Part One Part Two Part Three

Danny
Look at Big Bird, asking the Swedish Chef about what he’s serving for Christmas dinner… This is like Silence of the Muppet Lambs.

Kynan
“I tried to eat his liver with a nice Chianti and some fava beans, Clarice, but then the liver started singing, and I couldn’t go through with it.”

Danny
Big Bird gives a thoughtful present and sings “Chestnuts On an Open Fire”, which makes the Chef rethink roasting him.

Kynan
This is one of Jim’s funniest performances. And Big Bird doesn’t bat an eyelid while the Chef mangles this sweet song — it’s laugh-out-loud funny and poignant at the same time.

Danny
By the way, that’s an interesting strategy for talking your way out of getting killed. The FBI should have Big Bird on staff to help with hostage negotiations.

Kynan
The Chef ends up preparing shredded wheat and cranberry sauce, which is terrific until the cranberries start singing “Silent Night”.


Danny
Miss Piggy’s taxi is stuck in a snowbank, and she’s determined to make it to the farmhouse, so she tries to push it. This is why I love Piggy; she’ll do anything.

Kynan
And they’ll do anything to that puppet for a laugh — that is one filthy, mud-spattered pig.

Danny
And that’s why I think it works when Piggy is famous. You never see her just being a diva for diva’s sake. Being a diva is always the setup for a comeuppance; it’s the pride before a fall. Being a coffee girl on UFOMania or an extra on Scrubs doesn’t allow for any depth; that just makes her a deluded loser. This is perfect Piggy — a famous actress and model, reduced to pushing her taxi through the snow. And then the extra turn, the thing that makes her work, is that she doesn’t just stand there and whine like a real supermodel would. She gets in there and pushes that taxi, because she’s fierce and strong and determined.

Kynan
You’re not going to let us go on until I agree with you.

Danny
No, I’m not. Miss Piggy is my role model.

Kynan
Yeah, I can see that.

Danny
Robin finds a Fraggle hole in the basement, which makes you wonder what he was doing down there in the first place.

Kynan
I bet he was with Jerry Nelson, taking a nap.

Robin: “Is that a Fraggle hole?”
Kermit: “Ooh, look at that. Well, it certainly looks like one.”

Kynan
Yeah, it certainly does. What else could it be?

Danny
Man, I’m still jealous. The holes in my basement don’t lead anywhere interesting. How about you?

Kynan
I’m in the southern hemisphere. All the holes in my basement are in the ceiling.

Boober: “Frogs are probably noted germ-carriers.”

Kynan
That’s good quality Boober. You can tell just from this one perfect Fraggle scene that Jerry Juhl misses these characters. He makes sure that each of them gets a little character moment. It’s like getting the band back together.

Danny
Plus, they’ve got cute winterwear! Look at Wembley’s earmuffs. If you’re doing all the Jerry shout-outs, then I’m doing one for Polly Smith, the costume designer. She did Muppet Christmas Carol too, so she pretty much wrote the book on Muppets in little scarves.

Kermit: “We just came down here to wish you all a Merry Christmas!”
Boober: “Oh, thank you!”
Mokey: “That’s very nice.”
Wembley: “Uh… what’s Christmas?”

Danny
Oh, man, now we’ve gotta get Bear down here to explain Christmas! We could be here all night.

Kynan
Hey, I want to point out one of the subtleties I notice when different species of Muppets interact. Jerry Nelson’s Robin voice is just a little bit more boyish here, and his Gobo is ever-so-slightly extra Gobo. He’s emphasizing the differences between the characters, which I think is really cool. I notice Jim doing the same thing with Ernie when Kermit’s around. It’s probably totally subconscious — it’s like the two characters are marking their territory.

Danny
The Fraggles say that they have a winter holiday time, but they don’t say what it’s called. I wonder if they celebrate Kwanzaa?

Kynan
No, it’s the Festival of the Bells, remember? It’s a whole other made-up holiday.

Danny
Man, there’s a lot of those going around. Now Boober gives Robin a shiny yellow pebble, which seems like a very economical way to celebrate the holidays. Guess what you’re getting this year!

Kynan
I’ll only accept that if you hot glue it to an old bucket.

Danny
Miss Piggy’s entrance — in that outfit, on the dog sled, singing “Home for the Holidays” — that’s one of the all-time magical Muppet moments. All of the characters on the porch singing the chorus, and then she slips on the icy patch… They make it look so easy.

Kynan
It’s even better in my imagination, which is just as well, since that song isn’t on my DVD.

Fozzie: “See, Mom? I told you it would be easy.”
Ma: “They’re weirdos, Fozzie!”
Fozzie: “Yeah?”
Ma: “But… they’re nice weirdos.”

Danny
And that’s about as good a summary of the Muppets as you’re ever going to get.

Kynan
Ditto Muppet fans. And, in all probability, it’s how Juhl and Henson felt about themselves, too.

Danny
This special is pretty much the moment when you can say that the Muppets were perfect, just as good as they were ever going to be. So it doesn’t matter that this is just a big fanwanky pat on the back where the characters all sit around and talk about how great they are. They really are that great; they’ve earned this victory lap.

Kynan
And there really are a lot of characters aren’t there? In one shot: Fozzie Bear, Bunsen Honeydew, Grover, Scooter, Beauregard, Elmo, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Marvin Suggs, the Two Headed Monster, Statler and Waldorf… This team has spent decades creating adorable characters, and now they’re spreading them all out in front of you, to sing Christmas songs for you.

