|MR. T AND EMMANUEL LEWIS IN A CHRISTMAS DREAM (nbc, 1984)|
Why was it such a misfit?
Well, it's a mystery to me. From the title alone, you can tell this should've become a beloved holiday classic, resting among the greats and being repeated at least 7 times every December. Is there no justice? Where is that little munchkin's Emmy?
It's what it says on the tin -- you get Mr. T, and you get Mr. Lewis. Mr. T needs no introduction -- if you remember The A-Team, or if you read the later issues of Nintendo Power, or if you've been on the Internet at any time in the last 20 years, you know who that is. As for those of you who have forgotten Emmanuel Lewis, I'll just let Cyborg explain him:
If you don't see a video, click here to force it.
So, yeah -- Webster and its star came out of a brief network trend of "future-proofing" sitcoms by casting child leads with rare diseases that prevented them from growing. Thankfully, this creepy idea never grew beyond two shows, even though both were hits.
The first two minutes of this are missing, including the opening credits. Mr. T and Lewis play two people named Benny and Billy. I don't know why Benny is dressed as Santa here, only that he has to go back to his locker and change into civvies, and that Billy is to wait for him inside FAO Schwarz, under the "Magic Magic" sign.
Under said "Magic Magic" banner, David Copperfield is having a chat with a strange little girl. It's not a very engaging conversation, because for every question he asks her, he gets the weird response "Blaaaaaah" spoken in a volume so low, no thousand-dollar boom mike can pick it up.
Is Dave really going to air his dirty laundry out on prime-time TV? No wonder she dumped him.
This is leading to a trick where David rips up a heart-shaped piece of paper, then crumples it into a whole piece again. Total time for this trick: 120 seconds.
"Hi! Benny told me to
keep an eye on you while he was changing out of his Santa
suit. What's your name?"
As Lewis leaves, David hits him with this: "What I perform are illusions. The real magic is love!" Thanks for the disclaimer.
Mr. T and Webster are playing characters in this special, not themselves (though they're always playing themselves anyway). The beginning of this special wasn't recorded, so I don't know exactly what character T is meant to be, or his relation to "Billy." He's dressed like a bum and he has his own horse-drawn carriage. Your guesses on his status are as good as mine.
"I'm goin' down to meet some 'a my friends at Rockefeller Center. Say, kid, where are your parents?" That's a good question. It was also something T might've asked BEFORE they started moving away from the toy shop.
"Oh, I'm a latchkey kid," spits out Lewis. "Both my parents are aaaaall-ways working. They work from early in the morning until late at night. Until then I just roam around the city." In pre-Guliani-cleanup New York? How's the little speck not dead?
Then Lewis offhandedly
throws out that he once got a skateboard for Christmas,
but he never tried to ride it. "Whassa matta with
you? Skateboards is fun!"
And what commercials! If the pairing of Mr. T and Webster wasn't 80's enough, you couldn't have picked out a better crop of ads on purpose. All the properties from the Golden Age of Toys were represented: He-Man! Rainbow Brite! Care Bears! It helped that Mattel was a major sponsor that night.
Next T leads Lewis to a backstage door at Radio City Music Hall, because he has to tell a friend about the party. They're stopped at the gate by.....a ventriloquist dummy.
Lewis shares your thoughts
-- he doesn't think this resembles anything he's learned
about the world either. "I gotta answer questions
from a dummy?"
"Now what's your
name?" the dummy grills.
"And what's his phone
"Now that we've got
what we need from that kid, how about we go out and get
some air?" the ventriloquist says to his dummy.
"Buster" turns out to be another dummy, dressed like Mr. T. "Hey, whatchoo lookin' at, FOO?" he growls as T angrily eyes him. Looks like anyone can get into the Music Hall now.
Moving on. "I want you to meet Maureen," T says to Lewis, pointing him in the direction of an open door. "She's anotha friend 'a mine, an' she's the lead singer here at the Music Hall."
Oh no, did he say "Maureen"? It can't be.....
