Here’s something we don’t talk about enough: Bear in the Big Blue House is good. It’s really good. It’s a gentle, comforting show that has adorable and hilarious characters, incredible music, and a cottagecore aesthetic that has me constantly saying “who’s Taylor Swift anyway?”.
And yet, we barely ever talk about this show on ToughPigs. In fact, we really haven’t covered the show in earnest since the early 2000s. In part, this is because Bear in the Big Blue House was basically impossible to watch for years, with few DVD releases and no streaming presence. But that excuse no longer holds water, because Bear in the Big Blue House is now streaming on Disney+! That’s right, almost every episode of this magnificent show is now available to you for the low price of (WHATEVER DISNEY IS CURRENTLY CHARGING FOR DISNEY+ WHEN YOU’RE READING THIS ARTICLE)!
This is wonderful, and especially timely, because this means you can celebrate Christmas this year with a terrific holiday special you’ve probably never seen before: the two-part episode “A Berry Bear Christmas!”
Or you would, if it weren’t for the fact that Disney+ is missing Part 2 of “A Berry Bear Christmas.” Obviously, it’s wonderful that we have so many Bear episodes to choose from, but it’s also very disappointing that this one isn’t available to us. Disney claims that there were no longer usable files for this episode, along with a few others.
I’d love to see this episode on Disney+ someday, but for now, I want to assure you: you absolutely can watch just Part 1 of “A Berry Bear Christmas” and still enjoy it thoroughly. In fact, I feel that Part 1 is so much better than Part 2 that you’re almost better off just watching it alone.
To find the episode on Disney+, it’s season 3, episode 24. You’ll see that it then skips directly to episode 26, making it obvious that there’s a glaring hole in the full series order.
So what do you get in this episode? Well, I don’t want to spoil too much of it, seeing as you should just go watch it. After all, it’s only 25 minutes long and you probably have access to it. However, I’ll say that you’ll get the whole extended cast singing an adorable welcome song. You get the kids (and randomly, a gemsbok?) going nuts over a mall Santa, and Bear discussing a variety of winter holidays. But most importantly, you get Jack the Dog, an old hound dog played by the legendary Dave Goelz.
Jack is a lovely character who looks like a floppy stuffed toy and sounds like Goelz doing a Rowlf impression. Most importantly, though, is that Jack is unhoused, so Bear invites him to stay at the Big Blue House for the holidays. In doing so, Bear teaches his friends about what it means to be houseless, thus helping them realize that there’s more important things at the holidays than just getting presents.
That last part is a common lesson in Christmas specials, but it’s pretty unique that Bear combines this with a lesson about unhoused people. We get to see genuine, selfless charity and kindness to a stranger, the kind that there’s still far too little of in today’s society. So many recent government policies have been about being cruel to unhoused people rather than trying to help them fit back into society and showing compassion. Just about every major city is trying to hurt people like Jack, but of course, Bear would never do that. Not only that, but Bear’s speech on the subject still reads as sensitive and timely, even if his use of the word “homeless” is somewhat outdated.
The episode ends with the beautiful song “Just Listen”; this is the only time Bear and Luna don’t end the episode with the Goodbye Song. It’s a wonderful reminder of Lynne Thigpen’s lovely voice, tragically taken from us far too soon.
Ultimately, Part 1 of this episode tells a full story, albeit with a somewhat ambiguous ending for Jack. It’s surprisingly melancholy for a holiday special, but still loving and kind and hopeful. Honestly, I can’t recommend it enough.
Now, for the second half. Again, it’s not on Disney+, but there are ways to find it (like maybe some kind of Archive for the Internet). What happens in this episode that you’d miss if you only watch Part 1? Well, it’s got the exact same opening. Then, Bear and the kids go caroling and sing kind-of-funny parodies of classic Christmas songs. We learn a little about the ursine tradition of searching for the Winter Berry. Jack teaches the kids about making gifts for each other rather than buying them.
And, if you don’t mind spoilers, here’s the ending. Pip and Pop find the Winter Berry, and wish for a home for Jack. Then, surprise! Jack the Dog moves in with Bear’s friend Doc Hogg, getting the two best Christmas presents of all: a new home and a new boyfriend! OK maybe that last note is me making some assumptions. Whatever.
Ultimately, Part 2 is a lot more generic than Part 1. It’s got more of the vibe of a kids’ holiday special. That’s fine! Bear is for kids, and I’m always happy to spend time with him and his friends. But it’s really convenient that the stronger half of this special, and the one that fully stands on its own, is the one that’s available to stream.
In other words, you should watch “A Berry Bear Christmas” on Disney+, regardless of whether you’re going to seek out the second part. You’ll be glad you did, and glad to have another classic Muppet Christmas special to add to your rotation.
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by Becca Petunia