Stephen Colbert's cable show, The Colbert Report, is some of
the best comedy on television (along with its lead-in, The Daily Show.)
Colbert's faux conservative persona is outrageously funny and he manages
to poke fun at the far right in a way the few can achieve. He's not
afraid to try new ideas on his show while they don't always work, just
about everything he tries is interesting. His latest experiment is
a holiday special patterned after (and making fun of) those big TV events
that the networks used to tout before the days of cable. Appropriately
titled A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All, this
special doesn't quite pull off what it's attempting to do, though it is
a good effort.
Steven Colbert is sitting in his cabin in the woods working on writing
some new Christmas songs (so he can get a royalty check each year), when
he realizes that he needs to get back to New York to rehearse his Christmas
Special with guest-star Elvis Costello. Unfortunately a bear (Colbert's
greatest fear) is lurking outside waiting to kill him. Trapped, he
communicates with Costello by phone while stars who happen to be in the
area drop in and sing (original) songs. Will Stephen ever make it
past the bear, and if not will Santa know where to bring his presents?
This was a good idea. I have fond memories of the holiday specials
of yore, but I'll be the first to admit they were cheesy affairs.
Colbert pokes fun at the low production values and ludicrous plots quite
well. His cabin set is hilarious with a plasma TV showing a
blazing fire inside the fireplace, and a light saber crossed with a sword
hanging on the wall.
Unfortunately the songs pop up all too frequently, and while they are
supposed to be humorous, they're mildly amusing at best. Toby Keith's
song where he sings about killing liberals and anyone who says "Happy Holidays"
(""Separate church and state' that's what some liberal said, I say let
liberate him from his head.") crossed the line from 'parody' to 'scary'
according to 2/3 of the adults watching the show with me and if it was
a joke, there wasn't a punch line.
Willie Nelson's song about the wise men smoking pot to celebrate the
birth of the baby Jesus will probably offend as many conservatives as Keith's
song will do liberals. After a brief (and unexpectedly dry) appearance
by Jon Stewart, R&B star John Legend stops by and is offered a glass
of eggnog without nutmeg. This causes him to launch into a double-entendre
filled song about the joys of nutmeg. ("I'll sprinkle your Christmas
cream with my spice supreme.") This was cute, but not more than that.
The best bit in the show was folk singer Feist's song. In answer
to Colbert's prayer to be able to have a Christmas special, the angel on
top of his tree turns into a real angle (Feist) who sings "Do to increased
prayer amounts seraphim will have delays servicing thy prayer accounts,
for the next five million days. Please be patient. An angel
will be with thee shortly." The special wraps up with everyone getting
together and singing "What's So Funny... (About Peace, Love, and Understanding)"
which was sort of ironic after Keith's song.
While I could see what he was trying to do, and he came close, there
were too many songs and not enough laughs. Cutting out one of the
guest appearances and adding another skit of two would have gone a long
way to making this a more successful special.
The stereo audio was about average for a recent TV show. There
wasn't any distortion or audio defects, but the sound wasn't as dynamic
and clear as a big budget Hollywood film. It suits the show well.
The full frame image was likewise about average for a recent TV show.
The picture had an average amount of detail and sharpness. No major
defects were present.
This disc comes with some great extras. The bonus material is
actually better than the special itself. First off is a Yule Log
virtual fireplace. It starts off with a roaring fire into which piles
of books are thrown, including Fahrenheit 451 and a children's book
about bears. The whole thing last about 18 minutes and it automatically
loops to the beginning when it's finished.
Remember those Advent calendars where every day in December you'd open
up a little door and there'd be a piece of chocolate? Well this disc
includes a virtual Advent calendar. You can count down the days 'till
Christmas with Stephen. Each day offers a short lasts between 10
and 90 seconds and they are hilarious. On the 20th Stephen sings
the song he was working on at the beginning of the special ("Jingle Man,
Christmas Boy, fighting crime with toys. Catching criminals in New
York and thieves in Illinois Oh!) and makes a pitch for getting Jesus to
come on his show. If only the whole special was as funny as this
There are also three alternate endings, though I find it hard to believe
that these (especially the third one) were ever really considered.
It feels like something they did for the DVD, which is fine.
Finally there's a bonus song, Stephen singing a C&W song, Cold,
Oh yeah, on the plastic wrapping that comes with the new disc there's
also a free sticker!
I'm a big fan of The Colbert Report and watch it daily.
That's why I'm pretty disappointed in this special. It's not as funny
as his cable show and those who aren't familiar with Colbert's on-air personality
may find some of the sections offensive. The extras, on the other
hand are great, and well worth checking out making this disc a good rental.