Having watched several Sesame Street Christmas specials in a row this holiday season, I am struck by how much has changed in the forty years that the street has been on the air. Sure, the location itself still looks the same as it did in '69 and Oscar is forever settled in his familiar place, but in this 2006 production, three of the five main character are computer generated. There is no new material with the human characters at all, although all the familiar faces (both flesh & blood and Muppet) do appear in archive footage. Of course, the fact that there is so much stuff recycled from previous Christmas outings only emphasizes the aforementioned changes.
Oscar the Grouch is kept up all night on Christmas Eve by an anything Muppet called Joe Marley, who works for the 'Scaredy-Pants Delivery Service' and brings tidings of three ghostly visits. Actually this isn't the first time Oscar has gotten the Scrooge treatment. He was also haunted by three ghost in the oft forgotten "Special Sesame Street Christmas" special. Only in that one the spirits were Anne Murray, Imogene Coca and Dick Smothers in disguise. This time around the trio are actual see-through apparitions made out of floating pixels. They are, in order of appearance: Rhubarb the Grouch, Christmas Carole (who is dressed like an X-mas tree) and the robotic i-Sam (an updated version of SAM the Robot perhaps?).
Doing his duty as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Rhubarb (whom Oscar is actually in awe of) presents two 'movies' from the past: Bert & Ernie's 'Gift of the Magi' inspired tale from 1978's "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street" (the one with that touching appearance by Mr. Hooper) and a clip of Big Bird missing Snuffy from 1996's "Elmo Saves Christmas". When Carole comes along, she offers up some 'present day' clips, two of which are actually from 2002's "Elmo's World: Happy Holidays!" and another two from "Elmo Saves Christmas". As a matter of fact, the last one sees the reunion of Big Bird and Snuffy from that show. This means that if the segment shown by Rhubarb was really from years past and the resolution in the present day, poor old BB must have been waiting years for his old Snuffleupagus pall!
Lastly i-Sam (who actually calls him self Sam the Super Automated Ghost of Christmas Future in the special) shows a short cartoon about how Christmas will be celebrated in days to come that is most likely inspired by Tex Avery's classic 'futuristic' shorts. What I like about this animated interlude as well as the live action segment that teaches about Chanukah and Kwanza (show in the 'present' section) is that their inclusion makes the special seem a bit more like an old fashioned Sesame Street episode than any of the other Christmas specials.
When Oscar wakes up to an empty, snow filled street, it seems to all have been just a bad dream. Joe Marley the delivery boy reappears (after all, he's the only other Muppet character in this show). But Marley is now calling himself 'Joey Dickens from Brooklyn'. It's good to know there are Muppets living over there. Oscar is glad to receive a sticky ball of used wrapping paper as well as the fact that the snow will soon be melting and turning to mud. He doesn't seem to have learned much of a lesson at all, but then again, it would have been impossible to change his entire personality around for the sake of just one straight to DVD special. Still, the saddest thing of all is that the street we have known for so many years remains absolutely barren as the credits roll. Even the much maligned 'Special Sesame Street Christmas' had more music and cheer at the end than how this one turned out.
7 out of 10