Muppets Now Review: Here Come the Muppets… Again

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Rating:

7/10

Cast:

Matt Vogel … Kermit the Frog, Uncle Deadly
Eric Jacobson … Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Animal
Dave Goelz … The Great Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Waldorf, Chip the I.T. Guy
Bill Barretta … Rowlf the Dog, Pepe the King Prawn, The Swedish Chef, Big Mean Carl, Howard Tubman
David Rudman … Scooter, Beaker
Peter Linz … Joe the Legal Weasel, Walter, Link Hogthrob, Statler

Synopsis:

In the six-episode season, Scooter rushes to make his delivery deadlines and upload the brand-new Muppet series for streaming. They are due now, and he’ll need to navigate whatever obstacles, distractions, and complications the rest of the Muppet gang throws at him.

Muppets Now Review:

The Muppets are one of the longest-running franchises in Hollywood with 27 television specials, 11 television series, eight feature films and five made-for-TV movies. The late Jim Henson created a mini empire filled with colorful characters and nifty puppetry and producers have tried to find ways to milk the franchise for all its worth.

Personally, I think the Muppets crew peaked with 1992’s terrific The Muppet Christmas Carol starring Michael Caine — a film in which everything about these oddballs, including the wacky humor, songs and characterizations, perfectly meshed together. And while four other films have since been produced, including the entertaining Muppet Treasure Island and the Jason Segal-starring reboot The Muppets, at this point in time the franchise feels antiquated.

Muppets Now, the new show that begins airing today on Disney+, is yet another attempt to bring Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and the lot into the modern era. And while the results are about as entertaining as any Muppet-centric 20-minute episode could be, there’s something a little offsetting about seeing the gang make hashtag and YouTube jokes and chat with one another via Skype. We’re a long way from the simple charms of 1979’s The Muppet Movie.

Taking a cue from Netflix’s equally eccentric StoryBots, Muppets Now splits its truncated runtime into a variety of humorous, rapid-fire vignettes. The best of the bunch is Okey Dokey Cooking in which the famed Swedish Chef attempts to outcook a special guest while a turkey delivers wry commentary. Naturally, the Swedish Chef botches the proceedings all the while mumbling incoherent jargon and making veiled threats towards the likes of Danny Trejo and Chef Roy.

Other bits include Mup Close and Personal, a talk-show themed sequence featuring Kermit and Miss Piggy speaking with celebrities like RuPaul and Aubrey Plaza; Pepe’s Unbelievable Game Show, where the King Prawn forces guests to compete in ridiculous games like a sock throwing contest; Lifestyles with Miss Piggy, which itself breaks off into different segments involving actress Linda Cardellini and actor/singer Taye Diggs; and Muppet Labs Field Test, where Scooter and Beaker conduct scientific tests that mostly entail thinly veiled educational exercises like throwing pizza at a wall to demonstrate velocity.

There’s plenty of energy to be had and the production is sound. But there’s also a whiff of desperation hanging in the air as every sequence is jam packed with non-stope shenanigans that overshadow whatever learning opportunities exist. This isn’t Sesame Street where colorful characters used humor to relay important, necessary information to kids. Instead, Muppets Now is a straight-up comedic farce that feels, for lack of a better word, kitschy.

“I thought there was a method to this madness, but it appears to be just madness,” a character correctly says at one point.

That said, fans of the Muppets will likely enjoy the wild shenanigans in Muppets Now. At this point, you either love these guys and yearn for more opportunities to hear Fozzie’s terrible standup bits, or you deem these furry critters as relics of a bygone era where their humorous antics felt fresh.