I can't stop watching Muppets Mayhem

It (currently) says right on my "about me" page that I'm a Muppets nerd, and that is accurate.

I grew up with The Muppet Show. I watched the first three Muppet movies over and over and over again as I was growing up. It was a toss-up between Caper and Manhattan for favorite. My uncontested favorite Disney World attraction remains Muppet★Vision 3D. I had a Fozzie plush in my crib and a Kermit puppet was one of my favorite toys for years.

And while I enjoy Christmas Carol as much as the next person, I've held a Jim-Henson-era preference, for sure. (Put Muppet Family Christmas in your holiday rotation. You will not regret it.) I think that might have been because in that era, that group was at the top of their game—all the right people with all the right relationships in all the right spots.

I had a sense that after Henson passed, the Muppets were kind of trying to find their way for awhile. The troupe was still loaded with talented performers, of course—but the focus seemed missing. My interest in this led me down a Muppet history path (marked by Brian Jay Jones' Henson biography and the delightful Imagination Illustrated and, most recently, the inspiring and heartbreaking Funny Boy) and gave depth to that perception.

I'd still pick up any new Muppet stuff that would come my way, eagerly. There was a lot to love. "Life's a Happy Song" played in my head rent-free for so long. But nothing has really stuck with me like the latest thing that Disney cancelled.

When I heard about Muppets Mayhem originally, I didn't leap to it. It sat in my backlog for a bit. Blame life changes, blame maybe a little bit of apprehension for the effect Disney can have on stuff… but I didn't grab it right away. It took me a bit.

But when I did get around to it—too late to, I guess, contribute to the streaming-era hit calculation algorithm that only has room for shows that get unhealthily binged the moment they get posted, too late for the exclusive vinyl release (more on the soundtrack in a bit)—I found an unforgettable ~4½ hours that is going to be one of the things I mention when anyone asks me what's so great about the Muppets from here on out.

People often mistake the Muppets for kids' entertainment. Wearing that Henson historian hat again, I know exactly where this comes from: Sesame Street's runaway success and the stereotyping it brought. The funny thing is, back when it debuted, it was actually kinda hip, right? Aimed at a slightly older-kid set. But it still ended up threatening to pigeonhole Henson and the Muppets, something they'd chafe against for decades.

What the Muppets are closer to is… subversive all-ages. I have a hazy young memory of my father remarking about how The Muppet Show was very kid-watchable but packed with stuff for grown-ups to smirk at. I think what's so great about Mayhem is that, more than any post-Henson production I can remember, the modern troupe has really come together and absolutely nailed that spot of the Venn diagram where everything that is the Muppets intersects. It's musical (I'm getting to that! I promise!), it's funny, it's touching, it's smart, it's everything Muppets should be.

Okay, okay, the music. Did you know the music on this project was produced by 1 Non Blonde? I'd like to think someone working on this show thought, look, this show is literally about the Muppets' hip music group; we'd better get this right. They got Linda Perry and a bunch of talent together and the rest is (recent) history.

The Muppets' musical releases aren't as well-known as their television and movie productions, to be sure, but there are some classics in there—and I think The Electric Mayhem deserves to be a part of that lineage There's such a great collection of covers and originals to be had, from the immediately catchy opener Rock On to The Sound of Us and the moving Believe in Us to round it out… let's just say that when my 2024 Apple Music Replay comes out, I already know what's gonna be at the top.

Now, the show ain't perfect, mind. I'm not as fond of the Can You Picture That? remake as I am the original from The Muppet Movie (and the scene in the show where it appears feels forced, though it has a great payoff). There are definitely a few awkward bits here and there… but it is over four hours long, and I can forgive a handful of misses when they just nailed the big picture as well as they did.

I've found myself watching the whole series several times over now. It's become a comfortable thing for me, where I know what's going on but still feel all the notes from the touching (surprisingly, some might say, from felt—but I know the Muppets) story. And I know I'm gonna do it again.

I wonder if I can watch it enough that the Disney+ streaming meters will go "wait, what did we do, we should have made a second season…"

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from Mattie B
All posts