Tag Archives: christmas 1987

Dec. 21 – A Muppet Family Christmas

Original air date December 16, 1987.

This year we’re celebrating two things at The Christmas Spot. Well, 3 things if you count Christmas by itself, which I suppose you should. Every fifth day, we’re celebrating the best of the best which is why yesterday was A Charlie Brown Christmas. If you read the feature on December 1st for this year, then you also know that I am personally celebrating 35 years of my beloved family heirloom The Christmas Tape. I basically want to cover everything on that tape and the good news is I had already covered most of it going into this year’s countdown. What I had yet to cover was the special Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town which I rectified already. That leaves one other special left: A Muppet Family Christmas.

Oiriginaly broadcast in 1987, my Christmas tape was once a sought after item because of the fact that it contained this unedited broadcast. Future broadcasts were not in primetime and not on broadcast networks so the special was trimmed down to accommodate cable. Subsequent releases of the special on VHS and beyond contained the cable cut, or some stuff was omitted for copyright reasons, I’m not sure. I never actually had to watch them or any rebroadcast because I had the original at my beck and call whenever I wished (provided it was in-season, no watching The Christmas Tape in June, house rule). I did include this special in my original Top 25 Christmas specials, but when I redid those rankings a couple of years ago I actually dropped A Muppet Family Christmas. This puts it in the odd spot of not being in consideration for the every fifth day redo the other specials are getting, but it’s still worthy of a better write-up than the original one I gave it so let’s do that now.

A Muppet Family Christmas was unique at the time because it sought to combine all of the Muppet brands under one umbrella at Christmas. And in 1987, those were primarily the Muppets, Fraggle Rock, and Sesame Street. It aired on ABC and was followed by Julie Andrews’ The Sound of Christmas, a special I will in all likelihood never look at and my parents thankfully did not record it in ’87. The format for this one is nothing special, all of these characters are getting together because it’s Christmas and we have a nice scenic home in the countryside where the holiday can be celebrated. There’s a B plot involving Miss Piggy, and the special does its best to incorporate everyone as best it can. Jim Henson also makes a cameo which gives this one a little added “oomph” given he’s no longer with us and would only be around for a few more years following the broadcast. Let’s not let that get us down though as this musical special wants to make us laugh, and add in a dose of Christmas melancholy, for the next hour.

The Muppet gang has packed up their pickup and is heading out to Fozzie’s childhood home in the country for a good old-fashioned family Christmas!

The special begins with a beat-up pick-up truck driving through a snowstorm. Our driver is Fozzie (Frank Oz) and riding shotgun is Kermit (Jim Henson) with Gonzo (Dave Goelz) seated between them. In the bed of the truck are a whole bunch of characters. Now, I’m a pretty basic Muppets fan and I pretty much only know the heavy hitters by name so I won’t attempt to name everybody, but it sure looks like most everybody is in this truck. And if they’re not, it’s because they’re making their own entrance later. Anyway, the gang is singing “We Need a Little Christmas” as they drive through the snow and I think this is honestly my preferred version of this song (sorry Johnny Mathis), but it also might be the first version of the song I ever heard so that undoubtedly is influencing my opinion.

Fozzie’s mom, Emily, is in for a real surprise that’s going to ruin her holiday vacation. It’s partly her own fault for not sharing with her son her holiday plans.

We get a break in the singing for Fozzie and Kermit to basically set up the special. The whole gang is heading out to the country to surprise Fozzie’s mother for Christmas. She has no idea what’s coming for her. Fozzie assures Kermit this is fine as his mother is likely seated in her farm house all alone and wishing someone would come spend Christmas with her. As he sets the stage, we see a lovely farm house that certainly looks like it’s owned by an old lady. Maybe not a bear, but it has real grandma energy. Fozzie’s mom (Jerry Nelson) comes walking into the scene and she is not some granny looking to sip tea in a rocking chair. She’s carrying a suitcase and sporting some fancy shades as she talks aloud about being bound for Malibu! It seems Fozzie’s mom had found a much more entertaining way to spend the holidays this year. We cut back to the gang in the truck so they can finish their song while also getting a few shots of other occupants of the truck.

Doc clearly has no idea he’s in a Muppets special since he’s expecting a nice, quiet, Christmas.

After our first commercial break, we return to the farm house where Emily “Ma” Bear is looking over her airplane tickets and getting ready for her departure. A ring of the doorbell interrupts her and on the other side waiting for her is…Doc! Doc (Gerry Parks) is here with his trusty, canine, companion (who is a Muppet) Sprocket (Steve Whitmire) and he is apparently renting Emily Bear’s house for Christmas while she’s on vacation. Both he and Sprocket are surprised to find out that Emily Bear is an actual bear, but they seem to pay it no mind. If you’re unaware, Doc is from the Fraggle Rock show and the premise there is Sprocket sees and encounters the Fraggles, but Doc does not.

As the Muppets come storming in most will fall victim to the dreaded icy patch. Emily has a farmer’s porch, so in order for her to have an icy patch there must be a leak in the roof above. She should get that looked at.

As Doc heads upstairs to his room, another ring of the doorbell occurs. This time it’s Fozzie, and Emily is very surprised to see her son, but not disappointed. They do a special greeting and it’s rather sweet as the two embrace. She doesn’t tell him about her vacation, but when she remarks how this is quite the surprise Fozzie lets her know he has an even bigger surprise: he brought all his friends! Since Emily is wearing sunglasses we can’t see how surprised she really is as Kermit and the gang all come barging in. As they do, most, if not all, of them slip on an icy patch she previously warned Doc about who deftly navigated it with little more than a stumble. The various Muppets mostly go head over heels on the thing and it will be a running gag throughout the special.

Doc and Sprocket are going to have to just roll with this.

As the crew comes pouring in, Emily tries to mask her disappointment at this development so as to spare her son’s feelings. Doc is not so concerned and he calls from atop the stairs asking if she remembers him, the guy who wanted a nice, quiet, Christmas? He’s going to say that a lot. All Emily can do is shrug, a gesture indicating she’s just rolling with it, while Doc warns Sprocket to stay clear of these potential aliens. Emily tells him they’re just from television and describes them as Fozzie’s “weirdo friends.” When she does, Dr. Teeth (Henson) confirms this while Sam Eagle (Oz) wonders aloud “Why am I here?” Doc also asks Sprocket, in a whisper, if these characters are like those Fraggles he keeps telling him about and Sprocket just holds up his hand to make a gesture that says “Sort of.” I had no idea Sprocket was capable of communication enough to be able to actually tell Doc the word “Fraggle” at some point in the past.

Emily meets the lizard.

Fozzie then introduces his mother to Kermit, whom he describes as his boss, friend and inspiration. Emily just responds “Oh yeah, the lizard.” Kermit politely corrects her on his species before apologizing for all of them barging in like this. Emily, ever the gracious host, will here none of it and tells him they’re all welcome while Doc reminds her of his desired nice, quiet, Christmas. She just throws it back at him by saying “You’re disappointed? I just took three months of surfing lessons for zilch!” The telephone rings, which Animal announces, to break up the brief argument. Animal (Oz) is the one to answer it and he seems excited, but then says “Oh…pig” and drops the receiver.

Miss Piggy has better things to do than spend Christmas Eve at a farm house. She’ll come when she’s ready.

