Part One Part Two Part Four

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Danny
Well, here we go. A warm-hearted Christmas special, straight from Jerry Juhl’s pen to our Muppet fan hearts. I’d like to start by dedicating this piece to Jerry.

Kynan
Really? This piece, where we watch one of his specials, and make weird jokes about it?

Danny
Sure, yeah. You think he’d want it any other way?

Kynan
You’re right. To Jerry.

Danny
To Jerry.

Danny
So I think this opening is the moment when Muppet fans officially started to obsess over every single Muppet Show character. Look at this, it’s ridiculous. Shot #1: Truck driving through snow. Shot #2: Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Camilla and Animal. Shot #3. Lips and Rizzo.

Kynan
I know.

Danny
Lips and Rizzo! In the first twenty seconds!

Kynan
Yeah, this is like a love letter to Muppet fans. And a windfall to Additional Performers, too. By this point in Muppet history, Jim had essentially created an industry — and in this show, he’s employing everybody in it.

Danny
And then, look, Shot #4: Floyd, Robin, Lew Zealand and Marvin Suggs. They’re essentially announcing that this is the most fanwanky hour of television that you’ll ever see. So from this point on, every time there’s another Muppet production, we have to listen to people on the message boards complain: Where’s Zoot? Where’s Beauregard? Where’s Marvin freakin’ Suggs?

Kynan
And why aren’t their action figures fully articulated?


Danny
Hey, Rizzo’s in the back with the other rats, too. He’s bilocating!

Kynan
Is that definitely Rizzo? I don’t want to be speciesist, but all those rats look alike to me.

Danny
Ooh, and they’re all wearing hats and scarves. You can’t beat Muppet specials for the adorable outerwear.


Danny
And then there’s some great comedy with Ma Bear planning to leave for Christmas in Malibu. The writing is very tight on this.

Kynan
Well, Jerry’s at the peak of his powers here, and he knows these characters inside out. This special is like Jerry Juhl’s greatest hits concert — and Ma Bear is a new song he’s sprinkling in along with all his classic hits.

Danny
That’s true. They should be selling thirty-dollar T-shirts in the lobby.

Kynan
I love all the details in Ma’s house. It looks like every grandmother’s house I’ve ever seen — but all the framed photos are of teddy bears.

Danny
And then there’s a knock at the door, and it’s Doc and Sprocket!

Doc: “No, Sprocket, I didn’t know we were renting from a bear.”

Kynan
Huh, now look who’s being speciesist.

Danny
And look at Sprockie slipping on the icy patch! This is giving Berry Bear a run for its money in the adorableness-per-second foot race.

Ma: “Son!”
Fozzie: “Ma!”
Both: “Aaaa-aaaaaaaahhhh!”

Kynan
An old family greeting — such a subtle touch, but it’s all the backstory we need. I know this is just a spare Fozzie puppet with a wig on, but Emily Bear is so real. She never seems like Fozzie in drag. Not that Fozzie in drag wouldn’t be funny.

Danny
“Careful of the icy patch!” Oh, that’s just wonderful, everybody slipping as they come through the door. This whole piece must just be me gushing.

Kynan
Me too. This show is very awww-inspiring.

Kynan
Sprocket barking at Animal: The first moment when two main characters from different shows interact. The Fanwankiness Meter just went up.

Doc: “Tell me, Sprocket. Are these like those Fraggles you’ve been telling me about?”

Danny
Wait, doesn’t Doc know about the Fraggles yet? Where are we in the Fraggle continuity? Is this Earth-2, where Doc doesn’t meet the Fraggles until 1991? Do I qualify for a pocket protector yet?

Animal (answering the phone): “Hello hello hello! Gimme presents!”

Danny
And there’s the first moment of Christmas greed.

Kynan
Unless you count the part where the Muppets waltzed in and stole the house from Doc. This whole special is basically an unfriendly occupation.

Danny
They seem pretty friendly to me.

Danny
I love the photo session with Miss Piggy. This special actually takes her seriously as a superstar, which is great to see.

Kynan
I disagree. I mean, this scene works fine, but I actually think one of Piggy’s great ironies is that she’s never been as famous as she thinks she is. Being a diva when you’re not a star is funny. Being a diva when you’ve got your own limo driver verges on annoying.

