What do we talk about, when we talk about Dr Teeth and The Electric Mayhem? If that name doesn’t ring a bell, they were the riotous house band on The Muppet Show. Always something of a sideshow to the main action, their breakout performer was Animal, a wide-eyed and hirsute drummer who communicated through caveman grunts and limited vocabulary. The original Jim Henson Muppets developed Sesame Street puppeteering in a less streetwise direction; instead, it cast puppets as old vaudevillians that had much in common with their distinguished showbiz guests. That such an old school rep company would have such a spaced-out, psychedelic band was part of the joke, knowlingly looking back to the late sixties, only a few years previous to the Muppet’s 70’s heyday.
That means it’s hard to place what Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem might mean now, or at least in this Disney+ reboot done in a Spinal Tap style. They’ve never stopped touring, and young, aspiring agent Nora (Lily Singh) discovers that they still have an album contractually due to the label she works for, and sets out to track the band down and then force them into the studio to record, installing them in a run-down residence known as The Shack in Laurel Canyon. ‘The plan is no plan’ is the chaotic mantra, early cameos include Billy Corgan, Ryan Seacrest, Tommy Lee, Danny Trejo, and Lil Nas X, and the stage is set for the drama of Dr Teeth and The Electric Mayhem’s first album getting recorded.
With the band shunted to the side-lines in Can’t Stop The Music style, the main story is very internet-age life-lessons. Nora sets out to ‘fake it till you make it’ and pays the price; her influencer sister’s faux online shtick is nicely revealed when her glamourous ‘through the airplane window’ shot turns out to be created by placing a toilet seat in front of a department-store television. Dr Teeth himself is always good value, offering to pay this record company back ‘in groove’ and using words like ‘posalutely’, ‘recolised’ and ‘maximum recalibrum’ or encouraging others to get ‘serene in a bean’. Drugs, despite the band’s obvious demeanour and behaviour, are never mentioned to keep things clean; “Disney plus is going to love this!” Animal proclaims at the end of the first episode.
But will audiences? The Muppets Mayhem amusingly extends the muppet IP, but in a fairly inessential way with most of the main characters not involved and a whole lot of non-puppet action to pad things out. Animal’s transformation from the skirt-chasing sex maniac of the Muppets Take Manhattan to a more gentle, organic soul just about works, and the vaudevillian traditions and even older jokes see this through. But while The Muppet Mayhem is no stain on their reputation, it still doesn’t solve the larger, more concerning problem of how best to use the Muppets. We seem to love the muppets, but we’re not quite sure what they have to say about modern life; a story of an acid casualty sixties stoner band doesn’t really do much to modernise the IP, but is an enjoyable enough side-mission for hardcore muppet fans everywhere.
On an unrelated note, do you see my latest fullmetal alchemist post in the feeder? It’s disappeared for me and I don’t know what is going on. It makes me wonder if other peoples’ posts aren’t appearing for me either.
Yes, looked back via the reader, I can see it.
Thanks. Just wanted to confirm it was me and not everyone. I don’t know what is going on then though. Sometimes I despair of wp….
Ah, Lily Singh. So this is where she ended up. I did watch The Muppet Show back in the day, but I think I only saw the first movie. Think I’ll leave this for Booky.
Does Animal chase shirts or skirts?
Good catch, skirt.
How do you know Lily?
I know she was a big story here when she went from having a YouTube channel to her own show . . . and then she disappeared, really quickly.
She’s fine in this; it’s a tough gig being upstaged by Animal.
Nope. They’ve had their day, time to move on.
That’s tough on the little mites.
Man. While I’m all for more Muppet stuff, this really shows Disney simply has zero idea of what made the Muppets so loved back in the day. and without that foundation, trying to find what makes them loved today is a non-starter.
We’ll see if this lasts any longer than the previous Muppet show on D+
Good question; why did it work back in the day?
Because it was funny and didn’t worry about offending people. It showed what people found actually funny. It showed what a lot of people felt at their jobs, whether that was Kermit, or Miss Piggy or any of the cast. It was genuine because the vision came from a single source, Jim Henson. You can’t get success that way with a committee.
Wouldn’t disagree with any of that. I do think that we’re losing something when we allow IP to be written by committee so to speak; that individual voice. And yet this isn’t a demolition like the Scooby Doo reboot, it’s nice enough. But Jim Henson’s touch is hard to replicate…
Nothing that Disney has done to the muppets has been really bad, it’s just not very good sometimes. The Haunted Mansion movie, completely mediocre. The muppets now “webcast” wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been. I’m really starting to think they just need to stop. Release all the old stuff on blueray, undedited and with the full songs. Let people have what they want from entertainment instead of trying to force something new down their throats. I bet the muppet show would sell well on bluray. A complete set, not dribs and drabs or partial seasons like we have for dvd now.
I even wondered if they should just revive the old 70’s formula. Old songs and gags, guest stars, that’s it. No internet, no new generation, just the characters we love. I guess they are servicing an IP, and none of these things are offensively bad, but they really don’t compare with the energy and fun of the original series and movies. You just can’t bottle what Henson brought to it, and somehow the harder they try, the further away it gets.
If they could find the right writer team to make funny gags, I suspect the old formula would work. The problem is, most writers in hollywood don’t appear to actually have any talent, so…..
I’ll watch this at some point, but it’s not high on my list anymore.
They have brought in big name talent with various degrees of talent, but in a way, they need to find someone humble enough to play second fiddle to the muppets. They are the stars. The gags, as they were in the 70’s, were already past their sell by dates. That was somehow the point. Making good muppets material feels like an open goal, but series like this tread water rather than take a risk.
I thought the 2 Muppet movies with that new muppet, Walter(?) were pretty good. If they could just translate that back to a tv show, like the original muppets translated from a tv show to a movie, then we’d be set. But once again, it comes down to the writers and a single directing hand.
I think I am at the point where I’m ok with letting them go. Disney just can’t handle them 😀
I can see what’s good about the Walter movies, but they seemed to drop that angle fast, and while the second film is funnier than the first, the songs aren’t as good. They need a show runner with a long term plan. Mayhem is treading water, not solving the problem. Maybe a revised Muppet show might bring you back in…
I’d like to think so (about a revised show), but they’re track record with The Muppets and then Muppets now shows they just don’t get the muppets on a shoestring…
It’s almost as if the solutions are more complicated than the problem. Won’t stop me liking the muppets, but can’t see where all this is heading for the poor little mites…