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Thanksgiving, Muppets and a Christmas Cat

November 23, 2018

 I have learned over the years of blogging that a catchy title really makes a difference in readership. So, I suppose I need to produce a magic cat now. Okay, I don’t have a magic cat but I do have a picture of a very fat cat named Sox who let me dress him as a reindeer. He’s a good sport.

 

 

 So, as I type this I am three beers and a whole turkey dinner into the holiday. We watched the Lions get beaten (again) and now it’s the third quarter of the last NFL game of the night. It’s always a little sad to carry the plate to the sink as we wave goodbye to another Thanksgiving, but to live is to die and now my focus is on Christmas entirely. And do you know what that means?  Nothing! I’ve been on Christmas since October 31st so making things official will just breed contempt from my last three weeks. No, I’ll just yap about my favorite holiday special of all time that, for some odd reason, isn’t very well-known. I hate that!

 The Muppet Family Christmas was a gem of the mid-eighties that hasn’t had any air time in years. I don’t really know why because it is a true Jim Henson creation that combines not just the Muppets but Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock. As a child who relied on Sesame Street for basic reading and math, Muppets for what is relevant in entertainment and Fraggles for…what ever happens underground, this Christmas special was like the meeting of the titans for anyone who still wears Oshkosh overalls. It was and still is amazing. Let’s try to break down this very busy special.

 We begin with the entire Muppet cast traveling in an old beater with Fozzie at the wheel. Seems a bit senseless to put everyone in a truck driven by a bear in a blinding snow storm but I need to remind myself that they are muppets. Anyway, the whole crew is singing carols and are very jolly because they are headed to Fozzie’s mother’s house for a surprise Muppet family Christmas vacation. Only thing is, Fozzie’s mother took six months of surfing lessons soooo….

 Wait a minute, this bear isn’t dressed for winter weather! Apparently, Momma Fozzie had other plans for Christmas and is packed and ready to leave for Malibu. The Muppets better hurry up or Animal will most likely shit on the doorstep out of sheer disappointment. But before she takes off she needs to wait for her seasonal renters.

 And the renters are none other than the antagonists from Fraggle Rock, Doc and Sprocket. I love Sprocket and he is by far, my favorite Henson character.

 

 Well, it looks like Doc and the dog are there for the goal of having a nice, quiet Christmas; far away from their Fraggle pests (so they think). Little do they know that in the driveway is about a hundred wild mutant creatures made of felt with a showbiz talent coming to alter their intentions. Enter the Muppets.

 

Man, when a hundred of these things are in a room things get confusing. But knowing her plans for a tropical heat wave vacation is down the tubes and her six months of surf lessons are for not, she warmly welcomes all the “weirdos” much to the chagrin of Doc and Sprocket. But they get eventually over it.

 

 By the way, where do you take surf lessons in the country?

 In a humorous moment, Doc asks Sprocket if these are the Fraggles he has been trying to tell him about. Sprocket gives his best “sort of” shake of the paw. It’s about as cute as you can get.

 

 So we have a house full of Muppets, one human, and less one pig. It seems that Miss Piggy is still in the city finishing all the stuff a famous pig has to do. But it’s okay, she will be along shortly. Until then there are more visitors to come. Like this iconic Swedish character.

 Boom! The Swedish Chef is in the house (after slipping on the icy patch) to cook the “gobbla gobbla Kreeesmas Tuuurkeeeee”. This is shaping up to be a special that doesn’t hold back. Of course shortly after his arrival the turkey himself shows up, sporting sunglasses and a tennis racket under the impression he was invited (by Chef of course) to a winter vacation. Gonzo greets him and warns of the impending doom that would await him should he stay, but his warnings go unheeded and the turkey blows off the danger. In an ironic statement Gonzo bids him farewell stating, “see you at dinner”. Hilarious.

Mean while in the kitchen, Kermit and his nephew Robbin share a touching and reflective moment as they sing “Jingle Bells” but are quickly interrupted by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem and their version of “Jingle Bell Rock”. I never realized what an awesome band name that was until now. I wonder if they have an album? Seriously.

 Slowly the Muppet family grows as Rowlf the Dog arrives and keeps the running gag alive by slipping on the icy patch at the door. He shares a humorous conversation with Sprocket as they  trade “Bark! bark! Yeah, woof! woof!”. Dog talk. Then Rowlf spots the piano and another musical starts and the scene slides to Fozzie and a snowman sing “Bear and a Snowman” and do a stand up comedy sketch that seems to go over well with all the wild animals outside.

 After cracking up the muppet animals who can sing, talk and discern humor but apparently not wear clothes or live indoors, they take advice from a penguin and decide to continue the comedy team. Excited, Fozzie races to pass the idea by Kermit but havoc once again rears its head and the Swedish Chef is trying to cook Sprocket the dog after being tricked by the turkey. Doc intervenes and states, “I don’t care if the turkey says the dog is a turkey, the dog is not the turkey, the turkey is the turkey, you turkey.” Well said, Doc.

 After that scuffle was resolved, Skeeter finds old muppet baby movies and everyone(thing) gathers in the den to watch. I maybe mistaken but I think this scene inspired the popular 80’s Saturday morning cartoon, Muppet Babies on ABC. Don’t hold me to that, but the timeline matches up. (Actually I believe it was Muppets Take Manhattan)

 

So, guess what? Something else is happening! Man, this Christmas special has a lot going on and probably isn’t the best one to recap. Bare with me because this show has a special nostalgic connection and I think I maybe writing this tonight for myself rather than for entertainment value.

