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Monday, March 28, 2016

"The Muppets" Season One Review by Nicholas Napoli

I’ve just finished streaming all 16 episodes of The Muppets first season and I know I’ve enjoyed it because had there been more episodes I would have kept on watching. 

Episode 1: “Pig Girls Don’t Cry” premiered and after watching the episode I reminisced all the way back to 1996 when I was ten years old eagerly waiting for the series premier of Muppets Tonight to air on Sky One. Muppets Tonight is now a classic Muppet Show which I cannot believe has still not made it onto DVD but when it first premiered over twenty years ago I remember thinking where’s Fozzie? Where’s Scooter? Where’s Rowlf? Where were The Muppets I was expecting? This time around I was overwhelmed by the amount of classic Muppets and the ironic thing is those characters which were once new when Muppets Tonight first premiered are now considered classic characters which I hope we see more of in future episodes. I can’t believe it’s been twenty years, I still remember sitting down with my sisters in our living room, the fireplace was lit, we were eating chicken nuggets, I had my small collection of around seven Muppet plush toys sitting next to us (mainly consisting of Kermit) and my sisters were so young that we still played our old game “Name That Muppet” where we would jump up in applause each time one of them got a character’s name right. The Muppets (2015) premiered with so many familiar faces I was having a hard time keeping track of them all, this was The Muppet Show I had been waiting for. It was very entertaining however I did feel as though I had missed a few episodes. Kermit and Miss Piggy were no longer together and to make things even more confusing Kermit was now dating another pig, how did that happen? Although I must say Kermit and Miss Piggy’s break up video was one of the most emotional Muppet scenes I have ever seen, it felt so real, the way Miss Piggy was gasping for air as Kermit walked away, simple yet heart breaking. Fozzie is dating a Human? This is a whole new side of Fozzie which I feared might make him seem out of character but it felt so natural, I was surprised how quickly I had accepted this although I think it would have been more effective had we seen how Fozzie and Becky first met. 

Episode 2: “Hostile Takeover” once again had familiar Muppets all over the episode and introduced us to even more. Bobo Bear and The Muppet Newsman’s side story was very enjoyable, this world was getting bigger and at the same time Kermit and Miss Piggy’s break up was being explored a little further making things clearer. What I most enjoyed about this episode was the way Kermit is able to manipulate Miss Piggy (for her own benefit). First he is able to get her together with Josh Groban for her own happiness only to soon regret it and for the sake of the show and Miss Piggy’s own good he is able to get her to break up with him at the end. Very sneaky Kermit but very realistic, Miss Piggy’s a diva, Kermit has to know how to handle her, otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a relationship. Early on Kermit always use to get the upper hand against Miss Piggy then she began walking all over him but now our old Kermit has returned ready to tame his pig. I burst out laughing when Miss Piggy asked Beaker if he had cut his hair only to tell him not to as it’s the perfect one “you look as cute as a button”. Gonzo has a mother now? Where was she during Muppets From Space? I’m all for character development but sometimes it’s important to remember where a character comes from and what makes them unique. Scooter having mommy issues and living with his mother and her boyfriend Ken excellent, Bobo having a daughter very cool, the Muppet Newsman having an ex-wife hilarious, Gonzo’s mother lost on vacation in my opinion does not follow the rules. 

Episode 3: “Bear Left Then Bear Write” gave us Rowlf! The long awaited duo of Kermit and Fozzie reminding us why they work so well together. Gonzo is now online dating which I think is very interesting and wish that it was explored further in future episode but at the same time where is Camilla? Again I feel like I’ve missed a few episodes. The first episode which really caught my interest and to this day still one of my favourite ones was

Episode 4: “Pig Out”, The Muppets were finally singing together, they were drunk but at least they were singing. It was the beginning of my favourite on-going gag, Sam the Eagle lusting over Janice, Fozzie and Statler interacting without the heckling and a little emotion, Miss Piggy having fun with The Muppets and the perfect dose of adult humour. I really enjoyed drunk Muppets although I must say I’m glad further down the line they started drinking milkshakes, diet coke and coffee and not just alcohol otherwise at this point most of The Muppets would probably have been fired from the show. 

