The Muppets Mayhem (2023) Review

A Fresh Look at Beloved Characters

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The Muppets Mayhem (2023)

I’ve been a fan of The Muppets since I was young, so I was excited to hear that Disney+ was bringing The Muppets Mayhem to the platform. Based on The Electric Mayhem, the fictional band from The Muppet Show, it is the latest in a series of attempts to revive the franchise for modern audiences. Paired with a premise that feels very much in the Muppet universe, this latest installment of cameos, random moments, and music works as a whole, even if not all the parts mesh as well as they could have.

Like many Muppet-based shows in recent memory, The Muppets Mayhem plays heavily on nostalgia. It introduces a world where The Muppet Show was an actual program, with The Electric Mayhem being the house band that was so influential it shaped the lives of countless real-world musical artists. From Tommy Lee to Little Nas X, this is a band that helped inspire a generation of talented musicians.

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We first meet Nora (Lilly Singh), a driven junior A&R executive at The Electric Mayhem’s record label in the modern media landscape. With the music industry no longer as powerful as it once was, Nora may soon find herself out of a job, that is, until she discovers that the Mayhem never released their agreed-upon first album—they were too busy touring actually to do it. So with this in mind, Nora takes it upon herself to get that record made, show the world her talent, and see one of the Muppet Universe’s biggest bands finally release the ever-elusive album that is sure to go platinum.

The Muppets Mayhem does not try to reinvent the wheel with its formula, which is good. The premise is just solid enough to give the characters something to work towards, and with the setting and concept, there is plenty of room to bring in the cameos that not only set the stage for The Electric Mayhem as a legendary band but it is also just fun to see characters known for their ego play against type acting alongside Muppets in some memorable or just plain silly ways.

The episodes feel like an excuse to have a new guest pop in and help with the album, with very few problems having any lasting consequences. This is not a show about major growth for The Electric Mayhem characters. They have been a solid group for the past few decades, and beyond some minor touching moments on the way to their album, they do not change drastically as the story progresses. This is a show about how the people around them react to the hijinks these timeless Muppets get into. 

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This brings us to our people, namely Lilly Singh’s Nora. I have not followed Singh’s acting career up to this point, and beyond seeing some of her clips while on YouTube, I do not really know much about her comedy style. That being said, oddly enough, since this is a Muppet-based show, Singh is set in the role of a straight man for most of the episodes, constantly shocked by the many shenanigans The Electric Mayhem find themselves in. From random parties to a series of oddly suggestive clothing-optional jokes, Singh’s Nora captures that frustration of trying to help build something big only to have roadblocks thrown in her way at every turn. 

“The Muppets Mayhem feels like a love letter to not only The Muppets but the music industry as a whole.”

As much as Singh does an overall satisfying job in the role, she is never really given time to show her comedic chops, with the best material, gags and moments taken by the titular The Electric Mayhem Band. This is a Muppet-based show, so that is expected, but anyone that was hoping to see Singh do the sort of skits or gags she is known for will be disappointed. Beyond that, the other human characters in the show do a good job setting the tone and working to build the story and giving a chance to flesh out the legendary career of the band, showing just how influential they have been over the years. 

Fleshing out the cast, beyond the many, many…many cameos, we get Anders Holm (Inventing Anna, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) as JJ, Tahj Mowry (Desperate Housewives, Kim Possible) as Gary ‘Moog’ Moogowski—the Mayhem #1 super fan—and Saara Chaudry as Nora’s sister Hannah. Everyone plays their roles well, giving the right level of acceptance of The Muppets existing, without losing themselves to the cartoon characters many shows with Muppet-style characters find themselves in. The hijinks and many situations all feel natural, and that is thanks to the human cast that brings a level of fun and joy to even the music silly of situations.

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A collaborative effort between Muppets veteran Bill Barretta and college friends Jeff Yorkes and Adam F. Goldberg, The Muppets Mayhem feels like a love letter to not only The Muppets but the music industry as a whole. It is no surprise to see Goldberg also penned the screenplay for The Muppets Wizard of Oz, showing a knowledge of the franchise that makes even the more adult tone feel genuine to the universe. The Muppet Show was initially meant as an alternative to the late-night shows of the 70s and 80s, and this series seems to straddle that line between adult concepts and child-like humour incredibly well.

The Muppets Mayhem may not be the second coming of The Muppet Show, but it does not need to be. It captures the franchise’s comedy, heart and concept expertly, delivering an experience that is as much a satire of the music industry as it is a love letter to all things Muppets. Even though not everything meshes as well as I would have liked, if you are a Muppet fan or just love music, there is no reason not to dive into The Muppets Mayhem.

Final Thoughts

Brendan Frye
Brendan Frye

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