A Christmas special and a fall finale all in one, with the promise of a full reboot next year. The Muppets 1×10 ‘Single All the Way’ has a lot to deliver as the show goes into Christmas hiatus. Let’s bitch it out…
The Christmas special centers on relationships and gifts. In the A-plot, Fozzie is heartbroken when Becky breaks up with him. When he goes to Miss Piggy for advice, he rekindles her own feelings of loneliness at the loss of Kermit. In the B-plot, everyone’s second-favourite rat Yolanda has organized the office Secret Santa — and to get back at everyone for leaving her out last year, she’s made sure every single person in the office is assigned to get her a gift. And there’s a C-plot, too: Sam the American Eagle uses mistletoe to continue his pursuit of Janice, with predictable results. If you’ve been finding this incarnation of our felted pals a little too cynical, this is the episode for you because it’s chock full of patented Muppet warmth, love, and sincerity. And I admit that it totally works, and maybe I can even admit that I’ve missed some of these warm fuzzies.
Miss Piggy is humanized a little more in this episode, and I think guest star Mindy Kaling helps. They don’t have a diva-off (thankfully), and Miss Piggy is never placed in direct competition with Mindy (because Mindy cannot sing at all and plays her Ricky-Gervais-esque persona perfectly). Instead, Miss Piggy’s loneliness allows us to see some real vulnerability. This has been lacking for the better part of the show as she is used repeatedly as the villain, which makes this development a welcome relief. Also, Kermit’s moment of kindness to Miss Piggy is a nice, redemptive scene.
In fact, Mindy Kaling is a great guest star overall. She plays the over-confident, un-self-aware star really well. She’s funny in her own right and carries the show as a solo guest star. (In fairness, apparently the band at the end is also famous. Echosmith? I have no idea. They made me feel old.)
As a Christmas special, this episode stands favourably against any other prime time sitcom Christmas special. It has humour and heart, the necessary focus on love and interpersonal relationships, and a big musical number with the whole cast. The episode works nicely in a capsule — we don’t really need the backstory from past episodes for it to work — and I think the re-watch potential, essential to the success of any Christmas special, is high.
As we head into the retooling coming in February, I have to reiterate my point from last week: these characters are in their element when they’re doing the variety show thing. The funniest idea in this episode, hands down, is the skit that Gonzo, Rizzo, and Pépé write for Mindy Kaling — but, as happens over and over with this show, we never get to see the skit. We just see the preparation of it. I hope however the show’s restructuring pans out, it builds in space for these kinds of moments, because they are highlight the characters in their element and they are when the humour works best.
- Animal eating the tinsel and screaming, “Christmas in my belly!” made me a very happy blogger. I do love the balance they’ve struck with Animal in this series. He’s easy to overdo, but the writers are restrained enough that when he is on screen, it’s magic.
- Beaker the Red-Nosed Research Assistant. Sigh.
- Did you folks notice that Swedish Chef is licking the baking before he puts it out on the tray? It is a very subtle bit of stage business that I only caught on the re-watch. So great.
- Scooter’s beat boxing: This is a thing that I love. And need more of.
- The writers are really hitting their stride with Chip. He’s so perfectly creepy, and like Animal, he’s not being horribly overdone. The sour cream and onion Pringle bit is just gold. Life hack indeed. God, I love it when he blinks.
- When Pépé refers to Swedish Chef as “the guy with the funny accent” I literally guffawed.
- Scooter: “Becky breaks up with a great guy like Fozzie, and yet my mother is still with Ken. Cut your nails, Ken. You’re not a Spanish guitar player.”
- Floyd, describing Mindy’s singing: “It sounds like a cat drowning another cat. And neither one of them can sing.”
- Pépé: “Life is a chess game. And what is the most powerful piece on the chess board? The prawn.”
- Kermit, to Miss Piggy: “You were my favourite show long before you were on TV.”
Your turn: Did you like this Christmas special? What’s the re-watch potential for you? And where do you hope the show is heading with the restructure? Sound off in the comments!
The Muppets is done for the fall, but the totally retooled show is back February 2 in the same timeslot: Tuesdays at 8 pm EST on ABC (or Mondays at 8 pm on City in Canada). I’ll be back reviewing and recapping in the new year, so watch this space to see where The Muppets heads next.