The special features only three of the Sesame Street Muppets - Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, and Barkley. (A different Barkley puppet was notably used, making him a gigantic five foot tall dog.) It also features several celebrity cameos and guest stars, including Leslie Uggams, Imogene Coca, Henry Fonda, Michael Jackson, Ethel Merman, Anne Murray, and Dick Smothers.
In 1979, the special was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Children's Program. However, it lost to Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.
The special incorporates many elements of the classic story, A Christmas Carol. To win round the typically grouchy Oscar into the Christmas spirit, celebrity guest stars portray the ghostly visitors. Anne Murray appears as the Ghost of Christmas Past, who shows Oscar his childhood; Imogene Coca plays the Ghost of Christmas Present; and Dick Smothers is the Ghost of Christmas Future. It also includes a crippled kitten named Tiny Tim, to whom Oscar grows sympathetic.
The book Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street talks a bit about the special, stating:
|“||Paul Firstenberg was CTW's executive vice president in 1978 when Christmas Eve on Sesame Street was produced. One of his most baffling decisions (which included selling off interest in cable television that would later be valued in the hundreds of millions) was to sign a deal that same year for A Special Sesame Street Christmas, with independent television producer Bob Banner. Banner, whose roots in variety television went back to the Garry Moore and Diana Shore shows of the 1950s, had a track record of working with Henson and the Muppets from his days producing The Jimmy Dean Show. CBS bought the idea even though there was one in the works for PBS. When executive producer Singer questioned the wisdom of competing specials, Firstenberg said, "If we proceed with two shows, maybe one will make it to air." Said Singer, "Can you imagine the mentality? He had a complete lack of understanding of the show."||”|
The special opens on Mr. Hooper and a little girl trimming a Christmas tree, as the audience is greeted by Leslie Uggams saying, "Merry Christmas, everybody! This is Leslie Uggams. You're lookin' at Sesame Street -- and yes, it's the Christmas season." Then Oscar pops in saying, "Hello, this is Oscar the Grouch speaking. I can't stand Christmas! Anyway, I do have orders to say: Welcome to A Special Sesame Street Christmas!"
Bob, David, Mr. Hooper, and Maria are happily trimming a Christmas tree that they've set up out on the street next to the stoop of 123 Sesame Street. They invite Oscar to participate in the festivities, so he gives them a dirty old sneaker to hang on the tree. Mr. Hooper makes the best of it saying "We mustn't let Oscar get our spirits down!" Big Bird shows up with the present he got for Leslie. The others want to see it--they chipped in for it too--but he wants it to be a surprise. Leslie then enters with a star for the top of the tree. Everyone greets her warmly. Oscar joins in, saying, "I just want to tell you, Miss Uggams, that I've never missed any of your shows! I never see any of your shows, so I never miss them!" She opens the present, and finds an ugly hat with earflaps. Big Bird is disappointed--everyone trusted him to pick out a present for her, and he failed. This is a cue for her to sing a big Broadway-style show stopper production number about how it's the thought that counts at Christmas. Everyone joins in and dances around.
It starts to snow, and the snowplow (represented by a yellow flashing light) dumps all of it in front of the stoop. Leslie takes charge and enlists Bob, David, and Barkley to sweep it away. As they do so, she tells them to think of warm things. Oscar brings them cups, which they naively assume are full of hot cocoa but it turns out to actually be ice cold lemonade. David and Bob are so offended by Oscar's devious scheme that they leave, but Leslie stays behind for a little Star-to-Grouch talk. Oscar pops up from his can and says, "Look, Leslie, I'm glad that somebody agrees with me about all this Christmas nonsense." She shakes her head, telling him she doesn't agree with him. She informs him through a song about how much fun Christmas is, but it has no effect. She's completely frustrated.
Maria emerges from the brownstone, and finds Leslie fuming about Oscar's attitude. Maria tries to take her mind off it by showing her the injured kitten she found. She dressed him up with a red ribbon, and put a cast on his broken leg. Leslie determines that he needs a name, and they decide on Tiny Tim. She complains some more, saying, "Oscar certainly does remind you of another Christmas grouch, doesn't he?" and then gets an idea to teach him a lesson. They go to Hooper's Store, where they make a Ghost of Christmas Past costume out of trash. Nobody wants to volunteer to wear it, but then Anne Murray walks in! She sings "You Needed Me" and then agrees to be the Ghost.
