People love the Muppets, don’t they? Not kids, particularly – they don’t seem that fussed. I’m talking about grownups of a certain age: the ones who insist that The Muppets Christmas Carol is better than the Alistair Sim or Albert Finney versions, and possibly even better than Dickens’ version (which is something of a disappointment in the talking frog department).
Somehow, though, all this passed me by, even though I was exactly the right age when The Muppet Show – made, weirdly, by ITV – became a huge global hit in the late 70s.
Anyway, now the Muppets, like most things in modern life, are owned by Disney, hence their latest iteration on the House of Mouse’s new streaming service.
The title of Muppets Now is telling: whereas The Muppet Show took place in an old vaudeville theatre, this one is very much of-the-moment – probably more of-the-moment than its creators intended, in fact, given that each episode is centred around a series of what are effectively Zoom calls between the puppet pals. Miss Piggy, meanwhile, has finally found the perfect outlet for her preening narcissism – as a vlogger.
The special guests are also very millennial, and very American: Taye Diggs or Linda Cardellini, anyone? Me neither. The fact RuPaul also puts in an appearance probably tells you everything about the audience they’re aiming for here – which makes it all the more confusing when they throw in the odd Sesame Street-style educational element, like an explanation of how velocity works.
It would be a stretch to call this a comedy show (a regular cooking skit with The Swedish Chef is a painful running joke in search of a punchline) but I suppose, for many, simply spending time in the company of Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie and co is enough.
As for me, if I have a Muppet spirit animal, I’m afraid it’s Statler or Waldorf – the two grumpy old geezers who used to rubbish all the Muppet Show acts from their balcony seats. I’d love to get their thoughts on this.
Total Wipeout: Freddie and Paddy Takeover
BBC One / iPlayer
Look, I’m not saying the TV well is running dry, post-Covid shutdown, but the BBC has been reduced to getting Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness to commentate over “classic” clips of Total Wipeout, a sort of aquatic version of It’s A Knockout that was briefly popular 10 years ago. But why stop there? In future, can we expect to hear the Top Gear chums trading blokeish bantz over vintage episodes of Newsnight, Panorama and Play for Today?
Joanna Lumley: Unseen Adventures
ITV / ITV Player
Coronavirus has even grounded that most frequent of flyers, Joanna Lumley, but that isn’t going to stop her sharing offcuts and out-takes from her TV travels from the safety of her living room. It’s the celebrity version of getting out your holiday snaps, essentially. What it proves is that, even when things go wrong – like the time she thought she was going to drown off the coast of Haiti – la Lumley never loses her impeccable cool. (Unless, of course, there are some clips that remain more unseen than others.)
Published in Waitrose Weekend, 13 August 2020 (c) Waitrose Weekend