TV REVIEWS : Muppets Come to Life in ‘Toys’

Muppets: 10. Magic: 0. “The Secret Life of Toys,” the latest television series from Jim Henson Productions, beginning at 8:30 this morning on the Disney Channel, isn’t short on Muppet variety. It is short on the kind of wit and artistry that have infused other Muppet endeavors, most notably “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show.”

Imagining that toys can come to life when their owners’ backs are turned is a favorite childhood fantasy. Judging from the first two frenetic, 12-minute episodes of this series, however, the “secret life” of toys is primarily a near-hysterical fear of discovery.

In the first episode, “Oops!,” the toys’ owners, a young girl and boy, have set up an elaborate, rope-and-box trick that will shower their cousin with plastic spiders when he opens the door. When they leave the playroom, a sneeze from hobby horse Hortense dismantles the trap and the toys scramble to put it back in place.

In the second episode, “Don’t Tell Me,” Rugby Tiger gets himself locked outside the playroom, while the other toys frantically try to get him back inside before the children return.

Each show comes with heavy-handed messages about cooperation, self-esteem, etc., while Hortense has moaning anxiety attacks and Rugby’s carelessness and reluctance to listen exacerbate the crisis. This is not the stuff of dreams. Not happy ones, that is.