Bob, David, Maria, and Leslie hide around the corner and make a ghostly sound to surprise Oscar. Then Anne appears with a green felt Christmas tree cloak and matching top hat, adorned with trash accessories. She tells him that she's the Ghost of Christmas Past. She gives him a magic eggnog container, and says, "You look into it, and you'll see the wonders of a Christmas when you were young!" As he does so, the others all act out a little scene in front of him. Leslie is dressed up as his nanny, and pushing a baby carriage holding a little trash can. She sings about him being a happy little baby, but he grew up and became an awful grouch. But this facade does not make him feel any nicer; instead, he grabs an electric guitar and sings "Yakety Yak".
The next morning, Oscar gets up early to read the grouch newspaper. Leslie sits at an upstairs window, staring dreamily at him and singing a love song about his lyrical smile. Imogene Coca then arrives as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and informs him that he's now completely invisible. The street fills with kids and adults wishing each other a Merry Christmas and singing about how they don't care whether Oscar celebrates Christmas with them or not. This doesn't work either, so everyone's depressed. Maria, Bob, Leslie, and Imogene are all staring hopelessly into space. Then Ethel Merman walks by, and gives them a hearty greeting: "Hi Leslie! Merry Christmas Imogene!--what's the matter? You look like an idiot!" She instantly understands that they're down because Oscar isn't in the Christmas spirit. She says they shouldn't be depressed and sings "Tomorrow", urging them to think positively.
Next, Michael Jackson walks down the street, reading a book about ghosts. Oscar asks him for it. He gives it to him, and then leaves. Dick Smothers visits next, dressed as the Ghost of Christmas Future. He tells Oscar that everyone moved away from Sesame Street because they got sick of his grouchiness. The only one who stayed is Tiny Tim. Dick leaves him with Oscar, who turns protective and loving. "How's your leg there?" he asks. "I'd be happy to autograph your cast. I know just what I'd write on it: 'Merry Christmas, Tiny. Love, Oscar.' Did I say that?"
Leslie bursts through the brownstone's door and sings "Just One Person" to Oscar, joined by everyone else. When they're done, he snarls, "Are you people gonna stand around singing while that poor cat freezes? Hand him up here." They all wish him a Merry Christmas, and he ducks down into his can with Tiny Tim. "Merry Christmas, everybody!" he shouts, and then pops back up: "Did you hear that? This cat talks! He just wished everybody a Merry Christmas!" Everyone gathers in a big crowd for a Christmas medley, after which they all wish the viewers a Merry Christmas.
The special was made available on DVD by Legendary Entertainment Alliance on November 6, 2012.
In addition to the DVD release, a soundtrack album featuring the songs used in the special (plus four bonus songs sung by Michael Jackson and the Merry Mistletoes) was released by Legend Group Records on November 6, 2012. It was made available both individually and in a combo pack with the DVD.
The soundtrack's track listing was as follows:
- "It's the Thought That Counts" - Full Cast
- "Christmas Blech" - Leslie Uggams
- "The Six Days of Christmas" - Oscar the Grouch
- "You Needed Me" - Anne Murray
- "Oscar Remembers" - Leslie Uggams
- "Yakety Yak" - Oscar the Grouch
- "Look at That Face" - Leslie Uggams
- "Christmas Morning" (featuring Henry Fonda and Imogene Coca) - Full Cast
- "Tomorrow" - Ethel Merman
- "Just One Person" - Leslie Uggams
- "Jingle Bells/Sleigh Ride/Winter Wonderland/I Saw Three Ships" - Full Cast
- "Your Imagination" - Michael Jackson
- "Angels We Have Heard on High" - The Merry Mistletoes
- "We Three Kings" - The Merry Mistletoes
- "Jingle Bells" - The Merry Mistletoes
|Actor / Muppeteer||Character|
|Caroll Spinney||Big Bird|
Oscar the Grouch
|Will Lee||Mr. Hooper|
- Davis, Michael Street Gang, page 276
- Muppet Wiki: A Special Sesame Street Christmas
- A Special Sesame Street Christmas at the Internet Movie Database
- Tough Pigs: "A Blue Christmas"
- Tough Pigs: "Christmastime is Weird: Watching A Special Sesame Street Christmas" Part 1, Part 2