My Week with Christmas Vacation

Christmas 2002

 

 

Monday   --   Tuesday   --   Wednesday   --   Thursday   --   Friday

 

 

Let it Snow

Tuesday, December 10

 

Hey, you're back! Grab yourself a mug of Christmas grog and come join us by the fire. It's the Second Day of Christmas, and today's seasonal experience is the CBS special Mr Willowby's Christmas Tree...

 

 

Danny

 

Okay, before we get started, you've never seen this one before, so the game for today is to see how long it takes it you to figure out the secret surprise ending.

 

Kynan

 

Fair enough. What year was this?

 

Danny

 

I think it's 1995.

 

Kynan

 

So it's Steve as Kermit. 

 

Danny

 

Yeah, very much so.

 

 

 

 

Danny

 

Don't get used to him, though, we don't see much of Kermit in this show.

 

Kynan

 

Oh, he's wearing John Denver's hat. That must be the Christmas Hat. Should I know the surprise ending yet?

 

Danny

 

No, give it a minute. Actually, the first question is, at what point do we start talking about Robert Downey Jr's drug problem?

 

Robert  "WHERE on earth on this most Christmassy of Christmases can my arboretum arbor vitae BE?"

 

Danny

 

Ah. Right away, then.

 

Kynan

 

That's not Mr Willowby, is it?

 

Danny

 

Yup. Buckle your seatbelt.

 

 

 

 

Robert  "The perfect TREE! The perfect TREE! Will FILL the hall so perfectly! Glorioso arbor VITAE, to welcome Christmas DAY! I can hardly wait to SEE such a tree-mendeosiTY! Oh, WHERE now can it BE, the perfect TREE?" 

 

Kynan

 

Gosh. Why does he talk like that?

 

Danny

 

No idea. 

 

Kynan

 

Is it in the script, do you think, or is he just taking regular blow breaks?

 

Danny

 

Um. Both?

 

Kynan

 

Oh, there's Kermit again, and puppet mice. This isn't so bad. What are they doing?

 

Danny

 

They're trying to cut down a Christmas tree. 

 

Kynan

 

And Kermit just stands by and sort of watches it all happen?

 

Danny

 

Yeah, he's just there in case there's a Christmas emergency.

 

Kynan

 

So the lumberjacks have cut down the tree with the mice in it... The butler's cleaning up after Willowby... The mouse mother was cooking... Everybody's doing chores in this show.

 

Danny

 

Yeah, I feel like maybe we came by at the wrong time. Should we come back later, when they're ready for company?

 

Kynan

 

You know, there's something about Jon Stone as a director -- and don't print this, because I really do respect him... He was very good with the characters, and the whole Muppet sensibility, but he isn't actually a very good director. He's more in the point and shoot kind of area.

 

Danny

 

Ha. I shouldn't print that because you don't want to upset him?

 

Kynan

 

No, he's dead.

 

Danny

 

Oh. Then I'm putting it in. It is static, isn't it. Jon picks one camera angle and then really commits to it.

 

Kynan

 

No matter where the actors stand!

 

Robert  "Look, look, Baxter, look up! My tree, my tree! My bo-mongous visitation of Christmastide! It -- it's too tall! Baxter... what will we do?" 

 

Leslie Nielsen  "Well, sir..."

 

Robert  "Ah, I see. You would carve a hole in the roof, ah? Oh, what a categorical impartation of absolute smartitude! Oh, no, no. You would rather drill a pit in the parquet. Ah, that would certainly display a pontitudinal abundance of cleverosity."

 

Kynan

 

It's mesmerising. Does the surprise ending have anything to do with killing Mr Willowby?

 

Danny

 

I know, it makes you wish that writers needed a license before operating a thesaurus. Still, it takes your mind off Leslie Nielsen.

 

Kynan

 

He's genuinely terrible, Leslie, isn't he... Look, he's peeking at the camera, bless his little mugging heart.

 

Danny

 

Instead of acting.

 

Kynan

 

Yes. Well, to be fair, he's spent the last two decades polishing his wooden delivery.

 

 

 

 

Danny

 

Oh, wait, here they're saying that Stockard Channing never comes downstairs from the attic for Christmas, so Leslie's bringing the top of the Christmas tree up to her room.

 

Kynan

 

Ah. Right. Did they say why?

