Muppets Now is a return to form for Kermit & Co.: Review
What do fans of the Muppets actually want from the Muppets? It’s a tough question, one that Disney — which acquired the rights to Jim Henson’s felt empire in 2004 — has struggled to answer for years. The most recent films (2011’s The Muppets and 2014’s Muppets Most Wanted) did well and just okay at the box office, respectively, and the gang ’s last foray into television fell flat. ABC’s prime-time mockumentary The Muppets, which lasted for one season in 2015, tried to inject an undercurrent of office ennui into the characters’ playful atmosphere, as though Kermit & Co. were working stiffs just like us.
But they aren’t just like us — they’re happier, funnier, and much better at puns. And that’s exactly the mood captured by Muppets Now, a lively, lighthearted sketch show updating the brand for the streaming age with a format aimed at today’s screen-addled youths.
Each half hour begins with Scooter stage-managing from his laptop, fielding video calls from his fuzzy co-workers. Recurring segments include “Lifesty With Miss Piggy,” in which the porcine diva explores self-care trends (like a face-slapping massage with Taye Diggs), and the “Økėÿ Døkęÿ Køøkïñ Challenge” with the Swedish Chef, who tries (and fails) to prepare multicultural cuisines with celebrity guests (like character actor extraordinaire/taco and doughnut impresario Danny Trejo).
Muppets Now (premiering July 31) delivers a continuous barrage of information — some educational, some silly, and all entertaining. “Muppet Labs Field Test” with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker sneaks science lessons into flashy, kid-friendly scenes of destruction, like a “melt or burn” experiment featuring a contraption called the Infern-o-Matic. (A pop-up chyron over video of a melting clock notes, “Dali’s Persistence of Memory was painted in 1931.”) The puns and freeze-frame Easter eggs are relentless: Scooter’s desktop is cluttered with files like “Pigs in Space Spec Script” and “Raise Request”; Fozzie Bear pesters Scooter with pitches, including a cooking segment where ingredients date each other, called (wait for it) “Romaine-tic Evenings.”
Just as Scooter is about to upload the first episode of Muppets Now, he gets a stern text from Sam Eagle: “I need to ensure that this content is free of foolishness.” Sorry, Sam, but it most certainly is not. Grade: B+
Muppets Now premieres July 31 on Disney+