The page loads by making a mess—a small mess, by Muppet standards, but a mess nonetheless. It’s not as zany of a page as you’ll find over on Muppets.com, but since part of its purpose is to provide useful information outside of pure entertainment, that’s probably a good thing. (Frankly, the talking cheese in Gonzo’s room always ends up getting on my nerves, anyway.) The background is the mess the page loaded with—a cutting board, a whisk, a measuring cup, and various edible things—on top of a lot of white that keeps it from looking too busy. Thrown on top of the mess, we’ve got the video player, a preview thing to flip through some printable posters, a handy little recipe book, and an ad for Hasty Tasty Cooking Tips. Why they’re advertising something that is on the page you’re already looking at, I don’t exactly know, but it looks nice. In a nice line below the mess, we’ve got links to Muppets.com, Pepe’s room, Kermit’s room, and this thing where you can print out some Muppets to perch on the side of your dishes. They look great, but be warned that they are not dishwasher safe, so please be careful with the marinara sauce.
I’ll talk about the posters and the recipe book and some videos in a moment, but first thing’s first. I know you’re just sitting there saying, “But LISA,” unless you don’t know my name, in which case you’re snapping and yelling “Hey, Intern” (I’m looking at YOU, Ryan), “What about ANGELO? What about the fact that this is NOT our beloved Swedish Chef?”
Well, as Ryan mentioned earlier this week, the Swedish Chef really wouldn’t work in this format. Cat Cora does a pretty good job of keeping up with the Muppet zaniness around her, but I don’t think her Mock-Swedish is quite good enough for her to partner up with everyone’s favorite Mock-Swede. I don’t in any way feel that Angelo has replaced the Swedish Chef, but like many Muppet fans, I was concerned that the Chef himself may feel slighted. But when I asked him about it, he seemed perfectly happy. In fact, he had this to say: “Shmür de hürney fløø, skürn de shnürpsen høøpen de blürna! Ya de smür, de skøør, de flüpsen bøøren støøn. Skyüür nüüms de tøøpsy Øøngeløøløø! Børk børk børk!” So you see? Everything’s fine. Enjoy the vacation, Swedish! Have fun in Zanzibar!
As for Angelo himself, I don’t find anything horribly blasphemous about him. The guy obviously loves what he’s doing, he’s crazy, he’s got a lot of heart, and he has a habit of randomly singing what they’re doing (and dancing to his own singing). What more could you want from a Muppet? Furthermore, we have evidence in “Breakfast Isn’t Just for Breakfast Anymore” and from the appearance on The Early Show that he respects and admires the Swedish Chef. I hardly think anyone would steal a performance from someone they look up to so much. (On an unrelated note, I had absolutely nothing to do with that incident where the Muppeteers were found hog-tied in a coat closet last week…) And if, for some reason, you still don’t like Angelo, then consider this: on The Early Show on Wednesday, he called the Muppets a big family. If you still reject him after that, well, then… Nothing personal, but you sort of fail miserably.
So now that we’ve welcomed Angelo to the bunch, let’s talk about the features of this site. First of all, there are ten free printable posters. If you’re as broke as I am—and in this economy, you’re probably pretty darn close—then “free” is a very good word, especially where “food” is involved. (Note: I do not recommend eating the posters. While they are an excellent source of fiber, they lack a certain zest, and getting paper cuts on your tongue is no party.) I really like most of these posters, and if I had a functional color ink cartridge in my printer, I’d do a little re-decorating in my apartment. I particularly like the chickens and the rats, the latter of which reminds me of The Muppets Take Manhattan. Maybe it’s the pancakes. The only poster I have any real issue with is the one of Miss Piggy. Honestly, who told her to hold the cupcakes there? Tsk tsk.
