A Colbert Christmas
Directed by Jim Hoskinson
Studio: Paramount/Comedy Central
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 44 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: November 25, 2008
Review Date: November 20, 2008
Stephen Colbert, faux-conservative pundit of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, headlines his own holiday special in A Colbert Christmas. If you’re at all familiar with Colbert and his dryly droll persona championing an America more narrow than even the most far of right-wingers would be comfortable with, it will come as no surprise that his Yuletide special is ablaze with a satirical patriotic fervor and a merging of spiritual and secular Christmas traditions that make It’s a Wonderful Life seem like liberal propaganda. It’s a funny, fresh, and foolish forty-four minutes that features newly composed Christmas carols and holiday celebrations all lit by the bright, crackling light of his digital fireplace. And some of Stephen’s favorite friends including Jon Stewart, Elvis Costello, Toby Keith, John Legend, Willie Nelson, and Feist all manage to drop by to share in the nutty holiday cheer.
As he prepares to leave from his mountain cabin for his New York studio to tape his Christmas special, Colbert finds a bear blocking his path. Thus, he must find ways to be entertaining in his cabin, aided by Elvis Costello back in the studio waiting for Colbert to appear. At his home, he finds a miniature Willie Nelson as part of the Nativity scene on his piano playing the heretofore unknown fourth Wise Man bringing a very special herb to the baby Jesus. John Legend drops by to share some eggnog only to be disappointed that there’s no nutmeg to put on top of the milky brew. Folksinger Feist drops in (literally) as an angel trying to bring calm to the agitated Colbert. And Jon Stewart’s surprise visit involves a frustrating attempt to help Colbert understand another holiday celebration in December that involves many days of gift-giving. Toby Keith’s machine gun-in-hand number is one our fighting troops will especially love.
Sure, it’s all tongue-in-cheek nonsense, but viewers may be surprised at Stephen Colbert’s very attractive baritone singing voice (of course, most of the numbers are lip-synched rather obviously in the tradition of most Christmas specials). The new songs for the special (Colbert found out they’d have to pay exorbitant royalties to use standard holiday songs like “White Christmas” and “Silver Bells”) are actually rather catchy, all but one written by David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger. All of the special guests are in on the joke and play along with the false cheer with great good spirits. Here is the rundown of song numbers for the show:
“Another Christmas Song” - Stephen Colbert’s opening song and dance number
“Have I Got a Present for You” - Toby Keith
“Little Dealer Boy” - Willie Nelson with an assist by Stephen Colbert
“Hanukkah” - Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert duet
“Nutmeg” - John Legend with an assist by Stephen Colbert
“Please Be Patient” - Feist
“Peace, Love, and Understanding” - the entire company
“There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In” - Elvis Costello and Stephen Colbert duet
The program is slated to premiere on Comedy Central Sunday night, November 23, 2008, at 10 p.m. This DVD (sans commercials) will be available on Tuesday, November 25.
The 1.33:1 aspect ratio of the original broadcast is replicated here though Paramount has slightly windowboxed the image to prevent overscan. It’s bright and splendidly colorful though some of the garish color from some of the blue screen effects does bloom on occasion. The program has been divided into 8 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track is acceptable though not much use is made of its stereophonic capability. Amusingly, the disc offers the viewer the option of watching the special with or without a “live” (read laugh tracked) audience.
Surprisingly there are some bonus features on the disc.
There is a Video Yule Log featuring burning books in the fireplace for that extra Christmas glow.
Stephen’s 25-Day Video Advent Calendar offers twenty-five brief comic bits as the viewer counts down to Christmas.
Three alternate endings for the special are available for single viewing or they can be watched in one 2 ¼ minute grouping.
The deleted song “Cold, Cold Christmas” is available for viewing. It runs 3 ¾ minutes in 4:3 (not windowboxed).
The disc offers previews for the DVDs of South Park - Season 11, TV Funhouse, and Kenny Vs. Spenny.
A Colbert Christmas is silly fun, and fans of the Comedy Central Emmy-winner will find the special full of good cheer and high spirits.