Episode 5: “Walk The Swine” had The Muppets singing again as a group granted this time it was to make Fozzie cry but at least they were singing together again. Then Miss Piggy ended her show with her own song “I’m Sorry” and I was blown away. The puppetry in that scene was amazing, it reminded me of Miss Piggy’s dance routine in The Great Muppet Caper and it was very impressive, it made me very excited to see what was to come in the next few episode. 

Episode 6: “The Ex-Factor” gave us an Electric Mayhem road trip, there is nothing else to say, this is one of my favourite episodes. Floyd and Janice’s relationship is finally addressed apparently Floyd was still under the impression that they were dating but Janice has other views and OMG Dr Teeth and Janice were a thing back in the day, that explains their ballroom dancing on occasions on The Muppet Show. I had also been waiting anxiously for Miss Piggy and Denise to interact on screen and sadly I was a little disappointed there was not more tension between them. Miss Piggy and Kermit also made us aware that their song was “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” as a Fan I thought to myself why not use “Never Before And Never Again” or “The First Time It Happens” but a few episodes later I understood why and it was perfect the way they brought the song back at the end. 

Episode 7: “Pigs In A Blackout” started out with so much backstage chaos reminding us that when The Muppets put on a show it’s just as interesting off stage as it is onstage. Scooter takes over whilst Kermit tries to destress eventually realizing all he needs is a bit of home in his back garden, the return of The Rainbow Connection. Kermit was starting to remember where he originally came from and trying to get in touch with who he once was, character development at its best and most importantly Kermit and Rowlf shared a heartfelt conversation by a piano. Sam the Eagle attempting to be a fire goddess in the hopes of convincing Janice to travel with him to Hawaii, I am really enjoying this, is it wrong that I want Sam to win over Floyd? 

Episode 8: “Too Hot To Handler” has Scooter on a date, develops his character even further and proves that Scooter is fast becoming a favourite amongst new viewers alongside Uncle Deadly, Janice, Bobo Bear and a few other secondary Muppet characters, this is excellent. Fozzie and Kermit once again remind us why they’re best friends and again more character development for both Kermit and especially Fozzie. 

Episode 9: “Going, Going, Gonzo” has got to be hands down one of my favourite episode, for starters it didn’t just bring weirdo Gonzo back but addressed the fact that for the last few years Gonzo has been a little more normal than weird. When Gonzo was flying through the air at the beginning and everyone was so worried I was hoping he’d enjoy it once he crash landed on the table and happily he did! The Great Gonzo was back as was his trademark suit and for the first time I got butterflies in my stomach watching this show. When Kermit runs after Gonzo as he’s about to shoot himself out of the canon, I got chills. I was so caught up in the moment that part of me was actually just as worried as Kermit was for Gonzo’s safety. Being The Muppets it’s harder to get people to feel the emotions they would feel much easier whilst watching Humans acting but in this instance they felt very real to me, great character development for Gonzo. Once again Scooter shines as he tries to get an earring in the hopes of living on the edge after being inspired by the return of The Great Gonzo. 