Miss Piggy (Oz) is on the other end when Kermit picks up the phone. He asks where she is as she was supposed to join them at the farm house, but she apparently neglected to tell him about a teensy, weensy, photo shoot she had scheduled. She explains she’ll be heading his way once she’s done, the whole time they’re talking a photographer (David Rudman) is calling out instructions from off camera to Piggy to do various poses ending with a kissy face up close at the camera. Kermit hangs up looking a bit disappointed while Emily is leading a bunch of characters up the stairs to show them to the guest rooms while Doc pleads with her to do no such thing. The door rings and you can see the guy’s heart basically hit the floor as he cries, “Not more!”

Am I the only one who is kind of creeped out by Chef’s actual, human, hands?

Fozzie answers it and it’s Swedish Chef (Henson). He’s arrived with a bunch of cooking equipment and promptly dumps it all as he wipes out on the icy patch. After he gathers himself, Fozzie basically translates his gibberish for us as we find out he’s here to cook the Christmas turkey though we could have figured that out because he says “Gobbly gobbly turkey!” Fozzie is excited to have him and offers to show him to the kitchen. As the two head there, they both basically just sing the melody to “Good King Wenceslas.” I realize that Swedish Chef is considered by some to be offensive these days. I think he’s just called “Chef” now to reflect that. I view him as rather innocuous, but I’m also not Swedish so my opinion might not matter. I’ll probably just refer to him as Chef the rest of the way, mostly because it’s shorter, but also to respect those wishes.

Gonzo is just looking out for this turkey, but he’s basically punished for doing so.

As the two walk towards the kitchen, Gonzo is shown searching for his precious Camilla, the chicken. He’s the original Chicken Lover. The doorbell rings once again and Gonzo stops his search to answer it only to find a turkey on the other side. The turkey (Whitmire) is sporting some shades, a newsboy cap, and carrying a tennis racket for some reason. He’s very colorful too, far more colorful than most turkeys. Gonzo is shocked to see him and ushers him out onto the farmer’s porch. There, he tries to discourage the bird from attending this gathering for he knows what Chef likely has planned, but the turkey won’t take a hint. He says he was invited by some Swedish guy wearing a Chef’s hat and thinks this is a great place to spend the holidays. He just demands to know where his room is and Gonzo tells him if he isn’t careful it will be the oven, but this turkey dismisses his concerns because he’s a survivor. As he walks off, Gonzo calls after him, “See you at dinner!”

Robin sucks.

In the kitchen, Chef is surrounded by a bunch of chickens, rats, and Fozzie and Kermit. He’s not too happy about this and when Kermit asks what the problem is Fozzie tells him that Chef doesn’t want rats and chickens in his kitchen. Seems reasonable. Kermit suggests that he show them their bedrooms and Chef seems to like that idea so Fozzie does as suggested leaving Kermit and his nephew Robin (Nelson) alone in the kitchen. Kermit remarks how crazy things are getting, but Robin reminds him this is how Christmas usually is. A very sweet, but also loud, version of “Jingle Bells” starts to play in the background as the frogs reflect on their current station. By the way, Robin sucks. I hate Robin, he’s such a dork, and it might be this scene that makes me dislike him as he just starts singing this very sickeningly sweet rendition of “Jingle Bells” in sync with the music. Yuck!

I would much prefer to listen to Doctor Teeth and Electric Mayhem than Hall & Oates or whoever else recorded “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Dr. Teeth apparently agrees with me as Robin’s song is interrupted rather quickly with “Jingle Bell Rock” courtesy of Electric Mayhem. Suck it, Robin! It’s a lively and fun rendition of the song which Robin and Kermit are shown enjoying. The rats like it too, as does Sprocket, though Doc looks a bit befuddled by the whole scene. When it ends we go to a break, but return with Fozzie outside building a snowman that’s clearly a Muppet. A bear and a raccoon are harvesting a Christmas tree and soon Rowlf (Henson) comes upon them. He enters with a joke, “I’ve been chasing a truck the whole way and boy am I exhausted” which Fozzie enjoys. He tells him to head inside and introduce himself to his mother who loves canine humor.

Dog meet dog.

Emily directs the beer and raccoon on where to put the tree and then turns to Doc to help her with the garland for the banister. It would seem since she wasn’t planning on being home for Christmas she decided not to bother decorating and now they have to hastily make the place seem merry. Rowlf comes bounding in and slips on the icy patch momentarily dropping the presents he was carrying in. When he gets up, he informs Emily he’s hear for the holidays and Doc is not happy to hear this. Emily just sighs and indicates she’ll see if there’s a pillow in the kennel. Rowlf seems to get the impression his being there is an inconvenience, but he doesn’t dwell on it since he encounters Sprocket. The two trade barks and Doc actually smiles for once as he remarks “Don’t you just hate it when you can’t speak the language?”

They make a cute couple.

Rowlf soon spies an old piano and heads for it. As he starts playing “Sleigh Ride,” on it he remarks it’s out of tune before adding that he loves out of tune pianos. We then cut to outside where Fozzie comes in with the lyrics as he continues to build his snowman. When he gets to the line “Out here the snow is falling,” it’s not Fozzie, but the snowman, who sings it much to Fozzie’s delight. He and the snowman (Richard Hunt) work their way through the song before breaking into a comedy routine. They trade lame jokes and are soon joined by a bunch of penguins and later some more woodland animals. Doc and Sprocket are also shown enjoying the song from the porch so he’s gradually lightening up.

Nope, still not ready to spend the day with the other weirdos.

When the two finish their song, one of the penguins tells Fozzie they’re the funniest comedy duo in the area. This gets Fozzie all excited as he goes running into the house, slipping on the icy patch in the process, calling for Kermit. He finds the frog in the kitchen, but before he could tell him about his new act the phone rings and Kermit goes to retrieve it. It’s Miss Piggy and her photo shoot is done, but she still has to do some Christmas shopping. Kermit is disappointed that she isn’t on the way, but Piggy doesn’t seem to care as she reassures him she’ll be on her way shortly. He hangs up as Miss Piggy starts eyeing some fuzzy, green, slippers and turns his attention to Fozzie. He tells him he’s “All ears,” but before Fozzie can get it out they’re interrupted by the sound of a dog barking. As Kermit goes to investigate, Fozzie remarks that frogs don’t even have ears. Yes they do, you stupid bear.

For a Christmas special, there sure is a lot of attempted murder in this one.

The source of the barking turns out to be Sprocket, he is under attack from the Chef who seems to think Sprocket is a turkey. Doc is getting quite exasperated with Chef as he explains that Sprocket is a dog, but Chef seems to be rather convinced that Sprocket is not what Doc says he is. Doc can apparently understand Chef and it’s through him we find out that the turkey told Chef that Sprocket is a turkey which causes Doc to remark “The dog is not a turkey, the turkey is the turkey, you turkey!” He leads Sprocket away as Chef seems to head back into the kitchen. Then the turkey comes into the frame to laugh and indicate that he’s having some fun. Camilla then walks in which gets the turkey’s attention. Apparently, she being a chicken isn’t a problem for him as he starts hitting on her.

Lets gather around and watch some Muppet Babies!