 

Danny

 

Yeah, we talked over it. I don't think it matters much.

 

Kynan

 

No, not for Stockard, no. Kermit's doing the narration here.  

 

Danny

 

Yeah, I thought the point of not using Kermit was that they were afraid people wouldn't accept Steve as the new voice. So now instead of using the puppet, they're having him do a voiceover. What sense does that make?

 

Kynan

 

Speaking of voices, Stockard's got an interesting accent here.

 

Danny

 

Yeah, I think it's kind of a Scotch-Yiddish-Hungarian thing, which is very tricky to pull off. Where does this story take place?

 

Kynan

 

Well, Mr Willowby's clearly an American... so he's got an English-Canadian butler, and he keeps his Albanian maid in the attic.

 

Danny

 

Right. Well, you would. 

 

Kynan

 

Her place of origin actually varies from one line of dialogue to the next, which must be a paperwork nightmare.

 

Danny

 

She sings nice, though. She's got kind of an East Indian Julie Andrews thing going on here.

 

Kynan

 

She's really decked out that tiny room. You'd think if she was that into Christmas, she'd go downstairs where the rest of the decorations are.

 

 

 

Leslie  ... My word! There's a lot of candles.

 

Stockard  In Sveden, we light candles to celebrate the return of daylight after the long darkness of vinter.

 

Kynan

 

Oh, so she's meant to be Swedish, apparently. The Transylvanian region of Sweden.

 

Danny

 

Actually, I think she's from a Star Wars planet. Look at her, she's a lunatic. Now she's draping Leslie with tablecloths and candles. I think she and Robert have the same dealer. Then the mice fall out of the tree...

 

Leslie  Oh. A mouse. Here in Willowby Manor. I will not put up with this. That, we must dispose of this, this, this rodent, immediately. 

 

Stockard  Meester Bexter, it's Christmas!

 

Leslie  That's no excuse for bad housekeeping!

 

Stockard  Now, now, Meester Bexter... surely we could worry about housekeeping another day!

 

Leslie  As you wish, madam.

 

Stockard  Hmm.

 

Kynan

 

Now, you'd think that if you were playing a butler, and the script called for you to find a mouse in the attic, it wouldn't be this hard for you to find your motivation.

 

Danny

 

And then she puts the mouse back down, because nothing says Merry Christmas like locking yourself in a rodent-infested attic.

 

Kynan

 

Surely basic standards of hygiene come before your sort of weird Scandinavian rat fetish. 

 

Danny

 

You'd think the boss would have something to say about that little executive decision.

 

Kynan

 

Yes, but he'd take three hours to decide what he thought about it, and then you still wouldn't understand what he's saying.

 

 

 

 

Danny

 

And then they cut the top part of Stockard's tree off, and push it out the window... one of the other servants will collect it later, I guess.

 

Kynan

 

Yes, if it doesn't fall on them. Pity they didn't check first.

 

Danny

 

And the bears grab the tree and bring it to their cave... Have you figured out the ending yet?

 

Kynan

 

No. Bears don't talk, do they? Mice talk, but bears don't.

 

Danny

 

They sort of mumble, and then they light candles and dance around in circles. 

 

Kynan

 

Well, part of why I haven't guessed the secret surprise ending is because very little of the dialogue is delivered in English, and the part that is is either gibberish, or delivered in so many accents at once that I can't understand it.

 

Danny

 

Try not to look directly at the bears while they dance. It's too painful.

 

Kynan

 

No, I'll cut a hole in a piece of cardboard and look through that, like you do with eclipses.

 

Danny

 

Then the bears cut off the top of their tree, and the owls take it...

 

Kynan

 

And now back to Mr Willowby and his demented housekeeping staff. I'm also having a hard time with the ending because I can't figure out which bit is the part with a story in it.

 

Danny

 

Look, Leslie's standing out in the snow staring up at Stockard's window. That's character development.

 

Kynan

 

... Because he wasn't staring at her window before, right. And now he is. Yes.

 

 

 

 

Kynan

 

Pretty set for the owls here. Well, it's lit well, so it's an improvement over the bear cave at least.

 

Danny

 

Owls celebrate Christmas by playing synth music on icicles, did you know that?