Episode 10: “Single All The Way” opened in such a way that I felt as though The Muppets were preparing for an episode of The Muppet Show rather than Up Late With Miss Piggy which was very welcomed and allowed for more backstage chaos. The end of the episode also actually felt like an episode of The Muppet Show rather than Up Late With Miss Piggy when all The Muppets joined Mindy Kaling on stage to sing “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”. For the first time I also began to feel sympathy for Miss Piggy, the fact that she felt so sad that she had nobody to spend Christmas with made her seem more relatable, less strong, she showed her weak side, for once she was vulnerable. Then who was there to comfort her? Kermit! Now I am starting to root for this relationship, as a fan I always wanted Kermit and Miss Piggy to get back together but now it was actually becoming important to me. When Fozzie appeared upset over his break up with Becky I was a little disappointed, having Fozzie start dating a Human was a big deal, a huge step in the direction the show plans to go in and I was a little disappointed that it seemed like this storyline was simply being washed away as I thought it was a very brave concept. I’m glad I was proven wrong and Becky is here to stay… at least until she meets Emily Bear I’d imagine. One of the highlights for me, not just this episode but the entire season was Miss Piggy and Fozzie’s conversation, first of all theses two barley interact and when they do they’ve never had a conversation this long and one with so much heart. One which showed us the humble side of Miss Piggy and the more intelligent, less naive side of Fozzie, I’m glad Fozzie was able to make Miss Piggy reconsider her feelings for Kermit. Yolanda once again reminded me why she’s become one of my “new” favourite characters when she rigged secret Santa, again great character development. Can you believe there was an episode on prime time TV where Yolanda had enough screen time to grow as a character? This is why The Muppets appearing on TV on a regular basis is very important as it gives us a chance to get to know all The Muppets outside of the main core characters. I must point out Sam the Eagle and his mistletoe, this was hysterical and had me laughing throughout the episode and as soon as Sam the Eagle hang the mistletoe I was excited to see what was to come. At the end when Janice kisses him on the cheek I once again got those Muppet butterflies of which I speak of. Apart from Kermit and Miss Piggy, Fozzie and Becky and to a point Rizzo and Yolanda’s relationship Sam the Eagle lusting after Janice has been one of the few ongoing storylines. When Janice kissed Sam as simple and silly as it might sound, I felt as though we were left with a giant Muppet cliffhanger, one which had me rooting for Team Jam all through Christmas until The Muppets returned after their short break. “God Bless Christmas”. 

Episode 11: “Swine Song” brought on a new big change on The Muppets and it made me feel happier for what was is store in the future, did you all see the big change? Miss Piggy now brought coffee to Kermit during the opening credits as opposed to stealing his last one away from him. Miss Piggy has always been a diva but when it comes to Kermit does she remain a diva? This in return has Kermit excited “to get things started” as opposed to the original opening credits where he seems less enthusiastic. Miss Piggy returns from Argentina bringing about new positive energy, a Penguin named Gloria Estefan and a realization that she is finally over Kermit, little does she know Denise is about to break up with him. Miss Piggy and Kermit share an old fashioned duet on stage, this is the moment when this show most felt like The Muppet Show to me. We are also introduced to the Network Executive (who reminds me of Rachel Bitterman from It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie) who then introduces us to Pache hired to make the Muppets new show more relevant. This is an excellent idea and a big step in the right direction. I‘ve read interviews where it said that Pache was introduced as a foe to The Muppets so they could all work together against a common enemy rather than ganging up on Miss Piggy, this was very clever but at the same time has it’s added benefits. The ongoing introduction of Becky is good because it allows her storyline as Fozzie’s girlfriend to develop for those invested in Fozzie and Becky’s relationship. This is why the introduction of the Network Executive and Pache was in my opinion a big step in the right direction because it allows for more ongoing storylines to transfer between episodes. If viewers are interested in how the Pache situation will be resolved or if Kermit will stand up to the Network Executive then they will keep watching, not just for the sakes of watching the new Muppet show but rather intrigued to know how the previous storyline will continue in the next episode. So far the only main storylines throughout the entire season is Kermit and Miss Piggy’s relationship, Fozzie and Becky’s relationship, Sam the Eagle’s secret crush on Janice and the one I’m most interested in being The Muppets retooling their new show, now we have more ongoing stories being introduced. Having a storyline continue throughout a number of episodes might seem like a gimmick but it’s what The Muppets need, they need the get their viewers interested to watch the next episode not just because they enjoy the show but also because they are curious to see how a certain storyline develops throughout the course of a few episodes. Unfortunately Pache’s storyline was not a big enough threat to keep me interested but The Muppets trying to retool their show throughout the course of the next few episode had me very interested to see what they would try in the next episode. Have a heartbroken Kermit retire and move back to the swamp for a few episodes. Send Scooter to jail for a crime he did not commit and have The Muppets try to prove his innocence for a few episodes. Have Zoot go on a bender and disappear for a few episodes. Have Gonzo abducted by aliens and sent to a faraway planet for a few episodes. Have Dr Bunsen and Beaker fight and not reconcile until a few episode later. This episode introduced the start of multiple episode story arcs which progressed with each episode, I think this was an excellent move and probably why I began to enjoy the episodes more each week. My favourite part of the episode and another of my favourite scenes in the entire season was when The Muppet crew were thinking up ideas on how to retool Up Late With Miss Piggy and unconsciously began singing the theme tune to The Muppet Show! Those are the moments that make me want to dance on top of my TV. 

