After yesterday's skewering of Christmas special cliches and tropes, it's a relief to return to something more traditional. Wait, not "relief." Burden. Elmo's Christmas Countdown is the fourth television Sesame Street Christmas special and, by 2007, it appears the writers had run out of ideas. Let us look at some of the previous dangers that almost resulted in Christmas cancellations: a thief steals everyone's gifts, Santa Claus falls ill, the weather is too harrowing. All classics.
In Elmo's Christmas Countdown, Ben Stiller loses his advent calendar, dooming Christmas. And that description is much better than the execution.
Just what this world needed: a Stiller Muppet.
Yes, Stiller the Elf tells us the tale about the year Christmas nearly didn't happen (a.k.a. every year). See, on Christmas Eve, it is Stiller's job to grant one lucky Earthling with the task of officiating the Christmas Countdown via the Christmas Counter-Downer. Once the Counter reaches 1, Christmas can occur. If not, then no Christmas. This is a faulty system that is just asking for trouble.
Um, why was this invented in the first place? Why not just let time flow naturally?
Unfortunately, this is the year that Oscar the Grouch is randomly selected to kickstart Christmas. And, as we are reminded through an updated version of "I Hate Christmas," Oscar hates Christmas. And so he shoots the counter into the air, with each numbered box falling somewhere on Sesame Street. Oh no! Now Christmas will never come!
Oh, of course it will come. And it comes by way of random characters finding the numbers in conveniently reverse order (save for a misplaced 5 which...is just a temporary hiccup with no repercussions). So, although the numbers are slowly being found, Elmo can still insert them into the counter to begin the countdown.
And what happens when the numbers are activated? Why, musical numbers and sketches with celebrity guests start playing, of course! Ah, so we are going to see 10 little acts, right? Well, no. Numbers 9, 6, and 3 are CDN news reports in which Charles Blitzen reports on the Stiller-Counter catastrophe and reminds the audience of the impending cancellation of Christmas.
How does he even know about all of this? I guess Santa's his informant.
Wait...why would the Counter-Downer even include these news reports? Shouldn't they just be... happening? It doesn't seem like a festive way to ring in the holiday. Why not just have them occur outside of the countdown? Well, because then there would only be 7 numbers, which is weird for a countdown. And they probably couldn't round up 10 celebrities and had already promised spots to more than 5, so they had to put in some filler. Just what every great special needs!
Okay, so how about these musical/comedy segments? Well, we've got Jennifer Hudson singing "Carol of the Bells" with animals....
Not too bad. B+
...Anne Hathaway and Big Bird singing "I Want a Snuffleupagus for Christmas..."
Hathaway doesn't even seem to know why she's there. D
...Bert and Ernie directing Tony Sirico and Steve Schirripa in The Bert and Ernie Christmas Special...
KILL IT WITH FIRE!!! B-
...Jamie Foxx's bizarre remix of "The Nutcracker Suite," which gets an A+ just for this:
...the Count and Ty Pennington adding more ships to "I Saw Three Ships," which is a weird roundabout way to introduce an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition joke...
...nah, no pics or grade for that one, it's dumb...
...and Brad Paisley singing "Jingle Bells."
Aren't we all tired of this? D-
But even without the Counter, there is still Sheryl Crow singing "It's Almost Christmas," and Alicia Keys singing "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Wait a second! Why did they just make those two extra slots in the Counter-Downer Countdown?! This special makes no sense!!!
I'm not even going to comment on the sentient, floating snowball.
At the end of the day, Stiller the Elf is taught by Elmo that sometimes you just gotta believe in Chrismas miracles, goshdarnit! And as, if the special wasn't hokey enough, the cast sings a new song called "You Gotta Just Believe," and it's lead by Santa Claus played by Kevin James and--
OKAY, THAT'S IT! I'm done with this one! Sesame Street specials do not belong on network television!
You crossed a line, Elmo's Christmas Countdown.