 Great Caesar’s dick! It’s the entire gang from Sesame Street and they are coming to celebrate Christmas with the Muppets in an already crowded country house.

  In another endearing scene we see Bert and Ernie engage Doc in what they call “small talk” by informing him what every letter for every word he says begins with. Doc, seemingly in a much better mood, cheerfully states he’s off to build bunk beds which almost sends Bert and Ernie into hysterics by hitting a double ‘B’ word.

 Again, we switch gears and we find the Swedish Chef has finally caught up with the sly turkey in the kitchen and he finally admits he is what he is. But, before accepting his fate he let’s the Chef know that he’s not the only fat bird in the house. The Swedish Chef exclaims “Gobbla Gobbla Humonga!” as he eyes the biggest bird in the house: Big Bird.

  Well, with all this goodwill through the house we need a subplot that brings worry to Kermit and that is the fact a huge blizzard approaching the house and Miss Piggy is still not there. We find this out by an emergency broadcast warning that barometers are falling sharply. Haha.

 

What makes this special…well…special is the interaction between all the Jim Henson characters. Like this priceless moment between Janice (Electric Mayhem guitarist) and the Cookie Monster.

  Little does Janice know that she is offering cookies to a creature that would rip her arms out of socket for a crumb. Cookie Monster ravages the cookies as Janice could do nothing but look in shock. This scene is worth a thousand words but I feel I am only worthy enough to dedicate fifty.

 With the weather cold enough to “freeze your winnebego” Kermit becomes increasingly worried about Miss Piggy. This is a perfect opportunity for Fozzie to distract Kermit from his worries and introduce his new comedy act. But little does he know his nemesis critics have joined the festivities and are waiting for something like this. And boy do they rip the bear and snowman a new one!

 

While the critics stomp the piss out of Fozzie and the Snowman’s comedy sketch, Big Bird checks out the kitchen, unknowingly into the clutches of the Swedish Chef who wants to serve him as the Christmas bird. But, as disarming as Big Bird is in nature, he gives the Chef chocolate covered bird seed because he knew his home was far away in Sweden and this gesture took the Chef off guard as the two engage in, you guessed it, a song.

 I remember this scene as being one of the funniest as a kid because hearing the Swedish Chef sing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” is about the most hilarious thing I can think of. Today, I wonder if he really was singing is Swedish or it’s just a lot of made up gibberish. If it was real, man, Sweden got fucked on a language.

 

 Big Bird inadvertently saved his beak and the Chef decided to cook “Cran un boochers” or as we call it, shredded wheat and cranberries, which just happens to be Big Birds favorite. I think everyone else is going to be pissed.

 

Well, the weather just isn’t letting up and Kermit is getting more and more anxious by the minute. Doc sees the worried frog and offers to go out and look for Miss Piggy. In a momentary loss of his mind he asks how he should recognize her to which Kermit replies, “she’s a pig”. Brilliant. It’s nice to see Doc taking to the weirdos.

 

After Doc leaves, Kermit’s annoying cousin Scrappy…er…Robin calls him downstairs to investigate something he found. It looks to be something Kermit had told Robin about in stories and that is a genuine…

 …Fraggle cave. I had no idea these Muppet/Henson creatures knew about each other. Then again, I had no idea that a middle aged could care about this. But I do.

 

Robin and Kermit explore the cave for approximately three seconds before running into a family of Fraggles. They, of course, broke into a song about the Fraggle version of Christmas and how they too share the tradition of giving. Their’s, however, kind of sucks because all they do is re-gift an orange pebble over the past thirty-seven years. If they knew about a Muppet’s Christmas that pebble would be passed to no one.

 There’s a commotion happening upstairs and the frogs have to depart from the Fraggle cave but not before they give Robin the pebble in the spirit of their godless holiday. There goes that thirty-seven year tradition. Robin is not a pass-it-on type of frog.

 Well look is tardy to the fuckin’ party? Miss Pig! And she managed to talk Doc into dressing up like some Canadian Mounty. I would have liked to have seen that. Do you think the old guy stripped down to his briefs in a blizzard just because a pig asked? I bet she is packing heat and Doc had one option or face a chance of being found in April when the snow dunes melt.

 

The next ten minutes of this special is filled with about twenty Christmas songs while the entire muppet family sits in the living room. Any other movie, this would be unbearable, but because it’s the Muppets, this scene is amazing. At times I turn this part of the movie on just for the music and drink my eggnog. I absolutely love it.

  The last scene is my favorite. In fact, it’s the entire reason I wrote this painfully long and redundant recap of this special. I get teary every time I see it. A cameo by the creator and largest part of my childhood entertainment made this show. Jim Henson was a good man who made educational shows, bridged gaps in a racial divide, inspired creativity and blessed my childhood with an array of iconic characters. Of all the imaginateers and creators, his death was the hardest for me. I think maybe it was the thought that all these Muppets no longer have their creator behind the magic and in a way, they passed away too. But we have this to remind us that imagination never really dies and that, I can be thankful for.

 

Happy Thanksgiving.

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