The Muppets 1.10: “Single All the Way”


Kermit, donning now his gay apparel.

After the previous triumphantly, brilliantly Gonzo-centric episode, “Going, Going, Gonzo,” I was extremely happy with The Muppets, the show having done such a beautiful, seemingly effortless character rehabilitation for everyone’s favorite Whatever following shortly on the heels of its skillful rehab of Kermit in the 7th episode, “Pig’s in a Blackout,” and Miss Piggy in the 6th, “The Ex-Factor”. In addition to that, whereas some of the earlier installments had found some difficulty maintaining the right tonal balance, retaining the bite of the classic Muppets without losing their heart, these demonstrated a show finally getting a handle on both its characters and material. At the same time, the 8th episode, “Too Hot to Handler,” was a bit of a step backwards in quality, albeit far from damagingly so, but just enough to give me momentary pause over whether the show had indeed finally, fully found its footing.


Now, after “Single All the Way”–its 10th episode and the last before the winter hiatus–I have no more room for doubt. If it were humanly possible to be more than 100% convinced that this show is now operating at peak performance, that’s where I’d be right now. If there’s one thing of which the Muppets have mastered the art throughout the years, it is the Christmas Special. From Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas to Christmas Eve on Sesame Street to John Denver: A Christmas Together to The Bells of Fraggle Rock to A Muppet Family Christmas to The Muppet Christmas Carol and beyond, no one does TV/Film Christmas as well as the Muppets. For me, Muppet Christmas always feels like coming home. Could this new show, which many instantly wrote off as being too cynical, possibly capture the old magic alongside its more contemporary edge?


The answer is a resounding yes, producing arguably its kindest, warmest episode yet while also being as hilarious as ever and at the same time delivering some of the more complex character development that has been one of this show’s strong points from the start. In short, “Single All the Way” is an instant Muppet classic and to an extent, this might be because, while featuring all of the show’s modern innovations, it feels more like the old show in format than any previous installment to date in that it’s fully centered on the backstage antics of bringing a Muppet show to life. That isn’t to say that the piece’s beating heart lies in Up Late but that it is its driving force. Most of the fantastic character work that occurs is a direct off-shoot of backstage complications that occur on the day of Miss Piggy’s annual Christmas special.


On the celebrity side of things, the Muppets are having an issue with Mindy Kaling, namely that she insists on doing a Christmas duet with Miss Piggy even though she can hardly sing a note. Or at least an on-key one. Meanwhile, Fozzie is supposed to be playing Santa Claus on the air that night but he can’t stop sobbing because Becky finally dumped him due to his lack of maturity. And the writers cleverly expand outwards from that point, having Piggy magnanimously agree to help cheer up Fozzie, as she also has some experience in getting dumped (a great character beat, as it speaks to Piggy’s desire to be a role model to the “poor and unfortunate” as seen in previous episodes such as “Pig Out,” when she attempted to hang out with the rest of the gang, but it also actually is kind behavior and not just motivated by her own self-love), but in the process she actually ends up inspiring Fozzie to fight to win back Becky’s love while simultaneously falling into a depression over how she failed to do the same for Kermit and her relationship.


Kermit and Piggy's heart-to-heart.

Kermit and Piggy’s heart-to-heart.

Earlier in the season, I had spoken about how the major issue with how the show was dealing with Kermit and Piggy wasn’t the break-up itself–in fact, I fully believe that Jim Henson would have entirely supported it, given he had either planned on or toyed with doing something similar in the past–but that Piggy’s completely-in-character refusal to appear weak in front of Kermit led to her acting much more abrasively than usual, which in turn made her seem less sympathetic on the surface, even to someone like me who was fully aware that it was a facade she was putting on to save face. Luckily, we had that surprisingly stark and utterly devastating break-up flashback in the premiere episode to confirm this, but after that point, multiple episodes would go by where we’d get nothing but diva behavior from Piggy, making her vulnerability easier to forget.


This started to improve when she actually helped Kermit find a lovely gift for Denise in “The Ex-Factor,” subverting what seemed to be a perfect opportunity for her to go hog-wild (apologies for the pun) with revenge. But this episode is even better because here, we finally see her address her earlier behavior head on. After she refuses to go on the air that night, Kermit finds her in her dressing room in the process of devouring practically an entire basket of fine cheeses, and she tells him–speaking about Fozzie and Becky but really about herself–“I can’t stop thinking, what if he’d been…too proud to make that call?…What if time went by and they never got back together?…What if she had moved on to someone else and then he had to just be alone? At Christmas?”

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