Danny
Yeah, but I think they can go too far in the other direction, like in Muppets From Space, where she’s just a total loser. I like it when she can use her diva powers. Oh, and look at Kermit being sad that Piggy’s not there yet. They’re taking the Kermit/Piggy relationship seriously, too. Oh, this is the best the Muppets ever were. I’m doing it again, aren’t I? The gushing thing.

Danny
And then the Swedish Chef invites a live turkey to show up so he can be cooked, and Gonzo tries to warn the turkey to leave. It’s always strange when the Muppets talk about eating animals; it makes you realize that the show takes place in a universe where everything talks. Even the vegetables talk. How could you ever eat anything? They must live on jellybeans or something.

Kynan
Don’t eat the Muppet jellybeans! Noooo! Not Purple Paul!

Danny
I like that the turkey is an asshole, so you kind of hopehe gets cooked.

Kynan
I never noticed this before: When the Chef is complaining about the rats in the kitchen, one of the rats is stealing a live chicken. For what purpose, I can only speculate.

Danny
Oh, Robin has a little red hoodie on. And it looks like it’s double-stick taped to his chest, like Jennifer Lopez at the Oscars.

Kynan
And right in the middle of the conversation, he just up and starts singing. Robin has a much higher rate of Sudden Onset Musicality than any other Muppet. Kermit’s nice enough to sing along with him, but I think they should give the kid some kind of test.

Danny
The Electric Mayhem have set up a performance space in the living room, and they’re rocking out, even though the only people watching are Beaker and about six rats. Why don’t I have Christmas parties like this?

Danny
Rowlf and Sprocket talking dog to each other is another fabulous moment, and then Rowlf goes over to the out of tune piano and starts to play.

Kynan
Hey, no he doesn’t! I’m watching the Kermitless Emmet Otter version of the special. Curse you, 2001 DVD release, curse you!

Danny
Oh, sorry.

Kynan
You go ahead and watch Rowlf play the piano. I’ll catch up later.

Danny
It’s lovely, though. This special is just packed with awesome things. There’s so much to do that they didn’t have any time for the boring bits. This is what the John Denver special could have been, if they’d worked harder on the script.

Kynan
And if, you know. John Denver.


Danny
Fozzie builds a snowman, and it comes to life. Gosh, you really have to watch what you do in the Muppet world. You could create new life forms without even knowing it!

Kynan
Not on my DVD you couldn’t. Razzafrazzin.

Danny
Fozzie’s lucky he’s in a Christmas special, so the snowman turns out to be nice. If this was Halloween, it would probably try to stab everyone with icicles.

Kynan
If only our outreach program had the funding to connect with more evil snowmen, we could prevent so much icicle-based carnage.

Danny
And there’s the woodland animals, and the penguins… Are there any puppets they didn’t use in this special?

Kynan
Is that meant to be rhetorical, or are you setting me up for my own pocket protector moment? Because, Sweetums!

Danny
Fozzie slips on the icy patch… That gets funnier every time. I hope they never put rock salt on that.

Doc: “I don’t care if the turkey says the dog is the turkey. The dog is not the turkey. The turkey’s the turkey… you turkey!”

Danny
Man, Gerry Parkes really holds his own as the only human in the show. You know, it just occurred to me two seconds ago to check his IMDB listing. He’s done a lot since Fraggle Rock; I had no idea. He was in two movies last year. I gotta start renting Gerry Parkes movies; I wonder if he’s still adorable like this.

Kynan
What I love about him — apart from, you know, the warmth and the timing and the chemistry — is that he’s obviously one of those guys who’s always been old, like George Burns or Andy Rooney.

Danny
So here’s another hugely fanwanky moment: Scooter showing the Muppet Babies home movie. In The Muppets Take Manhattan, the Babies are just in Piggy’s imagination, but now here they are: backstory. Which contradicts a whole bunch of other stuff. Which who cares about.

Kynan
Right.

Danny
Hey, I think they had to build a Baby Animal puppet for this; he wasn’t in the movie. Damn, I’m being such a geek right now. This special just does that to you, it’s designed to hit all your geek buttons.

Kynan
Unless copyright lawyers have invaded your home and deleted almost the entire Muppet Babies scene from your DVD.

Danny
Hey, look at Camilla getting seduced by the turkey. And she gets jealous when Gonzo flirts with other chickens! Chickens are such tramps. Talk about being ready to lay.

Kynan
Try not to brood on it.

Danny
And then the entire Sesame Street cast shows up as carolers.

