The Muppets are a beloved institution. For generations Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo and countless other puppets with distinct and gigantic personalities have entertained both children and parents alike.
Yet, since Disney acquired The Muppets brand back in 2004, Kermit and the gang haven’t had the same, intrinsic cultural footprint as they did in the ’70s, ’80s, and parts of the ’90s. The hype and hoopla and nostalgia is always there for Muppets properties — case in point the rousing financial and critical success of the Jason Segel penned 2011 film The Muppets.
Yet, despite that film’s success, its sequel Muppets Most Wanted did not resonate with critics and audiences. Neither did the great-on-paper, poor-in-execution 2016 ABC sitcom, also titled The Muppets. The idea of applying the template of The Office to the old Muppet Show formula sounded great on paper — but bad jokes, ham-fisted cameos and the Office formula just not fitting the Muppets aesthetic at all — lead to its demise after less than 20 episodes.
While Disney had made up some positive strides in the Muppet universe via their fun modernization of Muppet Babies, you can imagine many a longtime Muppet fan would have some serious trepidation about tuning into Disney+’s live action series Muppets Now.
Luckily, longtime fans are in for a really fun treat. While Muppets Now might not be breaking the ground the original Muppet Show did; it embodies everything that made that show a timeless treasure. Muppets Now is fun, clever, self-deprecating and its segments (unlike the ABC series) never overstay their welcome.
The concept behind the premiere is simple and very on point for The Muppets — everything is in chaos as Skeeter is hurriedly uploading the premier episode (presumably to Disney+) while the cast is frantically messaging him self-centered notes about what needs to be fixed. It’s essentially the modern day equivalent of the opening chaos of The Muppet Show and it was a delight to watch. From there the premiere was broken into segments — focusing on Miss Piggy’s “Lifesty…le” Vlog (featuring Taye Diggs and Linda Cardellini), Kermit’s ability to photobomb, a cooking competition between popular internet foodie Carlina Will and a surprisingly arrogant Swedish Chef, and a trainwreck of an interview segment between Kermit the Frog and RuPaul.
Everything about these segments was handled wonderfully and in classic Muppet style — Piggy was blissfully audacious, Kermit was harried and stressed, and the Swedish Chef was just bizarre as always. The celebrities seemed to revel in their appearances. Cardellini was the perfect befuddled straight woman to Piggy’s bluster, while Diggs exuded a sublime coolness that juxtaposed Piggy’s explosiveness perfectly. Carlina Will was just so fun and delightful playing opposite Swedish Chef. Yet, it was RuPaul who seemed at home the most. He vibed so well with his plush counterparts – Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie, Piggy, and Howard. Who’s Howard? Well, he’s a big you’ve seen in the background for years, but in this episode he emerges as a massive fan of RuPaul and to be honest, we need more Howard on this show. He’s a genuinely fresh honest and adorable character that could fit into the Muppets ensemble very well.
Muppets Now, based on the premiere, is not on the level of the Muppet Show, yet it might be the most honest, warm, and true to form Muppets property we’ve seen in the Disney era. It’s a show that is absolutely a must-show to the kids who’ll appreciate the patented Muppets big laughs and it’s a breath of fresh air for longtime fans of the Muppets who are not only wildly stressed out because everything in the world right now, but have also been burned by the Disney-era Muppets numerous times over the past 15 years.