Connect with us

TV

The Muppets Make an Underwhelming Return in Disney+s Muppets Now

Published

on

Beaker and Bunson Honeydew on "Muppets Now" (Disney)

It’s probably fair to say that of all of the intellectual property that Disney has amassed in the last two decades, the Muppets aren’t the highest priority.  Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, National Geographic, and everything else at the top of the Disney+ screen is also higher in the Disney pecking order, as are Mickey, Goofy, the princesses, and everyone else famous from the century-old Disney canon. 

The Muppets, who have been Disney property since 2004, aren’t exactly featured prominently at the Disney parks, aside from the Muppet Vision 3D attraction. They’ve been the stars of two theatrical movies in the Disney era, one very memorable and one not so much, and also of a very misconceived ABC sitcom that only lasted one season. Otherwise, the Muppets have starred infrequently produced content on the brand’s YouTube channel, and also in a Disney Jr. revival of Muppet Babies

Once it became clear that Disney was launching a streaming service, it was a no-brainer that a new Muppets-related show would part of it. And last fall, shortly before the launch of Disney+, Disney announced that it was scrapping a Muppets TV limited series called The Muppets Live Another Day. That show was to star Josh Gad and come from some of the creative team behind Avenue Q, and was meant to pay homage to the Muppets’ 1980s legacy, in the tradition of Stranger Things. 

At the same time they revealed the Gad show was kaput, Disney announced Muppets Now, “a brand-news, unscripted, short-form series,” which would debut on Disney+. 

Now the show is here, and while it has its moments – and is a huge improvement over the ABC sitcom – Muppets Now is far from the Muppets at their best, and one can’t help but wonder if The Muppets Live Another Day might have been a better choice. 

Muppets Now‘s first season consists of six episodes- I’ve seen the first three- and it seems that its primary inspiration in Muppet history isn’t The Muppet Show or any of the movies, but rather the Muppet Studios YouTube channel. 

The new show, aside from a desktop-based framing device featuring Scooter “uploading” the show, consists of various recurring segments, including a lifestyle show hosted by Miss Piggy, Swedish Chef hosting a cooking show, an interview segment hosted by Kermit, Muppet Labs segments with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, and a game show hosted by Pepe The King Prawn. The bit featuring Beaker and Bunson throwing pizzas as part of an experiment is probably the standout in the early going. 

The segments, while occasionally chuckle-worthy, are somewhat repetitive, and even reuse the same celebrity guest stars, including Taye Diggs and Linda Cardellini, although there are amusing one-off appearances by the likes of RuPaul and Danny Trejo. 

Muppets Now also represents the first major Muppet project in which Matt Vogel voices Kermit the Frog, following the sacking of Steve Whitmire three years ago. Vogel doesn’t sound quite like the Kermit we’re used to, but then again that’s what most people said about Whitmire, when he replaced Jim Henson following Henson’s death, just over 30 years ago. 

These segments are entertaining at the margins, and it’s great to see these characters again. But it’s really missing what’s made the best Muppets material special, starting with the relationships between the characters.

There is, thankfully, none of the mean-spiritedness of the 2016 TV show, which dropped the Muppet characters into a 30 Rock-like TV milieu with a great deal of backstage drama and backbiting. 

Muppets Now isn’t even the best Muppets project for the month of July. Even better than that was a YouTube video, created by  Ricky Downes III, called “Hamilton Act 1 but it’s Muppets.” Posted to YouTube at the start of the month, it’s a mostly sung-through rendition of the first act of Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical, featuring versions of the Muppet characters performing all of the parts. It may have been completely unauthorized- by the Muppets, by Disney, or by Miranda- but it was closer to the spirit of the Muppets than anything on the new Disney+ show. 

Kermit is Hamilton, Gonzo is Aaron Burr, Fozzie is “Marquis de LaFozette,” and John Laurens is Beaker. It’s funnier, more creatively successful and more daring than the actual new Muppets show. 

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and RogerEbert.com. In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

TV

The Boys Season 2 Episode 3 Review: “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men”

The Boys’ marks an improvement and pays big dividends in an explosive, violently revealing hour.