Scooter (Hunt) then calls out for Kermit’s attention as he found some home movies to share. Doc is seated beside him and seems genuinely interested to watch what Scooter describes as the very first Christmas the Muppets ever spent together. Kermit is eager to see it as a bunch of individuals have gathered in the living room. Scooter rolls tape and it’s basically the Muppet Babies, minus Skeeter, but in actual puppet form. They’re singing “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” with Rowlf on piano. When Fozzie’s part comes on, Mrs. Bear remarks he was still in diapers back then which seems to embarrass him. Someone refers to Rowlf as a wee puppy which just opens him up to make a pee joke while Gonzo thinks the baby version of him was rather handsome. The song ends with baby Animal tearing through a present and they all remark “Oh, Animal” which is his cue to come ripping through the projector screen. Doc enjoyed the show and remarks to Sprocket, “Even weirdos are cute when they’re babies.”

Gonzo doesn’t deserve this.

Some clucking from the other room gets Gonzo’s attention and he runs over to find Camilla in the arms, err wings, of the turkey. He angrily orders the turkey to get his hands off of his girlfriend which the turkey seems to find disgusting on account of Gonzo not being a bird! This turkey is a racist, opposed to this sort of inner-species love, so now I’m fine with him going in the oven. Gonzo is ready to throw down and the turkey seems game as well as they both go nose-to-nose until Kermit runs over to break them up. He indicates that he hears something, which Gonzo chimes in with “Yeah, you’re about to hear me make some turkey hash,” but Kermit tells him it’s carolers that he hears.

Now this party can really get started!

It’s the gang of Sesame Street that has come a caroling, appropriately enough singing “Here We Come A-Caroling.” As they all come into view for Kermit to enthusiastically point out it’s the Sesame Street Gang, the song stops so Big Bird (Caroll Spinney) can wish everyone a Merry Christmas from Sesame Street! They then go into “Deck the Halls” and characters from Sesame Street get a little face-time in between “Fa la las”. For some reason, a random cow puppet gets a line in(her name is apparently Gladys, but I don’t remember her as being a featured character), while the rest basically just play it straight. The only gag is when it’s Oscar the Grouch’s (Spinney) turn he just says “I will not sing this song!”

This is the best joke in the show.

When the song is over the gang basically storm the house. Doc seems to be accepting his fate at this point as he remarks to Emily this likely means he and Sprocket will have to give up their hammock in the attic. I get wrecking the guy’s nice, quiet, Christmas and forcing him to adapt, but I do think he’s at least owed a bed, no? It’s not like he’s the host, after all, but I guess it’s just funnier this way. After his remark, Emily says it’s either that or he builds bunk beds so he tells Sprocket to find him a hammer. As Emily leaves, Doc is introduced to Bert and Ernie (Henson). He’s cordial, and when he says his name is Doc, Bert (Oz) replies with “That begins with the letter D!” When Doc confirms it does by saying, “Yes,” Ernie points out that begins with the letter “Y,” and Doc says “True,” and you get it. When Doc asks what’s going on, Bert informs him that this is small talk where they come from. That is a perfect Sesame Street joke that isn’t taking place on Sesame Street.

Time’s up, turkey!

Doc excuses himself to go build some bunkbeds and Bert and Ernie continue the bit amongst themselves. In the kitchen, Chef has finally got his mitts on the turkey and he isn’t being tricked anymore. He’s literally measuring him to make sure he’ll fit into the roasting pan he brought all the while the turkey tries to convince him he’ll make a terrible meal. He has one more ace up his sleeve though as he leads Chef to the door to show him what just entered the house: Big Bird! Chef is blown away and refers to Big Bird as a “Gobbly gobbly humongo!” He rubs his hands together and tosses the roasting pan aside as that won’t due any longer while the turkey snickers off in the background.

There’s some good old-fashioned Muppet humor.

Oscar then tells everyone to be quiet as there’s a news bulletin coming on. A newsman (Henson) comes on to warn of an oncoming blizzard and indicates that barometers are falling sharply. He’s them bombarded with a bunch of literal, falling, barometers. Scooter has a laugh at the newsman’s expense, then reacts to the snow falling outside while The Count (Nelson) tries to count the flakes as they fall, an exercise in futility. Kermit peers out the window with worry on his face for Miss Piggy still hasn’t arrived.

They’re gonna do some stuff in that can.

When we come back from a break, Fozzie and his mother are working on a checklist for where everyone will be sleeping. When they get to Oscar, he informs them that he’ll be fine right here in his trash can. Rizzo the rat (Whitmire) then comes to scope it out and asks Oscar if he could bunk with him. Oscar rubs his chin and thinks it might be nice having a rat in his can and I’m not sure how we’re supposed to interpret that thought. Janice (Hunt) comes wandering over baring Christmas cookies and comes upon the wrong guy: Cookie Monster (Oz). He devours every last morsel on her tray leaving her standing there wondering “Who was that strange, blue, creature?” Animal is there to add “That my kind of fella!”

I think it’s pretty incredible how the Sesame Street gang upstages the Muppets in this one. Maybe it was just liberating for everyone to get these puppets off of PBS for a night?

Ernie then calls for everyone’s attention as he and the gang are preparing to put on a play: Twas the Night Before Christmas. He will be playing Papa, and in the role of Mama is a very embarrassed Bert who needs some coaxing to come out from behind the curtain. They all have a laugh at Bert’s expense, including Ernie, before things get started. Ernie reads the poem and after the first line out comes Grover (Oz) dressed as the mouse who is not stirring. We know he is not stirring because he’s carrying a bowl to illustrate that he is clearly not stirring.

If you’re watching this today with your kids they’ll be delighted to see Elmo, then bummed that he never says or does anything in this special.

Ernie moves on to the next part of the poem, the arrival of Santa, and when the curtain is thrown aside we see a sleigh full of eight…monsters! In the middle is Elmo and I only point this out because this is when he was a new character and not the phenom he would become, so Elmo is seen in this special, but not heard. Bert seems almost disgusted with Ernie for selecting the monsters as reindeer and wants to know who is Santa. Ernie tells him to hold on as he gets to that part and in comes the two-headed monster with both heads sporting hats and beards. Sam Eagle is left to remark, “Is nothing sacred?” as he drops his face into his hands. Bert just tells Ernie to get to the finish, so he does, and it’s the monsters who get the last line. They all leave to raucous applause.

Miss Piggy can’t defeat a blizzard.

Doc then comes bursting in through the front door to confirm that, yes, there’s quite a blizzard raging out there. A few of them head over to the window to look at the storm and it’s Emily Bear that remarks to “the lizard” that it’s a good thing all of his friends are safe and warm inside the farm house. Kermit basically gulps out, “But all of my friends aren’t safe and warm inside the farm house.” The phone rings and Kermit runs off to grab it and, of course, it’s Miss Piggy. She’s calling from a phone booth (remember those?) to tell Kermit that her chauffer, Jerome, got the limo stuck in a snowbank so she’ll be taking a taxi the rest of the way. Kermit advises against doing so on account of the blizzard, but Miss Piggy dismisses his concerns as “Just some snow.” She hangs up and it takes all of her strength to force open the phone booth doors to get out. As she starts walking up the street, the wind is fighting her the whole way. First her hat sails off, then the phone booth, and soon she follows with a scream and a loud crashing sound is heard offscreen.

Even the snowman wants to come inside.

Kermit is left holding the phone, worried, as Fozzie comes by to cheer him up. He indicates to Kermit that he could use a dose of comedy right now and tries to take him outside to view his new act. Kermit tries telling him it’s too cold to go out there, but Fozzie insists it’s fine. They get to the door and it swings open and in comes the snowman looking to warm up. Kermit just looks at Fozzie with an “I told you so,” expression, but Fozzie just tells Kermit this is his new partner. The snowman agrees and declares they’re terrific together. Fozzie welcomes him towards the living room and asks if anyone wants to see they’re act. Responding in the affirmative are Fozzie’s mortal enemies: Statler (Hunt) and Waldorf (Henson). They play off of each other with one saying “We’d love to see your act,” followed by, “In fact, we’d hate to miss your act,” and finishing with “In fact, we’d love to hate your act!” As Fozzie bemoans their presence, he finds out they’re friends of his mother who always visit her around the holidays.

