Muppets Episode 5

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Last night, we learned that Fozzie Bear is a nicer person than Kermit the Frog.  Fozzie has a hit stand-up routine about his human girlfriend Becky’s sweatiness.  When he learns how hurt she was (after she gets revenge on him), he removes it from his act.  Would Kermit have done the same thing?  Not this incarnation of Kermit.  Kermit just wants to put on a good show, and if he has to manipulate Piggy and the crew, then by Henson, he will.

But this week, Reese Witherspoon was the celebrity guest, and I want to address that a bit behind the cut.

Fans of the classic version of The Muppet Show know that every week would see a new celebrity guest come hang out with the Muppets.  Many of them were fairly big stars in those days.  They’d come on, sing a song or dance or do some comedy, and generally seem happy to be there, especially as the show became a hit.  Many of the better shows in this era often had something of an ongoing plot, with the guest star firmly part of it.  Then-James Bond Roger Moore insisted on doing cute things.  MASH actress Loretta Switt replaced a fired Miss Piggy.  Rocker Alice Cooper tried to get various Muppets to sell their souls to the devil.  And for the geeks, the “Stars of Star Wars” had R2-D2, C-3PO, and Luke Skywalker show up on a mission to find a lost Chewbacca.  Luke wouldn’t do any comedy, so he always insisted his “cousin” Mark Hamil do that stuff instead, with split screen technology allowing the two to stand next to each other for the final curtain call.

That may be what makes Witherspoon the best celebrity guest so far.  While some of the guest stars have been involved in the plot to one degree or another (Kermit’s setting up and then breaking Piggy with Josh Grobin comes to mind), other appearances like Ed Helms and Laurence Fishburne seemed more like fun cameos, particularly Fishburne who only had a minute or two on screen but really stole the scene in question with his line delivery.

No, the plot here dealt with Miss Piggy being the prime diva that she is.  It turns out she’s still mad at Witherspoon for getting the role in Walk the Line, which of course got Witherspoon an Oscar.  Piggy is not a good sport.  Though Kermit coached Witherspoon not to bring up the Oscar, the conversation comes up anyway.  Of course, Piggy is the one to bring it up.  And of course Witherspoon tries to point out that Piggy was the one to bring it up, though Piggy denies that.  Witherspoon deftly tries to change the subject by mentioning she does charity work with Habitat for Humanity.

Do you know what you can’t beat someone else at?  Charity work.  What does Piggy try to do anyway?  Beat Reese Witherspoon at charity work, and in such a way to make Witherspoon look bad.

Obviously, it all goes wrong.

What made Witherspoon stand out here, though, was she was obviously more than willing to make jokes at her own expense.  Unless Grobin had one, she may be the first celebrity guest to do a fake confessional video like the Muppets have been doing, and the punchline, where she (correctly) points out that Piggy is obviously not cut out for construction work is where Witherspoon says she can do it because she did most of her own walking when she did the movie Wild.

The finale for the episode, where Witherspoon comes back to Piggy’s show for an apology, showcases some spectacular puppetry.  That was another hallmark of the old Muppet Show:  show the Muppets doing things that ordinary puppets had never really done before, using whatever tricks Jim Henson and company had to hide the puppeteer.

It was a fun episode.  This version of the Muppets has been good so far, but not great.  It may be getting there.  They managed not to make Kermit look like a jerk this week, and did have a great line from Bobo Bear when Fozzie asked him if he shakes off after a shower like Fozzie does.  Bobo’s reply made me laugh out loud:  “I have an associate’s degree.  I use a towel.”

Let’s give this one seven out of ten bears with an associate’s degree.  The Scooter/Rizzo subplot really didn’t seem to be going anywhere.

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