Michael Wermuth, Jr
A Muppet Family Christmas was first broadcast in 1987 and is one of the greatest Muppet specials, if not one of the greatest Muppet productions, of all-time. The special brings together the casts of the Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and even a scene involving the Muppet Babies. It’s perfect for fans of the Muppets, Christmas, or both. And today we take a little look back at this awesome special.
For those who haven’t seen it, Fozzie Bear decides to take his Muppet friends to his mothers farm house for Christmas, deciding to make it a surprise, unaware that she had planned to spend the holiday in California and had rented it out to Doc and Sprocket. Ma Bear ends up staying and having to make room for all the unexpected guests (and gets more and more unexpected guests) while Doc warms up to sharing the farm house with the Muppets. There’s several songs, running gags, and multiple plotlines – such as the Turkey who was invited by the Swedish Chef diverting the chef’s attention to others, Gonzo and the turkey fighting over Camilla’s affections (which doesn’t really resolve much – he meets her, then they feud but quickly get stopped, then they all sit together during the carol sing), Fozzie builds a snowman who comes to life and becomes his partner, but the biggest plot involves Miss Piggy, who didn’t show up with the others due to scheduling a photo shoot and shopping, getting lost in a terrible snowstorm while on the way to the farm house.
There may not be much plot focus (though I feel it has a lot more plot focus than previous specials starring the cast of The Muppet Show), but it doesn’t need a real plot. There’s so many memorable scenes and numbers included. Compiling a list of the top ten scenes from this special would be really hard because EVERY scene is very memorable. It’d probably be easier to make a list of the LEAST memorable stuff – and even a lot of that is memorable to me (let’s see, what’s least memorable…. How about Kermit sending the rats and chickens away from the kitchen and into the Swedish Chef’s bedroom? No, too memorable…. How about Dr. Teeth expressing how proud he is for being one of Fozzie’s weirdo friends? No, that’s too memorable… How about the way that one background rabbit moves his lips when sing… No, that’s too memorable…). But the greatest scene in this special must be the carol sing at the end, with a crowd of Muppets singing a medley of great Christmas songs – Kermit and Piggy sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, Fozzie and his mom sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, Floyd and Janice sing “The Holly and the Ivy”, and so on. And this awesome sequence lasts almost ten full minutes.
While Fozzie’s mother had made a couple of appearances on The Muppet Show, this is the first time that she had a big part, and would continue to appear in a handful of productions following this. This special was the first time I remember seeing Lips (while my earliest memory of seeing the Muppets is The Great Muppet Caper, at the time my young mind could only remember a few scenes), the character stuck out to me, and as I was used to The Electric Mayhem having five members, I thought it was odd that they suddenly had his wild yellow guy with them (and he seems to show up a LOT in the background, probably more so than other characters). It was also my first exposure to Doc and Sprocket, and would take a number of years before I realized they were on Fraggle Rock (ignoring Doc’s brief line about Fraggles which I didn’t fully understand at the time). Now it may seem like every Muppet is included, but there’s plenty who are not. For a number of years I thought it would have been great if the special had long-unseen characters (like characters who barely made it past the first season of The Muppet Show or hadn’t been seen on Sesame Street since the 1970s) until I realized that this special wasn’t really a celebration of the works of Jim Henson, just a fun special combining the casts of the three main Muppet franchises.
One of the big deals of this special is that it’s perhaps the biggest crossover between Henson franchises (almost tied with The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years). This special has not had an official release or broadcast since Disney bought the Muppets in 2004, but is the lack of release or broadcast due to the heavy use of characters owned by Disney, Henson, and Sesame Workshop? The three companies seem to be good at cooperating when needed, and while Kermit used to have to be cut from a few Henson specials (hopefully Kermit’s re-inclusion in Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas means he can be re-included in The Christmas Toy soon), a handful of other Henson productions with Disney-owned characters have been released uncut, Sesame Workshop doesn’t seem to have any problems releasing Kermit the Frog segments from Sesame Street, and Disney has released a few Muppet productions with uncut appearances by Sesame Street characters. Hopefully Henson wouldn’t provide issues with the inclusion of Fraggle Rock characters (though Sprocket wasn’t cut from post-2004 releases of The Muppet Christmas Carol). Enough songs have had to be cut from the video releases – let’s not have to cut more stuff. But I have a feeling it just hasn’t been released for the last reason the majority of other old Muppet content hasn’t been released – and I haven’t a clue why. It also would have been great if there was a soundtrack album to this special.
In terms of crossover, I feel they missed out on a great opportunity with the Fraggle Rock scene. They could have had more characters visit Fraggle Rock, it’d have been great to have had some of the Sesame Street Muppets visit, but instead, we only get Kermit and Robin visiting the place. It’s still a great scene, but it’d have been awesome if a large number of characters met the Fraggles. For years I’ve also thought it’d be great if the Sesame Street humans appeared and interacted with Doc (I also used to wonder if they worried about the fact that Doc was played by a different actor in certain countries – without wondering the same about Sesame Street characters).
Anyway, if you can only see one Muppet Christmas production, see A Muppet Family Christmas. If you can only see one Muppet production that’s not The Muppet Show or any of the movies, see this special. If you’ve already seen the special, you know you want to see it again. So here’s to 30 years of one of the best Christmas specials of all-time!