by Nick L’Barrow
Following in the strides of Disney’s revival of The Muppets with Muppets Now, the Jim Henson Company have gone all out to create new characters, new puppets and new laughs in the latest Disney+ show, Earth to Ned.
Ned, and his lieutenant Cornelius, are aliens on a mission to destroy all the planets in their wake with their giant space-warship. However, upon reaching Earth, Ned falls in love with our celebrities and pop culture so much that he just can’t bring himself to blow the planet up. Instead, he converts his warship into a talk show set and beams up various celebrities (against their will) in order to fulfill his new dream of being a late-night host.
Absurdity is what the Jim Henson crew do best, and Earth to Ned is no exception to this. The parody of the late-night talk show is what propels most of the humour, hammering home the idea of how silly those shows be. The show is full of games that don’t make sense, awkward banter between the guests and hosts, and occasional random skits and sketches. Also like many late -night shows, the jokes are quite hit or miss.
Ned is intentionally supposed to be quite the oblivious character, learning the ways of Earth through pop-culture (and not always getting it). After a few episodes, the schtick did become slightly tiresome and a touch on the annoying side. It was then that the focus shifted to his co-host and fellow alien, Cornelius, who is a more wholesome and witty character. As the show went on, more of the jokes that came from Cornelius were funnier than Ned’s, unfortunately they were few and far between.
Also like many late-night shows, the guests can be just as hit or miss as the host and jokes. Earth to Ned has a pretty eclectic line up. No one is on the show to promote anything, which is what the primary reason celebrities do these gigs in the first place, which opens up a great opportunity to get on different guests. The guests include Andy Richter, Gillan Jacobs, Kristen Schall, Paul Scheer, Reggie Watts, Eli Roth, Lil Rel Howrey and more. While no guest is particularly bad, aside from a very enjoyable interview with Andy Richter (who was the first guest on the show), no one really stood out as overly entertaining.
This is a crazy premise in which Disney have really been able to capitalise on utilising their own properties (i.e. a whole episode dedicated to Ned finding out about and falling in love with Star Wars, in which he then proceeds to abduct Billy Dee Williams and use BB-8 to fix his ship) to remind it’s audience that all these cool things you are seeing are also available on this exact streaming platform you’re on right now. That does sound a little cynical of a criticism, but it’s almost too obvious in some points of the show. However, the obviousness will most like go straight over the heads of its younger target audience.
Except one episode in particular… episode 4. This is a “horror” themed episode in which horror director Eli Roth is beamed on to the ship to discuss horror films… on a talk show aimed at children. He describes the plot to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in reasonably descriptive details (cutting up body parts and all) and also recommends that Ned should watch The Shining. Without taking too much of a moral high-ground, I don’t feel like those are really movies kids would love to be exposed to, or parents have questions asked by their kids about. Episode 4 was wack.
Even with its decently absurd, but mainly sporadic humour littered throughout, Earth to Ned doesn’t always hit the mark of a good late-night show parody. But it is silly enough that the younger viewers may get a kick out of it.
Season 1 of Earth To Ned is now streaming on Disney +