TV Recap: The Muppets, ‘A Tail of Two Piggies’

Written by Chris Diggins

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‘A TAIL OF TWO PIGGIES’ PLOT SUMMARY:

After her tail hangs out during a wardrobe malfunction, Miss Piggy is harassed by the media and the Muppet Newsman. Meanwhile, Gonzo, dejected that Camilla the Chicken broke up with him, buys a house with Rizzo and Pepe from Big Mean Carl’s sister, Big Mean Carla. The house, it just so happens, used to belong to Ian Ziering.

The Muppets have been back for only two weeks now, and already things are looking pretty good. Last week’s episode demonstrated an encouraging self-awareness of what people wanted from the show. The reboot is much softer than what was implied before, but a light touch that makes everything just that little bit better was probably the right choice. I think I was a little more forgiving of the show’s original direction than most, and I’m a little sad to see some of it go; Denise, in particular, was a storyline I would have liked to have seen expanded upon rather than jettisoned. But there’s no denying that there were some pretty fundamental problems going on with that version of the show, and this version seems to have fixed many of them.

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

This episode sees Miss Piggy in trouble after accidentally exposing her tail at a premiere. At first mortified, she grows into a spokesperson for pigs’ rights after a young pig tells her how much it inspired her. The nice thing about this development is how much it gets grounded in Piggy’s character. She’s a pig obsessed with self-image, so her initial reaction makes complete sense, but her ego and self-importance are as big a factor as any altruistic concerns in her decision to embrace being a role model for young pigs. Still, it’s important to note that altruism does, in fact, factor into that decision, something both equally true to her character and something I could easily see being left out if this episode had been made during the show’s earlier run.

The show, probably wisely, avoids drawing too specific a parallel between Piggy’s situation and any particular real world issues, but the general feminist overtones are pretty clear. And while the whole thing is a bit too cute to really get into any serious discussion on modern feminism or women’s issues, for a half-hour sitcom treatment it’s fairly nuanced in its depiction. Piggy points out the double standard of many of the other tailed Muppets, particularly the male ones, getting away with not only exposing their tails but barely wearing anything at all. And Pepe and Rizzo get in a flippant but pointed line at the end, “The key to attracting more ladies is to respect them and embrace the things they care about. Who knew?” It’s not a revelatory thesis on the topic, but it’s nice to see a network sitcom starring a cultural institution like the Muppets start saying things like this.

Photo Credit: ABC/Eric McCandless
Photo Credit: ABC/Eric McCandless

Meanwhile, in the background, Pepe and Rizzo decide to cheer Gonzo up on the anniversary of Camilla leaving him. Pepe and Rizzo, along with Uncle Deadly, have been the comedic MVPs of the series so far, so it’s always good to see them get a plot. This one isn’t anything too special, but the development of the three of them all moving in together promises some comedy gold in the future. And as long as we’re on the subject of strong comedic ensemble characters, it’s good to see that June Diane Raphael’s studio executive character appears to be a recurring role. She has a strong handle on the kind of vaguely menacing positivity that makes Lucy such a fun character.

Still, I would say that I didn’t laugh quite as much this week as last week. There are some great jokes (“I tell my waterboardist everything,” Piggy says casually), but the focus seems slightly more on the plot than the humor this time around. And bringing the ensemble more into the show is a great idea for The Muppets itself, but the results have been far less impressive for the show-within-the-show so far. Having Animal guess whether a tweet was by Miss Piggy or Kim Kardashian is not a particularly clever or funny joke all on its own, but what’s worse is it doesn’t make any use of Animal’s strengths as a character. Hopefully as time goes on they’ll find a way to introduce more characteristically madcap humor in these bits, but for now they’re just far too accurate pastiches of lame late night talk show segments.

I sound pretty up on The Muppets this week, but I am still wary about the new direction. The first half of the season had its strong moments too, the problem was that it could never sustain them under the weight of its issues. The show seems far more cohesive now than it did then, but only time will tell if that keeps up. For now, though, it’s a pretty entertaining ride.

RATING: 8 OUT OF 10

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