The best Muppets. The crappiness of this image is reminding me to point out that I’m taking this from a well-worn 35 year old VHS tape.

Fozzie can’t believe what he’s hearing and as he stands there speechless, it’s Statler who remarks “These two are made for each other; the snowman’s ice cold, and the bear’s not so hot!” They’re killing it, but Fozzie and the snowman try to go into their act, but every time they approach a punchline, Statler and Waldorf beat them to it. The snowman complains he’s starting to melt, though I think it’s his pride that hurts most. Waldorf zings him once more, and Fozzie sadly leads the snowman out of the house and to the back porch.

The Count gets to do his thing in prime time.

By the window, Doc and Kermit are just staring out at the snow. Kermit is clearly worried, and Doc mentions that he’s “One worried frog,” to the nearest character, which just happens to be The Count. He restates Doc’s observation the only way he can, and then Robin comes in (I hate that frog) to indicate he’s not the only one worried so Count gets to add, “That’s two worried frogs! Ha. Ha. Ha,” before walking off. Sprocket appears confused and Doc remarks it must be more small talk before saying he should go collect more fire wood. Kermit and Robin are left standing together looking out the window with Kermit draping an arm around his nephew’s shoulders.

Bert and Ernie get to be funny, but Big Bird is still pretty much Big Bird.

In the kitchen, Chef is up to something. Big Bird soon enters and it would seem Chef lured him there. He tries to smack Big Bird with a rubber mallet, but Big Bird doesn’t notice and as he turns around he knocks the chef on his ass with his tail. As Chef prepares to try again, Big Bird tells him he brought something for him: chocolate-covered bird seed. He completely disarms Chef with his generosity as he indicates he felt he must be feeling a little blue since he’s so far from home. Chef is touched and seems to forget about murdering and cooking Big Bird and the two go into the most unlikely duet of the special: “The Christmas Song.” Chef sings in gibberish which is what makes this a rather bold choice. When they finish, he begins to sob as he clearly is lonesome this Christmas. Big Bird seems to pay it no mind, or he wants to cheer him up by changing the subject, and asks what he’s making for Christmas dinner. Chef seems to have had a change of heart as he explains something to Big Bird which the kind, yellow, bird translates as shredded wheat and cranberry sauce. This is apparently his favorite. I say he should go back to killing the turkey, if Gonzo hasn’t already.

Piggy is suddenly determined to get to this Christmas gathering.

Once again, we see Kermit by a window. Beauregard (Goelz) is there with him this time to remark he’s got a lot of shoveling ahead of him. He becomes the latest to remind Kermit of the current situation by asking him, “Aren’t you glad you’re all in here all warm and toasty?” leaving Kermit to remind him that Miss Piggy isn’t. We cut to Piggy and she’s positioned behind a taxi. She tells the driver to “Gun it!” as she’s trying to help get it unstuck apparently, and all that happens is she gets sprayed with mud from a spinning tire. Doc then comes in with the firewood and sees Kermit. He acknowledges Kermit’s worry, and then offers to go look for Miss Piggy. Kermit is surprised since he doesn’t even know her. Doc explains that he didn’t know any of them before today, but now he considers them all friends. He then adds how he and Sprocket were planning on having a nice, quiet, Christmas alone, but this is better! When he asks Kermit what she looks like, he indicates she’s a pig causing Doc to remark, “Well, up until a short while ago I would have thought that strange.” He vows to give it a try and heads out leaving Kermit to remark, “What a sweet guy.”

Now seems like a good time to investigate a strange hole.

Robin (ugh) then calls out for Uncle Kermit from the cellar. Kermit heads down there to see what the kid is up to only to find some, weird, tunnel. Robin asks him if this might be a Fraggle Hole, and Kermit seems to think it is so the two investigate further. As they walk in they find an expansive system of caves. As they wander, some beings in the background are poking their heads up to look at the frogs. Kermit thinks he heard something, but doesn’t see anyone. It’s played off as kind of spooky and as the two frogs turn a corner they nearly bump into a Fraggle.

We can’t leave out the Fraggles, though they honestly don’t add a whole lot to this thing.

It’s Red Fraggle (Karen Prell) that gives the two a mild start which causes them to bump into Gobo Fraggle (Nelson) behind them. They’re soon joined by Mokey Fraggle (Kathryn Mullen), Boober Fraggle (Hunt), and Wembley Fraggle (Whitemire). They’re pretty confused by what they’ve come across, but Kermit knows that they are Fraggles. He tells them they’re frogs, and that doesn’t clear anything up, but they move on when Kermit says they came down to wish them a merry Christmas. The Fraggles don’t know what Christmas is so Robin explains it as the time of year when you gather with the people you love to wish them peace on Earth. A nice sentiment, but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard Christmas described in such a way.

Remember kids, Santa may not have brought you what you really wanted, but at least he didn’t bring you an orange rock.

The Fraggles indicate they have a similar time of year, and it’s going on right now! Mokey says they gather together and give each other presents and says she’s about to give a pebble (which looks like a pretty large, orange, rock) to Boober to mark this occasion. The other Fraggles all chime in that they’ve been passing this rock around for years and it’s Goober who confirms it’s been a gift 37 times. Apparently, re-gifting is encouraged in Fraggle Rock. This prompts the Fraggles to sing a pretty lame song called “Pass it On.” There’s some bongos and they just do a sequence of “La la’s” ending with “Pass it on!” There’s some verses and such about gift giving, and how it’s better than receiving, but little in the way of jokes or anything. The frogs get in on the act and when the song is over it’s Robin who is given the Fraggle pebble.

Miss Piggy wasn’t going to let a little thing like a blizzard keep her from making a grand entrance.

As the two leave remarking how nice a meeting that was, Scooter calls for Kermit because they heard something outside. He rushes to the window where others are gathered and soon Miss Piggy comes into view. She’s being brought to the farm via dogsled with Doc serving as the driver. She’s no longer covered in mud and looks about as elegant as a pig can. Doc is also wearing a fancy uniform and he laughs as he explains that when he found her she had the costume for him. Kermit is left to remark that Piggy always does know how to make an entrance.

And, naturally, Piggy gets taken down by the icy patch.

With everyone now outside, Piggy goes into another song: “Home for the Holidays.” It’s played straight, as most of the songs have been, with the whole gang joining in as Piggy makes her way into the house. As the song is fading out, Kermit leads Piggy into the house where she slips on the icy patch. All of the onlookers cry out in unison, “Careful of the icy patch!” I think that’s the last time that joke is recycled and they did save the best instance of it for last.

At least they’ll sleep well.

After the break, Fozzie is putting the finishing touches on the tree to lots of “oo’s” and “ah’s” now that it’s lit. Fozzie then calls for quiet as his mother has an announcement. It’s at this point that Emily Bear formally welcomes them all here, and then follows by asking that they are all here now? She’s relieved to hear it confirmed that everyone is indeed present and then breaks the news that two people are going to have to sleep hanging from hooks on the wall. We cut to Gonzo remarking to Animal what a great idea this was as the two are hanging from said hooks. Animal appears to be in agreement. We find out that’s how Animal always sleeps. Emily Bear refers to them all as weirdos, but nice weirdos.

