[Review] - The Muppets, Season 1 Episode 4, "Pig Out"

Courtesy of ABC Studios
Remember how I've said, ad nauseum, that it takes a bit of time for a show to find its legs? Six episodes is the usual standard, but sometimes more and sometimes less. Well, it appears that The Muppets writers have, at least tentatively, found their legs. Because Pig Out was credits to credits perfection. It hit every high it needed to, it incorporated more Muppets in a more cohesive way, it made perfect use of the celebrity guest, and had a plot that hung together. This was far and away the funniest thirty minutes the Muppets have been a part of in decades. Even the Fozzie B-story was solid.  As it turns out folks, drunk Muppets singing karaoke was the bucket list item I didn't know I had.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers which, if they happen outside of work hours, don't owe you an explanation.

Before I get going on the superior A-plot, can we take a moment to recognize that for the fourth straight week in a row, one of the two focuses of the episode was on Fozzie? Last week I ran off at the mouth a bit about how these Fozzie plots are a bizarre fetish on the part of the writers. I doubt that Fozzie is anyone's favorite Muppet as much as he is apparently the preference for the writers of this show. There is no other way to explain how he is getting this much screen time. The only other option is going back to something I said in my review of the pilot, which was that the show needs a Jerry, or Zeppo. Basically, a schmuck to act as the metaphorical punching bag for the other characters. Staler and Waldorf aside, no one else is really knocking Fozzie, except for the writers.

The only explanation I can think of as to why Fozzie is getting this much attention is that the writers want to work out their frustration on him. And in this episode, they finally found him a plot line that worked. Fozzie has always been at odds with Statler and Waldorf, so pairing the three is a natural fit. Playing on Fozzie's insecurities and the heckler's propensity for mischief and bullying, everything about this subplot clicked. And, I was very glad to see Statler and Waldorf taking part in the action, rather than just commenting on it. As much as their MST3K act is a joy to watch, having them get drawn into the Muppet madness (or rather, draw a Muppet into their own madness) is a nice reminder that they aren't entirely like us. They get to do what we the audience cannot: actually taking Fozzie Bear down a peg.

But on to the main plot. And before we dive into details, lets look at why this episode was a greater, sharper, more honed success than the three episodes that preceded it. First, it was focused. The episode had two plots, one much more minor than the other. the plots were streamlined: Fozzie sends Statler to the hospital, Statler uses opportunity to troll bear. On the other side, Piggy wants to be popular with the crew, gets them all drunk, Kermit makes sure it never happens again. Those are A-B-C plots (not the network, the formula). But the fact that they are simple isn't a detraction. very much the opposite. The skeletal nature of the plot means far more room to hang joke meat off of (that metaphor ended up a little grosser than I expected). What made the plots work all the more is that they focused on the core of the character to induce action. Piggy is an egotistical megalomaniac who will do anything if it is seen to improve her standing among her lessers (she's essentially a psychopath, it should be noted). Kermit puts the success of the whole above all else, even if it means manipulating and sacrificing his friends along the way (this is a return to form from the old Muppet Show). Fozzie is gullible, has little self confidence, but a huge and willing heart. Statler is an ass.

By focusing on these very rudimentary character traits, the writers were able to construct a believable sequence of events. Nothing felt out of character, or forced. Even within the modern context, these felt like true reactions. And because of that, for the first time, the show felt like it was truly about the Muppets rather than just featuring them. But there is more. Unlike in the previous episodes, there was only one special guest this week, Mr. Ed Helms. And much like on the old show, they used the opportunity to focus on what the celebrity is best known for, and have them act completely naturally within that context, but reactive to the Muppets. Unlike Nick Offerman last week, who was playing a character version of himself, Ed Helms just showed up and was himself. He sang. He looked dapper. He was something of a straight man. This is what we expect of Helms, and this is the Helms we got. And, by being the only guest star, and playing an actual role in the proceedings, he had more to do than just deliver a line or two of half hearted punch lines. It actually felt like a role rather than a cameo, which is essentially what the show has been using the celebrities for to this point. But celebrities work better against the Muppets when they spend time with them, not when they are being rushed out of the scene.

But the crux of the episode was the old gold standard of comedy: drunks are funny. And it turns out that drunk Muppets are a delight. Swedish Chef gets all the stars this week for the two best gags: his silent elevator of escape when questioned by Piggy, and his flawless rendition of Rapper Delight. But drunk singing Muppets are a sure fire way to guarantee comedy success. Well, almost. Comedy success is only guaranteed by hungover Muppets. Pepe wins best drunk Muppet, both the night before and morning after. But if musical montages hadn't sealed the deal on the episode, than Kermit's "whenever you get here meeting" was the wax. It boiled down to essentially a series of one liners, but in this context that works fine. It means we get the most out of more Muppets, and each line was both funny and fitting to each character. Clearly, that scene was the writers having just a ball throwing out hangover reactions, and the jewels ended up on air. It was as close to a line-o-rama as the show has veered. The only place wher the show still needs work is on the follow through. Yet again, as the episode ended, to felt like it was ending flat. The writers are excelling at second acts, but the third has consecutively lacked the punch of what came before it. And within the context of comedy, the punch is kind of the important bit. In the past three episodes that was glaring. In this episode, it was less obvious if only because of the brilliance that came before it.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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