A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)

Well, they certainly seem to be having a good time out there, Sprocket. Yep, I like it when they have a good time. But tell you what, somebody'll have to do something about these dishes, Sprocket. C'mon. I'll wash, you dry, okay?
--for me to know and you to find out


What are you doing here? I've got people coming over today! It's Christmas!

Oh, right! One more Christmas review! Okay, this will be a quick one:

Some Christmas movies and specials you see all the time every year. Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Charlie Brown, the Grinch, you know the ones.

A Muppet Family Christmas, shockingly, is not one of them and has not been one of them since some time in the 1990s, which is just totally unfair since this is a rare gem in the history of television. You don't see crossovers much on TV, at least without the motive of corporate synergy or when one popular show just happens to pull in some guest stars from one of its spinoffs, or when one of those guest stars just shows up for a brief cameo appearance. And to have as many of your favorite characters from your favorite shows as possible in one hour-long TV special...this is more than just the best Christmas present ever. This is like Christmas, your birthday, and your alma mater's basketball team winning the national championship all at once.

The whole special takes place at Fozzie's mother's farmhouse in the country. And guess who's just about to leave to spend the holidays in Malibu:

And guess whose son is dropping in for a visit, bringing as many of his friends as he can fit in the back of a pickup truck.

And guess who Fozzie's mother has rented the house out to:

For those who didn't grow up in the better part of the 80s, those would be the eccentric inventor Doc (Gerry Parkes) and his Muppet dog Sprocket from the wildly popular Canadian Muppet show Fraggle Rock. They're renting Mama Fozzie's place for the holidays, looking to spend a nice quiet Christmas in the country. Incidentally, this was Doc's first appearance on UK TV when this premiered across the pond, since Sprocket's owner was a lighthouse keeper in the British version.

And it only gets better.

Fozzie, Kermit and all his Muppet Show cohorts arrive much to the surprise of everyone in the house, and from here we get this special's running gag - there's an icy patch on the front porch which no one can avoid slipping on, as everybody comes in single file and slips on it.

During the course of the special, some things happen:

Miss Piggy, to add a bit of tension, gets waylaid with a photo session and some last-minute Christmas shopping en route to the farmhouse, and then gets caught in a blizzard.

Fozzie duets with a snowman, and the two of them form a comedy duo which Statler and Waldorf quickly shoot down.

Everybody watches some home movies of the Muppet Babies (not in cartoon form, but rather in live-action) sing "Santa Claus is Coming To Town".

They had such big imaginations back in the day.

During the proceedings, some carolers drop by--AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

You are looking at the all-felt cast of Sesame Street, circa 1987, before the Great Elmo Takeover. Oscar the Grouch, who refuses to join in on "Deck the Halls", is there as well, in the center of the shot. Guess Bob and Maria and everyone else had their own families to visit. That, and Mr. Hooper had been dead for four years.

The Sesame Street gang put on a pageant, where Ernie reads "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and Bert wears women's pajamas while that two-headed monster whose collective name I cannot remember play Santa Claus riding a sleigh pulled by other monsters.

The Swedish Chef has "invited" a turkey to Christmas dinner who makes every attempt to avoid getting cooked by convincing the Chef that other animals in the house are turkeys, including Sprocket. When he persuades the Chef to cook Big Bird instead, the oversized fowl inadvertently gets himself out of danger with the gift of chocolate covered birdseed. Then they sing a bilingual version of "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" before the Chef makes a last-minute menu change: shredded wheat and cranberry sauce. Big Bird's favorite.

Somewhere in all this, the subplot about Mama Fozzie's trip to Malibu is never mentioned again.

As Kermit still worries about Piggy, Doc, who has taken a liking to his strange new housemates, goes out to look for her, while Robin explores the cellar and shows Kermit an unusually sized hole in the wall.

Wait a minute. Muppets? Hole in the wall? YOU DON'T MEAN...


Yes, those are Fraggles. The very same Fraggles whose show came to an end not too long before this special came out. And as luck would have it, they're in the middle of celebrating a holiday sort of like Christmas, where they give each other the same pebble as a gift. And yes, they sing a song. It's from their own show, too. Quite nice.

Doc finally returns with Miss Piggy via dog sled (such a prima donna) and after she too slips on the icy patch, Mama Fozzie gathers everyone in the living room to say that they're running out of room in the house, and two of her guests will have to sleep on hangers hung on wall hooks, which Gonzo and Animal don't seem to mind. After that, much of the rest of the special is a medley of Christmas songs, and the Fraggles make another appearance as well.

After about ten minutes of jovial musical merriment, Kermit gives Piggy a mink for Christmas. A living, breathing mink...who is her number one fan. Piggy loves it. Then Doc comes in dressed as Santa Claus and starts handing out gifts as everybody joins in one last chorus of "We Wish You a Merry--AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

...I think I just crapped myself.

All right, gotta wrap this up. My guests will be here any minute.

The last time this special came out on home video was back in 2001, when the Muppets were owned by a German corporation and weren't seeing much action. The version which was released had some scenes cut out of it because of some copyright issues with the songs performed in them, in particular Fozzie and the snowman singing "Sleigh Ride" and almost the entire baby Muppet segment; your best bet to find an uncut edition would be to find a copy released in Canada or overseas and have it imported. Couple this with the fact that the Muppets, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock are all now owned by three different corporate entities (Disney, Sesame Workshop and the Henson company, respectively) and you've pretty much summed up its chances of ever re-appearing on DVD or television again.

A crying shame, really, because for a hardcore Muppet fan, this special is a DEFINITE must-see. Nowhere else in the history of mankind are you ever going to see characters from three of the greatest childhood-defining TV shows ever conceived quite literally under the same roof. Never again might you see Doc making small talk with Bert and Ernie about what letter his name starts with, or Oscar hitting it off with Rizzo, or even Animal befriending Cookie Monster.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have relatives coming over today and I need to go change my shorts. Happy holidays, everybody!

Wait, didn't Doc meet the Fraggles at the end of the series?
And where was Uncle Traveling Matt during all this?
...ah, screw it. It's Christmas.

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