The party really starts when Kermit puts on pants.

Kermit, now clothed and seated beside Piggy, tells everyone it’s time for their annual carol sing. He gives Rowlf the signal to start them off, and now my job gets easy because they’re going to sit and sing. A lot. They start with “Happy Holidays,” then move onto the following: Ding Dong Merrily On High, I Saw Three Ships a Sailing, Good King Wenceslas, The Holly and the Ivy, I’ll be Home for Christmas, Happy Holidays (a reprise), Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Caroling Caroling, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, It’s in Every One of Us, Old Friends New Friends. There aren’t really any jokes during those 8 minutes or so of singing, save for Beaker doing some of his weird noises. The Fraggles are also shown ascending from the basement and they’re singing with Doc and Sprocket, though I think the implication is that Doc doesn’t notice them.

Here you go, Piggy, your own living, sentient, being.

When it’s mercifully over, we return to the living room where Emily is finishing hanging Fozzie’s stocking so that Santa can leave him a present. Fozzie indicates he’s embarrassed again, so his mother offers to take it down, but he stops her pretty quickly. This reminds Kermit that he has a present for Miss Piggy. She is quite excited to receiver her gift, and when Kermit announces that he got her a mink she practically faints. Then she gets rather sour when an actual, mink, Muppet named Maureen (Prell) comes into frame. She obviously thought she was getting a coat, but somehow Kermit managed to find her an indentured servant in 1987 (seriously, I get the joke, but this is rather weird, no?). Piggy cheers up when Maureen expresses how she’s a huge fan and worships the ground she walks on. Piggy then gives a little chuckle and embraces the mink to show Kermit she’s happy with her gift, but I’m not convinced.

Oh good, we’re doing more with the pebble.

Off to the side somewhere, Robin and Grover share a moment where Robin gives Grover his Fraggle pebble. Grover is surprisingly delighted by the offering and Robin gets the satisfaction of carrying on the tradition. Or he just didn’t want a rock. The doorbell then rings, again, and in comes…Santa! Well, it’s clearly Doc dressed up as Santa, but the sentiment is nice. He’s got gifts which he starts to hand out while everyone else breaks into song, again, with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

It’s Christmas, so even Jim is going to get in on the fun.

We then cut to the kitchen and diehard Muppet fans are encouraged to reach for the tissues. It’s Jim Henson shown watching his creations celebrate. He’s not alone as Sprocket is at his feet. He remarks how they’re having a good time out there and adds that he likes it when they have a good time. He then gives Sprocket the bad news that there’s a lot of dishes to do. He offers to wash while Sprocket dry, and I’d love to see how that works.

It’s time to say good bye. It was fun, but I’m ready for this one to be over.

We then zoom out from an image of mistletoe while the Muppets keep right on singing. Underneath the deadly plant are Kermit and Piggy. Piggy tells Kermit to look up and he does remarking “Uh oh,” upon seeing the mistletoe. Piggy plants a gentle kiss on his cheek and wishes him merry Christmas. Kermit returns the favor and expresses the same. They then turn to the camera as the song finishes and the whole crowd shouts, “Merry Christmas everyone!” The title comes back onto the screen and the credits roll to raucous applause from the many Muppets on screen.

Over 6,000 words later, this one is done! These hour long specials take even longer as a write-up, but they’re worth it. A Muppet Family Christmas may have been knocked from the ranks of the top 25, but it’s still a special I enjoy watching each year. It’s charming and there’s a lot of sweetness to it. The jokes tend to be corny, but there’s some good material here as well. Mostly, this one just serves as a celebration of all things Jim Henson in 1987. It’s pretty neat seeing it all come together, and it’s really in the joining of Muppets and Sesame Street where the best comedy is found. The Fraggles do feel a bit tacked on, but I’m sure for fans of their show it was a big deal to see them included. I personally have never been a fan of the show Fraggle Rock so I could do without especially since their scene feels like padding. This probably didn’t need the full hour, but again, if you were big into The Muppets in 1987 this probably hit a lot harder.

There are so many puppets in this one that they can’t even fit them all into one shot.

Where this one does suffer a bit is in its self-indulgence. It’s greatest strength is it’s greatest weakness. We don’t spend a lot of time with anyone except Kermit as there’s just so many characters here. And even so, around one fifth of the special’s runtime is devoted to a medley of Christmas carols and Muppet/Sesame Street originals. That’s the moment where the special really drags and every time I watch it I’m surprised at how long that segment lasts. It just keeps on going. At the same time though, it’s really impressive seeing all of those puppets in one place at one time all being manipulated. The set must have been fairly large and pretty expensive to construct for a one-off. I’m not a Muppets expert so I don’t know if this set was ever reused or not. There were definitely a lot of extra hands here as Frank Oz and Jim Henson can’t work 8 different puppets each at once so this thing’s existence is special. It’s just more interesting on paper than it is in reality.

Seriously, here’s the ones you can’t really see in that other shot.

If you are a big fan of the Muppets then this is probably a must see each and every year, and I get that. If I were a bigger fan of the Muppets then I’d probably like it more than I do. And I do like it! I just don’t love it. If you wish to view it, it has been released on physical media though I know it’s tricky to find the right one. I want to say the Canadian release has everything, but I’m not positive. It is available on YouTube for free and it’s the 87 broadcast so it has everything, and there’s even one out there with commercials included. Though if I’m being honest, the commercials on my tape for this special are kind of weak, but better than nothing. Maybe ABC just didn’t get the good ones or advertisers weren’t sold on The Muppets? Oh well, as fun as old commercials are, the special is what matters most.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 21 – Count Duckula – “A Christmas Quacker”

In the 1980s, Nickelodeon didn’t have a lot of animated content. That’s probably surprising for today’s adolescents, but that’s how the network was in the old days. That was due in large part to the network first prioritizing educational content, and then wanting to make sure whatever it aired couldn’t be found on another channel.…

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Dec. 21 – Buzz Lightyear of Star Command – “Holiday Time”

When Pixar set out to create competing, fictional, toys in its debut film Toy Story it settled on cowboys and space rangers. The thought being that once upon a time cowboys were the most popular fantasy toy among boys, but were soon replaced by fantastic space voyagers once real-life space travel became possible. In order…

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Dec. 21 – Nerds and Monsters – “Zanti-Clops”

I was doing a lot of different things in the year 2014. It was a busy one, but one thing I was not doing was watching Canadian children’s animation. Which is why I had zero knowledge of the cartoon series Nerds and Monsters before today. Nerds and Monsters, from what I have read and the…

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Dec. 5 – A Garfield Christmas

Original air date December 21, 1987.

This year, I’m bringing back a feature from last year where I take another look at, what I consider to be, the greatest Christmas specials ever made. I explained my reasoning for doing this in prior posts, but in short, the first time I looked at some of these specials I did just a short write-up and not the deep dive approach I would adopt in subsequent iterations of The Christmas Spot. It seemed silly to go lean with the best of the best, so I’m righting a wrong. Today is the first such repost of the year with more to follow and it is indeed one of the great specials of Christmas: A Garfield Christmas.

