A Muppet Family Christmas has become an almost mythological Christmas special due to its limited availability. First debuting in 1987, it got tangled up in licensing issues shortly there-after and has been infrequently rebroadcast. It also has been released in very limited fashion with a lot of what first appeared in the special being left behind. And now that Disney has acquired The Muppets, a re-release on DVD or even Blu Ray seems unlikely so long as Disney does not own the rights to the other properties featured in the special.
A Muppet Family Christmas was an ambitious special as it sought to combine multiple Jim Henson properties into one special: The Muppets, Fraggle Rock, and Sesame Street. It starts out rather simply with Fozzie leading the Muppets to his mother’s farm house to surprise her for Christmas. Unknown to him, his mother was planning on heading to Malibu for some fun in the sun for Christmas and has rented her home out to Doc and his dog Sprocket for the holidays. Doc is seeking a nice, quiet, Christmas and he gets anything but that when The Muppets arrive. It turns out, Fozzie also invited the Sesame Street gang which just adds to the overcrowded house, and Kermit and Robin discover that the Fraggles live downstairs. An impromptu concert breaks out with Electric Mayhem and Sesame Street also stages a play. A horrible blizzard descends on the house trapping everyone in there, but when Miss Piggy fails to show up it’s up to Doc to go out and find her.
Aside from the mash-up of properties, the special is most known for its inclusion of several musical numbers. The special is basically over-stuffed with them, especially at the end, and it almost feels like one of those old sing-a-long VHS tapes. The combination of The Muppets and Sesame Street actually works pretty well and lends itself well to some jokes. Henson and his writers weren’t shy about poking fun at their educational property, probably knowing that if they just played it straight the results would be kind of dull. There’s nothing vulgar by any means, or even mildly offensive, so the property isn’t hurt at all by it. The Fraggles are kind of tacked-on, and since they only interact with Kermit and Robin, their segment is a bit dull. As usual, the funnier members of The Muppet clan do the heavy lifting here and mostly succeed at drawing laughs.
At this point in time, A Muppet Family Christmas’s reputation likely exceeds its true value, but it’s still a unique and entertaining Christmas special. At least until you get to the end and the nonstop caroling becomes tiresome. Kids might like that though.
As I mentioned in the lead-in, this one is pretty tough to track down these days and is no longer broadcast on television. An edited DVD was released over ten years ago, but if you want to see it as originally constituted, you may need to turn to Youtube where people (like me) who were fortunate enough to have recorded the original special in ’87 have uploaded it for all to enjoy.