It’s once again time to play the music, light the lights and meet the Muppets.
“Muppets Now” is the latest attempt by Disney, which owns the rights to the characters, to revive the franchise. Unlike the last attempt, ABC’s short-lived “The Muppets,” which attempted to update the gang with a single-camera documentary style and a serialized story surrounding the break-up of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, “Now” goes back to the original show’s sketch comedy roots. But those roots get a little touch-up as the sketches are now inspired by online trends.
In each of the six episodes of “Muppets Now,” Scooter is in charge of uploading the new Muppets series for streaming. But before he can get that done, he has to deal with obstacles like legal, focus groups and, of course, the constant suggestions by his fellow Muppets. As Scooter tries to push through all the distractions to meet his deadlines, we see the segments he is uploading.
In the premiere, Miss Piggy hosts a lifestyle video blog to share fashion and health tips. Celebrity guest Taye Diggs helps her learn to improve her skin, but Linda Cardellini gets some famous Miss Piggy sarcasm about her choice of a business casual outfit for her appearance on her segment. Kermit tries to interview RuPaul, but his fellow Muppets keep interfering to ask their own questions. And the Swedish Chef tries to match the recipes of Chef Carlina Will.
Like most sketch comedy shows, there are hits and misses, but most of the jokes in the premiere do land. And it’s always nice to see these legendary characters back in action (I’ve always been partial to Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef). But there was one thing that really bothered me while I was watching — the voice of Kermit the Frog. As you probably remember, Kermit was originally voiced by Muppets creator Jim Henson. In 1990, after Henson’s death, Steven Whitmire took over and voiced Kermit until he was abruptly fired in 2017. Matt Vogel now provides the lead Muppet’s voice, and it honestly just doesn’t work for me. And based on the social media reaction after the trailer dropped earlier this month, I am not the only one having issues. Kids watching will have no idea of the difference, but those of us who have grown up with Kermit will notice, and it is a little disconcerting.
That being said, I think Disney may have finally found a way to revive a valuable franchise for the company, as long as they don’t lose sight of the smart comedy that made the franchise so valuable in the first place.
“Muppets Now” premieres at 3:01 a.m. Friday, July 31, on Disney+.