Out Of a Shocking Number Of Choices
I consider myself a Muppet aficionado. I learned to read at age three by watching Sesame Street. As a five-year-old, I was Cookie Monster for Halloween, and I dressed as Floyd Pepper for Halloween as a 29 year-old. As a 34 year-old, I now own a shelf of Muppet-related content on Blu-Ray and have been to the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of Moving Image in the past year. Still, I had no idea the depths of the Muppet Christmas catalogue until I saw this bracket from @MuppetNewsflash.
Somehow I’d only really known The Muppet Christmas Carol and parts of a couple others. I spent the last week binging as many of the rest as I could find and found a few true gems in the mix. Here’s my top-5 Muppet Christmas favorites and where to find them:
5. It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)
When The Muppets work, what makes them special is the wonderful cast of monsters with their fun human guests learning timeless life lessons together while sharing laughs and songs. Unfortunately, this early 2000’s lightweight take on “It’s a Wonderful Life” is plagued by odd guest stars like David Arquette playing this version of Clarence the Angel and Whoopi Goldberg as God. Triumph the Comic Insult dog and Molly Shannon are also there. Dated jokes about cell phones and Moulin Rouge feel so out of place, but it has enough Muppet goodness to make it passable.
4. Once Upon a Sesame Street Christmas (2016)
Elmo’s dad takes him back in time to the days when Sesame St. was unfriendly and no one believed in Christmas as a roundabout way of telling him why we leave cookies for Santa Clause. I didn’t think I’d be as into the more recent Sesame Street offerings, but this has good messages and songs about kindness and Elmo isn’t as annoying as I remembered. Throwback Oscar looks hilarious, the whole thing is cute and I enjoyed Shosh from “Girls” adding in a Chanukkah lesson for balance. Available to stream on HBO Go.
3. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
It feels like the classiest of the bunch. I’m not sure if it’s because it was the only one released in theaters or because Michael Caine makes everything feel classy, but it’s a slick production and unlike my #5, they manage to tell the classic story well and put their own spin on it. It’s probably the most well known of the Muppet Christmas oeuvre, but I think there are more fun offerings.
2. A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
I don’t care that there’s little plot here beyond getting every Muppet in the extended universe to Fozzie’s mom’s house. The point is that the gang’s all here and all the muppets, Sesame Street and Fraggle rockers are ready to rock. The music is incredible and they don’t have to waste time with exposition, so they can just joke around, enjoy each other’s company and sing songs with a jam-packed cast of our favorite characters. And I dare you not to get emotional when Jim Henson shows up to smile upon his creations. Stream free on YouTube.
1. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978)
There’s so much to adore about this one. Big Bird is desperate to find out the logistics about Santa after Oscar tells him it’s a myth. When he ends up falling asleep on the roof trying to wait out Santa, his friends go out in the cold to bring him home and a miracle occurs. But the part that really destroys me is when Ernie and Bert do the Gift of the Magi thing and sell their favorite items to get a gift for each other, but when Ernie sells rubber duckie and Bert sells his paper clip collection, the soap dish and cigar box they got each other to hold the items become useless. At least until shop owner Mr. Hooper gifts them back their favorite items. When they feel bad they didn’t get him anything, he tells them that making sure others got what they wanted most was the best gift of all. And that was the moment when my fellow Jew, Mr. Hooper finally taught me what Christmas means. Stream Free on YouTube.