A Merry Muppet Christmas, Part 3 – “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street”

Posted: December 21, 2011 by Dion in Christmas, Television, The Muppets
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Another great Muppet Christmas Special to be highlighted in this series, is one of the earliest, the Emmy Award-winning Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. It originally aired on PBS on Sunday, December 3, 1978,  and sadly is another one of the great Muppet specials that hasn’t been aired probably in 20 years.

A stellar example of the golden age for the Muppet’s and Jim Henson, this special is so rewarding and touching, that yet again one wonders why the executives at Muppet Inc. don’t open the vaults and air these gems to help cross-promote the new Muppet Movie, that is currently in theaters. Hell, throw on a Special Edition remastered DVD, and charge a fortune and I’m sure millions of fans would shell out to buy a copy on DVD or Blu Ray.

But alas, this amazing treasure is relegated to worn out VHS copies that were taped the nights it aired back in the 1980’s.

The Special begins with the cast of Sesame Street at an ice ring, alla “Ice Follies” or “Sesame Street on Ice”; where Big Bird, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Bert & Ernie and The Count are joined by children and the other Sesame Street adults, playing around as Christmas classics like Jose Feliciano’s version of “Feliz Navidad” are played in the background over this opening sequence.

The gang packs up and heads home in song, to Sesame Street. It is extremely interesting to note that at this point, New York City still plays an important role on the Sesame Street show, as we watch the gang leave the rink, get on and travel on a noticeably gritty subway and exit (which is exciting to plot actually where Sesame Street is), at the dingy 86th Street station, where they then walk back to Sesame Street (Upper East-side?). While still on the platform, Oscar who gets upset about something,  starts swearing, which is hilariously covered up by the thundering sound of a passing subway train (you don’t see Oscar doing things like that nowadays!).

 

Now for the plot: Oscar, in his Grouchy way, tells Big Bird that there isn’t a Santa, because how would he be able to deliver all the presents in New York City to  the children who live in apartments, and don’t have chimneys. This devastates Big Bird, who makes it his mission to debunk Oscar and prove there is a Santa Clause.

The subplot of the special is how Bert & Ernie want to get each other a Christmas present, but really can’t afford anything of substance. So they both secretly go to the local store, run by who else, but the late, great Mr. Hooper. The two friends both trade their most priced possession, Bert’s paperclip collection and Ernie’s rubber ducky, to buy the other a Christmas present.

 

Inter-cut through the special, are two amazingly funny scenes highlighting the brilliance of Frank Oz. The first is Vox Pops of Grover speaking to children and asking them if they believe in Santa, and how they think Santa gets into their home. It is hilarious to see the unscripted moments of small children interacting with the Muppet, and his reactions to their brilliant childhood innocence.

 

The second is Oz as Cookie Monster in 3 vignettes, as he vainly attempts to write Santa a letter, telling him what he wants for Christmas: cookies. He never gets finished writing the letter because in each sequence he gets so carried away with fantasizing about the yummy cookies, that he eats his pencil, a typewriter and telephone.

Kermit makes an appearance, to wish the gang well, as Big Bird continues to try to prove that Santa is real and can get presents under kid’s trees. Kermit then reads letters from children on how they think Santa gets into their house (again referring to New York City, saying: “A boy on 72st says…”), trying to help Big Bird solve this problem.

As the night goes on, Big Bird disappears, and everyone worries and goes looking for him, including Oscar, who after getting a stern talking to by Maria, feels horrible and takes to the street to look for their lost friend. Little do they know that Big Bird is sitting on the roof of a Brownstone, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa as he makes his annual journey (making another New York City reference, hoping Santa isn’t “stacked over Kennedy”, like everyone else).

As the night gets on, Bert & Ernie exchange their presents, only to find they got each other things for their priced possessions that they both traded away. A knock at the door reveals Mr. Hooper, who has brought them presents that turn out to be their cherished paperclips and rubber ducky. They admit they do not have a present for him, he tells them they already gave him one of the greatest presents for Christmas; they showed kindness, generosity and selfishness this holiday season. As he leaves, they wish him a Happy Hanukkah.

Poor Big Bird nearly freezes to death waiting for Santa, (who actually shows up in a shadow while Big Bird sleeps), and is finally discovered and rescued by Gordon and Susan, who bring him downstairs to warm up (another lesson taught: if you wander away, tell someone where you’re going). When they get to their apartment, they discover to their delight that Santa has indeed come, and brought presents for all.

The program ends with the entire gang singing  the reprise of “Keep Christmas with You (All Through the Year)” on the front stoop.

The special includes a variety of Christmas songs like “True Blue Miracle”, “I Hate Christmas”, and “Have Yourself a Merry Christmas”, sung by the Muppet’s, the neighborhood kids and the various adults Gordon, Susan, Maria, Bob and his girlfriend, Linda.

This is another shining example of how great the work of Jim Henson was in his day and how amazing a special like this can hold up over time.

Again, it seems a ‘crying shame’ that the people behind the scenes at The Muppet’s won’t re-air these brilliant Christmas specials. These are great treasures that seem to be rotting away somewhere in a vault, at a time when the world needs wholesome, quality family programming. Hopefully one day we can finally retire those long worn-out VHS copies that they’ve used for so long now and get a remastered Blu Ray with all the bells and whistles. Let’s hope so…

Comments
  1. bill mauldingb says:

    christmas eve on sesame street
    wos a good hoilday movie and
    i wish wos s\till on tv

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