The Muppets haven’t wasted time adapting to the Zoom era of television.
In “Muppets Now,” a new Disney+ series, they wing it (sorry, Camilla) in a series of mini-videos pulled together as a streaming upload.
What that means is a series of random features, including Miss Piggy’s “Lifesty” (an “le” is quickly added) that enables her to mingle with celebrity guests and share fashion tips. She’s like one-fifth of the “Queer Eye” team with an emphasis on the “I” part.
Kermit drifts in and out as a shepherd of sorts, and a bunch of secondary characters get random spotlights. The Swedish Chef, for example, is ripe for cooking when others aren’t hogging the kitchen.
Featuring ad-libs from the puppeteers, “Muppets Now” is looser than any of the other Muppet television ventures. While “The Muppet Show” looked like it was created on the fly, this one really is; thus it depends on the abilities of the Muppeteers to think quickly.
Miss Piggy’s handlers are always in good form. She toys with Taye Diggs so much you half expect him to turn up in Muppet form. Naturally, she has her eyes on him and isn’t afraid to do a little “face-slapping” massage in his presence. You can see where it’s going, but the laughs are still solid.
Linda Cardellini jumps in, too, to do a little “Le Chat” with Piggy about personal style.
Produced by Andrew Williams, Bill Barretta and Sabrina Wind, “Muppets Now” never lights long enough on any given concept to really get a sense of where the six episodes are going. Scooter races in and out of scenes trying to get the upload going, but he’s so distracted it’s easy to sympathize.
Had the original performers been given this assignment, “Muppets Now” wouldn’t look so helter-skelter. No doubt, Frank Oz and Jim Henson ad-libbed frequently, but they did work from a script. This is like doing someone else’s talk show — iffy at best.
“The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo” is much more successful at mining gold. It seems just as frenetic, but it has a formula that works. Watch two episodes of “Muppets Now,” and you’ll never be able to guess what you’re getting in the third.
Because she has a number of conventions she could send up, Miss Piggy would be a better choice to headline a stand-alone series. “The Real Housewives of the Muppets” could work. So, too, could “Keeping Up With the Muppets” or “Muppets Survivor.” “Sesame Street” scores when it plays with familiar concepts. “Muppets Now” could, too.
Piggy’s work with Diggs in a yoga segment is inspired; Pepe the King Prawn gets a game show that really works.
Kermit, strangely enough, doesn’t have much of a presence in the first episode. He offers a lesson in photography, then joshes with RuPaul.
Like a YouTube channel, “Muppets Now” needs to figure out what it does best and proceed. This isn’t “America’s Funniest Muppet Videos.” It’s “The Miss Piggy Show” with a few distracting bits thrown in for surprise.
What “Muppets Now” • When Streaming Friday • Where Disney+ • More info disneyplusoriginals.disney.com
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