One of my biggest complaints for the new Muppets series has been the treatment of Kermit the Frog. Kermit is, above all, usually depicted as a very nice guy. At worst, the others treat him like a doormat. He may get frustrated, but he never gets mean.
The new show has, on occasion, tossed that idea out the window. We’ve seen Kermit, perhaps out of jealousy, break up Piggy and Josh Grobin, and rob the rest of the crew of good times after they had too much fun at karaoke. We’ve seen him lie to Fozzie about the bear’s quality as a writer, though in that case it was to prevent from hurting the sensitive bear’s feelings and he did confess the truth later.
So, this episode may have been a step in a better direction. Episode SPOILERS after the cut.
This episode seemed to remember who Kermit is. Yeah, it ends with him in a swamp (artificial in his backyard) singing “Rainbow Connection” (to the consternation of at least one neighbor), but that’s the sort of thing that makes him seem like the real Kermit, not the one who would interfere with his ex-girlfriend’s happiness for the betterment of his show. Yeah, Kermit would do anything to keep the show running, but doing it in a way that comes across as mean or evil seems to be very un-Kermitish.
So, tonight we don’t see Kermit do anything mean. We do see Kermit getting used by guest star Jason Bateman (clearly channeling his inner Bluth), as Kermit tries to take advantage of a spa weekend away to avoid all the stress he’s been feeling running Up Late With Miss Piggy. Bateman seems to be almost like another Muppet himself the way he keeps bugging Kermit for more and more stuff, and of course Kermit ends up paying for it because he’s too nice to tell the pushy guy to go away.
But who really helps Kermit find peace? Rowlf, who for this show owns the bar across the street the others gather in. And what’s Rowlf doing? Playing the piano and offering sage advice on how to relax. I read once that the various people working the Muppets these days are reluctant to use Rowlf since his personality was closest to Jim Henson’s, but the mellow dog always seems to offer a nice serene place for everyone to hang out with, and is always a welcome presence.
Really, this show seemed to be doing a number of callbacks that remembered who these characters are. Beaker got blasted with freon and coffee. The Swedish Chef was doing something weird with food. And Gonzo, still hanging out on the sidelines, got some good lines in while remarking on how he used to be a stuntman.
Seriously, can we have more Gonzo?
Making Kermit nicer and bringing back Rowlf at the piano make for a good time, so this one gets eight out of ten spilled coffees.