Episode 12: “A Tail Of Two Piggies” Disney shamelessly plugging Zootopia but not in this case because when it comes to The Muppets this is the world they live in. The world where they mingle with the hottest celebrities, attend premiers to the biggest Hollywood movies and even work on the set of most ABC TV shows. It’s the perfect show to plug anything ABC desires without coming across as forced advertising. Why pay for five commercials when you can cleverly advertise it through The Muppets without seeming out of context. This is one of my many favourite episodes for so many reasons, first we get to see Miss Piggy’s tail, up until this episode I had never once thought about Miss Piggy’s tail, I knew she was a pig, I wondered if she had hooves for feet but I never thought about her tail, after this episode that’s all I can think about. Secondly we meet Alynda who as a fan I am saddened did not have a twin sister but the reappearance of one twin pig from 1992 is good enough for me. That was such a pleasant delight, I really enjoy when characters from past productions reappear, gives me hope for Polly Lobster, Clueless Morgan and Mad Monty. Thirdly Big Mean Carl tries eating Scooter, throughout the season Big Mean Carl has been eating your regular whatnot and whatso’s but finally a main Muppet gets eaten. Muppets get eaten all the time, even fan favourites, it’s no big deal and I imagine it’s the only show where a co-star can eat another co- star on prime time. Fourthly I’m also really enjoying the trio of Gonzo, Rizzo and Pepe and was very excited to learn that they were getting a house together and even more excited for the pool party I knew was coming. Big Mean Carla was a pleasant delight, I really enjoy when they simply put a wig (in this case ribbon) and dress on a male Muppet and make them a female character ala Emily Bear. Fifthly Camilla was finally addressed, apparently she had walked out on Gonzo long ago, which might have explained why Gonzo was less weird for the last few years perhaps he was heartbroken. Again I felt as though I had missed some episodes prior to this one, had this been addressed earlier on maybe this reconciliation would have had even more of an impact. Once again I felt those Muppet butterflies in my stomach, when Camilla appeared at the very end at the pool party and simply “Bawked” at Gonzo before the screen cut to black my heart skipped a beat, it was so intense. I was so excited and caught up in this romantic moment between a whatever and a chicken, my point being The Muppets had yet again made me feel like I was watching and feeling the emotions I’d usually feel when watching Humans act on TV but only Camilla can Bawk and have me waiting all week for the outcome of what came after. Lastly and most importantly my favourite aspect of this episode was it had a strong message, one that did not take over the story, a lesson some probably did not realize until the episode ended as was the beauty of Fraggle Rock, in this case the message being don’t be ashamed of who you are…. even if you have a curly pig tail. When The Muppets was first announced it was advertised as an adult themed Muppet show which made sense because although The Muppets have always been mature in this day and age to work on primetime they were going to have to upgrade their matureness level but I don’t believe ever to the point where kids couldn’t watch too. That’s something I realized in the first few episodes, it was mostly aimed at adult. Kids had their Muppet Moments on Disney Junior and Adults had The Muppets (2015) on ABC but the beauty of The Muppets is that they are meant to be enjoyed by the whole family. As the episodes progressed I felt that The Muppets had finally become the show it was meant to be and apparently they did their job right as they won a Nickelodeons Kids Choice Award for best Family show, well done Muppets! 

