Thursday, June 8, 2023

Everyone Needs a Little Mayhem in their Lives

Given the lack of involvement of Kirk Thatcher, I did not have high hopes for the Muppet Mayhem ten episode series. (That is, before Anabelle texted me through her first viewing before coming home and watching it again with us, because it was that good.)

I did not know going in that Bill (creator/ performer of Clueless Morgan, Pepe, Bobo, Johnny Fiama, Big Mean Carl) Baretta was a developer and writer of the show, or I would have gone in with more excitement and expectations of a return to form.

The show was surprisingly good, and the music (once I'd noticed the show was good) was expectedly good!

Its always fun when an excellent performer gets to create a new Muppet character, and we had that with the crotchety with a hidden wild streak Penny Waxman, performed by Abby Cadabby's Leslie Carrera Rudolph.

It does repeat the down side of many of the recent Muppet productions where the main character transformation arcs happen to the humans. But it all worked together quite well, and the humans we were supposed to support were likable, especially Moog. (Glares angrily at JJ). 

As for the Electric Mayhem, they became more themselves as the show progressed.

One (of many) complaints I have about recent Muppet productions is they've lost a lot of the subtlety of the early puppeteering. Animal is a perfect example. In the original show and movies, Animal's natural state was sedated with his eyelids down. It's what made his wide eyed emotional explosions funnier. In the latest productions the staring rage has been his constant expression. As this series progressed, he went back to his classic ways.

Similarly, Floyd's voice got more gravelly, and his movements shifted toward his, "I'm anklin'" walk as the episodes progressed. Doctor Teeth and Janice under new management have been closer to their origins, but even they seemed more in tune with the classic takes in this tale. Doctor Teeth got the most "lore" as Anabelle called it, and getting to learn his back story added more Muppetness to the proceedings. Although any "Lore" about the back stories of these initially background characters was extra weird in a cool way.

Janice's combination of utter cluelessness with deep wisdom returned as well.

Lips came in late to the original band, and his personality wandered quite a bit. The new direction of him being the only one with an understanding of the modern world, while being mostly verbally incoherent, was a successful revamp.

Zoot is an exception, being the last member of this band designed around having each of the core Muppet performers to still have the original Muppeteer, Dave Goelz, behind him...
And his shoe. (It makes more sense in context. 
Not much but more,
Actually practically none, 
but it's funny so, whatever.)

I believe to reflect this, Zoot has had a slight redesign making him look older.  
It works.

I do have one complaint about advancing technology, and even Anabelle who asks "Was that when you rode your stegosaurus to school?" whenever I talk about the past being better agreed. I am not a fan of the technological special effects updates that allow frequent viewing of Muppet feet and the complete hiding of all the puppeteer controls. We know how the Muppets work, seeing the rods and stuff is part of the magic.

Starting out with "Can You Picture That" was a correct decision as well. There's no way new performers could match the original version of the song. Therefore, the only way to go was up.

The show had great humor, gags, heart, boatloads of fun cameos and a fantastic soundtrack album. (I assume the album is fantastic, iTunes awful randomization program means that my currently heavily Muppetful shuffled playlists have not hit on a song from it yet in the month since the purchase.) 

If I may make a suggestion.

Now that there is an Electric Mayhem album, have their second record release, between this and the hopefully to come next season, be a Best Of featuring all of their epic performances from the Muppet Show.

Hey, a Muppet fan can dream!


longbow said...

They used it so they wouldn't lose it

Jeff McGinley said...

It was nice to see them use it right this time!

They used it 'cause they needed it!
and Didn't forget to feed it!