The continuing evolution of “Muppets Now” in its second episode “Fever Pitch” seems to a find a little more texture in its wackiness and starts to loosen up. It doesn’t lean so heavily on Kermit but for a brief bit which gives a lot more room for the smaller characters to shine. The aspect that is evolving here, unlike the movies, is that it is not a “nudge-nudge-wink-wink” approach. It is simply them going about their day and not breaking the 4th wall per se. From the first skit which is a game show, one of the smaller characters really takes the scene for a ride which is why it works and yet there is always heart. Two or three segments from the 1st episode are repeated but with much better results. But you need the right human talent, either to play off of or just bounce off of. Danny Trejo, who is promoting his taco restaurant without saying it, is the perfect foil for the Swedish Chef but still keeps it kosher. Some really funny bits revolve through this segment both because of the irony but also the visual. Muppet Labs also makes an appearance but again the strength comes out of heart, awkwardness and, in a way, heartbreak which always seems to see characters feeling different things. If “Muppets Now ” can find this balance, this show can really work. There will be misfires but as long as it can keep this off-kilter feeling and start bringing in those left field characters (like the Italian rat who riffs with Linda Cardellini and references a cat in his frame rummaging in the background) then this might be a Muppet foray that can actually survive beyond the season.
By Tim Wassberg
Trying to find a new structure inside the idea of The Muppets in an interesting quandary. These are old school puppets who find themselves in a new world and yet they need to be a product of it without seeming antiquated or behind the times. “Muppets Now” is a direct reference to that. It takes into account that some of the most successful elements of The Muppets recently have been their You Tube shorts playing to music video covers and such which plays into vignettes. It is a different beast from the original “Muppet Show” nearly 40 years ago where it was more about what was going off stage as it was on stage. This is inter-played here to be sure but it is not really the same thing. However, it does approach it in a parallel way. Scooter is still doing the tech elements but now with a computer instead of a stage. It incorporates the internet/social media angle and it has the guest stars in many ways in a similar way While it does incorporate some of their personality, pop culture is different now. It would be neat to see how music and comedy plays in but it is not quite there. There is no “Pigs In Space” moment. No Steve Martin plays the banjo. Kermit does on-on-ones that go awry. Miss Piggy has a fashion segment. The Swedish Chef has a cooking show that goes wrong. The show seems to have its ducks in a row but it is not overtly thinking outside the box but it is a tricky line. A lot of the stuff that could be done in the late 70s on a UK produced show perhaps can’t quite be done in close to a similar way on Disney+ in 2020. It will be interesting to see how “Muppets Now” evolves.
By Tim Wassberg