TV Review: Christmas Eve on Sesame Street

Posted: December 1, 2013 in Christmas, Holiday, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

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Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978/ Children’s Television Workshop/ Dir. Jon Stone)

Friends, Interneters, Countrymen? Look, lend me your eyes okay? I come not to bury Big Bird, but to praise him. The good men do, may sometimes live after then, while what little evils the commited may be interred with their bones. So let it be with Big Bird. Many hath told you Henson was ambitious? If it were so, it was a magnificent joy; and Henson hath answer’d it. You all did love him once,–not without cause: what cause withholds you, then, to mourn for him? O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason!–Bear with me; my heart is in the coffin there with Henson, and I must pause till it come back to me.


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And here are the artifacts that the ancient scrolls spoke of!

Get past the ice skating at the beginning. Please, for me. It’s going to be hard, since it’s the opening 8 minutes of this 59 minute special, but I promise you it’s worth it. Even the ice skating isn’t terrible. It’s just the opening is so 70s, it kind of hurts and the music is very… late 70s kid’s TV. Here’s the thing though, the ice skating bit is actually kind of charming. You have Big Bird learning to ice skate, you have Bert & Ernie playing with Oscar, Cookie Monster and The Count… that’s kind of groovy. The problem is you have these ice skating kids who are anonymous at best and baffling for their inclusion at worst. The skating Muppets are from an Ice Show that Sesame Street was involved with for a while. It was probably a good way to show off the ice skaters for people who could get to a show, but now is just mildly baffling at worst. The thing is, it’s all okay. It’s nice an inoffensive, and I see no problem with it.

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Trying to get everyone in one cap is hard okay?

The main story, this is Sesame Street after all, starts after the ice skating is done. Oscar starts Big Bird wondering how Santa can get down modern tiny chimneys. After that story is initiated, we get the first real song (True Blue Miracle) and holy rusted metal Batman(!) this is an incredibly integrated show. I haven’t sat down and watched a kids show in a few years now, but I am shocked to see such an amalgam of genders and races in one screen. The most recent thing I watched on TV was a show about two white men, two white women and one sassy black man. I won’t mention that the black man was a thief, because they were all thieves on that show. ANYWAY! So Big Bird has a panic attack about Santa not getting down the chimney, and that he and his little friend Patty have to find out before the clock strikes or Santa Will cancel Christmas because OF COURSE SANTA WILL CANCEL CHRISTMAS! We’ve been down this road before, we’ve seen his desperation to shut the whole thing down. The thing is, no one ever counted on Kermit The Frog! Kermit, in a fantastic show of form and grace is determined to help by interviewing kids about how Santa gets down the chimney. Patty mentions she doesn’t know the answer, but this only delays Kermit about a millisecond because Kermit is the boss applesauce!

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Because it mirrors a shot in Bourne Identity, that’s why.

The show suddenly changes gears as we enter the dark phase of this show. Yeah, it’s Christmas, and we’re dealing with some lovers of the classics. Of course they’re going to do Gift of the Magi, OF COURSE THEY ARE! Bert decides to get Ernie a soap dish so that Rubber Duckie won’t keep falling in the tub. Meanwhile Ernie decides to get a cigar box for Bert’s paperclip collection. Bert was a dweeb man. A paper clip collection? I dated a pretty dweebie girl for about a decade and even she didn’t have a paperclip collection. And if anyone I ever met was going to have one, it world have been her. Anyway, I’m going to just focus on this story for the moment, otherwise we’ll get lost. So Ernie trades Rubber Duckie to Mr. Hooper for the cigar box and Bert trades his paperclips for the soap dish. Bert almost cries as he hands over this single most prized of all possessions.

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I’m gonna make you an offer, you can’t refuse.

Mr. Hooper works out what’s going on and gives the boys back their most prized possessions because in doing so he got the best present of all. He got to see that everyone got exactly what they wanted for Christmas. It’s heartwarming enough, but I really don’t like The Gift of the Magi. Me and O Henry just ain’t never gotten along. It’s a sweet enough idea though, and a good way to tell the story without giving us the moralizing that makes the original story so distasteful to me. Odd, this is the second time I’ve approved of a translation of a story I genuinely hate. Maybe I don’t hate it? Strange little trip, this blog has been. Hang on a second… (re-reads Gift of the Magi) NOPE! Hate that story. Hate, hate, hate!

