Gleecap: ‘Extraordinary Merry Christmas’ Pays Homage to ‘Charlie Brown’


Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Rachel (Lea Michele) and Quinn (Dianna Agron) perform in the "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" episode of Glee (Adam Rose/FOX)

I believe I speak for Americans of all faiths (and godless heathens as well) when I say that if I am going to have the Gospel according to Luke recited to me, I want it to be from a little boy with a security blanket and a slight lisp, not an Irish elf with a popped collar.

Itchy, you are no Linus.

Before my own inner Snix comes out in full force, I’d like to say that I am a sincere fan of “Glee.” I may dial the snark meter up a few notches as I recap, but it comes from a place of adoration. This would get boring really quickly if all I did was gush week after week.

My disclaimer is necessary because most of the comments that are coming to mind about this year’s Christmas episode are not supportive or forgiving or very Gleeky at all. When I say this episode didn’t work for me (and it so didn’t), it’s not because no episode ever works for me, and I therefore live to criticize this mindless, mainstream show.

There’s not much story to rehash because the episode didn’t advance any of this season’s ongoing plots. It could have existed in a vacuum. Plenty of TV comedies work that way, but they aren’t in the business of selling albums, which complicates matters considerably.

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Last week’s competition ep had so many elements of a fall finale that this week’s seemed to serve no purpose but to be packed with enough Christmas songs to warrant the release of a second Glee cast Christmas album. I would say “holiday” album, but it was really just about Jesus this year – no Hanukkah for Rachel and Puck.

Cynicism doesn’t float my boat, so I’m going to assume that while the “Glee” gods may have enjoyed the prospect of more music sales, their intent for the episode was primarily to promote holiday cheer and deliver a valuable message about the spirit of Christmas.

That brings me back to Charles Schultz. “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” shared similar themes as well as simple details with the iconic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Characters got carried away exploiting the pageantry and glamour of the holiday and demanded lavish gifts. Even the moral compass character asked for a lighting adjustment before launching into the nativity story from the Bible.

But although the Judy Garland and “Star Wars” holiday specials were named as inspirations for the show within a show, the Peanuts connection was not acknowledged. That would be fine if this were understood to be a modern spin on a classic, but there’s nothing fresh about directly copying key elements of the original work.

As far as the homages that were openly stated, neither hit the mark. The Han and Luke lookalike roles for Puck and Finn were the only Star Wars pieces in the black-and-white puzzle, other than the opening credits. I suppose that’s okay.

But the Judy Garland Show format was totally lost in translation.

First of all, I doubt many Gleeks are familiar with the original specials. I’m probably a little older than the average “Glee” viewer, and I’m well versed in musicals and other things involving jazz hands. But I’d never seen these specials until I looked them up on YouTube after watching “Glee.”

The show within a show should have inspired Judy Garland Show virgins like me to check out the classic specials, but it was so forcefully campy that it only succeeded in turning me off the style. I recognize that the writers and director Matthew Morrison (Schue himself) were going for humorous exaggeration, but they overshot it to the point of extreme annoyance.

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What’s weird is that from what I saw of the actual Judy Garland footage, the speaking parts of her specials were relatively relaxed. Even if she was high on pills or baby Jesus, she didn’t seem in danger of hyperextending her facial muscles.

Yes, the smug tone of Artie’s special was indicative of the self-centered whirlwind most of New Directions was caught up in. I’m okay with that. But considering how grating their schtick became so very quickly, it was a mistake to devote two entire acts to nothing but overacting and bug-eyed smiles.

And by the way, you know what wouldn’t have worked at all with Artie’s tone and vision? “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” He wanted cheer only, but that song is actually pretty sad, right?

At least the music throughout the episode was good. Maybe I’ll have to download that album after all. Here’s to successful marketing, and God bless us everyone.

My nice list:

Best musical number: The episode featured 3 of my favorite holiday tunes, and they were all glorious. “Let It Snow” was a tad speedy for my taste, but those boys harmonized and scatted their faces off. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” was perfect for Mercedes. Rachel’s “River” was lovely and did not make me want to kill myself.

Best Sue-ism: Other Gay. Gelfling. Young Burt Reynolds. Bee Sting. I want a Sue nickname.

Best “you said just what everyone was thinking” moment: After Damian’s performance of “Blue Christmas,” Santana’s line, “I may actually be dead right now.”

And a couple things on my naughty list not covered above:

Worst musical number: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” wouldn’t have worked on Artie’s special, but it didn’t help in the homeless shelter either. Why would you sing to hungry people to be thankful for what they have since others don’t?

Oops, conflict of interest alert: Sam, Rory, Finn, and Rachel all end up ringing a Salvation Army bell. They all also happen to be friends with gays and lesbians and presumably support their equal rights. But some LGBT groups are currently boycotting the Salvation Army red bucket campaign because of the organization’s alleged refusal to assist gays in need.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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