Television Man | Aidan Morgan
“I’m gonna tune my television to an old-time show/ Gonna watch ‘til I can’t no more” —Lil TV X
Did… did everyone else know there’s another Muppet-based television show? This time it’s The Muppets Mayhem (Disney+), focusing on Dr Teeth and The Electric Mayhem — the ultra-groovy house band from the original series. The story centres on Nora Singh (Lilly Singh), a young A&R executive (or maybe just assistant) at a record label that’s about to shut its doors forever. Lo and behold, Nora discovers that The Electric Mayhem still owes the label an album. She sets out with a foolproof plan to rescue the label and jumpstart her career by persuading the band to record that outstanding record. It is not a spoiler to say that Nora’s plans prove to be a tarpaper shack in the magic hurricane of The Electric Mayhem’s chaos vibes.
As a Disney family show, there’s a hammy quality to the human performances, and the endless celebrity cameos get old pretty quickly (the first episode features Steve Aoki, Little Nas X, Tommy Lee, Danny Trejo and an increasingly cadaverous Billy Corgan). If you’re watching the show, you’re watching it for the goofy and delightful Electric Mayhem, who perform musical montages with no prompting whatsoever and trade music jokes back and forth so ghastly that they’re almost daring viewers to laugh (“That’s where I made Meatloaf his first loaf of meat!” Thanks, Janet). Bill Barretta’s growly misprisions as Dr Teeth (“subscribulate”, “psychedelicate” and so on) produce the most reliable smiles.
The Muppets Mayhem is a fun but slight show. After 10 episodes of this show and years of attempts at spin-offs and reboots, I have to wonder: why not just do The Muppet Show again? If the lineup of celebrities in this series is any indication, the promise of appearing next a jittery puppet clearly still has currency. Why not just get them on stage? Statler and Waldorf must be awfully bored.
Mrs. Davis Is Calling
I was no fan of Damon Lindelof after the absolutely boneheaded ending of Lost and the boneheaded everything of Prometheus, but The Leftovers and Watchmen brought me around. Mrs. Davis (Crave/HBO), the miniseries produced by Lindelof with Tara Hernandez (The Big Bang Theory), is so attuned to my sensibilities that I suspect a massively intelligent AI may have designed it just for me.
Mrs. Davis has a ridiculous number of moving parts (perhaps too many), but at heart it’s a story of absurdity and faith. Sister Simone (Betty Gilpin), a nun who moonlights as an investigator of scams, is out to destroy Mrs. Davis, the all-powerful algorithm that runs the world by deploying flash mobs to do her bidding. One day, Mrs. Davis comes to Simone with a quest: find and destroy the Holy Grail. In return, the AI will grant Simone’s wish: to shut herself off and leave humanity to chart its own course.
On her journey to The Grail, Simone deals with exploding horses, a secret sisterhood tasked with protecting the Grail, an angry whale, a fake Pope, a bizarre subplot involving sneakers, a charming ex-boyfriend who heads a revolutionary anti-AI terror group, and a diner where the cook puts pineapple in the falafel. At times it feels as if Mrs. Davis is simply throwing things at the screen to dazzle and exhaust the viewer, but if this kind of inventiveness is your jam, you won’t care. I certainly didn’t. ■