Muppets Now is the brand new Muppet show from Disney+ and the first major Muppet content we have gotten in five years. Originally conceived as short, individual sketches, the show evolved into six 22-minute episodes, with the first one debuting on the service on July 31. With the classic characters we know and love (and the new character of Joe from Legal), this unscripted series features a return of the original Muppet humor, with deep roots in the modern age.
The Muppets as a franchise have had a rocky history in the 21st century, with Disney rebooting the property time and time again, with varied success. Now, with the continued rise of streaming services, this method of delivering content is the undeniable future of entertainment. It was only a matter of time then that Disney would use their own streaming service to deliver new Muppet content and attempt to revitalize their franchise for the modern age. Their difficulty with The Muppets property specifically is likely attributed to audiences full of nostalgia for the original show. However, the Muppets as characters are anything but nostalgic, as Jim Henson’s original goal was in creating a puppet show with edgy and modern humor. This aspect of The Muppets has been carried over in Muppets Now and is what makes this show work.
The sketch format of The Muppet Show from the 1970s was what made it so popular at the time and has always been the ideal form for these characters to operate within. I am happy to say that the creators of Muppets Now have gone back to these roots and have created sketches that are funny and do justice to the idiosyncrasies of each character. Scooter continues to be a stressed stage manager, only now in digital form. Miss Piggy is still the self-obsessed diva but now uses Instagram to flaunt her stuff. And Kermit is still the master of ceremonies who just can’t keep everything under control.
It’s a bit hard to review this show as a whole because only the first episode has been released. I enjoyed the appearances of guest stars, the most notable being RuPaul in which was the standout segment of this episode. The trailers have heavily highlighted the brand new Muppet, Joe from Legal, who strangely, was completely absent here. However, I was very glad to see Walter, the Muppet created for the 2011 feature film, appear in this show, after being MIA in the 2015 ABC show. One thing I hope for in future episodes is more singing, of which there was absolutely none in this pilot, and was sorely missed. Many people have criticized Kermit the Frog’s new performer Matt Vogel’s, who is distinctly different from Steve Whitmire’s portrayal. Though he is a talented puppeteer, I agree that his voice is jarring for someone who grew up with Whitmire. However, I am willing to continue giving him a chance in the role as he will, no doubt, make it his own.
If this episode is any indication, this show will be a success for longtime Muppet fans and hopefully bring in new viewers as well. I sincerely hope that Muppets Now is the reboot that Disney has been looking for and one that the franchise deserves.
For a more detailed history of Henson and Disney’s involvement, check out this piece I wrote in preparation for the show.