Garfield the cat, created by Jim Davis, is a character that has never completely gone away since its debut as a comic strip in the 1970s. He has definitely seen his popularity wane as the decades have gone by so it may surprise younger readers to find out that Garfield was on top of the world in the 1980s. The strips were so popular that Garfield made the jump to television via 12 animated specials before eventually getting his own television show. His popularity stayed relatively high well into the 1990s with the Garfield and Friends show lasting in syndication beyond that before giving way to new content. Coming in at number 7 on the list of television specials based on the gluttonous cat is 1987’s A Garfield Christmas.

The cat who ruled the 80s is taking on Christmas!

A Garfield Christmas premiered on December 21, 1987 and if you read the first entry in this year’s countdown you’ll know I referred to it as one of the specials that got away. My mom decided that 1987 was the year to record a bunch of Christmas specials for my sister and I to have throughout the years to come, and despite her being a fan of Garfield, she failed to record this one. Maybe it was because it aired so close to Christmas she felt the tape might be nearing its end? Maybe she had just run out enthusiasm for the exercise come the 21st? The last special on the tape is A Muppet Family Christmas which aired on December 16, so it’s certainly plausible. Maybe we had plans that night and she didn’t want to bother with the timer? I don’t know, she doesn’t know, and I’m certainly not mad about it, but I do wish I had grown up watching this one as frequently as the specials on that tape. Now we can browse YouTube and see some of the bumpers from that very year and I see some of the other specials I missed out on. It’s not really something I’m upset by, but it does make me wish we could go back to every week in December being event viewing because CBS was loaded that year seemingly devoting two nights per week to airing Christmas specials. And that doesn’t include the various holiday themed episodes of their regular programming.

The house of Garfield’s dreams is surprisingly festive.

A Garfield Christmas is another Film Roman production directed by Phil Roman and features the talents of Lou Rawls, Ed Bogas, and Desirée Goyette handling the music end with Jim Davis the credited writer. Davis considers this one to be semi-autobiographical as it features Jon (Thom Huge) returning to his home on a farm for a good old-fashioned family Christmas. We’ll get to know Jon’s immediate family, including the oddly named brother Doc Boy (David Lander), and spend some quality Christmas time with Grandma (voiced by the recently departed Pat Carroll – R.I.P.). Of course, we also have Garfield and Lorenzo Music reprises the role he was born to play. His deadpan delivery is perfect for the sleepy cat and I feel bad for talents like Bill Murray and Frank Welker who have had to follow Music in the role, but will never be as good.

And the interior of the house of Garfield’s dreams is done in crayon.

The special begins with an exterior shot of Jon’s house decorated for Christmas. The color palette is slightly washed out which is a stylistic choice because this is a dream sequence. Garfield is sleeping in his usual spot and Jon, dressed as an elf, implores him to wake up because it’s Christmas! He has his arms full with Garfield’s numerous breakfast lasagnas and lays them out in a row so that Garfield can eat his way to the tree. There he’s told that he has a present coming his way and Jon steps offscreen for a moment only to return driving a forklift with a giant, green, gift on the front. He drops it down beside Garfield and it bursts open to reveal a real kitschy looking robot Santa in a chair. Jon then demonstrates that this is the gift that keeps on giving. He sits in the robot Santa’s lap with his cat, thinks up a gift he wants, and is promptly given a green hat to complete his elf costume (which looks a bit like a Robin Hood costume). Garfield, ever the opportunist, shoves Jon off of the machine and puts the helmet on his own head and is immediately rewarded with a handful of jewels and a pearl necklace. Remarking to the camera, “That’s just for starters,” as he holds his reward he immediately starts conjuring up countless gifts as the special goes into the song “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme,” and the title is displayed above the happy cat.

Finally, a gift worthy of being called the gift that keeps on giving.

The musical number is up-tempo and quite jaunty as Garfield frolics in his gifts. Declaring a love for all of the things piling up around him, including greed and avarice, he jives to the music and we’re clearly being setup for Garfield to learn a lesson about what Christmas is all about. Garfield is soon woken, for real, by Jon and the setting reverts to something more familiar for a Garfield cartoon. The sleepy cat is not particularly pleased about being woken up. He refers to Jon as, “Oh, it’s you,” and instructs him to leave a number as he pulls his blanket over his head and looks like an adorable, little, blue, meatloaf. Jon excitedly asks Garfield if he knows what day it is and Garfield sticks his head out to tell him he doesn’t do pop quizzes before breakfast. Undaunted, Jon tells him it’s Christmas Eve morning and describes excitedly how they get to pack the car and go to the farm to see mom, dad, grandma, and Doc Boy! Garfield sarcastically responds he can’t wait to meet other “Boys,” like “Oh Boy,” as Jon takes his leave. Garfield then emerges from his bed to question why he has to leave his warm bed every Christmas to see some “stupid” relatives. He finishes his list of questions to himself with “And why am I whispering?” before the scene fades to black.

Those two should be riding in carriers.

We cut to a shot of Jon, Garfield, and Odie (Gregg Berger) in Jon’s car as they leave their city confines for the farm. Jon is in a nostalgic mood while Garfield wants nothing to do with it. He reminisces about Christmases past which soon leads into a song. It’s a bit of a call and response as Jon recalls a memory and Garfield interjects with a cynical take on it that associates a tradition with work. For example, Jon recalls decorating the tree fondly, and Garfield pipes in to call it “Gardening.” The song is called “Can’t Wait Till Christmas” and it does a good job of showcasing one character’s enthusiasm for the holiday, and another that has a decidedly different take. Garfield punctuates the end of the song with the very observant, and relatable, line about the best gift of Christmas being the insomnia and anxiety kids get from having to wait. Oh were there many sleepless Christmas Eve nights spent in my bed. The song ends with Garfield instructing Jon to wake him when Christmas is through.

Nice to see you too, Grandma.

We then see Jon roll up on the old farm and is warmly greeted by his mom (Julie Payne) who is one of those annoying animated characters that rarely seems to open their eyes. He moves to greet his dad (Pat Harrington) and brother Doc Boy, who seems to hate his nickname. We then hear from Grandma who is in a rocking chair facing a window as she guilt trips Jon into coming over to pay his respects to his poor, old, lonely, grandmother. Not that she needed to for Jon enthusiastically strolls over referring to his grandma as his favorite girl (genuinely sweet) and she pops out of the chair to give him a warm hug. She then points out that he’s developing a bit of a belly and questions if city life is making him soft. She punctuates the thought with an elbow to the belly that doubles Jon over causing her laugh. She reprimands him for not taking care of himself and reveals that she does 100 sit-ups a day. She gestures to her belly saying it’s hard as a rock as a result and urges Jon to take a shot at her.

Open your eyes, Mom!

Jon, not wanting to punch his grandma, deftly changes the subject and asks if she remembers Garfield and gestures to the cat and Odie (I’m not sure why he didn’t ask her if she remembered Odie, poor dog is always getting forgotten). She picks Garfield up with an amused look on her face as she seems to regale the cat as an oddity remarking they used to only have wood burning cats (whatever that is). Garfield is not amused. Mom then remarks how nice it is to have the whole family together for Christmas. As she gushes about being happy everyone is there, Grandma instructs her to “Put a sock in it, deary,” and suggests they go finish dinner. Garfield has now settled into Grandma’s arms and remarks to the camera “I can see Grandma and I are going to get along just fine.” When Grandma snaps at Jon’s mom her eyes actually “opened” for a moment too. I can’t figure out if Grandma is supposed to be her mother or mother-in-law. Grandma looks a little more like the mom than she does the dad, so I guess she’s her mother, but they have an adversarial relationship (which we’ll see more of) that screams classic mother-in-law.

