Disney+ debuted its new Muppets Now series last week, with the hopes of keeping the beloved Jim Henson property relevant in modern times. Unfortunately, they didn’t put their best foot forwards, and the first episode was a flop. The idea of an unscripted Muppet performance was way exaggerated, and the real improv was a waste of time. Fortunately, this week’s episode “Fever Pitch” is a sufficient stride forwards.
Review of Muppets Now Episode 2
The format is nearly identical. Scooter attempting to submit four unconnected Muppet segments while suffering complications from one or more other Muppets is the only framing device. This time, he’s continuously interrupted by Fozzie Bear, who has a variety of programme pitches for him to consider. Scooter, who is constantly irritated, dismisses each one by claiming that it is too similar to the one he is currently posting to Disney+. While Scooter’s position on Muppets Now is essentially Kermit’s entire deal: attempting to take control of the show and somehow finding order in the chaos, it’s a touch shocking that we only get minor Kermit this time around. Three segments, like last time, feature Muppets goofing about with unscripted actors, while another is all Muppets. Our first one is the show’s high point so far, and it had to be what the show’s producers had in mind when they proposed it. Pepe the King Prawn presents “Pepe’s Unbelievable Gameshow” with Scooter as his second banana, in my opinion the best post-Henson Muppet.
While Scooter strives to stay on target, Pepe finds the rules to be too complicated and refuses to even try to understand and follow them. Instead, we get Pepe inventing stuff up as he goes along, while our two finalists (non-celebrity individuals) eagerly participate. This section is fast-paced and amusing all the way to the great and silly conclusion. The return of “Okay Dokey Kookin’,” in which talking turkey Beverly Plume organises a cookoff between the Swedish Chef and a celebrity guest, is next on the schedule. The Swedish Chef’s material is still a little poor, but special guest Danny Trejo easily saves the segment. Trejo appears to be on top of his game, as he nearly fights Swedish Chef over who has the finest moustache, and he immediately steps into his threatening character towards Beverly, only to stop himself at the last second and reign it in. Danny Trejo and Muppets is a delightful combination, much like Muppets Most Wanted. We have a nice old Muppet Labs piece with Professor Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker after a quick scream from Kermit and new character Joe the Legal Weasel. This time, they join in on the current era by introducing Beak-R, Honeydew’s off-brand Amazon Echo with a cruel streak. The three make a game out of science by seeing what objects melt and what objects merely burn when lit on fire. It’s all right. The animated segments that are thrown in are wonderfully done.
Finally, “Lifestyle with Miss Piggy” makes a comeback. Once again, it’s a collection of quick-cut gags that try hard but don’t quite hit the mark. I’m not sure what Taye Diggs and Linda Cardellini bring to the table, and I’m not sure what they offer to it. Cardellini tries to play along with Bubba the Rat’s conversation by joking about how they went to school together, but that’s about it. This week’s episode is substantially better than last week’s, but it suffers from the problem of starting with the best part and ending with the worst. At the very least, Bobo the Bear makes a brief appearance on Piggy’s show. He’s definitely the second best Muppet after Jim Henson. Newcomer Joe the Legal Weasel, while just appearing in a little scene here and there in a couple of the show’s promotional spots, has me thoroughly entertained. I thought he’d simply be Sam Eagle without the patriotism, but there’s something so endearing about how his stone-faced, serious demeanour is occasionally punctuated by the goofiness of how much he enjoys his own lawyer jokes.
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