Earlier this week I shared with you ten essential Christmas specials and movies. Those were beloved classics that viewers can find on television year after year. They’re traditions and institutions for so many families during the holidays, and they’re easy to come across on broadcast television or video.
Today I’m going to dig a little deeper. There are a few Christmas shows that I like to call “forgotten specials.” They’re lesser known to the general public, though each one has its own fans. Sometimes you can find these specials on video, but often these forgotten specials are lost to the past when it comes to television broadcasting.
Here’s a list of five lesser known holiday programs. Four of them are legitimate classics, while the fifth is a notorious flop. Three of them are available on official video releases, while the other two take some effort to find.
We’ll start with a group of beloved characters who make two appearances on this list…
There aren’t many characters who debuted in the ‘50s and ‘60s, had their heyday in the ‘70s and ‘80s and still inspire enough love to make a comeback in 2011. Jim Henson’s Muppets are among the few characters to have had that kind of staying power. Just a few years after The Muppet Show ended its run, the Muppets were back on television with A Muppet Family Christmas, an hour-long special that originally ran on ABC in 1987.
Fozzie Bear and his Muppet Show friends decide to surprise his mother Emily for Christmas by visiting her at her farmhouse. She has to cancel her holiday vacation plans because of the unexpected guests, and Doc (Gerard Parkes) from Fraggle Rock, who intends to rent the house for Christmas, joins all the guests staying there. Kermit and his nephew Robin find a portal to Fraggle Rock in the basement, and carolers from Sesame Street pay a visit. A snowstorm rolls in, stranding everyone at the farmhouse, except for Miss Piggy, who arrives just in time for Christmas.
Like any other Muppet program, A Muppet Family Christmas is full of musical numbers. In the opening sequence The Muppet Show gang sings a version of “We Need A Little Christmas.” The Swedish Chef performs “The Christmas Song” with Big Bird, while Fozzie duets with a snowman on “Sleigh Ride.” When Miss Piggy arrives at the farmhouse, the entire cast joins in a medley of Christmas carols, and there are plenty of other musical moments in the special.
One of the most interesting bits of trivia about A Muppet Family Christmas is that it features characters from all four major Muppet series: The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and Muppet Babies. The special was the first Henson production to use Muppets from all four shows. Henson himself makes a cameo appearance washing dishes in the kitchen.
A Muppet Family Christmas saw VHS releases in 1994 and 1998, and debuted on DVD in 2001. American and Canadian video releases had to be edited severely due to US copyright laws, but European versions were unedited. Nickelodeon has broadcast the special occasionally, but the show remains among the more obscure holiday specials. It’s a shame, especially with this year’s Muppet renaissance, for this cute program to languish in semi-obscurity.