myweekxmas16Let it Snow
Tuesday, December 10

Hey, you’re back! Grab yourself a mug of Christmas grog and come join us by the fire. It’s the Second Day of Christmas, and today’s seasonal experience is the CBS special Mr Willowby’s Christmas Tree

Danny


Okay, before we get started, you’ve never seen this one before, so the game for today is to see how long it takes it you to figure out the secret surprise ending.
Kynan


Fair enough. What year was this?
Danny


I think it’s 1995.
Kynan


So it’s Steve as Kermit.
Danny


Yeah, very much so.

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Danny


Don’t get used to him, though, we don’t see much of Kermit in this show.
Kynan


Oh, he’s wearing John Denver’s hat. That must be the Christmas Hat. Should I know the surprise ending yet?
Danny


No, give it a minute. Actually, the first question is, at what point do we start talking about Robert Downey Jr’s drug problem?
Robert “WHERE on earth on this most Christmassy of Christmases can my arboretum arbor vitae BE?”
Danny


Ah. Right away, then.
Kynan


That’s not Mr Willowby, is it?
Danny


Yup. Buckle your seatbelt.

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Robert “The perfect TREE! The perfect TREE! Will FILL the hall so perfectly! Glorioso arbor VITAE, to welcome Christmas DAY! I can hardly wait to SEE such a tree-mendeosiTY! Oh, WHERE now can it BE, the perfect TREE?”
Kynan


Gosh. Why does he talk like that?
Danny


No idea.
Kynan Is it in the script, do you think, or is he just taking regular blow breaks?
Danny


Um. Both?
Kynan


Oh, there’s Kermit again, and puppet mice. This isn’t so bad. What are they doing?
Danny


They’re trying to cut down a Christmas tree.
Kynan


And Kermit just stands by and sort of watches it all happen?
Danny


Yeah, he’s just there in case there’s a Christmas emergency.
Kynan


So the lumberjacks have cut down the tree with the mice in it… The butler’s cleaning up after Willowby… The mouse mother was cooking… Everybody’s doing chores in this show.
Danny


Yeah, I feel like maybe we came by at the wrong time. Should we come back later, when they’re ready for company?
Kynan


You know, there’s something about Jon Stone as a director — and don’t print this, because I really do respect him… He was very good with the characters, and the whole Muppet sensibility, but he isn’t actually a very good director. He’s more in the point and shoot kind of area.
Danny


Ha. I shouldn’t print that because you don’t want to upset him?
Kynan


No, he’s dead.
Danny


Oh. Then I’m putting it in. It is static, isn’t it. Jon picks one camera angle and then really commits to it.
Kynan


No matter where the actors stand!
Robert “Look, look, Baxter, look up! My tree, my tree! My bo-mongous visitation of Christmastide! It — it’s too tall! Baxter… what will we do?”
Leslie Nielsen “Well, sir…”
Robert “Ah, I see. You would carve a hole in the roof, ah? Oh, what a categorical impartation of absolute smartitude! Oh, no, no. You would rather drill a pit in the parquet. Ah, that would certainly display a pontitudinal abundance of cleverosity.”
Kynan


It’s mesmerising. Does the surprise ending have anything to do with killing Mr Willowby?
Danny


I know, it makes you wish that writers needed a license before operating a thesaurus. Still, it takes your mind off Leslie Nielsen.
Kynan


He’s genuinely terrible, Leslie, isn’t he… Look, he’s peeking at the camera, bless his little mugging heart.
Danny


Instead of acting.
Kynan


Yes. Well, to be fair, he’s spent the last two decades polishing his wooden delivery.

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Danny


Oh, wait, here they’re saying that Stockard Channing never comes downstairs from the attic for Christmas, so Leslie’s bringing the top of the Christmas tree up to her room.
Kynan


Ah. Right. Did they say why?
Danny


Yeah, we talked over it. I don’t think it matters much.
Kynan


No, not for Stockard, no. Kermit’s doing the narration here.
Danny


Yeah, I thought the point of not using Kermit was that they were afraid people wouldn’t accept Steve as the new voice. So now instead of using the puppet, they’re having him do a voiceover. What sense does that make?
Kynan


Speaking of voices, Stockard’s got an interesting accent here.
Danny


Yeah, I think it’s kind of a Scotch-Yiddish-Hungarian thing, which is very tricky to pull off. Where does this story take place?
Kynan


Well, Mr Willowby’s clearly an American… so he’s got an English-Canadian butler, and he keeps his Albanian maid in the attic.
Danny


Right. Well, you would.
Kynan


Her place of origin actually varies from one line of dialogue to the next, which must be a paperwork nightmare.
Danny


She sings nice, though. She’s got kind of an East Indian Julie Andrews thing going on here.
Kynan


She’s really decked out that tiny room. You’d think if she was that into Christmas, she’d go downstairs where the rest of the decorations are.
Leslie … My word! There’s a lot of candles.
Stockard In Sveden, we light candles to celebrate the return of daylight after the long darkness of vinter.
Kynan


Oh, so she’s meant to be Swedish, apparently. The Transylvanian region of Sweden.
Danny


Actually, I think she’s from a Star Wars planet. Look at her, she’s a lunatic. Now she’s draping Leslie with tablecloths and candles. I think she and Robert have the same dealer. Then the mice fall out of the tree…
Leslie Oh. A mouse. Here in Willowby Manor. I will not put up with this. That, we must dispose of this, this, this rodent, immediately.
Stockard Meester Bexter, it’s Christmas!
Leslie That’s no excuse for bad housekeeping!
Stockard Now, now, Meester Bexter… surely we could worry about housekeeping another day!
Leslie As you wish, madam.
Stockard Hmm.
Kynan


Now, you’d think that if you were playing a butler, and the script called for you to find a mouse in the attic, it wouldn’t be this hard for you to find your motivation.
Danny


And then she puts the mouse back down, because nothing says Merry Christmas like locking yourself in a rodent-infested attic.
Kynan


Surely basic standards of hygiene come before your sort of weird Scandinavian rat fetish.
Danny


You’d think the boss would have something to say about that little executive decision.
Kynan


Yes, but he’d take three hours to decide what he thought about it, and then you still wouldn’t understand what he’s saying.

