Whoa. I think … I actually liked this episode.
I mean, the show finally remembered that Camilla exists. Though my heart broke when Camilla left Gonzo, thereby ending television’s most romantic relationship, I am thrilled that she’s now on the show. Even if #Gonzmilla doesn’t become a major story line, this feels like confirmation that new showrunner Kristin Newman wants The Muppets to have more heart, more brains, and more in common with Muppets of old than it did before.
On the other hand, we’re still stuck with the mockumentary format, which should probably be straight-up banned.
Besides asserting the show’s credibility within the Muppets’ franchise, “A Tail of Two Piggies” also manages to stick together as an episode. The characters with conflicting motivations feel true to their identifies, the jokes are actually funny, and the guest stars are deployed exactly as often as needed. The episode also does a great job both having and explaining a comic block. (Fozzie’s assertion that they can’t do one thing, or another thing, so they need to find a “third thing” is every sitcom-writing class distilled to a sentence.) For a show that was practically buckling under the weight of its thin, abysmally structured plots just a few episodes ago, this is another huge sign of growth.
Thank you, Kristin Newman!
“A Tail of Two Piggies” finds Miss Piggy at the red-carpet premiere of Zootopia. (I guess ABC felt like eventually dating this episode in a big way?) She’s there to promote Up Late and Uncle Deadly’s new clothing line, Uncle by Deadly. Unfortunately, he cut the back of Piggy’s gown too low, and her tail pops out, much to the shock and delight of the gathered paparazzi.
I’ve got to be honest, I guess on some level I knew Miss Piggy had a tail, but who had ever actually thought about it? Have we seen this tail before in other Muppets iterations? Anyway, this is a point of concern for Miss Piggy, who has apparently struggled with shame about being a pig in a world that makes her hide her oink under a bushel.
More horrified still are Sam the Eagle and Lucy, June Diane Raphael’s buttoned-up-to-the-point-of-cracking Network President. They fear that the network will lose sponsors (“Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Big Diapers”), as well as undue intimidation by the “Million Parents Campaign” (three people protesting in a parking lot), which leads them to shut down Miss Piggy’s Free the Nipple stand-in, Unveil the Tail. They pressure Kermit to make sure that Piggy keeps it in her pants, so to speak. But Miss Piggy’s interaction with a young pig fan named Alynda, who was inspired by Miss Piggy embracing who she really is, convinces her that the censure of pig tails is a means of keeping pigs ashamed of themselves. After all, they don’t censor rats’ tails!
See, The Muppets? This is the key to relevancy: Find fun ways to take on zeitgeist-y topics that are important to your audience. Fewer juuust outdated pop-culture references and shoehorned guest stars, and more of this, please!
Anyway. They can’t let Miss Piggy pull out her tail on live TV, but they can’t let the network get away with censoring one type of body over another, so they have to find a Third Thing. And that Third Thing turns out to be doing exactly what the network said: Miss Piggy doesn’t take her tail out. But the rest of the Muppets don pig tails to make a point, and Joan Jett comes out to lip-sync to “Bad Reputation”, and all in all it just felt really refreshing. (Except for the lip-syncing. That confused me.) This is what Kermit, Piggy, and Co. would do in the face of network censorship — they subvert what is expected of them, set to a song.
Have I mentioned what a vast improvement this episode is?
Meanwhile, Gonzo is an emotional wreck on Groundhog Day because it’s the anniversary of Camilla walking out on him. Gonzo and Rizzo convince him to move — staying in the house he shared with Camilla is depressing him — and it just so happens that Big Mean Carl is a licensed real-estate agent. Gonzo, Pepe, and Rizzo fall in love with a house that used to belong to Ian Ziering (such a perfectly specific detail, and I want to know who else the writers considered before landing there), and the trio decides to go in on it together.
Step one? Pick carpeting. Step two? Throw a giant housewarming party. The only problem is, none of them know any girls. Through Miss Piggy’s activism, they come to realize that “the key to attracting ladies is to show them respect and take interest in things they care about,” and the party is a hit. Gonzo is finally starting to forget about Camilla … and then she shows up.
It’s all so cohesive, funny, and warm. And honestly, it made me excited for the future of the show in a way that I haven’t been since the initial previews came out. Maybe The Muppets really did just need time to work itself out. Plenty of wonderful shows had rocky first seasons, so perhaps alchemy has really been done here. Like Alynda watching Miss Piggy embrace her tail, I’d like to believe that my faith has not been misplaced. The same characters who once taught us that it’s okay to be green, even if it’s not easy, are now re-upping their lessons.
Welcome back, Camilla. Welcome back, Muppets.