|IT'S A VERY MERRY MUPPET CHRISTMAS MOVIE (nbc, 2002)|
Why was it such a misfit?
What do you do when you're a scriptwriter assigned to create a brand-new, two-hour Muppet Christmas Special---and Muppet Family Christmas has already been done? You take lazy refuge in a holiday parody, that's what you do.
Almost every time someone decides to go the spoof route when they focus on Christmas, they choose A Christmas Carol. There is the occasional choice of It's A Wonderful Life instead, but not often. The main problem is, to pull that one off somewhere in the special the main character has to consider suicide, and that's usually very out-of-character for them. Especially for Kermit the Frog.
Which is why the word "suicide" is never used, nor is there even a bridge. Just as the original opens on George Bailey's darkest hour, here we see Kermit walking through a park depressed and whimpering "it's all over." He then sits on a park bench, where he waits until he freezes solid.
Meanwhile, in the cubicles of heaven (wouldn't cubicles be more appropriate for hell?) a nerdy guardian angel watches Kermit's despair on his compy and freaks out. "This can't happen! Someone has to make this right!" he panics. The other guardian angels are apathetic, and tell him if he bothers The Boss without an appointment this early in his career, he'll be out the door before he knows it.
Daniel--that's the nerd's name--doesn't care. Some things are more important! This is Kermit the Frog we're talking about! HE'S GOING IN!
Daniel instantly finds himself in a big grassy field, and sitting on the couch is the Big One, the Creator of the Universe.....Whoopi Goldberg.
"Do you have an
appointment?" Whoopi says casually, as an ad bug for
Fear Factor rolls in under her head. They even
have those in the afterlife?
"Uhh, but you have
every record ever made! Ever!"
Whoopi grabs a large remote and a framed video screen floats up in front of both of them.
"Which one do I push
to make something appear? Is it the tic-tac-toe button,
or the little squiggly thing button?"
The Muppet Theater is bustling with activity, in preparation for their big holiday show. Checking with Gonzo, Kermit finds that he's booked a strange new French act called "Cirque du So Lame." A snooty French stereotype pops up and insists it is actually pronounced "So-Lah-May." But the original pronunciation turns out to be more accurate.
In enters Pepe the Prawn, a character that may be unfamiliar to those who quit paying attention to the Muppets by 1998, the year Muppets in Space came out. Pepe is best described as "what if Glen Quagmire was a talking shrimp in a suit." He's always been uncomfortably off-color compared to his surroundings, and this time's no exception: he makes a crack about a topless bar that feels very out-of-place for a Muppet special.
The new act is a disaster, and to make matters worse, the star of the night's show (Miss Piggy) is abruptly leaving without prior notice, as she just landed a gig in Hollywood.
And to make matters even more worser than worse, the man who provided the Muppets the loan to open the Muppet Theater, Mr. Bitterman, has died. The contract stated the latest payment of their loan was due that night at midnight, but Kermit had worked a deal with the good-natured Mr. Bitterman to allow payment to be delayed until the following week, when all the receipts from the Christmas show would be in. That sort of thing doesn't wash with the woman who has inherited and now controls Bitterman Bank and Loan. It's the Muppets' most fearsome villain ever:
There'll be no such loophole with Joan Cusack--she wants the theater, not the money, so she can turn it into a nightclub. And she'll bend the rules any way she can to make sure Kermit doesn't pay her!
Because of Ms. Rachel Bitterman's demands, Kermit can only afford to pay off the loan, and none of anybody's salaries. Fortunately, the other Muppets agree they can sacrifice one paycheck if it means saving the theater. Except for Pepe, who defects to Ms. Bitterman's side...not only because he wants money, but because "she iz hot, okay?"
The show has to sell out on opening night to pay off the loan. Kermit MUST fill the void left by Miss Piggy, so he calls all his famous friends, most of which happen to appear on NBC for some reason. His final desperation is Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who states the Muppets are great...."FOR ME TO POOP ON!!"
Luckily for Kermit, Miss Piggy's new Hollywood career isn't what she thought it would be. Her new gig on "Scrubs" turned out to be the part of a dead body, which she doesn't take lying down.
Meanwhile, Pepe's new job appears to be painting Ms. Bitterman's toenails. She asks if she can see the Muppet Theater contract.
"Okay, but youz have to be careful with itz, okay, because it iz the only copy."
"Wait, this is the
ONLY copy of the contract? Is that what you said?"
Bitterman realizes she could change the wording of the contract so that it expires sooner, and the Muppets could do nothing about it, as they would have no other proof she had done such a thing. Ms. Bitterman has soon changed the deadline from midnight to 6 PM, without anyone's knowledge!
Even Pepe has his limits--when he discovers what she's done, he experiences instant remorse and races back to the theater to warn Kermit.
