Fozzie is front-and-centre and Gonzo tries internet dating. And then there’s Chip, the super creepy IT guy.
Let’s bitch it out…
This week follows the same A, B, C plot structure as last week, and it’s a rhythm that seems to work — it maximizes the number of muppets and guest stars who can be involved in each storyline, and since that’s always been the money for The Muppets, it’s a smart place to go.
In plot A, Fozzie quits the show to focus on his writing, with disastrous results (i.e. a park ranger tranquilizes him because, hey, he’s a bear); Nick Offerman fills in for Fozzie and nearly bankrupts the studio in the process. In plot B, Christina Applegate pisses off Miss Piggy by running an embarrassing clip on the show, and Miss Piggy can’t let it go. And in plot C, Gonzo tries online dating — but using Liam Hemsworth’s photo, and of course Liam Hemsworth ends up stealing his date.
In terms of relationship-building, we get a much deeper sense of the friendship between Fozzie and Kermit in this episode. In many muppet tales, Kermit seems only to tolerate Fozzie. This is a good opportunity to highlight the softness and kindness that the show is capable of and undercuts the snarky one-liners. Likewise Rizzo and Pepe wanting to help Gonzo on his date, however ill-fated it is. The muppet characters are still a good team and they’re still friends, even if the veneer is a little more adult and a little more sarcastic. This is why I would argue that the show works, and seems to be working better every week as the relationships layer and deepen. There’s work to be done, though. Miss Piggy’s humanity lost some ground this week, as she failed to react to Fozzie’s quitting and became single-minded in her quest for revenge. The writers really need to find a way to make her more empathetic.
We get a new stand-out background muppet moving into central focus this week with Kermit’s rat assistant, Yolanda. She’s genuinely funny with the kind of rich backstory that makes the 2nd and 3rd tier muppets so fun to watch in this version of the show (she’s taking night classes to be an ultrasound technician and she’s got a B-average, you know).
All the guest stars are used well this week. Christina Applegate is written for sweetness, Nick Offerman for Ron Swanson-like literalness, and Liam Hemsworth for his handsomeness. While they don’t work against type like that perfect Laurence Fishburne moment last week, they’re all funny and they all seem equally at home in their roles.
The return of Rowlf is welcome, and I like that he owns the local watering hole. Rowlf has always been a bit of a muppet apart, even way back in the Muppet Babies days, and it’s a role that suits his character. I hope we see more of him, and indeed I hope we see more of this alternative communal venue for the cast.
Overall: the relationships are getting warmer while the one-liners are getting zingier. I think it’s a combination that is really working well, but I acknowledge it’s not for everyone. Can we all adjust to seeing 21st-century muppets?
- About Chip, the IT Guy: yeah, that’s one creepy muppet, a holdover from 1989’s short-lived (but creatively fascinating) Jim Henson Hour. Muppet legend tells that this was a caricature of Bill Prady, the man behind this newest incarnation, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see him here. What makes Chip creepy, other than the unclosing mouth, is his strange blink mechanism: he actually only blinks his pupils. Seriously. Watch it again and you’ll see.
- Statler and Waldorf are underused and seem to be enjoying Up Late with Miss Piggy. I’m not sure I like this. But then, given the snarky tone of the other characters, maybe they would be a bridge too far.
- So. Swedish Chef is genderqueer? Do we have thoughts?
- Please show us the ads Miss Piggy shoots in Japan. Please. Please. I’ve been ever so good, Muppets writers.
- The idea of Rizzo, Pepe, and Gonzo as political satirists also has real legs (lots of them — have you seen that prawn?).
- Pepe calling Liam Hemsworth “Mr. Handsome Man” cracked me up. Liam Hemsworth calling Gonzo a “cute little elephant-beaver” cracked me up even more.
- Tranquilized Fozzie seems like he would be great fun at a party. If he could only find his hat.
- Yolanda (re: Fozzie’s sketch): “I read it too. It’s a dumpster fire.”
- Gonzo: “I knew you wouldn’t approve it, so I went over your head.” Kermit: “I’m the boss!” Gonzo: “Oh yeah. So I went behind your back.”
- Kermit (re: pumpkin spice beer): “It’s like drinking a pie.”
- Kermit: “Kermit is like the third most common frog name in America.”
- Pepe (trying to solve Gonzo’s picture problem): “Okay. You leave her a note saying you love her, but you are ashamed. Then, drink poison. That is the only move that will satisfy a Debbie.”
- Nick Offerman (on baristas): “Italian guys who have lived here long enough to speak English. But don’t.”
Your turn: do you like the way the show is using the guest stars? Are you starting to agree with me about the balance of the show’s tone? Or is this the greatest disappointment since Muppet Treasure Island (which, full disclosure, I also enjoyed)? Sound off in the comments!
The Muppets airs Tuesday at 8 pm EST on ABC (or Mondays at 8 pm on City in Canada).