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Danny


And then they cut the top part of Stockard’s tree off, and push it out the window… one of the other servants will collect it later, I guess.
Kynan


Yes, if it doesn’t fall on them. Pity they didn’t check first.
Danny


And the bears grab the tree and bring it to their cave… Have you figured out the ending yet?
Kynan


No. Bears don’t talk, do they? Mice talk, but bears don’t.
Danny


They sort of mumble, and then they light candles and dance around in circles.
Kynan


Well, part of why I haven’t guessed the secret surprise ending is because very little of the dialogue is delivered in English, and the part that is is either gibberish, or delivered in so many accents at once that I can’t understand it.
Danny


Try not to look directly at the bears while they dance. It’s too painful.
Kynan


No, I’ll cut a hole in a piece of cardboard and look through that, like you do with eclipses.
Danny


Then the bears cut off the top of their tree, and the owls take it…
Kynan


And now back to Mr Willowby and his demented housekeeping staff. I’m also having a hard time with the ending because I can’t figure out which bit is the part with a story in it.
Danny


Look, Leslie’s standing out in the snow staring up at Stockard’s window. That’s character development.
Kynan


… Because he wasn’t staring at her window before, right. And now he is. Yes.

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Kynan


Pretty set for the owls here. Well, it’s lit well, so it’s an improvement over the bear cave at least.
Danny


Owls celebrate Christmas by playing synth music on icicles, did you know that?
Kynan


Hmm. Apparently the owl is not only a dramatic threat here, but he’s also a really annoying musician. This is the Philip Glass of owls here.
Danny


Yeah. Well, eating the main characters, chewing them up and spitting out their bones is one thing, but playing repetitive ethereal mood music is quite another.
Kynan


So now they cut off the top part of that tree, and the mouse family takes it home. Wait, is that it? That’s the happy ending?
Danny


Yup. It’s all about math, really. The whole story is about how if you take a cone you can keep cutting slices off the top and all those slices are cones. It’s like a geometrical algorithm of merriment.
Kynan


Well, that’s educational. Next year, they’ll try dividing the tree by zero.

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Kermit “Well, it looks like everyone has found their perfect tree, and now it’s time to celebrate! Come, join Mr Willowby’s party!”
Danny


Oh, look, rich people dance just as badly as the bears do. Round and round in circles.
Kynan


Yes, paging Tony Charmoli. I’m nostalgic for some child ballerinas here.
Danny


And here comes Stockard, coming downstairs all decked out for the party.
Kynan


Did we talk over the scene where she decides to come downstairs for the party?
Danny


No, that must be backstory. It’s amazing, Stockard goes from repressed to romantic in 60 seconds.
Kynan


Look at her, she’s a vision of maidetudinal serviositude.
Stockard “Oh, Meester Bexter, where did you learn to dance like this?”
Leslie “Uhhh… madam, have you ever been to Buenos Aires?”
Danny


Yes. I was born there, actually.
Kynan


A number of times.
Danny


Look how happy Mr Willowby is that his domestics are going to breed.
Kynan


Yes, they’ll make a chambermaid, and little bellhops.
Danny


You can’t get good help these days, unless you make them yourself.
Kynan


Cuts down on the import taxes.

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Danny


And there’s Kermit again, signing off our broadcast day.
Kermit “However you celebrate it, may this be a perfect holiday for you and all you love.”
Kynan


We love you, Kermit! Come be in our Christmas special!
Danny


Yeah, wouldn’t this have been great if Kermit was actually in it?
Kynan


Well, that would apply to Emmet Otter and The Christmas Toy too. You can’t hold that against it.
Danny


No, you can, because the other specials fill up the time between Kermit scenes with a plot and characters.
Kynan


Yes. They’re very passive in this, aren’t they. Mr Willowby just stands back and dances around while nothing happens around him. The mice just hang on to the top of the tree the whole time. The butler peeps through Stockard’s window and doesn’t notice when snow falls on him. The only really active character is Stockard, and all she does is put on a dress and come downstairs.
Danny


Well, what did this show teach us about Christmas?
Kynan


Nothing. But that’s the message.
Danny


Yeah, just stand around and everything will work itself out.
Kynan


Also, if people come and steal your things, then it’s okay because you’ve already got a great big heap of things.
Danny


And if you plea bargain, your lawyer can probably get your sentence reduced.
Kynan


Yes. I suspect this was Robert’s community service, actually.
Danny


Okay, I have one last question.
Kynan


Show me something good! Show me Elmo’s World!
Danny


No, I’m saving that for later. My question is: The John Denver special made us want to hug it and ignore it in alternating scenes…
Kynan


Right.
Danny


What does this special make you want to do?
Kynan


I want to cut it into progressively smaller and smaller pieces and then throw it out the window so the animals can have it.
Danny


Yeah. Me too.

myweekxmas24by Danny Horn and Kynan Barker

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