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A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! DVD Review

Buy A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! on DVD from Amazon.com A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!
Special & DVD Details

Executive Producers: Stephen Colbert, Allison Silverman

Director: Jim Hoskinson / Writers: Michael Brumm, Stephen Colbert, Richard Dahm, Peter Gwinn

Cast: Stephen Colbert, Elvis Costello, Feist, Toby Keith, John Legend, Willie Nelson, Jon Stewart, George Wendt (Santa Claus)

Songs: Stephen Colbert - "Another Christmas Song", Toby Keith - "Have I Got a Present For You", Willie Nelson and Stephen Colbert - "The Little Dealer Boy", Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert - "Can I Interest You in Hanukkah?", John Legend and Stephen Colbert - "Nutmeg", Feist - "Please Be Patient", Stephen Colbert, Elvis Costello, Feist, Toby Keith, John Legend, and Willie Nelson - "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding", Elvis Costello and Stephen Colbert - "There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In"

Original Air Date: November 23, 2008 / Running Time: 44 minutes / Rating: Not Rated (TV-14 on air)

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / PCM Stereo 2.0 (English) / Subtitles: None
DVD Release Date: November 25, 2008 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); White Keepcase

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As the host of Comedy Central's popular nightly series "The Colbert Report", Stephen Colbert is a man of the times.
But it's past times, not current ones, that shape A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All, a new holiday television special clinging to an old-fashioned tradition.

Here, Colbert minimizes some aspects of his unique TV persona (like the blind, illogical conservatism at its foundation), but retains the doltish charm needed to make him a sympathetic center of attention. This magical, musical one-hour program surrounding him could only be conceived by basic cable writers who grew up on such works as John Denver's Rocky Mountain Christmas, The Star Wars Holiday Special, and The Muppet Family Christmas.

We open in Colbert's woodsy cabin. There, he is getting ready to ring in Jesus' birth with an ambitious Christmas special complete with original, royalty-free carols and goats. But before he can head out to his New York City studio, Colbert sees the one thing outside his door he's most afraid of: a grizzly bear. Belonging to a species which regularly ranks high on both his "ThreatDown" and "On Notice" lists, that bear is enough to get Colbert taking safety inside by the warmth of his video fireplace in a seasonable turtleneck/sweater combo and furry boots.

Dressed for the holiday in bright red, Stephen Colbert introduces what he hopes will be a new standard in "Another Christmas Song." Country singer Toby Keith argues against the War on Christmas in his song "Have I Got a Present For You."

While scheduled entertainer Elvis Costello and others in New York wait around, Colbert has Christmas come to him in the form of turn-taking celebrity guests. First, country singer Toby Keith drops in and performs an impromptu song about the War on Christmas. Colbert joins him in the assault on political correctness, the most cleverly-penned original tune of the show. After Keith leaves, Colbert spots a fourth Wise Man on his mantle Nativity scene, none other than an ornately-robed Willie Nelson.
The image of a figurine-sized Nelson amuses, but his inevitable song about gifting the Baby Christ with one of his favorite things (guess what!) is kind of a bummer.

Things pick up with an appearance by "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, who encourages Colbert to rebound from this seemingly ruined Christmas by considering Hanukkah. Their humorous question-and-answer duet about the Jewish holiday is a definite highlight. Then, R & B singer John Legend takes a break from his real passion (serving as a forest ranger) to set Stephen straight on the one ingredient that's critical to an eggnog's success. His song, "Nutmeg", welcomes some obvious double entendre.

Filled with despair at being kept from his Christmas special, Colbert decides to do something he supposedly hasn't done before: pray. His call for divine intervention is put on hold -- in song by a tree-topping angel played by indie rocker Feist. This takes us close to the end, which in modern commercial television means the 44-minute mark. I dare not spoil the conclusion, but suffice it to say it's foreseen, satisfying, and includes George Wendt in a role he's played more times this decade than Norm Peterson.

With Christmas looking like a bust, Jon Stewart asks his pal Stephen Colbert, "Can I interest you in Hanukkah?" What's so funny 'bout Peace, Love, and Understanding? Stephen Colbert and his Colbert Christmas musical guests would like to know.

In a nice touch that's rarely provided despite DVD's many opportunities, A Colbert Christmas gives you the choice to view it with or without audience laughter. I don't know if that means that the former's enthusiastic crowd audio is as canned as the amusingly curt reaction to Colbert's formalized guest introductions. I do know that the special is plenty funny whichever way you choose to experience it.


Like the show from which it's spun, A Colbert Christmas is framed for 1.33:1 fullscreen. Or at least, that's what it's supposed to be; an odd black border (which standard overscan hides) makes it measure in at 1.42:1. The blue shades and various graphics of Colbert's news desk are left behind in favor of a warm, terrifically-realized cabin set. The picture quality is about the same, though, which means this is clean and vibrant, if a bit soft. You'll notice it's a little better than broadcast quality and not just because the lack of bugs and overlaid ads.