The opening act of the Muppet Christmas Show isn't "Cirque du So Lame," but "Moulin Scrooge," most likely because Moulin Rouge had come out that year, and it was a fresh easy reference to make. In between dance numbers, Pepe continues to make efforts to talk to Kermit, but is carried away by something or bashed around before he can get the words out.
Finally, Pepe drops the
bomb about the contract. And luckily, it was just in
time. "Well, Ms. Bitterman's in for a surprise,
because we just sold enough tickets to pay off the loan!
I'll go over to Bitterman's right now, and drop the money
right in front of her face!"
"Fozzie, you can't do
that! Your act is coming up next!" Kermit points
It turned out to be fortunate for Kermit that he didn't attempt this trip. As soon as Fozzie steps outside he meets a Steve Irwin impersonator, who yells "CRIKEY! A WILD BEAR!" and chases after him with tranquilizer darts. Fozzie ducks inside a paint shop, and emerges covered in green paint--which helps camoflauge him amongst a set of Christmas trees.
He loses "Irwin," but then runs into a gang of angry Whos, and realizes he looks just like the Grinch! Another frantic chase ensues until Fozzie ducks inside a sauna and emerges in his natural felt color.
When he finally reaches the Bitterman building, it's mere minutes before 6 PM and it's still not over. Ms. Bitterman sees Fozzie on the security cameras and is determined not to let him get to her. She flicks a silent alarm and about a thousand lasers appear, frying Fozzie. Then Fozzie finds he left the money bag at the end of the hallway and has to go through the lasers two more times.
Somehow, despite all odds,
Fozzie prevails, and plops the bag right on Ms.
Bitterman's desk at 5:59. "Is this some sort of
joke?" she sneers.
After this happens, Fozzie doesn't feel he can go back. Kermit has to go out and look for him, passing a group of little frog kids who are "triple-frog-daring" another frog to lick a frozen flagpole.
Fozzie is still in front
of the Bitterman building, and Kermit asks "What's
wrong? Please tell me you deposited the money."
Kermit pleads with the
unsympathetic Ms. Bitterman.
"All I've done is
make everyone's life miserable! I WISH I'D NEVER BEEN
BORN!!" screams Kermit.
"Behold....the world in which you were never born!" Daniel says dramatically. The first person Kermit sees is Gonzo. Without the big break Kermit gave him, Gonzo is now a crazy street performer who talks to a brick he's named "Amy." They even fold this into Muppet Movie continuity, as Doc Hopper has launched a frog-legs franchise nearby.
Rizzo is on Fear
Factor, stuck inside a cage with a screaming woman.
Animal is a Riverdancer. Scooter is dancing in a cage at Ms. Bitterman's nightclub, where the Muppet Theater would have been. Statler and Waldorf are barflies there, and little Robin is passing out drinks.
My favorite alternate-universe Muppet: Beaker, by a landslide.
Seeing all his friends so worse off, Kermit begins to wonder about the big one....what about Piggy? Daniel reveals Piggy isn't a world-famous Muppet Theater actress, but now just a lonely pig in a dumpy apartment who owns 15 cats. Her only job is running a psychic-network racket from her phone, and despite never having met Kermit, she rushes him in desperate for a visitor, and almost won't let him leave.
It's all too much to bear for one frog. "YOU HAVE TO LET ME BACK, DANIEL!!" he yells, but Daniel is nowhere to be found. Kermit returns to the mall where he first entered this strange new world, but Daniel isn't there either. Gonzo's still there, though, in depression about how he'll never matter to anyone.
"No, that's not true! Everyone can make a difference!" Kermit refutes, and starts singing the lesson he's learned, "Everyone Matters."
Finally Daniel finds Kermit again, and in a flash of lightning he's back! Kermit immediately apes George Bailey's return to Bedford Falls, going "YIPPEE! WOOHA! YAHOO!" at everything he sees. And when he gets back, he finds....the same old problems. The entire neighborhood has NOT rallied to spare his debts.
Ms. Bitterman arrives at the theater and orders everyone to clear out. The Muppets insist that, even if she DOES own this place now, they're not leaving without a fight. Miss Piggy means that literally, leading to a ridiculous-looking karate match between a felt pig and Joan Cusack.
But just when things look their bleakest, Pepe arrives with a new paper--a certificate stating that the Muppet Theater has just been filed as a historical landmark! It can never be torn down or altered in any way, no matter who owns it! Wow, so out of left field!
"NO!!" screams Rachel Bitterman. "I HAAATE YOU MUPPETS!!" She runs screaming out of the theater.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army has had its best year yet, thanks to the anonymous large cash donation that was left in a sack next to one of the Santas.
"Funny how everything
worked out," notices Daniel. "You didn't even
do anything! I had to be the one to teack Kermit a
lesson, and the money problem worked out on its own for
Why didn't it fit in?
Two years after this aired, Disney bought the Muppets wholesale. This special is filled with references to NBC, and thus, Universal and/or GE. This might interfere with any future plans to run it.