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God above, we have been blessed.

So allow us to move onto the next story. Cookie Monster wants to write a letter to Santa, asking for cookies (duh!) only when he first tries to write a letter he gets excited thinking about cookies that eats his pencil. Then he eats the typewriter shouting “Cowabunga!” A full three hundred years before anyone ever heard of a Ninja Turtle. When he tries to call Santa, he eats the phone. Cookie Monster is having kind of a bad night frankly. He eventually asks Gordon what he should do, like maybe he should give Santa some shaving cream or a necktie and is shocked to learn people tend to leave Santa cookies. He has a look on his face like “And now the snake has eaten his own tail!” that he carries for the rest of his run on Sesame Street. In fact, he’s so baffled by this that in a Marvel Style post credit sequence it is revealed that he ate the Christmas tree. How’s that for a shawarma scene?

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Hey, Hulk, do you like shawarma? I don’t know what it is, but now I want some.

Okay, but what about Big Bird? Well, as it turns out he decided to hit the roof. I would say that it’s the only place left in New York where he can smoke, but this is 1978. You could work over an incubator and smoke in ’78. Everyone smoked, I’m amazed there is no Flintstonesesque moment where he stops to smoke a nice pack of Winston Cigarettes. No, instead he’s going up there so he can catch Santa in the act and ask once and for all how he gets down the chimneys. Predictably, he falls asleep and misses it. What he also misses is that everyone on Sesame Street was looking for him.

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Zzzzzzz

Yeah, his friend Patty notices that he’s gone and gets everyone worried about him. So they all go out into the cold, snowing night and look for him. The most amazing thing is when Maria, oh beautiful Maria, come to Oscar’s trash can. He makes some kind of smart ass remark and Maria just goes off on him. She’s all “You ever read the Bible Oscar? There’s this little passage I got memorized.” And he tries to do the whole “What?” thing and eventually it leads to Maria giving him the full blown “AND YOU WILL KNOW MY NAME IS THE LORD!” treatment before kicking his can onto the ground and sending him flying about fifteen feet for all the trouble he caused.

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Have another whisky!

Have I ever mentioned I watch these things drunk? I often watch like… five specials at once and some of them you have to get pretty hammered to get through. And because I’m ADD and dyslexic, I also sometimes have youtube running because every once in a while I need to stop and be reminded of the world outside. Sometimes these things bleed together. I wasn’t even watching anything else while watching this, and yet I remember these things and when I watch the show again to get screencaps, suddenly those scenes aren’t there anymore. Where was I?

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Pure Opulence

So Big Bird comes down stairs and they show him how Christmas came. He didn’t see Santa, but it came just the same. It came without answers, it came without facts. It came without commercials, cynicism or… tracks? Dear Dr. Seuss, this is way harder than you made it look. Gordon then explains to Big Bird that the thing that’s important isn’t knowing how Santa gets down the chimney, but rather that everyone is going to be together for Christmas. It does bother me a little that they answer to his central question is “Why do you want to know, and what does it matter?” but I’m going to put that down to Gordon trying to come up with something quick to keep Big Bird off the roof.

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Where’d they get that tree in such short order?

I’m going to be honest, I rail against a lot of these specials for a very good reason. They try to fake sentiment, they deliver a ham fisted message, or deliver a message that is kind of hateful if you spend more than 17 seconds thinking about it. The message here is that it’s important to have people you care about, and who care about you. A secondary storyline delivers the message that giving of yourself is noble and that performing in the service of someone you love is greater than doing something for yourself. If I can’t get behind that sort of thing, then what kind of monster have I become? Luckily for me, I am prepared to give this a particularly high score. This is not nostalgia, I have spent the whole run of this blog proving that I am not a slave to the whims of nostalgia.

Official Score:
75 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.
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