We’ve seen this happen to Wile E. Coyote before.

We cut to an exterior shot and Jon is enthusiastically leading Odie and Garfield to the barn presumably to get more firewood. He’s put on a stocking cap to fight the cold, but not a jacket or even a pair of gloves. I guess he’s more hearty than he looks. Jon is still aglow from being home for the holidays and encourages Garfield to take in the scenery. Garfield remarks he can only see darkness and we see why as the snow is over his head. The only visible part of Garfield is his tail sticking out of the snow and he soon walks right into an exposed water pump.

The great Gravy War of 1987.

Meanwhile, inside the kitchen Grandma is creeping up on the stove. She tastes the gravy cooking there, and apparently dissatisfied, produces a can of chili powder. Mom comes up behind her and politely suggests she isn’t thinking about adding any chili powder to “MY” sausage gravy. Apparently there is some sort of competition between the two concerning the presence of chili powder in sausage gravy. Grandma plays nice and suggests she wouldn’t be doing that, but when Mom walks away she turns a bit sinister. Muttering softly to herself “Just because my chili gravy won a blue ribbon at the county fair and your gravy didn’t even place! Who am I to tell you how to make gravy? The Green County Gravy Champion, that’s who!” Par Carroll’s delivery of these lines is so perfect and so sincere it’s no surprise that Grandma had to return for the Thanksgiving special to follow.

He’s part dragon.

Jon and Garfield then enter the kitchen while a simple rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” plays in the background. Jon asks Garfield where Odie went who responds curtly “In-the-barn-let’s-eat.” We cut to Odie sniffing around some junk. He pulls out some scrap wood and a gardening tool and looks rather pleased with himself as he runs off. Back in the kitchen, Garfield’s nose has detected the scent of sausage gravy. He hops up on the counter and runs his finger through the brown liquid and gives it a taste. A look of satisfaction appears on his face as he licks his fingers which is soon replaced by one of pain. His face turns red, steam shoots out of his ears, and he releases a plume of fire from his mouth. He then returns to a contented expression and as smoke still trails from the ends of his mouth he remarks, “Perfect.”

Suck it, Doc Boy!

The family is then shown gathering around the table for Christmas Eve dinner. Odie slips back into the house unnoticed while Doc Boy is reprimanded for reaching for a dinner roll before anyone has said Grace. He’s instructed to do so, but he protests this responsibility until Grandma strikes him on the head with a wooden spoon. He then recites a fairly routine prayer that Mom punctuates with an “Amen!” when he’s apparently finished. As the others get set to dig in, Doc Boy rises from his chair and goes into a more poetic poem. No one looks pleased, especially Grandma, who strikes her grandson once more with the wooden spoon prompting him to end the misery.

Best seat in the house, apparently.

Jon requests his mom pass the potatoes, and she asks if he wants fried, baked, mashed, etc. which causes Jon to remark she always prepares too much. Unable to decide, he just asks for a piece of pie instead (no wonder why he’s acquiring a belly) and is met with another impossible decision as his mother prepared six different types of pie. We then cut to Grandma as she slips plates of food under the table to the hungry pets. Garfield, looking fatter than usual, and Odie are enjoying sitting beside Grandma. Garfield then praises the quality of the food and service, but criticizes the décor. He decides to rate the “restaurant” a mere 2 stars. Dad notices the empty plates before Grandma and makes a comment about her really “putting it away.” She responds that she’s eating for two now (really three) and Dad gives a smile which is soon replaced by a look of shock and confusion.

That is one contented cat.

Grandma begins cleaning up while Jon praises his mom for the meal, which Grandma makes a throat-clearing sound to get Jon to acknowledge her hand in the dinner as well. He then tries to give Garfield some leftovers unaware he’s been eating this whole time. The now very fat cat politely declines and indicates he’s watching his waistline this holiday season. Mom then calls everyone over to the naked Christmas tree which requires trimming. Odie pops out of the box of lights and garland apparently searching for something. He pulls out what looks like a small bit of wire before slinking off with it.

You mean to tell me they live on a farm and don’t have a step ladder?!

The rest of the family then gathers around to trim the tree. All except Grandma who has returned to her rocking chair with Garfield on her lap. She makes a remark to the cat about the rest of the family sounding like a pack of banshees and even refers to them as crazy. She then adds that you need a little crazy to make it through this life, then declares herself proof of that since she talks to cats! We cut back to the tree and Dad is awkwardly climbing on Doc Boy to put the star on the tree and this doesn’t look like a scene that will end well for anybody. Dad wisely asks why they always wait to put the star on last when it would be a lot easier to do it first before the tree is up, but Mom dismisses the thought because “It just wouldn’t be Christmas,” that way. I had no idea so much was riding on when the star was placed on the tree. I suppose the same is true for those who place an angel or something else up there instead?

All hail the Hero of Christmas!

Jon then gets the bright idea to ask Garfield if he can climb up the tree and put the star on top. Jon sells it as a very special request suitable for a true hero, and to my surprise, Garfield goes along with it with far more enthusiasm than I expected out of the old cat. He tells Jon if he’s not back in an hour to send a banana cream pie up after him and then approaches the tree. Garfield feels this will be a piece of cake and begins his ascent. As the tree wobbles to and fro, the rest of the family looks on with concern. Jon can barely seem to watch. Soon Garfield emerges from the top of the tree triumphantly, though he looks at how high up he is and seems to momentarily lose his balance. He rights himself and places the star atop the tree to raucous applause. He decides to take a bow, soaking in the adulation, and promptly falls. He strikes the ground with a thud wrapped in lights and garland and then utters what was a very dark catchphrase of sorts at the time for Garfield, “Whoever invented Christmas trees should be drug out into the street and shot.” An ornament then strikes him on the head which seems to indicate the tree does not share in Garfield’s sentiments.

Garfield’s moment in the sun took a very quick turn.

Dad then beckons everyone to look upon the tree as he plugs in the lights. It gives off a warm glow and everyone “Ooo’s” and “Aah’s” at the sight. Mom then informs us that Doc Boy is going to sing us a Christmas song, which he wants no part of, but Dad insists given they spent a bunch of money on “pie-anno” lessons. Doc Boy goes into a slow and melancholy rendition of “Oh Christmas Tree,” but Grandma has heard enough. She shoves everyone aside to take over the keys and plays a much livelier, and shorter, version of the song and then turns to the family with a look of satisfaction on her face. Mom refers to it as interesting, which doesn’t seem to bother Grandma. This is basically the only part of the special where I think they’re trying a little too hard to make Grandma seem “cool.”

The shot likely to linger with you when this one is long over.

Jon then encourages his mom to play and we go into another musical number, “Christmas in Your Heart.” While the family gathers around the piano, Grandma returns to her rocking chair and Garfield. She asks him “How did you know I needed a cat in my lap?” She then talks about her departed husband and the Christmases they used to have. She covers the usual numbers, how they didn’t have much, but would always find a way to give the children a good Christmas. She adds that the old man was the type who didn’t show much affection, but on Christmas that would change for a day. She hypothesizes that it was his favorite day of the year given how excited he would be for the children to wake up and see what was under the tree. It gets a little sadder after that as she tells Garfield sometimes she wakes up in the middle of the night thinking he’s still with her adding, “This is the night I miss him the most.” In a cartoon about a fat, orange, cat, who knew something so crushingly relatable could be found?

