Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! (A)
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Stevie McCleary & Noor Razzak (23rd December 2008).
The Show

Stephen Colbert is the host of "The Colbert Report" (2005-Present), in which Colbert does an amazing job of poking fun at the hosts of other so-called current events talk shows, and also a very amusing book entitled "I Am America" (And So Can You!), both of which I highly recommend.. Here though, Colbert is taking a stab at mocking something we don’t see much of these days; the old school Christmas variety special.

Those specials were horrid things to watch. Poorly written, they’d feature a slew of musical guests turning up for a cheap pay check. Ah, the spirit of Christmas.

So how does "A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!" stack up as a feature all as it’s own? Well the premise is simple enough; Colbert just wants to head to his New York studio to record the comedy special…that you’re currently watching. But he can’t because he’s trapped in his cabin up in the snowy mountains due to a pesky bear. So, as he attempts to find a way out of there, he’s joined by a selection of celebrities creating new Christmas songs as they go. Toby Keith, Willie Nelson, John Legend, Jon Stewart, Elvis Costello, and Feist all lend a hand in the most surreal 43 minutes I’ve had in a long time. Call of the night went to Colbert’s description of Elvis Costello as “an older, male Avril Lavigne, but instead of skateboarding he sings about wrecks in ship yards.”

Santa makes an appearance of course, in order to save the day, and leaves us with yet another surreal moment as he presents Colbert with the DVD of his special…that we’re currently watching.

This is a hard genre to satirize and, while it is successfully achieved, it does come across as a tad blasé. It’s hard to tell though because of the very nature of what they are parodying. So, it’s most definitely a fun special to watch but wouldn’t hold up under repeated viewings as it doesn’t hit hard enough when it should, opting for a healthy dose of satire with an absence of the hard edge that the show features. And, clocking in at the aforementioned 43 minutes, it doesn’t take very long to watch, which is sort of disappointing…you’re left wanting more. An entertaining time-filler may be the best way to describe it.

Basically it’s a fun thing to watch if you’re already a Colbert fan, as it’s a different setting and style than usual. Plus everybody is sure to like at least one of the guest celebrities, as they’re a varied bunch (my favourite moment is John Legend singing a very sexual song about Nutmeg…). If you’re not a big fan I’d say this will only serve to vaguely confuse you as to what angle the material is coming from. This style of comedy is an acquired taste. And considering this is essentially the makers taking a parody and then making another parody on top of it, leads to everyone looking and feeling a bit lost at times.

Definitely not one to watch if you’re in a room with fundamentalist Christians, as it won’t take long to notice that their holiday is being mocked, but one to easily share with friends who like their comedy on the eclectic side.

Video

Presented in the original broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 fullscreen this image is pretty solid for a TV special. The image is mostly sharp, although there some moments of softness, colors are solid and bright. Black levels are deep but there was some minor noise amid them, shadow detail is consistent. Overall the image is clean and crisp, there's nothing to write home about in regards to this image, it's simply OK.

Audio

A single English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is all we get here, that's all we need really as this is a primarily dialogue and music based comedy. There's very little going on in terms of ambient or major sound effects so this track does the trick. The audio is clear and distortion free if not a little lacking in the "oomph" department.
The feature does not include any optional subtitles.

Extras

Paramount has included a few extras, there's a video yule log, an advent calendar, a series of alternate endings, a bonus song, an option to play the feature with a live audience and some bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

The "Book Burning" video yule log is a looping video of books being burned in a fireplace until it looks like the whole cabin has been engulfed. You have to watch a long way in to see some of the actual titles of some good books he’s burning. It ends with a pile of smoldering ash being patted down before continuing again. A nice alternative to a real fire.

There's a video advent calendar, there are 25 videos that are viewed one by one. It’s mostly Colbert goofing off in his cabin doing things like wrapping himself up as a present. My favorite bit is day six, where he shoots his Christmas tree in case it has raccoons in it. It’s pretty weird, but entertaining. Each running between 25 seconds and 30 seconds in length).

There are three alternate endings:

- Alternate ending 1 runs for 31 seconds; Colbert in his news desk studio having dreamt the whole special.
- Alternate ending 2 runs for 50 seconds; Stewart returns to reveal that they are the last two people on earth. Stewart kills Colbert and sits down to read, but breaks his glasses in a homage to the famous “Twilight Zone” episode.
- Alternate ending 3 runs for 54 seconds; Colbert gets mauled by the bear.

There's also a bonus song entitled “Cold, Cold Christmas,” an extra song that didn’t fit in the main feature, Colbert does a country tune about hoping that Christmas is as cold as the woman who has left him. It’s a fun little ditty. This clip runs for 3 minutes 44 seconds.

You can also play this special with live audience, which I’m pretty sure is a laugh track.

Rounding out the extras are a series of bonus trailers for:

- "South Park": The Complete Eleventh Season" which runs for 1 minute 18 seconds.
- "Comedy Central's TV Funhouse" which runs for 1 minute 26 seconds.
- "Kenny vs. Spenny" Uncensored Volume One" which runs for 1 minute 25 seconds.

Overall

The Show: B+ Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: C+ Overall: B-

 


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