A rock band. Fifty years of continuous touring. They have never recorded an album. And they are muppets. Who was going to tell the good old Jim Henson, who passed away more than thirty years ago, that his puppets created in 1955 would continue, through the Muppets Studio brand, producing more and more content (there are at least fourteen products available on Disney+ , which acquired the franchise two decades ago).
And what do we find? Six endearing dolls (no references such as Piggy or Gustavo, for example) that make up Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, an epic band that already appeared in a 1975 sketch. They refer to something like the Grateful Dead or Janis’s groups Joplin: more hippies than rockers really. Suspended in time and oblivious to the evolution of the world, they go in their van always singing and talking about music. Who wouldn’t want
But someone comes to energize all this, someone who, delving into the metaphor, is not a Muppet but a person of flesh and blood. Nora—Lilly Singh, also a YouTube star—is a secretary at a collapsing record label. She is passionate about music but her company is not holding up and it seems that nobody cares. Between some old papers she discovers that the band that never stops owes them a first album that they never ended up recording. So we embark on a wonderful journey where we will go through the classic arc of rock groups: ego fights, mythologized foundations, experiences with drugs -in this case, expired sugar-, lack of inspiration, unscrupulous record executives, exclusives on the radio, he fights with the “sounds of now”… a somewhat more respectful ‘This is Spinal Tap’ (1984) but with the same materials.
Nora, as a rational person, will have to learn how the gang mentality works and let go. The band will have to assume some responsibility, even if they are always touched by a certain magic that saves them. Nora has a sister, an ex-boyfriend, and a suitor, and the conflicts and love triangles are so lazy and predictable that the dolls, because of their innate craziness—especially Animal’s—make themselves that much more interesting.
There are, then, few flesh and blood characters that appear more than once, but there are thousands of cameos. The list is incredible: Morgan Freeman, Kevin Smith, Susanna Hoffs, Steve Aoki, Kesha, Peter Jackson, Danny Trejo, Weird Al Yankovic or Lil Nas X are just some of them: there are for all ages and sociologies. Except for kids, maybe, who I estimate will get about ten percent of the jokes: this is really more for their rocker parents, who will understand jokes like “I’ve hooked up with Crosby, with Stills, and with Nash. Young seemed too old to me. And he’s always been a bit like that. The second pilot, back in the seventies, was called ‘Sex and violence’. Young viewers may end up coming off as idealistic, be warned. They may also leave with little sympathy for pop and electronic music, because there are certain issues of authenticity and essentialism that are somewhat debatable: the same fight we would have with an old rocker who is not a friend of experiments.
The realization is absolutely impeccable, imaginative and fresh. The music is very very good. The voices of the Muppets are spectacular and the integration of the dolls with the people is brilliant. Only sometimes do you emerge into reality and feel a sinister pinch (his eyes are sewn shut!). Be that as it may, the series improves considerably from the fifth chapter, which is entitled ‘Break on through’, one of the most direct and representative songs of the Doors. Like them, they have a lysergic experience in the desert and each one has a vision. In the next episode we go into documentary format, with Kevin Smith as a guest director, with which we gain ‘The Office’-style looks at the camera, multiplying the fun. And in the next one the flashbacks appear. Each of these chapters takes a recognizable formula and applies it masterfully to the Muppets.
It is the networks and new technologies that mark the final stretch of the series. The old rockers, generally reluctant to use them —apocalyptic, misquoting and soon Umberto Eco—, are blinded by the possibilities of social networks, which manage to destroy the cohesion of the band in record time after a dubious virtual concert in Minecraft. Obviously nothing that an emotional speech at the last minute can’t fix. It is the toll that must be paid when it comes to a series for people over six years of age. I hope many guitars are bought thanks to these Muppets. It would be fabulous.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.