“Bear Left Then Bear Write,” the third episode of the new Muppets series, is a textbook example of what can go wrong when you have too much going on in a half hour. On one hand, everything is happening. On the other hand, nothing is happening.
This episode has three plots going on and, as usual, one of them is the A-plot. Only it’s practically nonexistent. It begins with a good setup in that Fozzie writes a sketch for Piggy’s show and Kermit thinks it’s horrible, but is unable to bring himself to tell Fozzie, so he convinces him that it’s too good for the show and Fozzie should try turning it into a movie. Fozzie takes the lie too well and publicly quits the show so he can become a screenwriter.
That’s a great starting point. Then Kermit immediately points out that he was lying (which I’ll admit was nice because it was against the trope of dragging it out for the whole episode) and then…nothing, really. Fozzie insists that he can be a great writer, but it involves him driving into the woods and waiting for Kermit to show up and bring closure to their conflict. Don’t get me wrong, it has some funny bits – especially Fozzie’s hilarious inability to turn off his phone while driving – but it feels like there wasn’t enough airtime to write anything halfway compelling, so they just cut to an ending that put things back to the status quo.
The other two plots are actually two sides of a narrative coin in that they are very similar, only one works and the other one certainly doesn’t. One is about Piggy being furious over guest and personal friend Christina Applegate showing an embarrassing clip of her. Piggy becomes obsessed with getting revenge by making Applegate look just as bad. In the end, it blows up in her face and Piggy comically pays for being a horrible person.
The other plot is about Gonzo doing online dating. He’s going to meet Debbie, a woman he’s been talking to for a while, but he’s lied in his profile by using a photo of Liam Hemsworth. He, Rizzo, and Pepe get the idea to get the actual Liam to pose as him. This blows up in Gonzo’s face as well, but in a way that doesn’t sit right.
See, Piggy’s bit is played for laughs and we’re totally cool with seeing her suffer. Even the dramatic climax of the first episode worked because Piggy is regularly a serious character. But Gonzo? Gonzo’s bit is a huge downer and that straight up feels wrong. Yes, he’s technically paying for being a liar, but I can’t see it ever being a good idea to feel depressed for Gonzo of all people. He’s too far from being grounded and too lovable for it to jibe.
Maybe it’s just me. I can see Kermit, Piggy, and Fozzie being played serious, but this is like if they revealed Dr. Teeth was slowly dying of a terminal disease.
For the third episode in a row, the best celebrity appearance is one of the shortest, this time with it being Nick Offerman as Fozzie’s replacement. Oh, and also for the third time in a row, Fozzie’s plot mostly has him separated from the rest of the cast. The guy just doesn’t work as a solo act, but the scenes with Kermit are gold. Their final scene together is already a highlight for the series.
I haven’t given up on The Muppets yet, but I do think it needs to iron itself out before it’s too late. There are some great jokes in there and really good ideas, but each episode is starting to feel bloated and empty at the same time and they haven’t been able to land the seriousness of the show as well as they’d like.
Lastly, Chip the IT Guy was funnier in the proof-of-concept video when even he didn’t know who the hell he was. Here, he’s just kind of annoying.
Gavin Jasper misses cart-driving Laurence Fishburne. Follow Gavin on Twitter!