Published

on

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

Half bottle episode and half coming out party, “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” is a sneaky little showcase for The Boys, and just how big its world’s suddenly gotten in season two. Though ostensibly an episode designed around two events – the boys getting stuck on the boat, and Stormfront revealing her inner racist sociopath – “Over the Hill” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion. With a nimble script and a game group of performers, The Boys‘ second season is turning out to be a distinct pleasure – albeit one heading down a gruesome, dark path I sure hope it’s capable of navigating.

“Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion.

It does take a little while for “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” to get going; beginning three miles offshore with The Boys and the reunited super-siblings, the first quarter feels like it’s simply restating the stakes. It’s a nimble trick, though; led by Kimiko and Kenji, The Boys begins to feel like it is approaching a true moral quandary for the group. Which door descending into hell will they choose?

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

While The Boys often likes to posture its presenting characters with complex dilemmas, the show’s unnerving nihilism often upends any sort of nuance it looks for in its debates around “necessary” violence. Here, Kimiko’s presence throws a fascinating wrench into the proceedings; with most of the group’s members clinging to whatever mirage of family they have left (save for Hughie, who has… forgotten his dad exists?), even Butcher can’t deny having conflicting feelings about what to do with Kenji, and the deal that’s been offered to him if he turns him in.

Elsewhere, “Over the Hill” throws the brazen personalities of The Seven into their own little blenders, as Stormfront begins to sow discord through Vought, and abuse her powers to casually murder a lot of people – nearly all of them minorities, in a way that feels like an explosion of character, rather than an unpeeling of some complicated identity. Stormfront simply doesn’t give a fuck; and with her supernatural ability to manipulate feminist views (her speech to the reporters is magnificent, both in how it develops Stormfront’s character and nods to the simplistic ways in which the evilest people in society disguise themselves among the “good”).

While she’s kicking up tornadoes and electrocuting everyone that gets in her way, characters like The Deep and Homelander continue to benefit from the much-improved writing of season two. The show is still struggling to make Becca something more than the Ultimate Mother Protector trope, but Homelander’s warped sense of responsibility to his son is interesting, surely a bad sign for the upbringing of this world’s Superboy (will he also don a cool leather jacket and weird cyberpunk sunglasses? Who knows!). It’s clearly not going well; even he seems to recognize the danger in bringing his son’s powers to the surface, as its the first time in his life he’s facing a challenge as the world’s strongest hero (that is, until Stormfront doubles that total later in the episode, further frustrating Homelander’s attempts to hold domain over everything in his grasp).

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

It’s not going well for The Deep, either, as his slow descent into cult life is bringing his desperation for acceptance further to the surface. Like with Homelander’s stories, I wish The Deep’s story was a little tighter and more thoughtful (some of the body image stuff seems to be treated trivially, in a way that borders on insensitive and uninformed for the sake of easy jokes), but there’s no denying his character is infinitely more interesting this season, a test case for what a superhero trying to learn their own limits would struggle with. The Deep works best as a pathetic character, but not when it’s a pathetic character The Boys just kick around with bad punchlines; when he’s treated as a byproduct of a deeply flawed human being trying to find a path to good intentions, his fumbles and weak-minded rhetoric is much more amusing – and at times, the tiniest bit empathic (his sadness over Billy’s, well, butchering of his whale buddy was such an earnest, raw and twistedly funny moment).

The Boys has needed to accelerate its internal stakes for a while; the introduction of “super terrorists” to the world by Homelander, and Compound V’s reveal to the public might make the show’s world feel a bit smaller than intended – I think a lot about the “big” fight scenes at the end of Arrow‘s third season, where the ‘entire city’ is fighting, but there’s never more than six people around – The Boys does that on a narrative level sometimes. But as the stories of the show dig a little deeper into its characters – Maeve’s disillusionment, Homelander’s failure to emulate paternal behavior, A-Train’s desperation, it’s beginning to feel like the writers have a deeper understanding of its characters and world, and how to wield its inherent sadistic cynicism to more interesting ends. “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” benefits massively from that, setting up a number of intriguing dominoes for the back half of season two to knock over (in bloody fashion).

