[Review] - The Muppets, Season 1 Episodes 2 And 3, "Hostile Makeover" And "Bear Left Then Bear Write"

Via Wired
It's a good thing that I'm sticking with the 6 episode rule, because so far, The Muppets hasn't evened out. Much like the pilot, these two most recent episodes are a grab bag of good, bad, and ugly. Which at this early stage, is still to be expected. However, any good will that I have for the Muppets in general, and any leeway that I give this new series in terms of a growing period, will wane eventually. Looking forward, the writers need to find a steadier equilibrium. And I do believe it is possible. The signs are there for a slicker, better series to emerge from these fowl-step episodes. We're just still in the mucus-filled fur and falling down stage.

And also, the Swedish Chef's name is Meghan!?

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that want a boat. But not a big boat; they aren't greedy.

You would think that my dreams came true: Nick Offerman and the Muppets, sharing the screen. And yet, it served as an example of what the show nearly is, and what it is entirely missing. Because the Offerman stuff was indicative of one of two directions that the show is going with the celebrity cameos. Namely, they are either being used briefly, but very well or not well at all. These two episodes gave us a bounty of celebrities, and about half of the appearances had meat, and a solid laugh to back them up. Laurence Fishburne wheeling around the ABC lot in a golf cart, throwing shade at Kermit was fantastic, because it was brief and absurd. Josh Groban becoming a Yoko-style talent suck was an extended story that worked. Likewise Liam Hemsworth's turn during a pseudo Cyrano storyline with Gonzo. Christina Applegate's feud with Piggy didn't really go anywhere, and Offerman's moments seemed like they were setting up a three stage joke, without the third stage. It's not that the jokes weren't funny, it's that the writers don't seem to be entirely sure where to take them.

Where the show is finding it's feet is in the minutia of the office environment. Episode 2's running joke of Bobo and the Muppet News guy both selling girl scout cookies similarly lacked punch, but at least hit upon the right idea. Inter office turmoil is the best place to find B and C plots to carry episodes through. The recurring joke of Chip, the IT guy, is a perfect example of a simple joke that worked as a pop up throughout episode 3. It wasn't the most complex joke in the world, but it got the laugh, and a little more each time. At least at first, these are the sorts of off the cuff moments that will build a wall of comedy good will, like The Office's pranks against Dwight in the early years. Until the characters become more complex, and until we have more of an emotional connection to them, Rizzo and Pepe getting distracted by Gonzo's dating profile is solid material.

The show's biggest problem at this point is a particular character, and it's not Piggy. In fact, the emotional antagonism between Kermit and Piggy which seemed to be set up in the pilot has all but disappeared (as has Denise, who hasn't reappeared since the first episode). No, the problem that this show has is Fozzie. Both of these episodes focused on Fozzie being an idiot, and both of those stories were lead bricks in the lake of comedy. His hero worship and bizarre kleptomania with Jay Leno was excruciating, and his journey into the woods to find his inner writer lacked any emotional weight. It was a nice reminder that Kermit and Fozzie are best friends, but this plot saw them acting like assholes to one another more than not. And the show is characterizing Fozzie as a complete moron. He's never been my favourite member of the gang, but his shtick is more being eager to please than being willfully ignorant. And why, if the writers have chosen to denigrate him personality wise, have they also chosen to use him as more of a precipitant for the series' plots than other prominent Muppets?

In three episodes, we've had two major Kermit-Piggy plots, one major Kermit-Fozzy plot, two minor Fozzie plots, one minor Piggy plot, and a sprinkling of Gonzo. This is putting a lot of early pressure on the top tier, when the potential of this show is to shift focus week to week and give other Muppets the sort of moments they wouldn't ever have in a film, like Bobo and News Guy. But it feels like the writers are too busy focusing on just these three characters, and weirdly especially Fozzie, while Rowlf made only his first appearance in episode 3, for two cheesy lines, Statler and Waldorf haven't contributed outside of the pilot, Robin and Walter and Lew Zealand and Sweetums have yet to appear, and the Electric Mayhem have been relegated to one liners, as have Sam and Swedish Chef and Bunsen and Beaker. I get that it's early days, and the writers likely want to stock early episodes with the most recognizable characters. But the stories need to hold up.

Despite all of that, a solid 60% of each episode is still better than most of the other sitcoms on network TV right now. If the writers can get that percentage a little higher in the next couple weeks, then everything will be just fine.
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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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