Episode 13: “Got Silk” addressed the issue that many people don’t like Miss Piggy, it’s hard for her to make friends, at one point she decided to try out an aerial silks class along with Janice and I was so excited. These two usually don’t interact and now they were going to spend a whole episode together but Miss Piggy soon abounded Janice and moved on looking for a new best friend. I laughed so loud when Miss Piggy tried to gracefully come down from the silk instead rolling down and crash landing on the ground, great use of Muppet physical comedy. Throughout the season the developing friendship between Miss Piggy and Uncle Deadly has been a pleasant and enjoyable surprise and I’m glad it was addressed in this episodes. One of my favourite scenes is when Uncle Deadly is helping Miss Piggy get through her song on stage. Uncle Deadly has been there throughout and it’s good because Miss Piggy has always been attached to The Muppets through Kermit without him she had nobody to really socialize with on a personal level, this relationship has been very enjoyable to watch develop. I’m glad Miss Piggy realized Uncle Deadly is her new BFF just in time to attend the screening of his show. The funny thing is if you remove The Muppets from the audience during the performance then all that’s left is an elderly couple. 

Episode 14: “Little Green Lie” finally gave us the grand return of Robin who had been missing in action for a very long time, Robin has done a little growing up over the last thirty years, this isn’t the innocent Frog we remember singing “Half Way Down the Stairs” anymore. My favourite part of this episode was the relationship between Miss Piggy and Robin and how sensitive she was to his needs “Aunt Miss Piggy” this is the Miss Piggy I want Kermit to end up with. Miss Piggy and Kermit along with Robin, Scooter, Fozzie and Sweetums had some fun playing laser tag and I had just as much fun watching them, The Muppets were having fun, that’s always good. The other Muppets were also having fun tossing a ball into Big Mean Carl’s mouth, one which eventually led with Big Mean Carl devouring Foo-Foo, I’m a big fan of Muppets eating other Muppets. I’m glad that Camilla has returned but at the same time a little disappointed that she returned so soon. I was really enjoying the storyline involving Gonzo, Rizzo and Pepe living together, now that Camilla has moved in I fear the dynamic will not be the same. Perhaps Gonzo and Camilla might move out in the future to live in a chicken coup and maybe Scooter will eventually move in with Pepe and Rizzo, I’m sure it would do him a world of good. New segments such as Friendly Feud hosted by Uncle Deadly and Pepe the Uber Driver are beginning to take over Miss Piggy’s hosting duties, this is slowly turning into The Muppet Show… YAY! 

Episode 15: “Generally Hospitable” starts with Kermit informing us that Miss Piggy has tried to grow as a person in the last few weeks and he is very impressed by that. Exactly! This is the Kermit and Miss Piggy relationship I am rooting for, the one where I know Miss Piggy is just as good for Kermit as Kermit is for Miss Piggy. At one point Kermit was giving Miss Piggy bad news and was worried that she was going to get angry and throw a box of tissues at him but instead is surprised when nothing comes hurdling his way and instead finds Miss Piggy using the tissues to wipe away her tears. Throughout the episode Miss Piggy seemed scared of being at the hospital and then explains to Kermit that this is basically her Hollywood version of going to the slaughter house and once again Kermit was there to make things better for her. I really enjoyed watching The Muppets faint at the sight of Miss Piggy’s broken leg. This episode had a lot of great gags such as Miss Piggy trying to ride away on the old man on the wheelchair or when Rizzo explored inside Big Mean Carl’s stomached to retrieve Pache’s phone. I’m also enjoying the trio of Rizzo, Pepe and Yolanda and was glad that with the help of Sweetums they were able to resolve the Pache situation and give viewers closure on this multiple episode storyline we have been following. Best part if not of this episode but perhaps the entire season was the return of Vets Hospital perfectly introduced to us by Uncle Deadly and a Swedish Chef Kitchen and Muppet Labs sketch rolled into one. The episode ended with Kermit and Miss Piggy exchanging “I love you” between one another something witnessed by all the other Muppets. I really enjoyed The Muppets acting so happy and enthusiastic to Kermit’s realisation that he does in fact love Miss Piggy. This was the perfect ending so far, the strongest ending to any episode prior, this episode made me need to watch the next episode right away and luckily I didn’t have to wait all week to do so because the suspense would have driven me crazy. 

