13 November 2009 | D_Burke
Sunny Days Can't Sweep This Tacky Christmas Special Away
"A Special Sesame Street Christmas" stands out from many of the Sesame Street holiday specials, let alone Muppet-related specials, that have aired over the last 30+ years, and not in a good way. The special is not to be confused with "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street", which aired only five days before and is, in many ways, a far superior (and timeless) Christmas special that is still seen to this day on TV and DVD.
Unlike "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street", "A Special Sesame Street Christmas" originally aired on CBS, not PBS, featured only three Muppets (Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, and an unusually large Barkley the dog), and did not actually involve Jim Henson, Frank Oz, or any of the major Muppeteers. They were in fact busy working on "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street" at the time this special was made.
Since this show has not, to this day, been released on either VHS or DVD, there is a bit of intrigue to it similar to the "Star Wars Holiday Special", which, coincidentally enough, also aired on CBS three weeks prior. Thanks to YouTube, I got to see this special in its entirety. Unfortunately, although this special has its moments, it's overall not very good. I say this as a big Muppet fan too.
Oscar the Grouch is, as always, very funny. It was a clever touch when he introduced the show with, "I do have orders to say, 'Welcome to A Special Sesame Street Christmas'". In fact, anytime a Muppet is on the screen, brilliance can be seen. Unfortunately, there are long periods of time where no Muppets can be seen whatsoever. Elongated musical numbers by Anne Murray and Ethyl Merman left me bored, especially since they weren't singing Christmas songs. Merman sang "Tomorrow", from the Broadway show "Annie", and Murray sang a very slow love song which I think must have put the person in Big Bird's costume to sleep. Oscar's singing of the Coasters' classic "Yakkity Yak" wasn't as boring, but was equally as random.
Therein lies to problem with this special: "Sesame Street" is a show for young children, but it's obvious the makers of this show forgot about that fact. They had a good start with Leslie Uggams, who is one of those singers/actresses who is adorable and has a magnetic stage presence. Uggams can and does appeal to people of all age groups, and made a good unofficial host. After the auspicious introduction to the show, though, everything became very random. I wasn't convinced by the "prank" Uggams and company played on Oscar by having him be visited by three ghosts (as in "A Christmas Carol"), and I doubt Oscar would have been either, considering his character.
Additionally, the late Michael Jackson made a cameo on this show. More people know of his appearance now because of his untimely death, but his appearance was entirely wasted. He had a few lines of dialogue with Oscar, left the set, and that was that. He was months shy of his "Off The Wall" release, but to have someone as talented as him be given nothing to do on this special is a travesty. Henry Fonda and Dick Smothers were equally as wasted.
This Christmas special is inferior to other specials that have successfully stood the test of time. However, it doesn't deserve to be forgotten, and should be seen as part of Jim Henson's legacy. It's doubtful it will be released on DVD, but other people should see it on YouTube and come up with their own opinions on it. It's also a great lesson on how NOT to make a Christmas special for kids.