Advertisement

TV review: 'Muppets Mayhem' is a joyous, hilarious musical treat

Animal found his new favorite human in Nora (Lilly Singh). Photo courtesy of Disney
1 of 5 | Animal found his new favorite human in Nora (Lilly Singh). Photo courtesy of Disney

LOS ANGELES, May 9 (UPI) -- The Muppets Mayhem, premiering Wednesday on Disney+, is truer to the spirit of The Muppets than the recent ABC series or Disney+'s Muppets Now. Giving supporting Muppets the spotlight also shows where there's room for more story in the Muppet ensemble.

There's no fake reality TV shakycam like the ABC show or Zoom call gimmick like Muppets Now. Mayhem is just a show about Muppets as characters with human co-stars.

Advertisement

Nora (Lilly Singh) is an assistant at a struggling record label who realizes her company has a contract with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. So, Nora tries to produce the Mayhem's first studio album.

This gives not only the Muppets band, but also all its individual members, lead roles. These characters used to get one line in an episode or a scene per a movie while they play in the background, so it's about time for an Electric Mayhem vehicle.

Advertisement

Dr. Teeth (Bill Barretta) embraces every whim or feeling, even when they interrupt scheduled recording sessions. Zoot (Dave Goelz) is endearingly absent-minded, though they never specify drugs as the cause.

Janice (David Rudman) is all about free love, in a family-friendly expression, of course. Lips (Peter Linz) speaks in gibberish, Animal (Eric Jacobson) is obsessed with Nora, and Floyd Pepper (Matt Vogel) may be the most grounded of the band, but he doesn't intrude on his bandmates' vibes.

Like the best Muppets productions, Mayhem treats the Muppets like real characters. There is no difference between puppet and human characters.

These Muppets happen to be rock stars and real celebrities embrace the legend. Real rock stars cameo and let the Mayhem be edgier than they are.

Wrangling talent is a real and universal struggle. Whether dealing with creative talent or skilled craftspeople, any industry has types who resist structure and deadlines. It's a battle between the quality of work and the need to complete the job.

The Electric Mayhem brings people together with music. The show also is about being a fan of art, which is what The Muppets were always about whenever they put on a show. This show is just specifically about music, but it's why Nora works so hard for them, too.

Advertisement

Electric Mayhem original songs play in key montages, but they also cover some classic ones like "Jungle Boogie," "Have a Little Faith In Me," "True Colors" and more.

The music industry is the perfect forum for Muppet humor. They make puns about real band names and even reference Disney+. Meta jokes like that are the Muppets' stock in trade.

The Muppets show that smart comedy always hits with an audience. They don't need profanity or raunchy jokes, but there still are levels of humor only adults will get.

The Mayhem are irreverent, but not cynical. They are good natured and loving, and that includes their satire of the modern music industry. How do you think Animal would react to a drum machine?

The Muppets Mayhem has slapstick humor, too, and it's expertly performed with puppets doing pratfalls.

The show adds some backstory to Animal, Janice and others. It's unobtrusive and picks the moments judiciously enough so it's not overbearing franchise-building.

New characters include Penny, the Muppet CEO of the label, who is a wonderfully crotchety old industry veteran. Nora has a sister, Hannah (Saara Chaudry), toward whom Nora is a tad overbearing.

The Muppets Mayhem does include some social media elements via Hannah's influencer career. It's far more organic as a component of the show rather than the whole show.

Advertisement

Moog (Tajh Mowry) is the Electric Mayhem's biggest fan, who follows them on tour and struggles to get Nora to let him help with the album. JJ (Anders Holm) is a lovingly goofy parody of tech investors.

The Muppets' ensemble is so deep that there should be stories that aren't based on Kermit and Miss Piggy. The Muppets Mayhem shows how creators can tailor Muppets to specific genres and still deliver the Muppet brand comedy.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

Latest Headlines