DVD review by Bill Hunt, Editor of The Digital Bits
|A Colbert Christmas:
The Greatest Gift of All!
2008 (2008) - Comedy Central (Paramount)
Released on DVD on November 25th, 2008.
Program Rating: A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B
The celebrity-studded TV Christmas special has been around so long that it's actually become a cliché and fallen out of fashion. Still, some of you might be old enough to recall vintage examples from the '60s and '70s. They were usually hosted by people like Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and John Denver, often in cozy fire-side settings complete with tree, fireplace and carefully hung stockings.
|There'd usually be a sort of informal holiday story, involving famous entertainers dropping by on some kind of season-related errand (think David Bowie or Perry Como), during which time they'd sing a Christmas song with the host and sip a little egg nog. Occasionally, there'd be some kind of problem threatening the holiday happiness that could only be solved in the end by embracing the spirit of the season. The show would always close with a musical number involving the whole cast.
Well, that was then. Now for 2008, Steven Colbert (the faux-conservative host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report) and his team of writers have taken virtually every one of those conventions and given them a modern and decidedly hilarious twist. The result is A Colbert Christmas, a half-hour holiday special that simply must be regarded for what it is: An instant classic.
Its "story" has Colbert trapped in his mountain holiday retreat on Christmas Eve, unable to reach his TV studio in time for the taping of his big holiday special. Trapped by what you ask? A bear, of course - Colbert's longtime arch nemesis! And yet that doesn't stop a string of special guests from dropping by to sing and make merry, including the likes of Elvis Costello (as a sort of co-host), Toby Keith (with a song of Christmas revenge), Feist (as the angelic hold music for Colbert's prayers), Willie Nelson (the fourth wise man with the gift of weed), John Legend (a forest ranger who teaches Colbert the sexy value of nutmeg), Daily Show host Jon Stewart (who pitches the virtues of Hanukkah) and George Wendt (as St. Nick himself). Oh, and of course, there's the bear... though he's not exactly a welcome guest.
The DVD release from Comedy Central and Paramount includes the entire uncut version of the TV special (a few minutes were edited from the broadcast version) in its original full frame aspect ratio. You can view it either with or without an appropriately awkward audience laugh track (I prefer it with the track, to ensure the full cheesy effect). Those of you familiar with The Colbert Report will know that Steven prefers his fireplace in video format, so the DVD has a 20-minute Video Yule Log, complete with burning books! There's also a 25-day Video Advent Calendar, in which Steven offers you a new daily holiday message or bit of advice. You'll find no less than three shocking alternate endings to the special, and you even get a bonus song sung by Steven himself, Cold, Cold Christmas, of the decidedly country, "my wife left me, my dog's dead and my pickup's broken down" variety.
If you even remotely find Steven's regular antics amusing, his A Colbert Christmas is sure to put a big smile on your face. Around our house each December, there are a handful of must-see movies and specials, without which the season just wouldn't be complete. There's It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, there's Christmas Vacation, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. You can be sure that A Colbert Christmas will be on that viewing list each year from now on. Don't forget, kids, when you say your prayers this Christmas Eve: "Please continue thee to hold... all thy ills will be relieved... every human grief consoled... in the order’ twas received... please be patient, an authorized prayer technician will be with thee shortly." Highly recommended!