Kynan
Narrowly averting a Turkey/Weirdo smackdown. Sesame Street promotes peace on Earth, if only by distraction.

Danny
But again, Bert and Ernie showing up singing harmonies: Never happens at my Christmas parties.

Kynan
Check it out: Herry Monster and Guy Smiley get solos, and Elmo doesn’t. This is what life was like before the Tickle Me Era. Elmo looks so innocent, just a part of the chorus, but he’s just biding his time. He’ll own Christmas someday.

Ernie: “Hi there! We’re Ernie and Bert!”
Doc: “Well, hi there yourself. I’m Doc.”
Bert: “Oh! Did you know that Doc starts with the letter D?”
Doc: “Why… yes.”
Ernie: “Yes! Yes starts with the letter Y!”
Doc: “… True.”
Ernie: “And true starts with the letter T!”
Doc: “Hey, what is this?”
Bert: “Where we come from, this is small talk.”
Doc: “Heh heh. Whatever you say. Well, it’s nice to meet you, but I’ve gotta go and build some bunk beds!”
Ernie and Bert: “Bunk beds!”
Ernie: “B words.”

Danny
So that’s the moment, I think, when Doc just gives up on the real world and becomes part of the Muppet reality. “Whatever you say!” He accepts everything now.

Kynan
I’unno, I think he gave up on the real world quite a while ago, judging by the haircut.

Danny
Fans have been talking endlessly about this special since it aired, so it’s hard to find moments to talk about that haven’t already been picked over a million times. But I think I just found one: the Swedish Chef hitting the turkey in the face with celery. That’s a great moment, and I don’t think anybody’s ever commented on that before. I claim that one; I’m going to go change my internet handle to SwedishChefHitsTurkeyWithCelery.

Kynan
The turkey tells the Chef to go cook Big Bird, which is amazing. This special doesn’t have a lot of plot; it’s mostly just the Muppets hanging out in a farmhouse. It’s cool that one of the only plot threads is about the Swedish Chef plotting to murder a beloved children’s TV character.

Ernie: “Hey, everybody, it’s time to rehearse our Sesame Street Pageant!”

Danny
Well, actually, it’s a little late for rehearsal; the audience is here already. Whoever made the rehearsal schedule must have taught the Blue House critters how to plan their Christmas shopping.

Kynan
I guess it makes sense, plot-wise, for everything to happen on Christmas Eve. If they played in real time, these specials would have to start in October. “C’mon, everybody, it’s time to start painting props for our Sesame Street Pageant!”

Danny
Everybody gets perfect little character moments. Grover plays the cute little mouse, and Ernie makes Bert play Mama…

Kynan
You ever think that sometimes, when nobody’s watching, Ernie makes Bert “play Mama”?

Danny
Piggy wasted her time at the photo session and shopping for presents, so now she has to come to the farmhouse in the blizzard. Kermit tells her it’s too dangerous to travel, but she says nonsense — she couldn’t miss Christmas Eve with her froggie. And then she walks out into the storm to hail a taxi. That’s great Piggy material — selfish, but fearless.

Kynan
Looking back on it, what I really appreciate is that it’s a Piggy subplot for its own sake — it’s not some post 1992 ruse to hide the fact that Frank isn’t there anymore.

Kermit: “Who’s your partner?”
Fozzie: “A snowman.”
Kermit: “The heck you say.”

Kynan
I miss this aspect of Kermit. Jim had a certain way with moments like this, where his old showbiz Jimmy Dean Show training came to the fore, and Kermit would just sprout with something incongruously old-fashioned, but perfect.

Fozzie: “You’re coming in a snowman, but going out a star!”

Kynan
Or, more likely, a puddle of water.

Danny
Fozzie and the Snowman try to perform, but Statler and Waldorf heckle them. That snowman is only about an hour old, and already his dreams have been crushed. Merry Christmas, everybody!

Kynan
Of course, this is the kind of relentless psychological abuse that so often leads snowmen to kill.

Danny
Then Kermit and Robin stand at the window and worry about Miss Piggy, and that’s the commercial break. Piggy’s stuck in a blizzard, Fozzie’s partner is melting, the Swedish Chef is planning to cook Big Bird, and Camilla is having an affair with a turkey. They better figure out a way to turn this around, or it’s gonna be one depressing Christmas this year.

Kynan
I don’t think it can be done. See you tomorrow for round two!

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Part One Part Two Part Four

by Danny Horn

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