Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Christmas Movie Marathon Day 4

           I'm trying something different to get in the holiday spirit this year. Every day, from now through Christmas, I will be watching a different Christmas movie or television special. I have compiled the list of features ahead of time and am drawing one, at random, from my Christmas stocking everyday to determine what gets watched. Thank you for joining me in this endeavor. Now let's find out what I'm watching for day 4.

Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978)

           Now this is quite the change from yesterday. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street is from a different, and in my opinion, better era of the long running educational program. Specifically, this special is from the time before Sesame Street was hit with the annoying red blight know as Elmo. If you want some insight in to some of the reasons Elmo is terrible you should check out this article. Moving away from my seething Elmo hatred and back to the feature at hand, this special was a Christmas staple. PBS ran it almost every holiday season from its premiere until 1996 when it was finally retired and replaced...with Elmo Saves Christmas. Ignoring how angry that makes me, this special has it all. It is legitimately funny with jokes that land for both kids and adults. It teaches tolerance for other cultures with out being preachy. And it does a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of giving and caring that under scores the whole of the holiday season.
           To say that I am a fan of this special would be an understatement. I have loved it since I was a child and it is hard to convey the excitement I felt when I found it on DVD at a random grocery store during the 2006 holiday season. It has been a yearly watch since that day and I am not even sure that this will be my only viewing this year. Enough with my gushing, let's dig on in


           While I could do a more scene by scene synopsis for this special, like I did for both He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special and Rare Exports. I don't think that is the right method to encapsulate Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. Structure wise there are three plot threads that interweave through the special and it will be better if we look at them individually. The main plot starts following a skating party featuring the whole Sesame Street crew. Outside of the rink, before heading back to Sesame Street, Big Bird and a girl named Patty are excitedly discussing Santa's impending arrival later that night. Oscar the Grouch interrupts them and chides them for believing in something so ridiculous. How can big, fat Santa fit down all those skinny chimneys, he reasons. Big Bird and Patty have no answers and the are soon very troubled. They talk to Kermit about their concerns and he decides to rally some the other Muppets to interview experts on Santa (other children) about how he gets down the chimney.

Oscar proves the line between grouch and jerk is very thin.

           Later that evening, with no definitive answers, Big Bird is despondent. After Patty leaves, Big Bird comes up with a final plan. He will see first hand how Santa makes it down the chimneys by going to the roof of the apartment building. Shorty after he goes up to the roof, Patty has second thoughts about how Big Bird was acting and heads back to his nest to check on him and discovers that he is gone. She lets Gordon know about her discovery and soon the whole of Sesame Street, including Oscar, is out looking for Big Bird. Not having any luck, they decide to break off the search for a bit to get warm when they run into Big Bird coming down from the roof for the same reason. Everyone is relieved that Big Bird is okay, but Big Bird himself is still stressed out about Santa. However, upon entering Gordon's apartment they discover that it has it has been decorated and presents have been left. Big Bird is calmed for, while he is still not sure how Santa does it, Santa has clearly made it into the building despite the narrow chimney.
           The second storyline is focused on Bert and Ernie and takes obvious inspiration from the short story The Gift of the Magi. After going skating, Bert takes a bath and realizes that he still needs to get Ernie a gift. While he is pondering what to get for the gift, he finds that Rubber Ducky has fallen in the tub. This gives Bert the perfect gift idea: a soap dish to hold Rubber Ducky. At the same time, Ernie is in the living room trying to figure out Bert's gift when he spots something on the floor. It is a paper clip from Bert's paper clip collection. Ernie has an epiphany. He will get Bert a cigar box to store his paper clip collection in.
           Later, Ernie heads to Mr. Hooper's store to procure a cigar box. However, Ernie doesn't have any money so he offers Rubber Ducky in trade. Mr. Hooper seems incredulous but accepts the offer. As Ernie is leaving, Bert enters the store. He similarly has no extra money and puts forth his paper clip collection. Mr. Hooper is again shocked but allows the trade. Back at their apartment, Bert and Ernie can't wait to exchange gifts and decide to open them right away. Both are touched by the gifts they received but dismayed that both were bought with the items that they traded in mind. It is here that they narrative diverges from Gift of the Magi. Before they can reveal to each other that they no longer have the item that the gift was designed to compliment, Mr. Hooper arrives with Christmas gifts for Bert and Ernie. Unsurprisingly, the gifts he gives are the items he accepted in trade. Bert and Ernie realize that they don't have any gift for Mr. Hooper, but he says that seeing that everyone got what they wanted is gift enough.

Bert and Ernie know that the right way to do it is to open gifts on Christmas Eve.

           The final story line is the lightest and is mostly used as humorous vignettes as the special weaves between there other stories. It focuses on Cookie Monster's attempts to contact Santa with what he wants for Christmas. The gift Cookie Monster desires is, of course, cookies. Unfortunately, every time he tries to contact Santa, thinking about cookies activates his voracious appetite and he ends up eating the means of communication, starting with a pencil, moving to a typewriter, and finally a phone. Cookie Monster is concerned that, since he failed to contact him, Santa will not know what he wanted. However, when the gifts are found in Gordon's apartment at the end of the special there are indeed cookies for Cookie Monster.

An intervention may be in order.

Final Thoughts

           As stated in the beginning, this is absolutely one of my favorite Christmas specials. There are many reasons for it. Nostalgia is certainly one of them. I can remember watching this on PBS while playing with a Duplo train set that I received from Santa. Clearly it has been with me a long time, as I rarely play with Duplo trains these days. However, nostalgia alone doesn't account for all of my adoration. This special consistently amazes me with just how smartly it is written. It is readily understandable by children but has plenty of jokes that land for adults as well. Examples of this include some of the questions that Grover asks while trying to figure out how Santa gets down the chimney as well as one of my favorite moments, Oscar clearly cursing out Big Bird but being drowned out by a passing subway so that he is entirely unintelligible.

More children's television specials should have implied swearing
           Beyond that, the special is loaded with subtle teachable moments. Bert and Ernie caring about each other enough that they are willing to give up one of their most prized possessions to get something to make the other happy speaks volumes and still gives me a level of selflessness that I can aspire to. Further in another subtle and impressive scene, Bob and Mr. Hooper pass on the street with Bob wishing Mr. Hooper a Happy Hanukkah and Mr. Hooper returning a Merry Christmas. I love this small scene as it simultaneously makes kids and adults aware of one of the more discreet diversities in our midst and shows two people respecting each other's culture by simply returning good will. Bob doesn't insist that he should only have to say Merry Christmas all season long. People could still learn something from this today. I can not say enough good things about this special. Suffice it to say that it won an Emmy for a reason. If I actually went to holiday parties where younger kids were present, I think that I would bring my DVD of this special and encourage/force them to watch it. Simply a must for the holiday season. Watch it if you can, I hear Amazon has copies. That is day 4. Check back tomorrow to see what I'm watching for day 5.

No comments:

Post a Comment