There’s magic to the Muppets.
Over the last five decades, Kermit, Miss Piggy and the crew have maintained the same energy, earnestness and humour that defined their long-running series and changed our perception of puppeteering wizardry. (For example, the bicycle scene in The Muppets Movie remains one of the unsung heroes of onscreen special effects for its time.) While some projects are better than others, one can’t deny that the Muppets have something so unique about their style and voice that they’re always welcome back to the small screen.
But, with the release of The Muppets Mayhem, we finally move beyond the Frog and Pig to spend some quality time with characters we’ve never really known.
Released today on Disney+, the new series The Muppets Mayhem follows The Electric Mayhem Band (Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, Lips and Animal) as they embark on their greatest challenge: recording an album. Although they’ve been touring for decades, the band has never sat down in a recording studio to lay down their music. However, when Nora, a young music executive, realizes a loophole in their contract, she informs the band that the time has come to release an album. But organization and planning aren’t really the Mayhem’s style, frustrating Nora’s efforts and leading to chaos with the band.
Produced by Adam F. Goldberg, The Muppets Mayhem is an adorable mixtape of fun for all ages. Led by a delightful performance by Lilly Singh, Mayhem revives the Muppets world with enthusiastic glee. Clearly, every member of the cast (both human and otherwise) is enjoying themselves fully and it translates onscreen. Like the very best of Muppets madness, there’s a certain adult nature to the series that makes it hilarious but neither does it lose its innocence.
Admittedly, n terms of story structure, it’s fair to say that Mayhem stays fairly close to the Muppets standard. The main thrust of the series revolves around creating an album, a trope not dissimilar to the idea of ‘putting on a show’. An endless string of cameos and guest stars appear and disappear just as quickly. There’s even the threat of a wealthy magnate who threatens to disrupt everything with a timely buyout. But, even with these checked boxes from the Muppets story list, Mayhem remains an absolute delight and a return to form for the franchise.
What makes Mayhem feel fresh is its emphasis on new characters. While Kermit, Piggy and the rest remain the show’s most recognizable players, the Electric Mayhem have remained relative unknowns. Yes, Animal has proven to be one of their most popular characters but few people refer to Dr. Teeth or Janice when they speak of their favourites. However, by focusing on the Mayhem, the series has a certain unpredictable nature to it. These are characters that we know… but not well. As such, spending time with them opens the door for some delightful surprises and unexpected comedy. (For example, Janice’s attempt to offer acupuncture is particularly fun.) These are the people you’ve had into our home because they were friends of friends.
And now, they’ve become our friends as well.
But the most poignant part of the Mayhem is their sense of authenticity. Although they do experiment with a more modern sound, the Electric Mayhem remain an echo of the past rock n’ roll era. Leaning into their sensibilities stem from classic rock, the show (rarely) tries to ‘update’ them. In fact, by the end, the series celebrates their oddball nature and their self-confidence. Here, we see the Mayhem as humble and honest, refusing to be anyone else but themselves. Whereas many of the other characters in Muppets Mayhem seem to be willing to ‘fake it until you make it’, Dr. Teeth, Floyd and the crew know who they are. This is a band that leads with no leader and feels that the ‘best plan is no plan’. To them, what matters most is to love for others and they welcome everyone with open arms. This sort of grace is jarring to (most of) their human friends at first but, after a while, it changes the air in the room.
It’s the same welcoming spirit that has always sparked The Muppets and remains infectious in Mayhem. Just like Kermit and Co., the Mayhem show a passion for people and a celebration of life that few other franchises seem able to maintain. These are not just ‘funny puppets’ or moments of ‘delightful special effects’. Instead, Muppets Mayhem once again feels authentic with its characters, reminding us that loving others (and ourselves) creates spaces for hope and healing.
And, frankly, there’s magic in that.
The Muppets Mayhem is available on Disney+ on Wednesday, May 10, 2023.