Now like I said, I can’t say much about the recipes in the recipe book, but I do have a thing or two to say about how it’s set up. The left page has a list of episodes you can click to find recipes that way, and a search box that doesn’t work too well. The right page has a recipe, and you can advance to the next recipe by clicking the little folded corner at the bottom of the page. The main problem with this set-up is that there is no easy way to go back to the previous recipe, which is why I had a brief moment of panic when I accidentally passed a recipe for peanut butter brownie cupcakes. Fortunately, the recipes-by-episode feature on the left page works pretty well, but it won’t get you to any of the recipes from the Hasty Tasty Cooking Tips. All recipes are printable, which is good if you don’t have internet access in your kitchen and/or don’t want to risk getting your computer dirty.
And with that, we move on to the main attraction: the videos.
First, the main Muppets Kitchen series. These episodes all follow about the same general format: Cat ends up being the butt of all the Muppet craziness, plays along when she can, and otherwise just tries to cook. Somehow, she always manages, but don’t be fooled; the Muppets are the real stars here. The only reason Cat is so successful is that she usually doesn’t mind and often joins in with the Muppet zaniness. (And if you watch the CBS appearance, she looks about short enough to be a Muppet, too.)
The first part of each episode includes some sort of insert, where we see other Muppets doing other stuff—a perfect opportunity to throw in random stuff and make Muppet fans happy. In “Birthday Cat-astrophe,” we see Fozzie filming a video birthday card from Miss Piggy and Foo Foo (yes, Foo Foo) for Cat, which doesn’t end well for Fozzie. In “Breakfast Isn’t Just for Breakfast Anymore,” we get an all-new Bear On Patrol skit (which also doesn’t end well for Fozzie). In “Game Day,” we get the opening ceremony for the Y Games, complete with the one and only Rowlf the Dog! And in “Movie Night,” we get a preview for Frankfurterstein, featuring Bunsen, Beaker, and an expired frankfurter. After each insert, we get some more kitchen stuff, a commercial, a happy ending, and Pepe doing a little shtick in front of some green-screened food before he tells us we can find all these recipes and more on the Muppets Kitchen website.
To be honest, there’s too much good stuff in each of these episodes for me to go in-depth on all of them, but I will give you some of my favorite highlights from each.
“Birthday Cat-astrophe”: All of the Fozzie/Angelo interaction, Gonzo’s extreme cooking, and Angelo’s spaghetti confetti.
“Breakfast Isn’t Just for Breakfast Anymore”: The Early Bird, Cat sleeping in a bowl of pancake batter, The Swedish Chef (See? He is not excluded.), and the fact that the whole thing reminds me of how I would yammer away at 6:30 in the morning while I got ready for school and my mom would just sort of… stare at me and hide behind her coffee mug.
“Game Day”: Kermit, Kermit, Kermit, and did I mention Kermit? Also Rowlf, Cat vs. Angelo, and competitive pie-catching.
“Movie Night”: Enough popcorn to prove that Angelo really did learn from the Swedish Chef, a rat, the Frankfurterstein preview, Miss Piggy, and the fact that Cat saves Angelo from a pork-chop.
Now for the other series: Hasty Tasty Cooking Tips, in which Cat and Angelo race against a clock that has absolutely no relevance whatsoever, because whenever they get to something that actually takes time to do, they just edit it out, which makes Angelo’s obsession with the timer even funnier. Each episode starts and ends with some brilliant Pepe shtick. And I do mean brilliant—his last line in “Frozen Fruit Fun” gave me laugh tears.
Angelo absolutely shines here. He talks to the food, he sings, he dances, he gets really stressed, he’s insecure… In short, he’s fantastic.
I really don’t have any complaints about this set of videos, either. (This isn’t a very harsh critique, is it?) I would love to list my favorite moments from each of these episodes, too, but I would probably end up transcribing each one. My suggestion? Watch them all, laugh at Pepe, and keep your eyes on Angelo. …Unless you actually want to learn how to cook some of this stuff, in which case… watch all of them multiple times so you can learn from Cat and be entertained by Angelo.