Saturday, December 5, 2015
Christmas 2015: December 5
Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (1977)
It seemed right to follow-up yesterdays viewing of “The Muppet Christmas Carol” with another holiday special featuring muppets. Despite my affection for Jim Henson and his critters, I had never even heard of “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” until a few years back. A seventies TV Christmas special, created with muppet creatures, and featuring music from Paul Williams? That should be right up my alley. The reason “Emmet Otter” remains obscure among all but hardcore muppet aficionados is probably because it doesn’t get aired much anymore. A blue-grass inspired Christmas special about otters probably has a limited appeal, now that I think about it.
Emmet Otter and his mother live a simple life in near poverty along the river. Mother barely makes enough to put food on the table by washing clothes. Emmet, meanwhile, does odd jobs to make what money he can. Christmas is approaching and neither have much to spend on gifts. That’s when both Emmet and mom find out about a talent contest, the prize money being fifty dollars. Both secretly enter the competition, in hopes of winning the prize money so they can buy the other a gift.
I’m not afraid to call myself a Paul Williams fan either. When I saw his name in the opening credits, it definitely set up certain expectations. Disappointingly, most of the songs in “Emmet Ottter’s Jug-Band Christmas” aren’t that memorable. “The Old Bathing Suit” and “Ain’t No Hole in the Washtub” have fairly forgettable lyrics and wobbling melodies. “Riverbottom Nightmare Band,” the bad guy’s big rock number, doesn’t even have that going for it. Of the songs, only three really stick out. “Barbecue” is a catchy, up-beat number. “Our World/Brothers” ties in nicely with the story’s conclusion. The only straight-up classic song is “When the River Meets the Sea,” a melancholy number about accepting death. The song would later crop up in one of the John Denver/Muppets specials, where it would gain wider exposure.
Truthfully, “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” is probably too slow paced for kids. I imagine ADHD-afflicted modern youths will wander off fairly quickly. The muppet effects are pretty interesting. The special looks good, if nothing else. While a few of the songs are decent, too many are forgettable. Maybe that’s why, unlike so many Jim Henson productions, this one has slipped into obscurity. [6/10]
The Venture Bros.: A Very Venture Christmas
Ah, I remember when I first discovered “The Venture Bros.” The show’s nerdy, layered, and neurotic humor hit all my sweet spots. The later seasons, while still pretty good, haven’t held my attention as much. The long production times between seasons don’t help either. But I still adore those first two years. Airing between seasons one and two, “A Very Venture Christmas” only runs eleven minutes.
In it, Dr. Venture prepares his annual Christmas party. Brock prepares his Santa costume, Dr. Orpheus tries to protect his daughter’s virginity, Hank tries to find his Christmas presents, and Dean spends a fortune on a Christmas story phone line. While the boys search for a seasonal story, they accidentally summon the Krampus. Meanwhile, the Monarch has his own plans to ruin Dr. Venture’s party.