Muppets Now Review: Episode 3 – Getting Testy

This post contains spoilers for Episode 3 of Muppets Now.

Jarrod Fairclough – We’re three episodes in to Muppets Now on Disney+, and I think it’s safe to say that we know what we’re getting into each week. We know The Muppets are going to do something funny, but we’re finding patterns in each episode, for better and for worse.

For example, for the third week in a row, we get another Lifestyle with Miss Piggy, and another Okey Dokey Kookin with The Swedish Chef. Great, we enjoy Miss Piggy and Chef. But so much of them is starting to wear a little thin, with the same shtick each and every time, the Chef spots being a particular point of contention. Chef is better in small doses, when he gets to cause chaos for two minutes. But when thrust in the spotlight for more time than that, it can become extremely tedious, which isn’t something I enjoy saying about The Muppets. I just don’t think we need so much of the same thing, and I say that knowing full well that next week also contains a Chef and Lifestyle segment.

I say this so you understand that going forward in my reviews, these two segments might get a lot less of my attention, because I’m just not sure how much more I can say about them. But, let’s push on and check out Episode 3!

Okey Dokey Kookin
As it is, Okey Dokey Kookin is up first. This week sees chef Roy Choi collaborating with The Swedish Chef to make the ultimate Kalbi Rice Bowl with Kimchi. That said, Chef doesn’t get a lot to do because he’s relegated to watching the rice cooker, as host Beverly Plume fawns all over Choi. You’ll notice my reviews have barely mentioned her, and that’s largely because I just don’t have many nice things to say about the bird. Julianne Beuscher is a truly magnificent puppeteer and deserves better than Beverly Plume. Seriously, why couldn’t Yolanda have hosted this show?

When Chef does get some screen time, he makes the most of it, throwing uncooked rice into a bowl, because apparently that’s how you make a rice bowl. Last week I wrote how The Swedish Chef has almost evolved from a clueless chef to kind of a dick, and it continues into this episode too. He’ll blow raspberries at Beverly, he’ll toss a rice cooker carelessly at Roy Choi. It’s a trait I should probably condemn, but dammit, I love it.

Muppet Labs Field Test
Yes, Bunsen and Beaker return after their appearance last week set the world on fire (Get it? Coz there was lots of fire?). But first, Kermit and Joe arrive to give a little disclaimer. The marketing for this show really set up Joe the Legal Weasel to be a big part of the series, but he’s really just part of the gang, which I think is a nice way to introduce him. He’s not too much, he’s not too little. He’s just right.

Today the science duo are looking at Velocity, ie. how fast something can move. And of course the easiest way to test that is with pizza! So Al the delivery man rocks up with 16 pizza’s totalling $568.72, meaning each pizza/calzone equals approximately $35.55 which means The Muppets have been ripped off by a greedy pizza man.

But that pizza man gets to stay, as Al is in charge of the Deliv-Ro-Tron 5000. I appreciate the fact that in order to be truly unscripted, they couldn’t have Bunsen or Beaker fire the pizza catapult, because it would put a lot of strain on Dave Goelz and David Rudman. So using a genuinely scientifically curious pizza man as a stand in was a nice touch, especially because he keeps getting tipped. This is what Muppet Labs is supposed to be – mess, chaos, and Beaker getting hurt. We all know where this is going – catapult, target, Beaker. Al and Bunsen decide to destroy a cake Beaker has kept ahold of for years (gross), so as he tries to save it – well, you know… Splat.

The trio are able to keep it legitimately entertaining the entire time, which means there wasn’t a point at all where I was checking to see how long until the next segment, which is the best compliment I can give something.

Lifestyle With Miss Piggy
Deadly continues to be the MVP of this show, and he’s the best part of Lifestyle (aside from the continued gag about sty and style).

Today Miss Piggy gives tips on how to best romance her, which is interrupted by Gonzo and dynamite, because of course it is. Gonzo has been bugging Piggy for years to do an act with him, and his Chekov’s Gun (well, dynamite) is a fun touch as it explodes in the next section of the bit. She also claims you need to be able to have time for others and not talk about Muppets all day, which ends as a jab at Kermit, but still hurt my poor little feelings.

Linda Cardellini again arrives to steal her scene, this time in a chat with Piggy, Kermit, Beaker and Brie the Cheese. As much as I’m over the Lifestyle sketch every week, I’m on board for more Cardellini. She’s great at building a world around The Muppets, last week explaining that she went to high school with Bubba and this week talking about a fun group night out she had with Kermit.

Kermit has one of my favorite gags in the whole show as he tries to weasel his way out of a relationship talk with Piggy by claiming he’s having connection problems because he’s in a tunnel, but really he’s on a video chat making static noises behind his hand and holding up Buffering signs.

Hmm… I wonder what happens if you look up PiggyFollwer95 on Twitter…

Pepe’s Unbelieve-Able Game Show
Game Show was a huge success last week, with the vast majority of fans saying it was their favorite part of the show. And it’s easy to see why – Pepe is let loose, Bill Barretta is having the time of his life, and it has that manic energy that The Muppets need, that jolt of life.

There’s a long running joke of Pepe mis-pronouncing peoples names, which some people don’t seem to like. There’s Kermin, Gonso, Fotzie, Scooper, and my favorite – Howard, which is what Pepe thinks Walter’s name is. No matter how often it happens, it really makes me giggle.

You can tell Bill has no idea what he’s going to ask the contestants, which takes everyone by surprise, even himself I’m sure. How can a tomato be a fruit? What’s the temperature in the room? How do you spell ukelele? Have you ever seen a ghost? Bill is at his best in this segment, and it might be the best Pepe has been in years. His questioning Daniel is the highlight of the segment, asking if he likes hand cream and if his beloved dog was dead.

They’ve done a fine job casting the contestants for Game Show, with Niko and Daniel really getting into it but not detracting from the fun. It’d be easy to ham it up around The Muppets, but these guys have found that line and aren’t afraid to toe it without overdoing it. Niko is judged the winner of the make-up challenge by guest juge Miss Piggy and Daniel sucks up to Pepe too much and loses the game, so Niko is lead to the bonus round where she is forced to put her and down the throat of Big Mean Carl.

Sitting here thinking now, I wonder if I’ve stumbled across why I’m not so much a fan of Okey Dokey Kookin and why I enjoy Deadly and Cardellini in the Lifestyle segments – this show is an ensemble, and too much focus on one character means less attention on others. In Game Show, Piggy gets to turn up and be funny for 30 seconds and then leave. There’s no-one to steal the spotlight from Chef in Okey Dokey Kookin aside from Beverly Plume, and god knows she’s a dull dud. Game Show gives more people a chance to be funny, and that’s what The Muppets need. I’m hoping that if Muppets Now is given a second season, or with whatever The Muppets do next, they allow the ensemble aspect to really shine through, because together The Muppets achieve more.