If you’re a fan of old school Sesame Street, then there’s an extremely good chance that you’re familiar with 1978’s Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, the magical, warm, funny, and sometimes even quite sad holiday special in which Big Bird becomes obsessive over how it’s possible for a fat guy like Santa to fit down the chimney after Oscar teases him (hey, if Big Bird thinks that’s bad, just wait until he’s asked “If God created the universe, then who created God?”). It’s wonderful, delightful, and considered a classic by many.
The same can’t be said about the other Christmas special that year which also featured Sesame Street characters. Yes, 1978 had TWO Sesame Street holiday specials, airing within days of each other. And the one we’re talking about today is the bad one: A Special Sesame Street Christmas.
Of course, it’s really hard to explain why this thing is bad. It’s sort of like The Star Wars Holiday Special–you have to experience this mess for yourself to believe it. And like that infamous trip to a galaxy far, far away (which, oddly enough, also premiered in 1978), A Special Sesame Street Christmas takes the “variety show” format popular for that era. It throws a bunch of random celebrities at the wall, has them all do “bits” connected to something barely resembling a plot, and then calls it a day. But hey, at least unlike Star Wars, Sesame Street clocks it at under an hour.
Anyway, one day on Sesame Street, everyone was excited about Christmas, except for Oscar, who was grouchy about it…you know, because HE’S A FUCKING GROUCH! This upsets everyone on Sesame Street for reasons, even though they live with Oscar, they know he’s grouchy, and they just deal with him because he’s still their friend. But not today. Today they get so fed up with his grouchiness (which he’s not even forcing on them; they keep bothering him trying to get him to be a part of a holiday that annoys him, and only then does he respond with grouchiness). Anyway, singer Leslie Uggams–who I guess lives on Sesame Street now–decides that they should…scare Oscar by disguising themselves as Christmas ghosts. Yeah.
What follows is…uncomfortable. Which to say this special FEELS uncomfortable, as though no one involved with it actually wants to be here. This goes for even the adult regulars on the show, who normally are perfectly natural, but here are forced to smile awkwardly as though someone is holding their kids at gunpoint as Anne Murray sits on a countertop to sing a song, or when Ethel Merman seems to be getting a bit too close as she sings the holiday favorite…”Tomorrow” from Annie?
All the while, Henry Fonda shows up for 20 seconds despite getting top billing, Michael Jackson gives Oscar a book and then leaves, poor Anne Murray has to dress up as a Christmas tree, and Dick Smothers has the most confusing bit as he shows up…dressed as an astronaut for some reason. Pushing around a cart. I can’t explain it.
Not surprisingly, A Special Sesame Street Christmas only ever aired once, but it would live on through YouTube and eventually get a DVD release (sans the original end credits music, because copyrights are weird). You can experience it for yourself in the player below if you like, so long as you promise not to hate me for sharing it with you…
Have a grouchy day, you Avocados!