The Muppets Mayhem reaffirms the enduring likeability of its titular leads

The Muppets Mayhem (Disney+)

The charms of The Muppets shine brightly even in a show too focused on dreary human characters.

It’s hard to do something genuinely awful with The Muppets. Yes, it’s true, even if The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz certainly gave that a try. These pop culture icons are so innately endearing in their personalities and so fully realized as glorious puppets that figures like Kermit the Frog or Gonzo feel extremely real. Whether they’re shilling for coffee, reciting the words of Charles Dickens, or realizing that life truly is a filet of fish, The Muppets are irresistible.  

This track record makes the arrival of Disney+’s Muppets Mayhem an exciting proposition. Despite the Mouse House milking every other brand it owns dry, the creations of Jim Henson and company have typically gone ignored the last seven years. So it’s great to see these characters back up and running again with many of their charms still intact. Unfortunately, while it’s challenging to make a total creative dud with these fictional figures, that doesn’t protect them from mediocrity. The Muppets Mayhem is a good reminder that the mere presence of the Muppets can’t erase every issue in a creative endeavor. 

Focusing exclusively on the fictitious band Dr. Teeth (Bill Barretta) and the Electric Mayhem, The Muppets Mayhem begins with a floundering record company seemingly doomed for closure. However, a bottom-rung employee, assistant Nora Sing (Lilly Singh), comes up with a wild idea. This outfit should produce the first-ever album by The Electric Mayhem. Given the group’s legendary status, a collection of tunes from these guys would inevitably put the label back on the map. 

The Muppets Mayhem (Disney+)
Lilly Singh and Animal hang out. Get it?! (Disney+)

Of course, given members like drummer Animal (Eric Jacobson), getting The Electric Mayhem to sit down and record an album proves a massive challenge. Everybody in this group has hang-ups, even the eternally chillaxed Janice (David Rudman). Nora has her own struggles while wrangling the Electric Mayhem, too, namely her relationship with younger sister Hannah (Saara Chaudry). In other words, they’re singing a little off-key before they put their best vocals forward. 

That overarching story of The Muppets Mayhem takes a bit of a backseat in its fifth episode, “Break On Through.” This installment sees the characters in the desert navigating trippy explorations of their inner desires instigated by ingesting super-expired marshmallows. With talking cacti, an extended stop-motion segment, and even a cameo from “Weird Al” Yankovic, this episode is chock full of vintage Muppet wackiness. It’s a delightful romp that nicely balances amusing gags with specific character beats.  

Whenever The Muppets Mayhem leans into its sillier side, it finds a groove worth tapping your toes to.

Whenever The Muppets Mayhem leans into its sillier side, it finds a groove worth tapping your toes to. For example, Janice nonchalantly suggesting a lobotomy (complete with pulling out an electric screwdriver) to solve Hannah’s woes is hysterical. Ditto an extended meta-bit where the Electric Mayhem contemplates singing songs that would be incredibly expensive for the show to license.  

These jokes certainly feel like they’re in the same vein as classic Muppet gags like “You and I and George. What’s best about them, though, is how they work as standalone comedy pieces. Rather than rehashing old Muppet Show jokes, The Muppets Mayhem delivers unique absurdist moments for a fresh generation of viewers. Like the version of Lis Nas X’s “Old Town Road” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, these gags delightfully blend the old and new. 

The Muppets Mayhem (Disney+)
Lilly Singh, Floyd Pepper, and Anders Holm have The Electric Mayhem’s back. (Disney+)

The Muppets Mayhem knows how to handle the titular puppet characters quite well. However, writers like Adam F. Goldberg and Donielle Muransky are far less successful with human-centric storylines. Worse, they take up too much of the show. Flesh-and-blood people have often been at the heart of Muppet projects. However, they need to either have the acting chops of Michael Caine or be delivering songs like “Man or Muppet” to justify taking away screentime from the characters made of felt. 

Unfortunately, Nora Sing and her associates, like die-hard Electric Mayhem fan “Moog” (Tahj Mowry), are never that interesting or funny. Characters like social media-obsessed Hannah never register as more than just one-note caricatures. Worse, the emphasis on so much melodrama in these people’s lives brings down the whole mood of the show. The second, third, and fourth episodes of The Muppets Mayhem all end with a montage of sentimental scenes focusing on the human characters while the Electric Mayhem sings slow ditties like “True Colors.” How can the musicians behind “Can You Picture That?” rock out with so many dreary folks weighing them down? 

Strained attempts to be “relevant” (like a character saying “slid into my DM’s”) and generally forgettable visual sensibilities further harsh the vibes of The Muppets Mayhem. However, anytime wacky antics take center stage, the program moves along at a good clip. There’s some amusing comedy here. Plus, getting to spend time with these characters is always a welcome experience. It’s more Muppets from Space than The Muppets Christmas Carol, but The Muppets Mayhem still has some tracks, er, humorous moments worth checking out.

The Muppets Mayhem are laying down tracks in the studio at Disney+ now.

The Muppets Mayhem Trailer:

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Lisa Laman

Lisa Laman (she/her) is a life-long movie fan whose byline has appeared in outlets like Polygon, Consequence, ScarleTeen, Collider, Fangoria, Looper, and, of course, The Spool. Residing both on the Autism spectrum and in Texas, Lisa adores pugs, showtunes, the Wes Anderson movie Fantastic Mr. Fox, and any songs by Carly Rae Jepsen.

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