Danny
And there in the back, look — it’s Doc, just sitting there smack in the middle, not singing. Which is a shame, because there’s only one thing on this earth that could make this scene any better, and it would be Doc busting out with a song. But we can live without it.

Danny
And now the Fraggles hear the music, and come looking — that’s how you catch a Fraggle, by the way, you just sing a cute song. Fraggles can’t resist that kind of crap.

Kynan
Even Travelling Matt shows up, completely out of nowhere. What a pro.

Danny
And look! Doc is singing now! Oh, and he’s terrible! He really can’t sing worth a lick, and he looks really uncomfortable, but there he is, taking his verse. My already astronomical level of respect for Gerry Parkes just went up a notch.

Kynan
He can’t look at the camera, so he’s looking to Sprocket for security. That says a hell of a lot about the guy — he’s not comfortable with his own singing, and his security blanket is the puppet dog. Bless his heart.

Danny
You know, ever since I’ve had my own home and my own Christmas tree, I’ve been buying Muppet ornaments like crazy and just throwing them at the tree. They come out with new ones every year, so by now, I have so many that there’s practically no room on the tree for any more. And I think subconsciously what I’m trying to do is recreate this scene in my house, so I can have a Christmas like this.

Kynan
That’s seriously adorable of you.

Danny
I know, right? You should see me in the little knitted hat and floppy scarf that Polly Smith made for me.

Danny
Kermit and Piggy singing together… They’ve never seemed more like a married couple than in this special. They’re clearly the mom and dad of this family.

Kynan
And Kermit’s wearing the mooooost adorable waistcoat.

Danny
Oh, even the snowman and the penguins are having a happy Christmas outside! And they’re singing the same song that the folks inside are singing. How do they do that?

Kynan
They don’t. Not on my ruthlessly hacked up version.

Danny
Man, those DVD fascists keep trying to spoil Christmas. What gets into some people?

Kynan
Again with the mix of poignancy and silliness — Fozzie and his Ma are singing their everloving hearts out, and Oscar’s right behind them, upstaging the living crap out of them. The Muppets always undercut their own sentimentality with laughs, without compromising on the sincerity.

Danny
And then here’s Robin, using his little-frog voice: “It’s in every one of us… to be wise… find your heart… open up both your eyes…” Man, you can always count on Robin and the little-frog voice to turn any random moment into a heartbreaking event. He could sing today’s specials in that voice, and you’d get a little catch in your throat.

Danny
Phew, the medley’s finally over. It’s awesome, but boy, that’s a long one. That’s how you can tell that they knew they were at the top of their game. You’ve got to be pretty sure of yourself to stick an 8-minute medley into the end of your show.

Kynan
Hey, look who I spotted in the crowd! The Newsman got the night off after all. I guess that means that somewhere in the middle of the night, the reindeer are gonna fall through the ceiling.

Danny
Kermit giving Piggy a live mink, who says she’s Piggy’s biggest fan — that’s a very strange moment. That made me feel strange when I first saw it, and it still does. It’s sort of creepy, and it’s hard to interpret. It’s probably the one misfire in the whole special. Which makes you appreciate how everything else is note-perfect, cause that one clunker makes such a thud.

Kynan
I don’t mind it. It’s actually a comment on the anthropomorphic stuff that we were talking about earlier. Of course Piggy would want a mink coat, and of course Kermit wouldn’t give her a dead mink. So he’s found a compromise. I think it’s a fine gift. Even if it seems to imply that Kermit is trafficking in slaves.

Danny
You see? There’s no way around it. Not funny.

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Danny
Hey, Robin gave Grover the Fraggle pebble. Now Grover has to find an even cuter character to give it to, which is a toughie.

Kynan
If only there was a homeless dog nearby.

Jim: “Well, they certainly seem to be having a good time out there, Sprocket. Yeah, I like it when they have a good time.”

Danny
Me too! I wish they’d have a good time like this every year. We could use more specials like this one.

Kynan
Any more specials like this one, and we’ll lose our reputations as hard-bitten cynics. I can’t believe I cooed over the waistcoat.

Danny
Oh, and now it’s over.

Kynan
Wait, it can’t be over! We haven’t cooed enough yet. Did I say how perfect Ma Bear was? did I point out that this is is Animal’s second-funniest performance ever? Did I state authoritatively that even with several songs chopped out of it, this special is still one of the best things the Muppets ever did?

Danny
I don’t remember. Hey, look, they spelled Gerry Parkes’ name wrong.

Kynan
Jeez. If you love Gerry Parkes so much, why don’t you marry him?

Danny
I’m in. Now we just need to get Gerry on board.

Danny
So that was lovely. What did we learn about Christmas this year?

Kynan
Well, we learned that leaving Christmas until the last minute is okay.

Danny
Which is a good thing, cause I’m not gonna post this last part until Christmas Eve, and I haven’t mailed out your yellow pebble yet.

Kynan
We also learned that in the right hands, small talk, icy patches and conspiracy to commit murder can be very, very funny.

Danny
And we learned that Jerry Juhl was, is and always will be the best.

Kynan
Amen to that.

Danny
Merry Christmas, my friend.

Kynan
Merry Christmas! Now where’s my pebble?

Part One Part Two Part Three

by Danny Horn

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