Join us as we spend the next 25 days writing about some of our favourite Holiday TV specials! Today, we look back at A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa.
What’s it About?
A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa is an hour-long Christmas special starring the Muppets, which first aired on December 17, 2008, on NBC.
Geared exclusively toward a younger audience, the plot involves the Muppets mistakenly intercepting three letters sent by children to Santa Claus after they get thrown out of the post office for causing too much ‘Muppet’ mayhem. When Gonzo realizes the post office has already closed, he and his friends attempt to personally deliver the letters to Santa – even if it means travelling to the North Pole.
The Muppet Show lasted five short years and after Jim Henson’s surprising early death, but the Muppeteers tried several times at attempting a comeback on the small screen. Long before Jason Segal ever stepped in, there were plenty of TV specials including Muppets Tonight, a sitcom about a variety show that nobody seems to remember, Cinderelmo, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Kermit’s Swamp Years, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, Elmo’s Christmas Countdown, and finally, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa.
The Muppets have always been among the most loveable characters to spend the holiday season with, and while Letters to Santa may not be as famed as the television special/album collaboration with John Denver, nor It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Letters to Santa was certainly an improvement for the Muppet gang who spent years struggling with the heartbreaking loss of their creator.
Opening with a song-and-dance number (essentially a peculiar and over the top tribute for the United States Postal Service), the Christmas special features the standard brand of corny Muppets gags one expects. Propelled by the same variety of natural charm and offbeat humour we remember from the Muppet gang, Letters to Santa was the first one-hour Muppets television Christmas special since 1987 and for the most part, it lived up to the hype. The makers promised audiences would get the old Muppet magic from their golden years, and while they fell just short on their promise, Letters to Santa is still consistently funny, balancing the signature mix of craziness, cleverness, and camp that made the Muppets the multimedia sensation they are.
As with all of the Muppet projects since Henson’s passing, the new voices aren’t always spot on, and those with sharp ears will pick up on the differences. Steve Whitmire has been voicing Kermit for decades now but still hasn’t perfected his sound, but the biggest disappointment comes with the bland uninspiring songs, featuring poor production values and synthesized music by Paul Williams (who previously penned the memorable tunes of The Muppet Movie and The Muppet Christmas Carol). Thankfully there is a barrage of celebrity cameos and the writers show a willingness to be modern without being dated – with references to Blackberrys, the internet, social networking sites and cameos by the cast of The Sopranos (Tony Sirico and Steve Schirripa).
Nathan Lane and Uma Thurman both turn in big laughs in their brief screen time. Beaker lands a dream date with Petra Nemcova using Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s “wish machine,” and Pepe, who has grown to be one of the funniest of the new generation of Muppets, steals the spotlight with his every appearance. Some cameos (as always) serve no real purpose other than to pad out the thin storyline. An appearance from New York mayor Michael Bloomberg misfires and Jane Krakowski’s comparatively bigger supporting role is pretty much wasted. Other celebrity appearances include Whoopi Goldberg , Richard Griffiths, Jesse L. Martin and Madison Pettis.
Despite a few shortcomings, Letters to Santa captures both that old Muppet magic, the spirit of holiday cheer and togetherness. In a closing number, the Muppets proclaim this to be their “best Christmas,” but we can all agree we’ve seen better.
– Ricky D
How Christmassy is it?
100% – The Muppet gang travels to the North Pole, meets up with Santa Claus, ride his magical sleigh and throw the biggest Muppet Christmas bash ever seen.
You May Like It If…
The pervasively child-friendly atmosphere ultimately cements A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa for anyone under the age of 12 or those already fans of the Muppets.
A DVD of the special was released on September 29, 2009. The disc’s bonus features include deleted scenes and interviews with the cast. A soundtrack album of the four original songs from the special was released for download on the iTunes Store and Amazon.com.
Here is the list of the original songs written by frequent Muppet collaborator Paul Williams, who appears in the special as Santa’s chief elf.
- “Delivering Christmas”
- “It’s All About Heart”
- “I Wish I Could Be Santa Claus”
- “My Best Christmas Yet”