The Muppet Show #6-7
The “Family Reunion” storyline that began in issue #4 with the appearance of Scooter’s sister and continued bringing in Muppet relatives with Randy and Andy Pig in issue #5 concludes in these two issues. It’s written by Roger Langridge with art by Amy Mebberson.
I admit, I wasn’t quite as thrilled with the back half of the storyline as I was with the first two comics. But please keep my criticisms in balance; a bad Muppet Show issue is still better than a good issue of many other titles.
Issue #6 focused on my favorite Muppet when I was a child, the darling Robin, Kermit’s nephew. I liked him for three reasons: he was little and cute, even more so than the other Muppets; he had to watch out for the crazy people rushing around who were much bigger than he was, a situation kids can really identify with; and his name and personality were less gender-specific than the others. One of my very favoritest sketches was when he sung an A.A. Milne poem. There’s a minimum of setting and no props, so the effect is carried on performance alone.
But because Robin, though a relative, was already a cast member, the new character introduced to the gang this issue is pure plot device, someone for Robin to be afraid of for spurious reasons. That throws off the approach of the story; instead of seeing how a visiting family member affects the core cast (a different kind of family in themselves), the family member is put at odds with the people they’re usually friendly with. Robin feels put upon, but we don’t see much asked of him by other characters, so from the start, his impressions seem wrong. Instead of empathizing with him, I was set in conflict with his feelings, knowing he was overreacting. That’s unusual for this comic, where the characters — no matter how exaggerated their situations — generally stay sympathetic and identifiable.
Similarly, Skeeter’s motivations are good, but she’s still manipulating another character by misleading him, and I thought it went too far, creating an unpleasant mood. If the point of this whole storyline is to love and appreciate your unique family members (and the outright message of the next issue is “don’t lie to them”), then her actions, no matter how well-intentioned, are still inappropriate. I also didn’t care as much for the several silent skits. I’m assuming the first was intended to be a musical number where we had to imagine the soundtrack, but I found it a stretch.
On the other hand, I found myself rereading this issue immediately to be sure of what I’d seen and to think about it more, so bonus points on having good value and lengthy time spent with it. And setting up a song so that Animal’s rhyming line is simply “Drums! Drums! Drums! Drums! Drums!” made me laugh. The characters were beautifully illustrated, as always, and quite faithful in appearance.
Issue #7 is another Skeeter-centric story. (You know, I very much like her as a character, but being unable to name her — although she gets the “Skee” half of a word balloon here — makes her difficult to handle on a continuing basis, and having the four issues of this storyline revolve around her may have been a bit much, especially given the end of this chapter, which I won’t spoil.) Fozzie’s been lying to his mother in his letters home to make himself look better, so Skeeter steps in as his pretend girlfriend when Mom arrives. You can read the first five pages, which set up this premise, online.
There’s a bunch of out-of-nowhere references to “Wormwood Soames, World’s Greatest Detective”. I found the resulting sequence with ever-more-strained puns on “elementary” creatively amusing, but the Sherlock Holmes parody wasn’t overall funny to me. It seemed a distraction, but I can understand why an author would want to do something more than the main sitcom-style plot.
The several songs (musical numbers) were entertaining poetry. I can imagine how fun it would be to read them aloud to a kid and make up your own music to go with them. I was also surprised to find out that the framing storyline of these four issues, with Statler and Waldorf as Greek-style gods playing chess with our characters’ lives, didn’t have much of a payoff or explanation. I don’t suppose one is needed, but I expected to end with them, as we began.
As for the moral of this issue: Balancing fantasy and reality is difficult in such an entertaining-but-fantastic comic, and by providing different views of the subject, Langridge manages to get across the sensible message to “tell your loved ones the truth” while still demonstrating the virtues of a little white lie. You don’t want to give kids the wrong idea, but neither do you want to inhibit their creativity and imagination with these wonderful fictional friends.