Another Jim Henson Company project is making Disney+ its interplanetary home as the streaming service’s first original talk show with “Earth to Ned.”
Beaming onto the platform starting Sept. 4, “Earth to Ned” is a late-night talk show hosted by alien commander Ned and his lieutenant Cornelius, who call off their invasion of Earth after falling in love with human culture. With the help of B.E.T.I., the ship’s artificial intelligence, delightful and goblin-esque creatures called CLODs (Cloned Living Organisms of Destruction), Ned interviews Earth’s celebrities about all sorts of pop culture topics, from Star Wars to horror films – all while keeping his show a secret from “Admiral Daddy,” Ned’s father who leads the Galactic Fleet.
For this review, I had the chance to watch five of the 10 episodes of the show’s first season. I expected something akin in tone to “Muppets Now;” a family-friendly late-night adjacent for the streaming set. What I got, however, was a slightly edgy experience that was indeed family-friendly, but felt somewhat tuned more toward an adult audience.
With name drops to very grown-up films like “The Shining” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” in “Night of the Living Ned,” to the strange flirtation (?) between BB-8 and B.E.T.I. in “I’ve Got a Ned Feeling About This,” this show doesn’t shy away from cultural references that adults will immediately understand while still being approachable and appropriate for kids.
Each episode runs about 23 minutes in length, and features your standard late-night talk show formatting: a cold open, two celebrity interview segments, a field report from Cornelius, and a closing “Invasion Report” from Ned to the Admiral, where he relays the latest “updates” in his mission to conquer Earth.
From a visual standpoint, Ned is a massive puppet, yet moves with a fluidity and personality that makes you almost forget he’s not real. Cornelius is perfect as a talk show sidekick, and the CLODs are hideous, strange and somehow entirely charming. A segment featuring these little creatures in the Star Wars-themed episode in particular made me fall in love with them (and make plans to buy any and all CLOD plushes should they ever get made).
Overall, I found this talk show to be a refreshing new offering for Disney+. As a longtime Muppet fan and fan of puppet-based comedy in general, I love seeing this art form geared toward a more grown-up viewership, even if it is subtle. “Earth to Ned” never assumes the age of its audience, and instead shares an enraptured, (very) wide-eyed look at human culture through the lens of an extra-terrestrial viewers of all ages can all relate to.
“Earth to Ned” premieres this Friday, Sept. 4 on Disney+. Check out the trailer for the show below: