final segment is “Lifestyle with Miss Piggy,” and once again, there isn’t much to add to it. I really don’t know why they had to make time for this one in every single episode, but here we are. The one thing redeeming the sketch is Piggy’s idiotic sponsorship deal with a bucket company, which inexplicably drives her to rage.
So that ends the show for now. The finale might be the best episode just because of the two fresh segments hitting so high. It makes it more apparent that the show works better in “Best of” form rather than spending the two hours to binge the whole season.
In the meantime, here’s how I’d rank the six different Muppets Now segment types from worst to best:
6) Okay Dokey Kookin’: I think one of the reasons why the Swedish Chef works is that he’s this weirdo doing his own thing and nobody really calls him out on it. He 1/3 knows what he’s doing and that’s good enough. Doing a sketch about him being defensive and cantankerous about it just makes him unlikable. Also, the celebrity chefs are interchangeable and the only time the bit worked was when they threw in an actual celebrity.
5) Lifestyle with Miss Piggy: I’m not going to say that Miss Piggy only works in small doses, but whatever dose she does work in, Muppets Now overdoes it. Taye Diggs tries with what they give him, but it’s never much and it’s always the same basic punchline. Linda Cardellini’s segment almost feels like the Lindsay Buckingham running joke on SNL’s “What’s Up With That?” to that point that I don’t even get why they got her for it.
This one at least has some chaotic energy to it at times and the Q&A section is a crapshoot on what kind of Muppet guests show up.
4) Muppet Labs Field Tests: Updating Muppet Labs into Jackass is a really good idea. It’s just hit-or-miss on whether it works out. They try to focus on science experiments that are basic, but also cool to watch, but that’s only in theory. Sometimes you get the time they tried firing pizzas at a wall, which didn’t make for good TV.
It doesn’t help that Bunsen has become more of a dick in this setting and his treatment of Beaker feels less cute as time goes on.
3) Muppet Masters: We only got two of these, so it never wore out its welcome. Walter makes for a good host here and the bits seem to just write themselves without having to worry about being the same idea with a different coat of paint. It probably could have used two more installments.
2) Pepe’s Unbelievable Game Show: Pepe the King Prawn is nothing but charming energy and that’s exactly what carries this concept of him throwing away the structure of whatever game show he’s supposed to be hosting out the window. They did this one three times and I’m not sure if it could have sustained another one or two shows. I wouldn’t have minded them trying, to be honest.
1) Mup Close and Personal: This one was also done three times and it definitely brought the most variety to it, right down to having a different host each time. From the show’s announcement, they claimed that it would be an unscripted Muppets show and as far as I’m concerned, only the top two segments on this list pulled that off. This one is especially good because it focuses on the celebrities reacting to the Muppets’ whacko behavior and heightening it with their performer instincts.
And that really sums it up, I feel. If you add up all the segments in the top three, you get only two episodes worth of content, leaving the other four episodes with stuff that’s mostly just watchable. Hopefully, if the show comes back, they can fix the focus.
Plus, maybe they can give Gonzo more to do.