With laughs or the default without, the English soundtrack is presented in two-channel PCM stereo, which gets the job done. There's some lip syncing issues on some of Colbert's clearly dubbed singing. It must be deliberate, part of efforts to maintain the old school feel that's reinforced by blurry guest stills serving as commercial break transitions. As on other Comedy Central DVDs, subtitles are missed, especially since the advertised closed captions are absent.

If you can make out the title of the book being burned in the Book-Burning Video Yule Log, you'll probably appreciate the irony. Stephen Colbert goes over what kind of star you'll want to put atop your Christmas tree in one of the 25 Video Advent Calendar messages. Pay attention - it could save you a lot of pain. The much-feared grizzly bear pays Stephen a visit in one of the disc's three alternate endings.


You're probably familiar with seeing a Yule log on TV.
This disc puts a Colbert twist on that concept with a Book-Burning Video Yule Log. Seen in close-up, an active fireplace has books thrown on it for kindling. It's not anymore complicated than that, although a few amusingly chosen books dropped in are identifiable. If allowed, it runs for over 18 minutes, before being looped.

A Video Advent Calendar is one of the most entertaining special features I've seen. You can count down the days until Christmas with 25 short addresses from Colbert to you. Running about 30 seconds each, these contemporary cautions, tips, and messages are guaranteed to have you laughing, even if you fail to heed his warning and watch them all in one run.

Three short alternate endings (2:15) are provided. The first one's interesting, the second one (featuring the return of Jon Stewart) is weak, and the third is predictable but still a laugh.

Last is a bonus song, of a country-western-clothed Colbert performing the bitter "Cold, Cold Christmas" (3:45) in front of scenic wintry backdrop video. I'm not sure how this was to fit in with everything else, but it doesn't.

With holiday bitterness, Stephen Colbert sings the random bonus country-western ditty "Cold, Cold Christmas." The menu uses the lovely cover art that was chosen before the special was even taped. After December 9th's clip plays, we return to Stephen Colbert's 25-Day Video Advent Calendar.


Like Colbert's bestselling book, A Colbert Christmas is granted some sweet and appropriately conceited packaging touches, such as a self-advertising shrinkwrap sticker and cover art that depicts the host joyfully wrapping in bulk the very DVD he's on. The rear cover gives Colbert and his guests A Charlie Brown Christmas treatment with Charles Schulz's style and some clever gags. Those who rarely pay attention to case descriptions will want to break tradition for the witty pompous overview and hidden jokes provided here. And proving this really is the greatest gift of all, the disc art features a lovely green bow.

The DVD menu reproduces that swell cover art while a jazzy instrumental of "Another Christmas Song" plays. All bonus features are listed there, making the main menu one of the only and scene selections pages missed.

The disc opens with lame previews for "South Park": The Complete Eleventh Season, "Comedy Central's TV Funhouse", and "Kenny vs. Spenny" Uncensored Volume One. These aren't available from the menu, thank goodness.

Willie Nelson appears as a hallucinogen-inspired Fourth Wise Man in one of the delightfully low-tech commercial break transitions. Stephen Colbert and Elvis Costello close the program with a duet of a sweet song titled "There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In."


A Colbert Christmas offers a spirited marriage of cheesy yesteryear variety TV specials with Colbert's goofy, humorous sensibilities.
With news, politics, and interviews removed from the equation, the Colbert character itself -- stubborn, irrational, and self-promoting -- is as entertaining as ever. The guests and contrived situations surrounding him mine enough comedy and more than enough music to qualify this as a merry outing.

The DVD may be a little pricey for having just a 44-minute special as its feature presentation. However, the neat extras, witty design, and welcome audio choice all add value. This is one for Colbert fans to pick up, if not this holiday season than somewhere down the line. But you don't have to take my word for it. See for yourself when A Colbert Christmas debuts Sunday, November 23 at 10 pm Eastern/Pacific on Comedy Central. And a portion of sales proceeds will go to the charity Feeding America.

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Related Reviews:
Comedy Central: The Best of The Colbert Report • Reno 911!: Season 5 • Mystery Science Theater: 20th Anniversary Edition • Scrubs: Season 7
Christmas Specials: Holiday Treats • Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection • Shrek the Halls • Jack Frost • Alvin & Chipmunks: Holiday Gift Set
Christmas Movies: The House Without a Christmas Tree • The Santa Clause • The Christmas Star • Deck the Halls • Jingle All the Way
Christmas Episodes: Disney Channel Holiday • Home Improvement: The Complete Fourth Season • Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: Season 2
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Reviewed November 13, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2008 Comedy Central, Comedy Partners, Spartina Productions, and Paramount Home Entertainment.
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