 

Kynan

 

Hmm. Apparently the owl is not only a dramatic threat here, but he's also a really annoying musician. This is the Philip Glass of owls here.

 

Danny

 

Yeah. Well, eating the main characters, chewing them up and spitting out their bones is one thing, but playing repetitive ethereal mood music is quite another.

 

Kynan

 

So now they cut off the top part of that tree, and the mouse family takes it home. Wait, is that it? That's the happy ending?

 

Danny

 

Yup. It's all about math, really. The whole story is about how if you take a cone you can keep cutting slices off the top and all those slices are cones. It's like a geometrical algorithm of merriment.

 

Kynan

 

Well, that's educational. Next year, they'll try dividing the tree by zero.

 

 

 

 

Kermit  "Well, it looks like everyone has found their perfect tree, and now it's time to celebrate! Come, join Mr Willowby's party!"

 

Danny

 

Oh, look, rich people dance just as badly as the bears do. Round and round in circles. 

 

Kynan

 

Yes, paging Tony Charmoli. I'm nostalgic for some child ballerinas here.

 

Danny

 

And here comes Stockard, coming downstairs all decked out for the party.

 

Kynan

 

Did we talk over the scene where she decides to come downstairs for the party?

 

Danny

 

No, that must be backstory. It's amazing, Stockard goes from repressed to romantic in 60 seconds.

 

Kynan

 

Look at her, she's a vision of maidetudinal serviositude.

 

Stockard  "Oh, Meester Bexter, where did you learn to dance like this?"

 

Leslie  "Uhhh... madam, have you ever been to Buenos Aires?"

 

Danny

 

Yes. I was born there, actually.

 

Kynan

 

A number of times.

 

Danny

 

Look how happy Mr Willowby is that his domestics are going to breed.

 

Kynan

 

Yes, they'll make a chambermaid, and little bellhops. 

 

Danny

 

You can't get good help these days, unless you make them yourself.

 

Kynan

 

Cuts down on the import taxes.

 

 

 

 

Danny

 

And there's Kermit again, signing off our broadcast day.

 

Kermit  "However you celebrate it, may this be a perfect holiday for you and all you love."

 

Kynan

 

We love you, Kermit! Come be in our Christmas special!

 

Danny

 

Yeah, wouldn't this have been great if Kermit was actually in it?

 

Kynan

 

Well, that would apply to Emmet Otter and The Christmas Toy too. You can't hold that against it. 

 

Danny

 

No, you can, because the other specials fill up the time between Kermit scenes with a plot and characters.

 

Kynan

 

Yes. They're very passive in this, aren't they. Mr Willowby just stands back and dances around while nothing happens around him. The mice just hang on to the top of the tree the whole time. The butler peeps through Stockard's window and doesn't notice when snow falls on him. The only really active character is Stockard, and all she does is put on a dress and come downstairs.

 

Danny

 

Well, what did this show teach us about Christmas?

 

Kynan

 

Nothing. But that's the message.

 

Danny

 

Yeah, just stand around and everything will work itself out. 

 

Kynan

 

Also, if people come and steal your things, then it's okay because you've already got a great big heap of things.

 

Danny

 

And if you plea bargain, your lawyer can probably get your sentence reduced.

 

Kynan

 

Yes. I suspect this was Robert's community service, actually.

 

Danny

 

Okay, I have one last question.

 

Kynan

 

Show me something good! Show me Elmo's World!

 

Danny

 

No, I'm saving that for later. My question is: The John Denver special made us want to hug it and ignore it in alternating scenes...

 

Kynan

 

Right.

 

Danny

 

What does this special make you want to do?

 

Kynan

 

I want to cut it into progressively smaller and smaller pieces and then throw it out the window so the animals can have it.

 

Danny

 

Yeah. Me too.

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow:

It's a quick trip to the holiday sweatshop for

Martha Stewart's Home for the Holidays!

Not meaning your home, naturally. Her home.

She wouldn't be caught dead in your home.

 

 

Monday   --   Tuesday   --   Wednesday   --   Thursday   --   Friday

 

 

Thanks again to

Mark Pethick's

Muppet Christmas site

for emergency Willowby assistance!

 

 

Danny@ToughPigs.com 

 

 

My Week Contents

My Week with Muppet Breakfast

My Summer with Farscape

My Week with Muppets Online