TV Recap: The Muppets, ‘Too Hot for Handler’

Written by Chris Diggins

muppets-tv-show-abc-2015-trailer

Too Hot For Handler Plot:

Scooter books his crush, Chelsea Handler, who spices up “Up Late” and his personal life. Meanwhile, Kermit learns that Becky may be hiding her past from Fozzie when he and Denise go on a double date.

For better or for worse, much of The Muppets has been focused on relationships. From the dissolution of Kermit and Miss Piggy’s, to Fozzie and Kermit’s new relationships, to the various short-lived flings of the rest of the cast, we’ve been getting a lot of glimpses into the love lives of these puppets. This episode is little different, as both the A and B plot focus on relationships, one moving further along and another just beginning. In the process, we get treated to some pretty solid material, albeit some of it a bit of a retread of past work.

Photo Credit: ABC/Nicole Wilder
Photo Credit: ABC/Nicole Wilder

We start off with Scooter booking Chelsea Handler to appear on Up Late with Miss Piggy, and it quickly becomes obvious that he’s infatuated with her. Egged on by Pepe and Rizzo, he asks her out, only to be turned off when she goes for a kiss on the first date (scandalous!). The material with Scooter being a loser often veers close to being overbearing, but this episode actually treats his desire to keep things extremely slow with some respect rather than making him into a total joke, and so the plot ends up more sweet than painful. And it even has a nice little resolution where Handler agrees to slow things down, so we might be seeing more of her in the future. Combined with some reliably solid laughs from Pepe and Rizzo, this plot is a pretty great effort all around.

The other plot is a bit more mixed, however. Fozzie wants to ask his girlfriend Becky (Riki Lindhome) to move in with him, but Kermit thinks it’s too soon. So he tries to meddle in Fozzie’s love life to disastrous results. We’ve already seen a plot centered on Kermit’s protective attitude towards Fozzie a few episodes back, so right away this feels like old ground. But in the end, it does manage to mix things up enough to avoid feeling totally stale. Rather than lying to protect his feelings, Kermit manufactures a moral crisis out of nothing (he suspects Becky cheated at a bar trivia game) to convince Fozzie not to make what he views as a bad decision. It’s funny to see Kermit treat such a minor offense as a grave concern, and it also touches on his tendency to micromanage the lives of his friends and coworkers in a way that’s not always to their benefit. And the resolution between Kermit and Fozzie at the end of the episode feels way more sincere than the uneven trajectory of their conflict in “Bear Left Then Bear Write,” wrapping things up pretty nicely and giving Fozzie his moment to seem more capable than Kermit’s given him credit for.

Photo Credit: ABC/Nicole Wilder
Photo Credit: ABC/Nicole Wilder

I can’t help but feel there was wasted potential in the way that plot went down though. When Kermit, Denise, Fozzie, and Becky first arrive at Rowlf’s bar for their double date, Kermit starts not-so-subtly probing for any signs that Becky may not be a good match for Fozzie. But in a twist, his clumsy questions about criminal activity and credit scores reveal more red flags on Denise than Becky. At that point it felt like the show was planning to contrast the two relationships, or dig into how little Kermit knows about Denise, or at least highlight his hypocrisy in applying such rigor to Fozzie’s relationship when he doesn’t apply it to his own. None of that happens. Denise ultimately serves only as a vehicle to help Kermit spend time with Fozzie and Becky before disappearing yet again. Given how desperately the show needs to characterize Denise and her relationship with Kermit, and the golden opportunity they wrote themselves to do just that, it’s kind of disappointing that they instead stick solely to Kermit and Fozzie.

I’m not sure how fair it is to blame an episode for not doing something when the actual result is perfectly functional, but it was honestly my biggest takeaway from the episode. Their refusal to develop Denise and her plot beyond its current barebones state is starting to get distracting. Perhaps the announced shake-up and relaunch after episode 10 will help alleviate this problem. I certainly hope so. But on episode 8 with no end in sight to the writing issues and tonal inconsistency, I’m starting to get a bit worried.

Rating: 6 out of 10

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