A global pandemic. A recession. Questions over World War III. Protests. Working from home. A life that feels like “Groundhog’s Day.” Every day the same. A mad dash toward what feels like nothing. A world of stress. A year that’s been wrapped with chaos, confusion and complications.
And now, here to let you relax a bit, are the Muppets.
Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzy and the entire gang are now streaming on Disney Plus through the new show “Muppets Now,” a fresh take on the Muppets gig that will have you rolling your eyes, laughing and escaping the stresses of 2020 for a bit.
The show is a simple concept. Scooter has to upload the new “Muppets” show onto his computer so it can start streaming. So he uploads clips into a folder on his computer. It’s super meta. We, as the audience, watch these clips play out, giving us a glimpse at multiple different skits — from game shows to cooking shows to influencer vlogs — featuring the Muppets, an updated and modern take on the “Muppets.” Basically, anything you think you’d see on television in 2020 is present in this show.
Because of its ties to the present, “Muppets Now” represents an escape from the modern world, while keeping you in the year 2020. Each episode feels like a short YouTube video or streaming program. But the antics within the show are so wild that you don’t feel stress. “Muppets Now” is lighthearted entertainment that will make you feel happy, at ease and relaxed, and you’ll get a few laughs along the way.
So much television today is packed with drama, tea spilling and seriousness that it feels nice to escape for a bit. The show is totally bonkers, but in the right sort of way. It’s so unrealistically charming that you can’t help but smile and snicker at what happens in each of the skits.
It’s also nice to be back among old friends. We haven’t seen the Muppets since that weird workplace office show on ABC — one that some considered too adult for children (Zoot was an alcoholic, Fozzy Bear uses online hookup apps, and there were sexual innuendoes).
The only hiccup with “Muppet Now” centers around its audience — who is the audience? Who is this show aiming for? It’s partly a children’s show, but there’s some subtle adult humor for older viewers. Then again, a lot of the skits seem centered around television and streaming television shows that millennials enjoy. So it’s hard to lock down who this show is meant for.
Disney Plus has been slowly releasing its original shows. With the pandemic, there might be somewhat of a delay with some programs, like “The Captain and The Winter Soldier.” But “Muppets Now” gives us a fresh take on the Muppets that feels as close to the original while still being something completely unique.
It’s really the “Muppets” show of a modern age. And it’s the 2020 comedy we’ve been waiting for. It’s silly, it’s low stakes. But it’s entertaining and gives us a break from the darkness of our modern world — a happy escape amid a pandemic and a stressful world.
Below, you’ll find my thoughts on each of the first four episode of the new show.
Episode 1 — “Due Date” — premieres July 31
The first episode of “Muppets Now” is just that — The Muppets embracing the now, embracing the present. We see Miss Piggy run her own lifestyle vlog (called “Lifestyle”), which become a parody of fashion beauty advice vloggers and modern Zoom interviews. It’s fitting to see Miss Piggy embracing this role as a fashion obsessed, high maintenance influencer since she’s often appeared in that role in the show.
We see brief moments of Kermit and Walter — a new Muppet introduced in the recent “Muppet” movies — enjoying photo-bombing. They run into Miss Piggy, who, once again, is embracing her influencer role.
Kermit appears again as an interviewer to famous people in an intimate setting. It’s part real interview, part parody of modern day interviewing show.
The first episode is a scattered collection of moments. We’ll see what looks like with the second episode to see if there are any threads that tie it all together. But the first episode was a clear sign that the Muppets have joined the present era, another showcase that “Muppets Now” is indeed a show that embraces the present.
Episode 2 — “Fever Pitch” — premieres Aug. 7
“Fever Pitch” kicks us off with a game show skit that includes a game show that is, well, really confusing. That might be a joke at modern game shows, which often include wild rules that are sometimes hard to understand. So instead the show morphs into a staring contest.
The Swedish chef’s makes a return, representing the first skit on the show to appear in two of the episodes. This one stars Danny Trujo in a cooking contest.
The constant theme through the episode shows Fozzy Bear pitching show ideas and always getting rejected. Funnily enough, Fozzy’s ideas don’t sound totally outrageous when you compare them to other shows out there in the real world. Almost anything can be a show in 2020.
And the episode finishes with a return of Miss Piggy in her “Lifestyle” vlog video series. It mostly relies on the same jokes as the first one, but it’s quite a great fit for Miss Piggy to be on a lifestyle influencer track.
The second episode shows some of the small skits that appeared in the first episode will transition throughout the series. Some might be one-off skits that we won’t see. But it’s nice that we’ll be given that consistency throughout the show. This gives viewers a chance to identify specific skits they like.
Episode 3 — “Getting Testy” — premieres Aug. 14
This third episode features a new take on the episode format — Statler and Waldorf (the two older critics of the Muppets) appear throughout the episode, weighing in on each of the sketches. It’s a novel take on how Statler and Waldorf provide commentary. Back in the day, they’d be critical from the suite box in a theater. Now, they’re doing it over video, giving some added fun commentary along the way.
The Chef is back with Roy Choi. Linda Cardellini and Taye Diggs return during the “Lifestyle” vlog with Miss Piggy. Seeing the same guests again and again feels a little repetitive. The good news is that the subjects for each of the skits changes enough to make them feel slightly unique.
This episode really hammers home the idea that this show is going to be a sketchy comedy special of the modern age. Each episode contains a cold open with Scooter and whichever character joins him that week. And then we get a bunch of skits.
Episode 4 — “Sleep Mode” — premieres Aug. 21
The final of the first four episodes kicks off with Aubrey Plaza, the actress from “Parks and Recreation.” We get slight April vibes from Plaza in her interview with Miss Piggy. But a lot of it feels like Plaza is being candid and real with her interview here. Just add in the hilarity of her talking with a Muppet, and you’ve got a good skit.
We see another “Muppet Labs: Field Test” skit in this one with Beaker and Bunsen. These skits fall flat in a lot of ways, possibly aiming for a younger audience that enjoys slapstick humor. The experiments aren’t too clever for adults. The experiments use elements of technology from the past. That said, there are some helpful lessons in there to learn new things about science, like sound waves.
The Swedish chef is back as well. These skits continue to hit well, giving us some funny takes on the cooking show idea. We also get a second Miss Piggy skit with her “Lifestyle” vlog, which feels like overkill with the Miss Piggy schtick.
One underrated kit — Joe from legal. He plays a short role throughout the show, presenting legal mumbo-jumbo to Kermit about the entire show and the skits. It’s slightly hilarious how he points out the legal ramifications these skits require, but totally an inspiration comedy-wise.
The episode ends with Scooter uploading all of the streaming videos. This leaves viewers on a cliffhanger with questions about what it means now that all the videos are online. Will the format change? Will the style shift? We’ll have to wait a few weeks to find out!