Tuesday, October 13, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Muppets' - Miss Piggy and the Crew Go Out for a Night of Karaoke in 'Pig Out'

ABC's The Muppets - Episode 1.04 "Pig Out"

The gang has an epic night out when they run into Ed Helms at Rowlf's Tavern and they all perform their favorite karaoke jams, but Kermit is not pleased when no one shows up to work the next day. Meanwhile, Fozzie has an unfortunate accident during the show.

More than the previous three episodes, "Pig Out" is just fun. This new show centered around the personal lives of the muppets has been awkward because it's simply trying too hard to be edgy. When Miss Piggy and the crew go out for some karaoke, it's simple and really fun. That kind of humor works effortlessly with these characters. The show isn't trying too hard to hit the story points as hard as they can. In that sequence, things just naturally fall into place. It's not trying to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. It's just a bunch of characters going out and having fun. The biggest story of that night is Sam the Eagle being jealous of Janice liking guest star Ed Helms more than him. That's it. Yes, the events of this night do inform a much bigger story throughout the episode. One that isn't as successful as the sequence at Rowlf's Tavern. But it's nice to see the show let go of its concept a little bit and just relax into the characters.

It has been difficult to emotionally engage with the Muppets in this new rendition of their story. The overall show just feels like a collection of story. The characters interact and engage with the plots but there's nothing inherently special about them going through the beats. The character interactions happen for the sole sake of plot. It's not establishing nuances or emotional connections that make the show exciting to watch every week. The crew and Piggy going out for karaoke offers an enjoyable sequence that is able to exist as its own thing. It pairs characters together for wonderful musical performances. It sets out to amuse the audience and succeeds at it because it doesn't feel like the show is trying to advance a plot.

Of course, the night out then impacts the show the next day. First of all, why would the crew go out knowing that they have to be at work at 9 the next day? And why would Kermit even encourage that? That just seems like poor planning and proves once again that Up Late probably isn't that great of a show. It all just leads to a conflict between Kermit and Piggy for the crew's affections. It's a battle to see who can manipulate them the most. With Piggy, she wants to be included. She decides to go in order to seem relatable while still being inspirational. She actually has a good time with them. That night out would make anyone happy. Piggy loves it and wants to do it again. She's the host of the show but she doesn't really care about the consequences of these actions. Kermit has to - which definitely makes him the character who always says no. Seriously, what's the point of Kermit being so cynical and more pragmatic than the rest of the Muppets? All he seems to care about is the work. That keeps creating conflict for the rest of the muppets because they just want to have fun. He's the boss and needs to be respected. But this divide between the characters only seems to be making Kermit worse. Again, who wants to see Kermit gloat for knowing how to manipulate Piggy's emotions because he learned from the best? That was just a resolution to keep things the same moving forward at the show.

It's also very appreciated that the show doesn't rely on big celebrity cameos in order to find humor in any given plot. That has become a tired device across only three episodes. It is expected for some celebrity to pop up in every episode. This one just doesn't want to shoehorn in as many as possible. Ed Helms is inconsequential to the story. He pops up solely to give the show celebrity appeal. He appeared and had some fun with the muppets. That has always been a trademark of the series. He doesn't detract from the night out with karaoke. But the focus isn't on him either. That night is all about the muppets having a good time together while bonding with Piggy. The attention is on the characters. It doesn't do much to build meaningful character interactions and relationships but it is a start.

The episode also features a minor subplot - once again featuring Fozzie Bear. He is one of the show's more consistently amusing characters. And yet, he has had a spotlight story in every episode so far. That's fine but it's starting to get a little repetitive. This week he is paired with Statler and Waldorf. Those are two characters who don't really need to be explored all that much. They work as hecklers of the muppets' work. They don't necessarily need to be more than that. It is amusing that Fozzie keeps getting fooled by Statler because he accidentally hit him in the face with a t-shirt. Fozzie's optimism is refreshing in this world of cynicism. But there also didn't seem like there was a lot to this story. It simply existed. But it didn't blend well with the rest of the episode's plot. For instance, why is he late to work like everyone else? It just didn't make much sense. He would have been just as funny if he was at the tavern with the rest of the crew.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pig Out" was directed by Randall Einhorn with story by Bob Kushell & Dave Caplan and teleplay by Gregg Mettler & Nell Scovell.
  • A Sam the Eagle and Janice romantic relationship is something new for the muppets. It could be something different and good for the show. But here, it feels like the show is just simply going through the motions and setting it up as something that might happen.
  • The joke about Ed Helms being from the office and the muppets thinking he meant their workplace was humorous.
  • The camera revealing that Piggy is always looking up at a picture of herself when she talked about not being able to admire herself like the rest of the crew can was a little bit too formulaic.
  • Apparently, Rizzo has a pattern of getting invited out by his female bosses and then getting personal with them only for things to eventually go wrong and forcing him to leave the show.
  • The aftermath of the night out by the muppets was filled with many great visuals. It was somewhat jarring to see Scooter without his glasses and Beaker and Bunsen in the others' clothes.
  • Kermit: "Be rational." Miss Piggy: "Oh Kermit, that doesn't sound like me at all."
  • Miss Piggy: "Do these diamonds make me look relatable?"