This Muppets Now review contains spoilers.
Muppets Now Episode 2
Last week, Disney+ started its new series Muppets Now, hoping to keep the beloved Jim Henson franchise relevant in modern times. Sadly, they didn’t put their best foot forward and the debut episode was a lacking experiment. The concept of it being an unscripted Muppet show was more than overblown and the actual improv stuff was empty. Luckily, this week’s episode “Fever Pitch” is enough of a step up.
The format is pretty much the same. There are four unrelated Muppet segments and the only framing device is Scooter trying to upload them while experiencing problems from one or more other Muppets. This time, he’s constantly accosted by Fozzie Bear, who has all sorts of show pitches. Constantly annoyed, Scooter shoots each one down by saying it’s too similar to the one he’s uploading to Disney+ at that moment.
It’s a bit jarring that we get minimal Kermit this time around while Scooter’s role on Muppets Now is essentially Kermit’s whole deal: struggling to take control of the show and somehow finding order in the chaos.
Like last time, three segments have Muppets messing around with seemingly unscripted actors while another one is purely just Muppets. Our first one is so far the highlight of Muppets Now and has to be what the series creators had in mind when they first pitched it. Pepe the King Prawn – probably the best post-Henson Muppet, in my opinion – hosts “Pepe’s Unbelievable Gameshow” with Scooter as his second banana. While Scooter tries to stick to task, Pepe finds the rules too confusing and doesn’t even try comprehending and following them.
What we get instead is Pepe making things up as he goes along while our two contestants (two non-celebrity humans) happily play along. This bit is rapid-fire and remains hilarious up to the fantastic and silly ending.
Up next is the return of “Okay Dokey Kookin’” where talking turkey Beverly Plume hosts a cookoff between the Swedish Chef and a celebrity guest. Swedish Chef’s stuff continues to be kind of weak yet again, but the segment is easily saved by special guest Danny Trejo. Trejo definitely seems to be performing at the top of his intelligence as he nearly gets in a fight with Swedish Chef over who has the better mustache and he instinctively steps into his threatening persona towards Beverly, only to stop himself at the last second and rein it in. Much like Muppets Most Wanted, mixing Danny Trejo with Muppets is a fun combo.
After a quick shout from Kermit and new character Joe the Legal Weasel, we get a good old Muppet Labs segment starring Professor Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. This time, they get in on modern times by bringing in Beak-R, Honeydew’s off-brand Amazon Echo with a bit of a mean streak. The three make a game out of science by seeing what objects melt when set on fire and what objects simply burn. It’s fine. The animated bits tossed in are well done.
I don’t think that pun was intended.
Lastly, we see the return of “Lifestyle with Miss Piggy.” Once again, it’s a bunch of quick-cut gags that do their best, but don’t really hit that hard. Taye Diggs and Linda Cardellini return and I’m hard-pressed to remember anything of note they add to it. Cardellini tries to yes-and the banter by playing along with Bubba the Rat about how they went to school together, but that’s about it.
As a whole, this week’s episode is noticeably better than last week’s, but it also suffers from front-loading itself with the best segment, only to end the show with the weakest. At least Piggy’s show gives us a quick appearance by Bobo the Bear. He’s, uh, probably the second best post-Henson Muppet.
Speaking of new faces, despite only appearing in a brief bit here and a couple of the ads hyping the show, I’m really entertained by newcomer Joe the Legal Weasel. At first, I figured he was just going to be Sam Eagle without the patriotism, but there’s something so great about how his stone-faced, serious attitude is occasionally broken up by the goofiness of how much he excessively loves his own lawyer jokes.
It’s me. I’m the guy asking for more lawyer jokes on my Muppet streaming shows.