Amidst news of creative shuffling behind the scenes that will force the series to go on an extended Winter hiatus, how are the felt creatures of The Muppets faring?
Let’s bitch it out…
As you may have noticed, I am not your regular Muppets reviewer, bcgray. She’s away this week, so you’re stuck with a slightly more cynical review from me. Bear with me (she’ll be back next week).
Despite lacking the encyclopedic knowledge of bcgray about all things felt, ‘Pig’s In A Blackout’ feels like good solid half-hour of Muppets humour to me. As Vulture notes in their review, any episode that opens with Kermit fainting from work-related stress is off to a good start. If the overall plot of Scooter taking over for Kermit while the latter goes on a meditative retreat feels slightly derivative, that’s not the worst thing in the world because it is executed quite amusingly. Is it cutting edge? Nope – and that’s just fine.
Scooter’s disastrous attempt to take control of the show is definitely the most amusing aspect of ‘Pig’s In A Blackout.’ It’s evident from the early moments that it won’t be smooth sailing and the repeated visual humour that results from turning on the A/C to reduce the “swamp-like” conditions Kermit usually prefers is inspired. Explosions, power surges and an a capella performance by Pentatonix result when the show is plunged into darkness.
Along the way we get some fun bits by our secondary tier of Muppets. Beeker basically exists to be tortured, so freezing him, then burning him with scalding coffee is truly sadistic fun. While the show should have doubled-down on Gonzo’s dismay about Scooter’s promotion (or not included it at all), at least it leads to the best joke of the night in the form of a pep talk from the tag-team of Gonzo and a Hang-In-There kitten poster.
Elsewhere, the B-plot features Kermit learning to cope with stress at a spa retreat. The early part of this story line promises some funny responses and if the writers had refrained from casting a big name star to derail the proceedings, this story line would have worked better. Take, for example, Kermit’s ‘mindful eating’ exercise, which involves accidentally spitting out his blueberry, then polluting his water, then having to drink it. Had the rest of the B-plot been like this, it would have been great. Instead we have to listen to Jason Bateman complain about the challenges of directing his daughter’s middle school production of Wicked. Sorry, but it’s just not funny.
Thankfully after Kermit is thrown out, he gets a Cheers-style cheer-up at Rowlf’s that is perfectly pitched (uplifting, but silly enough to feature a taste combination of leather and gum from a shoe). It all leads to a wonderful, simple ending as Kermit rediscovers his personal stress solution: playing the banjo in his backyard swamp and singing ‘The Rainbow Connection’. Throw in a complaint from an off-screen neighbour to keep up the snark and it’s the perfect (classic) ending.
- The entire Sam the Eagle / Janice subplot doesn’t really work for me because ultimately it doesn’t go anywhere. It would have been better to have her acknowledge his advances, or have him realize that her nonchalance isn’t worth his time.
- As it stands, someone had to catch on fire with so many lit candles on the set, though having it be Sam is too predictable. Why not Beeker? Considering his magnetism for extreme hots and colds, wouldn’t that make more sense?
- I’m a bit confused about the gag with Denise and Piggy’s scene when they talk over each other. Is the intention to highlight (as I suspect) that Piggy is unable to think of someone else (hence making everything about her)? That’s obvious, but all this scene really did was reinforce how similar Piggy and Denise are – they literally say the same lines! It makes me question why this forced break-up had to occur. Denise’s departure seems inevitable at this point, no?
- Piggy crying inconsolably over her destroyed Winter wardrobe is worth the price of admission alone.
- I had forgotten about Yolanda’s sass. I love sassy characters so her disdain about being handed over to Scooter in Kermit’s absence is also highly amusing.
- Rizzo (when Patrick Dempsey is substituted for butter in Piggy’s make-out sketch): “And more realistic”
- Costume designer (to Kermit, about Piggy being stuck in the elevator): “There are no chickens. Hope is what she needs now.”
- Piggy (when Denise asks what’s wrong with her): “Oh my timing’s off, alright?”
- Scooter (to the Hang-In-There Cat poster): “What do you know about problems? You’re a kitten who’s a model”
- Phil the Neighbour (yelling offscreen as Kermit sings): “Learn a new song!” Never!
Your turn: what did you think of Kermit’s sabbatical? Are Piggy and Denise the same character? Should Bateman be banned from the show? Sound off below.
The Muppets airs Tuesdays at 8pm EST on ABC (or Mondays at 8pm EST on CityTV)