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Look, I’m bummed how the Kenji character played out; he was such an interesting character, an examination of everything horrible about what power and war can do to a human being. It’s sad to see The Boys dispose of such an intriguing presence, especially as its a death of a minority character in service of mostly white-related stories – however, with such a hateful, nasty character like Stormfront waiting in the wings, it is easy to see how the writers found their way down that path. (like, she could’ve killed Black Noir and this show would’ve literally lost nothing… just sayin’).
  • Can A-Train just collapse or whatever, so we can get this storyline moving? We’ve been doing this since the second episode!
  • Why haven’t we seen any reaction to Becca seeing Butcher in person at the end of season one? She hasn’t mentioned it or even had a longing look off-screen to violin music.
  • Man, I’m so glad they cast Aya Cash as Stormfront.
Continue Reading

TV

The Best Golden Girl is Sophia Petrillo

Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won.

Published

on

By

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

A seemingly harmless little old lady with curly white hair, oversized glasses, and an innate ability to tell a great story shows up on her daughter’s doorstep when the retirement home she was put in by said daughter burns down. With a simple, “Hi there,” the world meets Sophia Petrillo. For seven years on NBC’s The Golden Girlsa show about the senior set—Sophia lived with her intelligent and extremely sarcastic divorced daughter Dorothy Zbornak and her two roommates, sexy, eternally horny southern belle Blanche Devereaux and sweet but dim-witted Minnesotan Rose Nylund. Each is memorable in their own way, but it’s Sophia, “feisty, zesty, and full of old-world charm,” that stands out the most.

When TV was full of generic, sweet grandma types, Sophia was anything but. Sure, she looked the part with her bifocals, pearls, and now iconic straw and bamboo-beaded handbag, but Sophia was always trying to make a quick buck. She conned Rose into going into a sandwich-making business that pit them against the mob, faked being paralyzed to try and collect insurance, and constantly “borrowed” money from Dorothy’s purse. Instead of helping Dorothy, Blanche and Rose get out of jail when they are mistaken for hookers (don’t ask, just Youtube it). She stole their tickets to go to a party and meet Burt Reynolds. She also stole Rose’s car, worked at a fast-food restaurant, and won a marathon. Not bad for a woman in her eighties. Sophia had a sharp wit and an acerbic tongue, blaming her stroke for leaving her without the ability to self-censor. She was always ready with a zinger or a comeback, some of which she saved for her very own daughter.

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

Sophia Petrillo is the Secret Star of The Golden Girls

That’s not to say she’s all schemes and insults. Beneath her tough exterior is a kind woman with a big heart who loves her family and friends. Viewers don’t often get to see her softer side, which makes the moments they do seem that much more special. One of the best Sophia episodes showed her reaction to the death of her son, Phil. She put up a wall of anger which Rose was finally able to break down in the final moments of the episode, revealing Sophia’s true feelings of guilt over Phil’s cross-dressing as she bursts into tears. Another favourite was when Dorothy expressed concern about her mother not doing enough with her days. We then get to see exactly what she gets up to sticking up for her friend and causing a scene at the grocery store while claiming to represent a fictional senior citizens union, volunteering at a sick kids hospital and later, conducting a senior citizens jazz band. Meanwhile, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche do next to nothing except sit around and eat. When she’s asked what she did all day upon her return, she simply says she bought a nectarine, and Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche are none the wiser.

But if Sophia has one claim to fame, it is her colorful old-world tales about Sicily, which often as not, contain a pearl of wisdom or embellishment of some kind. We would have loved to have known her during her “picatta period (a wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything),” when she was the most beautiful girl at a resort and all the men fought over her (so beautiful, in fact, that she had “a butt you could bounce a quarter off of”). She was also once painted by Picasso and was best friends with Mama Celeste. But I digress. Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won. Her hunches were never wrong, and rarely, if ever did she meet her match. Sophia was, in short, a one-woman show. And thanks to re-runs and fan appreciation, that show will never be gone.

  • Dasilva

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.

Continue Reading

TV

30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Published

on

By

30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Continue Reading

We update daily. Support our site by simply following us on Twitter and Facebook

Facebook

Trending