Episode 16: “Because…. Love” was by far the strongest episode of the series and in my opinion the episode where The Muppets realized what kind of show they wanted to be, this episode felt more like a pilot episode rather than a season finale which proves just how amazing Season Two could be. The Muppets were preparing to put on a Muppet Show rather than help Miss Piggy with her own talk show. Whoever accidently wrote +11 instead of +1 on the invitations is a genius, we’ve already been introduced to the main characters now it’s time to bring back everyone else, Link Hogthrob, Howard Tubman, Mahna-Mahna, Droop, Everybody! We now have an episode full of Muppets, pitching ideas for wild and crazy sketches, The Muppets are getting ready to step in front of the camera rather than behind. The main storyline throughout the entire season has been Kermit and Miss Piggy’s relationship which at this point has been very well developed. The opening scene where Kermit seeks advice from Rowlf was beautiful and funny now that Rowlf is a licensed therapy dog. I’m glad all the other Muppets jumped right to the point and addressed the Kermit and Miss Piggy situation at the start of the episode, unfortunately they got into Kermit’s head and made him waffle throughout the entire episode. This episode also gave us Fozzie at his finest, the last few episodes have brought back the old Fozzie Bear who has been missing for the last few years. Fozzie gave Kermit excellent advice concerning his dilemma regarding getting back together with Miss Piggy or not and although he made some very good points he failed to realize he had just confused Kermit even more, he wasn’t stupid, he was naïve. Uncle Deadly also catches up Miss Piggy on the “I Love You” exchanges between Kermit and herself and this is where the suspense of Kermit and Miss Piggy’s relationship is lost on me. Kermit dumped Miss Piggy, soon after he began dating another younger pig who recently dumped him and now that he thinks he might be in love with Miss Piggy she is all for it? Uncle Deadly as Miss Piggy’s new best friend gives her some useful advice yet Miss Piggy is still so eager to get back together with Kermit that the thrill is lost. Miss Piggy’s love for Kermit is so strong that we’re not waiting for them to get back together, we’re waiting for Kermit to take her back and that is why I am so happy when Miss Piggy began to waffle on Kermit. “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” was brought back perfectly and sang beautifully by Jack White in the hopes of reuniting Kermit and Miss Piggy. Both Kermit and Miss Piggy’s facial expressions throughout the song were wonderful, I felt for them, I truly believed they were going to kiss and reconcile on stage but instead we got the curve ball I was hoping for, this is a mature Muppet show, no need for rude jokes, this is exactly the show I wanted to see from the start. Season One ended with a perfect Muppet cliffhanger with Kermit, Miss Piggy and Pepe travelling to Thailand together, another ongoing storyline and the one I’m most excited to follow. Season One has been a terrific ride and along the way the show itself began realizing what worked and what didn’t and near the end of the season I feel safe to say The Muppets found their show. What I most enjoyed about The Muppets Season One was the fact that I was overloaded with Muppets for approx. twenty-two minutes each week, so many Muppets that it gave everybody watching the chance to have at least one favourite Muppet. The return of classic sketches and the introduction of new ones featuring various Muppets taking over Up Late With Miss Piggy slowly turning it into The Muppet Show is what most excites me, this is the show I want to see. The Muppets is turning into an updated version of The Muppet Show where the focus is mostly on the “backstage” antics rather than the sketches on stage as opposed to The Muppet Show and I’m really liking the way this is turning out. More songs! Muppets and music is always important so again I am very glad that The Muppets began singing again and especially glad that they began doing it on stage in front of the camera. Lastly what I’ve most enjoyed is the fact that The Muppets Season One gradually began to get crazier and more silly as opposed to being your average funny sitcom, being a Muppet Show you can do anything and get away with it such as having Animal dive into Dr Bunsen Honeydew’s instant grow pills and causing havoc amongst Hollywood. I really enjoyed watching The Muppets (2015) week by week but especially enjoyed binge-watching them all over the weekend. I can’t wait for Season One to hit Blu-Ray, I hope we get some sort of announcement soon.  

by Nicholas Napoli

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