‘Muppets Now’ Review: Episode 4 – Sleep Mode

This post contains spoilers for Episode 4 of Muppets Now.

Jarrod Fairclough – It’s hard to believe we’re over halfway through the first season on Muppets Now! Not only that, but this is the last episode sent out to reviewers, so I have literally no clue what next week will bring. I can, however, tell you exactly what Episode 4 will bring, because, surprise, we’ve got even more Lifestyle and Okey Dokey Kookin. I know this show isn’t necessarily a ‘variety’ show, but a little more variety would have really made Muppets Now better in my opinion. That said, Episode 4 has some fun moments, so let’s jump in!

Mup Close & Personal
The spiritual ancestor to The Muppet Show returns, as Miss Piggy takes a moment out to chat with actor Aubrey Plaza. I’ll preface this by saying I’m a massive fan of Plaza, her work in films like Safety Not Guaranteed and Ingrid Goes West are genuinely Oscar worthy. But I’m just not entirely sure her brand of awkward is a great fit for The Muppets, because the initial start of the interview doesn’t seem to go anywhere until Uncle Deadly turns up to take over, and Eric Jacobson seems to be putting in a lot of work.

That said, Aubrey seems much more comfortable when she doesn’t need to be the centre of attention, and thats where she thrives in this segment. Whether the opening request for a touch up from makeup or her confusion at Uncle Piggy (not a typo), this is where Aubrey gets to be another version of herself, and one she seems much more comfortable playing. The shtick of the interview being that Uncle Deadly is a fill in is so good, and really makes this segment pop. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Deadly is the MVP of this series, and Matt Vogel is having the time of his life. That weird, flamboyant charisma is something The Muppets have always needed more of, and they found it in the past decade, letting Deadly come in to his own.

Piggy is also a lot more tolerable in this episode than she is in her Lifestyle segment. She’s got a little more depth to her (although still not a tonne) and it would have been easy to have her go in to this interview and overdo the ‘How great am I?’ stuff she’s been guilty of the past 20 years. Instead she shares the spotlight and lets Deadly in to get the reaction shots, but not in a ‘This is below me’ way, but in a ‘What’s best for the edit?’ way, which is a nice change. It seems that when Eric is allowed to do what he wants with her, Piggy is a much more likeable character, and hopefully that continues both in any future Muppets Now episodes and beyond this iteration.

Muppet Labs Field Test
I’m well aware that last week I got annoyed that we’d had three Okey Dokey Kookin and three Lifestyle segments in a row, and yet with the third Muppet Labs in a row I find myself less annoyed at the lack of differing segments. I think it’s because we know exactly how this is going to go, because it’s the same with any Muppet Labs. We know, at some stage, Beaker is going to get hurt and Bunsen is going to be oblivious. And I think the reason it doesn’t bother me so much is because it’s consistent with the past 45 years, where as Lifestyle and Kookin rely on the same jokes when there are so many more things from their characters’ history to draw from.

Today the duo are joined by a lonely, outdated computer, The Beepalyzer, voiced by Peter Linz, as they demonstrate Sound. What I’ve enjoyed about this iteration of Muppet Labs is that it’s genuinely educational, but still completely chaotic. Beepalyzer explains how soundwaves work, they turn on a speaker, and Beaker vibrates wildly. Beepalyzer describes Chladni plates, Beaker can’t help but touch it. Educational setup, comedic punchline. It’s fun to watch, and it teaches kids, too! My only issue with this weeks segment is that there isn’t a huge payoff. Non-Newtonian fluids dance on a speaker? Why not have it come to life and attack Beaker, rather than end with the Beepalyzer shattered and sad. It was funny, it just suffered a Saturday Night Live sketch fate, in that it just kind of… ended.

Okey Dokey Kookin
The Swedish Chef makes pasta poorly. Beverly Plume is there.

Lifestyle with Miss Piggy
Once again, I have to highlight the chemistry between Uncle Deadly and Miss Piggy, probably the best dynamic in the current Muppet franchise. These two genuinely love each other, and they aren’t afraid to be each other together. Matt and Eric are able to find little subtleties in their performance that give a little extra to the scene. In this case, the segment starts with Piggy and Deadly arm in arm. It isn’t for a joke. It’s just friendship.

This segment might be my favorite ‘Lifestyle’ yet, because Piggy is actually kind of fun in it. She addresses self care, and happily shows off her sugary sprinkles all over her fruit cup, or her weighted blanket that causes her to be crushed. But what’s great is that it would be easy to have Piggy become enraged or embarassed by these things, and yet they don’t go for the easy joke of an angry Piggy. It just feels a little more fleshed out, which is really satisfying. Her falling asleep to Deadly and Chip’s ocean sounds might be the biggest laugh of the episode. Of course, they do have the classic angry Piggy gag, but only after Deadly has destroyed her frail ego in a much needed reality check.

There are many characters I expected to see on Muppets Now, but Miss Poogy is not one of them. Introduced in a small handful of scenes in the 2011 film and making a cameo in Muppets Most Wanted, I hadn’t ever really thought Poogy was ‘part of the gang’, especially not friendly enough with Piggy to be in a video call. That said, I’m all for having her around more, because David Rudman is having a blast.

Linda Cardellini is still the best human guest star to work with The Muppets in a long time. Can she please be in the next movie, please? There was a fun bit of cartoon comedy here as Piggy leaves her house and immediately arrives at Linda’s, which seemed to be received with genuine shock. I’m pretty sure they’ve also implied that Pepe and Linda are having an affair, a little bit…