“If It’s Not Broken, Do Not Fix It” has long been The Jim Henson Company’s modus operandi, and the second season of Apple TV + shows Helpers is a living proof that the strategy works.
The educational show, created by Odd Squad and Adventure Time author Timothy McKeon, with music by longtime collaborator Paul Buckley, is long on charm and stellar power and short on filler.
Season two off Helpers, which arrived at Apple TV + on Friday, is probably exactly what your kids need while you finally get to wash. And you will also laugh at guest stars and the occasional elegant joke.
Helpers season 2 review
I jumped on board Cult of Mac just in time to miss the boat in reviewing many Apple TV + kids shows. I narrowly missed the premiere of the Zoom style Fraggle Rock modernize, the comic book Snoopy in Space, and the first seasons of Ghostwriter and Helpers.
It was a shame, because I̵
It’s hard not to imagine him approving Helpers, a show that is so tiled that it’s hard to do other than surrender to its charm. The show follows four monsters (all beautiful Henson mannequins) who love to help the people in their neighborhood.
In the second season, people who come to Helpsters – who need help with everything from directions to a small business plan – include people like Gabby Douglas to the legendary action star Danny Trejo. (The episode Trejo appears in is not just a standout Helpers episode. It is one of the finest TV shows of all 2020.)
It’s a hefty show, and it’s also relentlessly good-natured. And it seems designed to teach children to be patient and encouraging with each other’s ideas and shortcomings.
Guest star report
The fun of watching a children’s show in 2020, at a time when irony completely crumbled the walls between a stunt and a sincere statement of admiration for someone’s work, imagines who producers think both children and parents will like.
To HelpersThe guest stars control the spectrum from recently canceled likes of Talib Kweli and Terry Crews, who have decent performances. (Crews is as wonderful an entertainment for kids as he is a terrible social media presence.)
But the commas also include “remember me?” MOTHER stylings by Ingrid Michaelson and Jason Mraz. Comedians Michelle Buteau and Moujan Zolfaghari, as well as other instant names like Larry Owens and Greta Lee, all make fun and entertaining shows for themselves.
The real memorable are appearances in left field like Trejo as Cookie Cornelius (!), A man who loves two things: denim jackets and cookies. His episode bursts with zest for life, and a late episode appearance by his friend Dancer Damien (played by none other than the legendary dancer Savion Glover) puts the perfect button on the segment. That’s the kind of absurdity I want from children’s television.
Something for the whole family
John Lutz and Judah Friedlander from 30 Rock both made amazing turns as neighborhood traders. And Chris Meloni, a man built for drama but born for comedy, appears as a detective who is not very good at the game Pictionary. The screen gem Michael McKean even plays a short role as a bike shop owner. And Michael Ian Black plays a sailor as hammily as you expect of him.
With fantastic puppet designers, and cute but not clever performances from the puppet and human cast, Helpers is very much of a piece with Sesame gate, the other Henson founder. But Helpers is at its own wavelength just enough to stand out. If I have one complaint, it’s that the show only seems to have four songs. They get old after seven episodes.
Helpers on Apple TV +
Watch: Apple TV + (subscription required)
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, film commentary, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.