TV Recap: The Muppets, ‘Ex Factor’

Written by Christopher Diggins

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Ex Factor Plot Summary:

Kermit the Frog turns to Miss Piggy for advice on what to get Denise. Meanwhile, Kristin Chenoweth is invited to do a gig at the anniversary of Floyd Pepper’s parents and ends up causing a rift between the Electric Mayhem members on the way there.

Kermit’s new girlfriend Denise has been conspicuous by her absence in The Muppets so far. The main plot thread established in the first episode has been the fallout from Kermit and Miss Piggy’s break-up, and you would imagine that Kermit seeing someone new would be a huge part of that. Instead, she’s barely shown up before tonight, making only a couple brief appearances at the very start. And that absence, which leaves Denise less of a character and more of a vague notion, makes it difficult to believe that Kermit and Piggy’s break-up is anything but a dramatic device so we can chart how they get back together (that’s what it is, of course, but ideally the show wouldn’t be making us feel like it is).

Photo Credit: ABC/Carol Kaelson
Photo Credit: ABC/Carol Kaelson

So does Denise’s grand reappearance help dispel that impression? Well, no, not really. She may be physically present, but the plot isn’t any more about her than it was when she was gone. Instead, it’s once again all about Kermit and Miss Piggy, as Kermit, in a mad scramble to find the perfect birthday present for Denise, reluctantly enlists Piggy’s help. We get some tidbits about Denise (she’s a huge Kristin Chenoweth fan, she’s from Georgia, she likes ketchup), but these are just facts. We’re still left with no real sense of who she is as a person, or why she and Kermit are together. It’s a crucial aspect of the overarching plot the show is trying to develop, and unless they give it some attention eventually, it’s going to get harder to be invested in whether Kermit and Piggy get back together as it feels more and more like a foregone conclusion.

Still, this is a flaw in the grand scheme of things, and therefore one I can’t blame entirely on this episode. Taken on its own, it’s a very functional plot that explores the Kermit-Piggy relationship in an interesting way. After all, it’s fairly telling that in a desperate moment Kermit chooses to ask Piggy for help, even with such an awkward task. For her part, Piggy’s response is even more intriguing. She may snipe about Denise, make snide comments, and include one nasty surprise for Kermit, but she still agrees to do it, and even delivers an incredibly thoughtful gift based on the meager information he gave. It’s a very “Miss Piggy” response, but one that still highlights the fact that she genuinely cares about Kermit and values their relationship.

Photo Credit: ABC/Carol Kaelson
Photo Credit: ABC/Carol Kaelson

Of course, The Muppets is a comedy above all else, so we have to get some humor in there too. Fortunately, in addition to some good laughs in the A-plot, the B-plot is pretty much entirely centered on comedy. The Electric Mayhem ask Kristin Chenoweth to sing for Floyd’s parents’ anniversary, and she agrees. What follows is a hilarious road trip through the desert as Chenoweth is subjected to all the band’s quirks and foibles. It’s a fun complement to Kermit’s story, and it gives us a little more insight into the character and dynamics of Electric Mayhem.

As a note, the show has been doing a great job with its side characters in general lately. Scooter has been growing into an entertaining loser, Pepe and Rizzo’s banter is often among the funniest moments of an episode, Uncle Deadly’s dramatic flair can heighten any scene…the list goes on. Considering this is the Muppets we’re talking about, this is exactly the sort of thing the show should be doing.

There are still some issues and missteps, and it hasn’t totally found itself yet, but The Muppets is growing more and more confident with every passing episode. The writing, the jokes, the character work, it’s all improving at a steady rate. If they can keep this up, I think the future of The Muppets looks bright indeed.

 

Rating: 7 out of 10