The Muppets needs a villain.
June Diane Raphael’s network president is fun, but she’s not an active threat at the moment. Pizza-pronounced-Pachay has enjoyable moments, but he’s too much of a pushover to wield any credible power. Uncle Deadly was a villain in Jason Segel’s first Muppet movie, but now he’s thankfully taken on the role of Miss Piggy’s best friend and caretaker to a very precious baby penguin.
When I say that The Muppets needs a villain, I mean it needs to embrace the way 30 Rock used its “villains.” Jack Donaghy worked actively against Liz Lemon for the first few seasons, then hyperspecific characters like Devon Banks, Hank and Kaylie Hooper, and even Cooter Burger entered to foil the best laid plans of writers and network presidents alike. Truth be told, I really want The Muppets to echo the ways 30 Rock used fractious interplay between different groups to fuel comedy and conflict. You know, like how a sitcom works.
Last week, The Muppets allowed its characters to unite in conflict against a common enemy while also pitting them against each other … and the result was the show’s best episode to date. It felt like a genuine, un-cynical case for why ABC green-lit the show in the first place. This week, “Got Silk?” dips back into the well of old problems. Once again, the show resists the conflict that’s needed for a sitcom to be a sitcom, but also won’t embrace the conflictless ease of the Muppet sketch shows of old.
Speaking of resistance to positive change, Miss Piggy is concerned that as Up Late makes more room for other Muppets, she’ll be forced to find ways to occupy her free time. She realizes that she really needs new friends, so … she decides to try an aerial silks class after a one-off comment from Janice? This feels deeply out of character for her; it requires a lot of physical exertion and Piggy isn’t already good at it, so why would she want to try? Especially without some sort of competitive angle? Either way, she drafts current MVP Uncle Deadly for the class, in which she doesn’t make any friends but does show off her legs. As the old adage goes, every time a Muppet’s legs are shown, an angel gets really weirded out because it just doesn’t look right.
Through the music of EXTRA SPECIAL GUEST STAR Ingrid Michaelson, Piggy eventually realizes that Uncle Deadly was her best friend all along. This seems to forget the basic teleplay writing lesson we learned in last week’s episode: You can’t do the first thing, you can’t do the second thing, so you have to find a third thing. Uncle Deadly turning out to be Miss Piggy’s friend is the second thing. Where is the third thing?
Meanwhile, Pizza tells Kermit that they need to start doing branded content — a.k.a. comedy about a product that incorporates a bunch of facts about said product without making fun of it. It’ll sound all to familiar to anyone who’s worked in advertising or media, but instead of having fun with the concept of branded content — or even simply pitting Kermit against the writers in an age-old entertainment-industry battle — we watch Pizza try to sweet-talk the writers by buying them suits at the same place that tailors for RuPaul. Though this gives RuPaul the chance to say, “They don’t stop being underpants in January,” his appearance otherwise feels shoehorned into the episode. When you get RuPaul on your show, you better plan an extravagaaanza.
Although the tailor-made suits buy the writers’ loyalty for a brief time (especially once Rizzo realizes how much more attractive it makes him to Yolanda), they eventually join forces with Kermit to come up with a bit that that actually excites them. I think? All of that supposedly happens offscreen. I wish the tension and resolution between Kermit and his writing staff were the brunt of the episode. It feels like a good opportunity wasted — but then again, couldn’t that be said of so much of The Muppets?
That Kermit was driven to reach a peace with the writers after Denise returns all of his stuff is … nonsensical. Couldn’t they at least have dropped in a subplot about Kermit learning that you should stay true to who you are? Or something? The logic behind this particular motivation is baffling to me.
It’s not all bad news, though. I do want to talk about the best thing in the episode, and maybe the best idea for a stage play ever. Uncle Deadly is directing a stage adaptation of Clueless, in which he plays Cher Horowitz. Is there a way we could actually bring this to a theater? Even if it’s only one night? I’d watch an all-Muppets adaptation of Clueless more times than I’d watch home movies of my future children. Sorry, future children.
In the end, “Got Silk?” left me wanting more of last week’s magic, more commitment to the show’s big changes, a villain who poses an actual threat to the Muppets, and an awful lot of Pinkberry.
… oh. OH.
Well played, Muppets.