At least it’s an original story, Dad.

Mom is done playing her song and enthusiastically declares it’s time to move onto the Christmas story. This is the part of the special where Jon and Doc Boy regress into man-children. They enthusiastically inform us that the family Christmas story is “Binky: The Clown Who Saved Christmas” and the responsibility of reading the story falls on Dad. He wants no part of it and seems to be the only one capable of recognizing that this is a pretty weird tradition to carry on now that their boys are grown men, but the rest insist. They gather around Dad’s favorite chair, and Garfield and Odie even join in by sitting on an armrest each, as Dad begins the story. It’s clear that Jon and Doc Boy do derive pleasure from this ritual simply because it makes their dad feel awkward and silly. When he starts reading the story, Jon points out to his father that he needs to read it with more emotion and Doc Boy reminds him to do the voices. He lets out an enthusiastic, Binky-like, “Hey! Kids!” which Odie demonstrates his approval for by licking the man’s cheek, which Dad does not enjoy.

There’s a nice, wholesome, image.

Dad finishes the story and Doc Boy gets in another little rib at his expense before Mom resumes treating the boys like children and declares it’s time for bed. The two enthusiastically run off like children while Odie takes a walk over to the closet. He finds a plunger inside, but removes the rubber end leaving just a handle, and tries to leave the closet with it, but gets stuck on the doorframe for a moment. He eventually figures it out and leaves and we fade to a shot of Garfield and Odie sleeping by a warm fire. Odie’s eyes snap open and he checks on Garfield to see if he’s awake. Seeing that he isn’t, he smiles rather slyly and scampers off.

Odie’s masterpiece!

Garfield wakes up shortly after and is surprised to see Odie missing. He heads over to the window to look for him and another song comes on, this one sung by Rawls and Goyette and titled “You Can Never Find an Elf When You Need One.” The bouncy little number hums along as we see Odie assembling all of the stuff he’s been collecting throughout his time at the farm. Using a base, pole, and the gardening tool he makes some kind of a post which he covers with a paper bag and proudly carries back into the house. As he scampers out of the barn, Garfield emerges with a smile on his face seemingly amused by the pup. He then stumbles and falls off a box he was standing on and a smaller box empties its contents into his lap. It’s a wad of letters and a look of surprise comes over Garfield as he informs us they must be 50 years old.

These two deserve to be punched.

We cut back to the inside of the home and Jon and Doc Boy are checking-in on their parents who are fast asleep. They start off with whispers directed at their dad asking if he’s awake, but soon evolve into something closer to a yell and Jon flips on the lights. Dad angrily wakes up and asks them what they’re doing, but their metamorphosis into children has fully taken hold and they want to open their presents. It’s 1:30 in the morning and their dad tells them to go back to bed. Jon tries to reason with him that it’s technically Christmas morning, but he’s having none of it and the two grumpily return to bed.

What the hell is Doc Boy wearing?

We cut to an exterior shot of the house at night and the sun soon rises behind it. Inside, Mom and Dad are by the tree setting out some last minute presents while Jon and Doc Boy come into frame. We only got a sense of what they were wearing last night, but we now we see that Jon is decked out in orange-striped pajamas with bunny slippers while Doc Boy is taking things even further with full bunny rabbit pajamas. Seriously, don’t leave your kids alone with Doc Boy. Dad then playfully asks if they want to do chores, eat breakfast, or open presents first and the boys predictably choose presents.

That cat is so proud of himself.

We get a time lapse and see the family seated and enjoying their new stuff. Dad got a giant hat, Jon a sweater, Grandma a bowling ball, and Doc Boy…a toy airplane. Mom apparently gets nothing. Mom declares that it was a very nice Christmas, but gets interrupted by Garfield tugging on her skirt to tells us it’s not over yet. He then drags over the bundle of letters he found last night and gives them to a surprised Grandma. She softens immediately as Jon asks what they are and she tells him they’re love letters from his grandfather. She begins to read one aloud, but when things start to get a little steamy she just laughs. Mom asks what he said next, but she declines to share the spicy details.

Odie might have to patent this thing!

We’re still not done though! Odie then gets Garfield’s attention and drags over his contraption. When he removes the paper bag Garfield is a little puzzled, but Odie is there to demonstrate that he’s invented a cat scratcher. He rubs himself all over the thing and seems to really be enjoying it. Garfield thinks it’s great and happily gives it a try. Declaring it the best gift a cat could ever receive, he tells Odie that sometimes he surprises him and gives him a hug. The family looking on let out a loud “Aww” which prompts Garfield to address everyone. I don’t think any of them can hear him, but we can, as he tells us “Christmas: It’s not the giving, it’s not the getting, it’s the loving. There, I said it. Now get out of here.” See, he learned what Christmas is all about in the end!

All right, I’m going to say it too, “Aww!”

We then break into “Good Old-Fashioned Christmas” which is like a rag-time kind of song. Everyone dances and sings and it’s the song that takes us into the credits. A Garfield Christmas is a bit of a good old-fashioned Christmas, the kind that would make Clark Griswold jealous. We get to see Garfield go from viewing all of the traditions of Christmas as a chore, to happily partaking in them and even getting in some gift-giving. His window-side chat with Grandma is touching and definitely makes me miss my own nana who always seemed to miss my grandfather the most at Christmas after his passing. I still remember the first Christmas without him and as the dust settled on the frenzy that was the opening of presents by the younger crowd, her taking a seat in his old chair and having a little cry. It’s the nice, but also the sad part of the holidays which always seem to conjure up memories of holidays past and all of the people we lost along the way to get to the current one.

All right, let’s dance!

Not to say there isn’t a bunch of humorous moments in this one. Garfield is a character basically made for Christmas. He can be dismissive of the chores, but welcoming to the food and merriment. Jon’s family is fairly ordinary, though the lack of kids from either Jon or Doc Boy gives the gathering a different feel. Of course, we see a lot of Jon and Doc Boy and it’s readily apparent why neither has children. I’m not even sure Doc Boy has moved out of that house. It’s largely a special of small moments that build to Christmas morning. The moments are almost so small and meandering that there is a bit of an anticlimactic feel to it, but it comes across as nice and more believable a Christmas than some of the specials I’ve seen that don’t feature a talking cat.

That Arbuckle clan knows how to party!

If you’ve seen any Garfield specials before then you know what to expect from the presentation. The performances by the actors are all well done, especially Pat Carroll as Grandma and, of course, Lorenzo Music as Garfield. The music is also pretty damn terrific. The song “Keep Christmas in Your Heart” does border on being a bit too sappy, especially the way they use it to cap the somber moment between Grandma and Garfield, but it’s okay and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The classic, public domain Christmas songs are used sparingly, but with great effect. They’re just subtle ways to keep the Christmas theme going in scenes when it wouldn’t be obvious you’re staring at a Christmas special. And the animation is quite lovely from Film Roman. It doesn’t attempt anything incredible, but the characters emote well, they’re bouncy when they need to be, and I love the little touches in the backgrounds.

Everybody call their grandma, if you’re fortunate enough to still have one.

If you haven’t seen A Garfield Christmas by now then I don’t know what you’re waiting for. The special turns 35 in a few weeks and is sadly no longer shown on television. It is available for free on YouTube and has been printed numerous times on DVD usually with other Garfield holiday specials that are also well worth your time. It’s definitely not a hard one to view and I definitely think it should be in your holiday rotation this year and for another 35 years at least. All right, now I really want some lasagna.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

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