We're back. The Muppets Season 1 Episode 4 does a few crucial things right.
It nails some one-line zingers to remind you that the writing staff is sharp (if anything, too sharp), it makes Piggy out to be something other than a total drag, and it falls back on the joyful power of song (specifically "Don't Stop Believing," the inclusion of which kept Glee on the air for several seasons longer than it deserved).
However, it may be too late to for ABC to win back the viewers it lost with several weeks of black comedy, and by the end of the episode we're back on the same depressing wavelength that got this show in trouble in the first place.
First off, Fozzie Bear needs to be banned from having his own storyline for at least a month. I've started to experience depression every time I hear his pubescent Woody Allen whine.
This week, he accidentally shoots Statler in the face with a t-shirt gun and then assuages his guilt by visiting the old-timer at the hospital. (We also learn just how dependent on projectiles Fozzie's comedy routine has become.)
I know the perfect way to win back the crowd;Fozzie
Far from providing some heartwarming bonding between Statler and Fozzie (or even Statler and Waldorf!), the whole subplot is just another showcase for Fozzie's haplessness and insecurity, which this show has already spent far too much time exploring.
Even Statler's antics are less like the irascible yet lovable old man and more like that moment when you wonder if it's time to put grandpa in a home.
Far more fun is the main story, in which Miss Piggy is determined to score an invite to the crew's post-show drinks. Although even that falls into the pitfall of exploring their drinking habits a little too explicitly.
This evening my phD stands for Pretty Hard Drinking!Bunsen
Nevertheless, it's nice to see Piggy actually making an effort to bond with her costars, and in her case, her haplessness is actually played for comedic effect.
Do these diamonds make me look relatable?Piggy
The scene at the bar is fun, although we don't really need Ed Helms to convince us that Piggy + alcohol + a karaoke machine = a good time. Watching Swedish Chef sing "Rapper's Delight" hits the comedic sweet spot this show has struggled so much to find. (Watching a lovelorn Sam the Eagle sing "Wind Beneath My Wings" to Janice hits you right in the stomach, though.)
The next day, we are treated to the sight of a bunch of hungover Muppets, which is apparently something America needed. The most rewarding part is the revelation that Bunsen and Beaker are apparently romantically involved (?!) which gives all their interactions a BDSM flavor.
Kermit: Bunsen, Beaker, why are you wearing each other's clothes?
Bunsen: If it happens outside of work, we don't owe an explanation.
If the episode ended like this, with Piggy and the rest of this gang forming a friendship, there might be real hope that the show is course-correcting.
But instead, just like the Josh Groban episode, Kermit thinks that Piggy having her own relationships is bad for the show, so he destroys it. And we are left, once more, with Kermit as the evil puppet master who just so happens to be a puppet.
You should watch The Muppets online, if only for the karaoke.