.......so that didn't actually happen. Webster instead met a middle-aged woman who sang "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" -- and that was it. I guess he's seen that now. Thanks, T?
When Lewis returns to Mr. T, he just directs the kid somewhere else while he makes a phone call. "Go and check out the lobby, I'll meetcha in a few minutes." Babysitter of the year here. As for that phone call, he brings out the pad he was writing the dad's phone number on earlier. Hmm.....
Lewis wanders around the empty Music Hall for a good three minutes, eating up airtime, until he wanders into a dress rehearsal for a ballet. He settles into one of the chairs, yawns, and falls asleep. If he's about to dream about dancing around in a tutu, this special could get even better.
He doesn't. He dreams about.....them performing their routine. What is the point of it being a DREAM then? Was it so they could find an excuse to put them in these toy soldier outfits? I could have bought they would normally do that, especially around Christmas.
Four minutes of this pass (no exaggeration) and finally, Lewis appears as one of the soldiers, giving the sequence a long-overdue reason for being. He stands by a cannon and orders it to fire with his outstretched arm. It BOOMS with smoke, and all the other soldier-men fall like dominoes, flat dead. Lewis then runs to the middle of the stage, stands in front of the pile of bodies, and salutes the camera.
T's booming voice from the back of the auditorium suddenly wakes Lewis up. "HEY, GET MOVIN', WE GOTTA GET TO THAT PARTY!"
At the special's half-hour mark, they finally make it to that party, except it hasn't started yet. The area is in a state of half-finished disarray as stage hands move junk around.
"Do people exchange a
lot of Christmas gifts at this party?"
T goes on to tell Lewis that when he (his character) was little, his family was on welfare and they didn't get much. "Kid, if ya wake up on Christmas morning, and your mother and father are still alive, that's the best Christmas present of all." Eeep.
I guess these sentiments and revelations would feel touching if they were coming out of the right actor. That actor, though, was not FREAKING MISTER FREAKING T.
He sums it up this way: "Christmas without presents? It ain't bad. But Christmas without love? DAT'S BAAAD. Christmas without friendship? DAT'S BAAAD. Christmas without hope? DAT'S BAAAD. But Christmas without sharing? DAT'S REAL BAAAD." Sorta hits you right there, doesn't it?
Maureen returns, to
rehearse a song she plans to sing at the party later that
night. So that burns a few more minutes off.
To the relief of everyone
watching, Lewis refuses. "I'm not a singer," he
"SANNNNNA CWAWS IS
COMEEEEENG TA TOOOOOWN....."
One excellent commercial break later (remind me to write a separate article about the ads in this thing), T is on stage along with a large children's choir that has spontaneously appeared. He's going to tell the story of the first Christmas, and if he wants to lend it any sort of dignity, he probably shouldn't have removed his hat and exposed his zany trademark mohawk. I thought they were going to keep the hat on him the entire time just for that reason.
"Heeey, two thousan' years ago, was the most famous night in the history of the world. I ain't just talkin' about the big things, I'm talkin' about the little things also. We even know what the weather was like that night." He's leading into "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear," which he thankfully doesn't sing. He does, however, pretend to conduct the choir by waving his hands back and forth. They also sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "We Three Kings of Orient Are" and "Silent Night." For kids, they're really really good. And since they're standing next to Mr. T doing his wacky meditative arm motions, it makes for the strangest clash in tone I've ever seen.
As "Silent Night" is wrapping up, two figures slowly climb down the steps, silently, to the back of Lewis who's blissfully unaware. They are, of course, his parents. But no one calls attention to them, even though they're right there and everybody knows what's coming, for at least five minutes. Instead T leads into another song by pondering if Baby Jesus ever smiled or not. And so the choir sings...."O Come All Ye Faithful." Oops?
The songs are now finished
and the show's wrapping up. Lewis turns to Mr. T and
asks, "Can I ask a very special favor of you?"
Lewis finally sees his parents behind him, and runs to hug them, but not before giving Mr. T a dollar. Why did he give T a dollar? Hey, why did anything we saw tonight just happen? Some questions are pointless to ask.
Why didn't it fit in?