Jim Henson’s iconic creation, The Muppets, has been featured in countless iterations in both TV and movies over the last several decades. Fans know them from their big-screen films like The Muppets Movie and The Great Muppets Caper, TV shows like The Muppet Show and 2015’s The Muppets, parody films such as The Muppets Treasure Island and The Muppets Wizard of Oz, and much more. The most recent incarnation of the felt-covered fan-favorites is Muppets Now on Disney+. Muppets Now is a sketch comedy series based on videos the Muppets would upload to the web. Does it live up to the greatness of the original TV show, or does it fall flatter than a Muppet without someone’s hand in it?
Muppets Now allows us to see the familiar characters that we’ve seen in recent movies back in sketches that showcase their niches. The Swedish Chef is back in his kitchen for a goofy cooking show, Bunsen and Beaker are conducting dangerous experiments in their lab where Beaker typically gets hurt, and Miss Piggy talks beauty and fashion while showing off the diva she is. It’s refreshing to see these Muppet characters return to their roots, as the recent movie and TV formats haven’t necessarily allowed for that.
Some of the sketches are clear misses, but when they’re funny, they are especially hilarious. Bunsen and Beaker are as funny as they’ve always been. Every time Beaker takes a hit from an experiment gone wrong, it’s almost impossible not to laugh. One of the recurring sketches has Pepe the King Prawn host a game show that Scooter has already planned the rules for. Of course, Pepe prefers to play by his own rules by not using any whatsoever, leading to pure hilarity. There’s a talk show sketch that occurs a few times where a different celebrity cameo is interviewed by a Muppet. For the most part, this sketch is funny, but okay at best. However, when Fozzie Bear interviews Seth Rogen, the laughs absolutely fly. There’s something about Rogen and Fozzie trying to grapple poison away from babies that is so dark that you just have to chuckle at it.
As I said previously, quite a few of the sketches miss the mark. They’re just not very funny to sit through. Much of the humor feels forced and some of it is pretty cringeworthy, which is a shame considering how funny the Muppets have been known to be.
Muppets Now may be a sketch comedy series, but there are only about six different sketches seen for the whole season. If there are ones you don’t enjoy, you’re stuck with it for every episode or at least most of them. Because there are so few sketches, even the ones you enjoy feel tired by the time you watch all of Season 1. There is very little variety for a sketch comedy series.
Because there are so few different sketches, some Muppets get a lot of time and attention, while some fan favorites are left out. We see Swedish Chef and Miss Piggy every episode, but Animal and Fozzie only appear once or twice in the whole season, while Gonzo doesn’t appear at all. The Muppets are known to have such a huge cast of memorable characters, and most movies and TV series showcase that. Because of this, it feels way too out of place when there are major Muppet characters who are noticeably absent.
Even though the Swedish Chef is one of the very few Muppets who gets a lot of focus for the season, he’s still overshadowed in his own sketches. Every single sketch has a celebrity outshining the Chef in a cook-off and pulls focus away from one of the most popular Muppets. Once would be funny, but the exact same thing happening every single episode feels lame. It would probably be more fun if the Chef and his wacky cooking antics were the primary focus like it was in the original series. Also pulling time away from the Swedish Chef in his own sketch is the insufferable original character Beverly Plume, who hosts Chef’s show. Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard and she’s primarily there to talk about how she doesn’t like the Chef. It’s more her cooking show than anything, which is insulting to any fan itching at getting new Swedish Chef sketches.
The beginning and end of each episode, and between some sketches, a bit is used where Scooter struggles to upload videos to the Muppets Now website. These are incredibly difficult to sit through. They are never funny and feel like a waste of time. If they were removed, they’d have more screen time for another, more enjoyable sketch. During these website segments, the camera zooms around the screen and focuses on a variety of things in mere seconds. It’s hard not to feel motion sick while watching it.
Each recurring sketch was clearly filmed in a single day with little effort put in. The celebrities who show up a lot, like Linda Cardellini, were obviously on set for a day to film several sketches. It all just feels lazily thrown together.
In the Know
Muppets Now is the eighth TV series featuring the Muppets characters. When counting the amount of TV shows featuring Jim Henson’s other Muppet creations like Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock, there are closer to twenty. This may not be the greatest Muppet show, but it certainly won’t be the last.
Muppets Now is the first on-going TV series featuring Matt Vogel as the voice of Kermit since he replaced the iconic Steve Whitmire. Since 2017, Vogel has been the primary voice of Kermit despite not portraying him in the new Muppet Babies reboot.
Muppets Now has some genuinely enjoyable moments here and there, but it overall feels like a clear cash grab using the Muppets name rather than putting any heart or care into it like Jason Segel did back in 2011 with The Muppets. It may be funny at times, and it’s fun to see the characters back to doing what they’re known for, but it’s extremely repetitive for something that’s only six episodes long. If you’re someone looking to introduce your kids to the Muppets, there is much better Muppets content out there to do so, including some of what’s also available on Disney+. It’s an entertaining idea for a show, and it’s hard to go wrong with the Muppets, so hopefully there’s more laughs and more variety next season.
Rating: 5 / 10