The Muppets Mayhem Review | Like, for sure.

by Andrew Parker

A fun blast of laser precise nostalgia, self-aware parody, and comedic ingenuity, The Muppets Mayhem rocks all night and part of every day. The best and most consistent Muppet related project to come along in quite some time (probably since their 2011 big screen outing), Mayhem opts for a side story about some of the comedy troupe’s most beloved B-players, their literal backing band Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Hearkening back to the times when Jim Henson’s creations lobbed jokes, big time cameos, and sight gags with an anarchic, rapid fire delivery that hit more times than it missed, The Muppets Mayhem might be updating their punchlines for modern audiences, but it’s not messing with a proven formula for maximizing good hearted silliness.

Since skyrocketing to fame as the house band for The Muppet Show, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem have been on a never-ending world tour. But lead singer Dr. Teeth, guitarist Janice, bassist Sgt. Floyd Pepper, saxophonist Zoot, trumpeter Lips, and highly skilled drummer Animal never stopped long enough to cut an album. Enter Nora Singh (Lilly Singh), an eager and highly motivated junior executive at a record company that’s on the verge of going belly up. While going through some old paperwork, Nora discovers that The Mayhem was paid a considerable advance on an album that was never delivered to the label. Determined to get the band to record and release what may very well be one of the most anticipated albums of all time, Nora becomes their unlikely boss, but wrangling these big personalities will prove easier said than done.

The Muppets Mayhem sets a ton of plates a’ spinnin’ right out of the gate, and to the series’ credit, it does a fine job making sure they either don’t break or are left spinning for future use in potential new seasons. Outside of the clunky title and a handful of running gags that don’t get funnier the longer the show goes forward, The Muppets Mayhem is a well oiled joke machine. It balances a natural sense of frivolity with a pleasing amount of depth that’s capable of sustaining an entire story arc. The better Muppet projects have always come with a big heart and a sense of purpose, and the creative team here certainly understands the importance of making a viewer invested instead of merely making them wait for the next gag to hit. The best Muppet projects, like this one, are capable of effortlessly blending that building of investment into the jokes themselves.

The focus here is squarely on Lily and her dealings with the band, and how they all progress as characters. Lily has a likeable backstory and relationship with her social media influencer little sister (Saara Chaudry), and she also finds herself torn between two potential romantic suitors with vested interests in the band’s success: kindly, awkward, and sweet Mayhem superfan Moog (Tahj Mowry) and slick label intern turned app entrepreneur JJ (Anders Holm). In order for a Muppet adventure to work, the human performers have to be great sports, with impeccable comedic timing and the ability to take their diminutive puppet costars as serious actors in their own right. Singh, Chaudry, Holm, and Mowry all look like they’re having an absolute blast, even digging a little deeper for moments when the characters have to stop being silly and get slightly serious. There’s also the requisite parade of celebrity cameos that mark most Muppet series and films, which reaches a bonkers and unexpected apex with the series’ brilliant seventh episode, a lock to be one of the best instalments of any show all year.

But the Muppet stars also get their due, and The Mayhem proves to be a unit fully capable of anchoring their own storyline without needing to get the rest of the crew involved. The Muppets Mayhem examines how the band got together and how those relationships bloomed and blossomed. The friendship/creative rivalry between Dr. Teeth and Floyd is framed in a John Lennon/Paul McCartney light. Janice might seem like an easy going hippie, but she also proves to be a perfect figurehead to examine the pros and cons of modern wellness programs. Lips, the most unsung member of the band, finally gets something to do, and it’s not at all what many will be expecting. Zoot is still Zoot, and Animal is still Animal, but the latter is given a surprisingly touching arc that makes the big red ball of fury all the more loveable.

The character driven nature of The Muppets Mayhem is the most surprising element of the series, created by Bill Barretta (the puppeteer behind Dr. Teeth), Adam F. Goldberg (The Goldbergs), and Jeff Yorkes. Everything else plays out more or less as one would hope or expect. There are messages about family, friendship, togetherness, and the power of simply being yourself. There are predictable, but still funny jokes about modern advances that confuse the traditionally analogue band, rockumentaries, sitcom cold opens, streaming series cliffhangers, and a surprising number of drug references for a family show. There are nods to past Muppet projects, both well known and deep cuts, all of which will appeal to the gang’s legion of fans. The soundtrack from composer Michael Giacchino and songwriter Linda Perry is an eclectic combination of original Mayhem works and covers of classics. The plot is pretty standard stuff that’s reminiscent of a more genteel version of past Muppet collaborators Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel’s 2010 comedy Get Him to the Greek, even though neither of them get a credit for such obvious inspiration. Some things about the overall approach in The Muppets Mayhem are changed, but most of it stays the same.

And that’s just fine for a series built around a band of musicians who refuse to change or update their sound and style. The Muppets Mayhem is funny and familiar enough to stand as a return to a working formula, while also pushing things gently and pleasingly in a new direction. By the time this ten episode arc wrapped up, I wondered what was next for these characters and where this would keep heading. Here’s hoping for a couple of encores of this in the future.

The Muppets Mayhem starts streaming on Disney+ on Wednesday, May 10, 2023.

Join our list

Subscribe to our mailing list and get weekly updates on our latest contests, interviews, and reviews.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

You may also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Accept Read More