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 calendar.
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, Cold, Christmas.
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.