|KELLY CLARKSON'S CAUTIONARY CHRISTMAS TALE (nbc, 2013)|
Why was it such a misfit?
When singing competitions blew up on TV in the early 2000s, it felt like the next big wave of musical celebrities would be funnelled through them. And those expectations seemed confirmed when Kelly Clarkson, the first winner of American Idol, went on to become a legitimate star. ....However, as the show burned through seasons, viewers eventually found out what talent agencies and movie studios already know: you can't direct the flow of popularity no matter how hard you try. Future winners of American Idol fell out of the public eye almost immediately, while some seasons would produce stars who didn't actually win the competition itself. American Idol's spiritual successor, The Voice, has NEVER produced an actual star. The people who still watch singing competitions do so not out of the expectation that they're watching the birth of the next Elvis; they simply like watching people sing coupled with the slight suspense of being judged on it.
Clarkson's success and recognition came in spite of American Idol, not because of it. Their idea of promotion was to stick her in an embarrassing beach-blanket movie. Disenchanted with her new bosses, Clarkson broke away and turned her hazel eyes to a record label of her own choosing, and turned out a string of hits her own way. And in 2013, she was given her own Christmas special, which she executed in a very Kelly Clarkson fashion.
If the title didn't throw you off that this is going to be a weird one, the opening minute leaves no doubt. Our narrator, a chirpy little girl reading from a book next to a fireplace, explains that once upon a time Kelly was given her own Christmas special, but had no guests to fill it with. (We're framing this in Muppet fashion by focusing "behind the scenes.") Desperate, she calls on her southern-fried mentors Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood....who appear onscreen to flat-out tell Kelly "NO" to her face.
But Kelly has an ace in the hole....she pulls out a manila envelope and thumbs through some large photographs while casually bringing up last year's Mardi Gras. "How DID you get so many beads, Tricia? Hey, I think I know..." She pulls forth a picture that only Yearwood sees and her reaction indicates she's been persuaded to star. Reba was coerced under similar circumstances, though her photo apparently just shows her giving the middle finger (I guess she has a squeaky-clean rep to uphold).
Then all that disappears and for the next four minutes it's a normal, average, mom-pleasing, old-school concert special, as if nothing we just saw happened. Kelly and Tricia sing "Silent Night." Reba joins in for the final verse.
Backstage, Kelly flashes the thumbs-up at her colleagues, whose moods have instantly changed back to sour. They tear up their photos, turn their backs on her and exit frostily. Kelly gestures to the camera and says nervously,"They'll be back. They're my friends so...."
The narrator cuts her off. "Actually, they won't...I read the book before." The little girl continues: "But the show had to go on and there were more songs to sing."
Back to the stage. Clarkson goes on solo and makes the controversial choice of singing "A Few Of My Favorite Things" from Sound of Music. You can start riots by choosing to carol this one, or "What A Wonderful World"...neither were written as Christmas songs, neither are technically Christmas songs at all, and yet covers of them keep showing up in seasonal albums directed by ignorant people. Don't do it.
One commercial break later, Kelly is the special guest on The Tonight Show, and she's chatting up how great her special is going to be. "It'll be great...George Clooney is playing Santa....he can stuff anything in my stocking!" Immediately after this bawdy insert, she says with her next breath "The whole point is for the children; it's gonna benefit them."
what are you doing for them?" asks Mr. Leno.
Wow. When you get cut that deep by Jay Leno, of all people, you know you're in trouble.
Back to the theatre...Clarkson belts out a tune I've never heard before, "Wrapped In Red." It's from her own Christmas album, which was brand-new and freshly pressed to CD, ready to buy for the 2013 holiday season. It's had six years to heach the heights of Mariah Carey and hasn't. But like I said earlier, you can't force something to be popular.
Bachstage once more,
Kelly is having a walk with her director. "Have you
heard from Brangelina yet? Do they know it's for the
children? And haven't you heard from George?"
Now the obvious answer here would be "We've had two country stars already, the genre has already been exposed enough...let's fly in AC/DC." But Kelly's reason for rejecting Shelton is far more superficial...."He's a big HAM! He'll UPSTAGE me out there, the big buffoon, he'll--"
She turns the corner to run directly into Shelton himself. His hearing must be bad because he didn't catch a single word. Kelly feigns a big smile as Shelton begs to be included in her special. Then she says "You BET you can be part of the show! I have the PERFECT opening JUST FOR YOU!"
One transition later, Shelton is stuck on costume ironing duty. "I really appreciate your volunteering like this," Kelly says smugly.
I don't know what this next song is called, despite hearing it a billion times in my life. This is how it starts: "Bells will be ringing the sad sad news....oh what a Christmas to have the blues...."
The storyteller girl appears again. "Kelly's special was flying HIGH like Santa's sleigh. But this being a cautionary tale, it was headed for a multi-reindeer pileup."
They flash to an office
where Clarkson is chatting with her assistant. She hands
him a tablet and says, "Look at the headline of
CelebrityObsessed.gov! 'Kelly Clarkson Has Secret
Kelly steers the
conversation back to who the assistant (whose name is
Chad) has booked for the finale. "I know we haven't
heard from Clooney yet, but who else did you get?"
Chad explains that he's
been spending all his time trying to reach Clooney, going
through his agent, lawyer, podiatrist, etc...."I
think they have restraining orders against me now."
Chad pleads with Kelly.
"I need this job! I have to support my little sister
"Kelly Clarkson, you are ruthless," Jeong says in a monotone. "I am so turned on in a totally wholesome way."
Clarkson spends the next few scenes trying to attempt Chad's job and failing. She can't get ahold of any guest stars either. But after seeing what happens next, I think she's doing a great job. Out of all the cameos this special could land, I never expected this one, especially after seeing someone as low-rent as Jeong:
"You've reached Robin's voicemail. He's not in right now, but if you care to leave your message at the beep, he'll get right back to you. If this is Kelly Clarkson, I can't do your show."
She tries Whoopi Goldberg, who points out that her last name is Goldberg and "we don't do Christmas." Natalie Cole says she's flattered and "trying to think of a nice way to tell you no." Danica Patrick, wearing a tracksuit covered in GoDaddy logos, turns her down but says "maybe Blake Shelton would do it."
Onstage, Clarkson sings "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." She looks completely undistressed here, as if the framing device was written and filmed at a completely different time (but that couldn't be it). "Kelly needed a stocking full of stars," says Narrator Girl, "but it looked like all she was getting was coal. She had run out of time, and hadn't convinced any celebrities to join her for the finale. The only thing left to do was face the humiliation she had brought upon herself, but instead....she ran."
Kelly is shown walking down the snow-covered city streets, depressed. Looking down, she sees a homeless man in a hood carrying a sign that says "Out Of Work Celebrity Assistant -- Will Fetch Coffee For Food." It's Chad. Kelly is astonished to see him out on the street after just two days. Chad points out that it's still the Great Recession and "you didn't pay me that much anyway."
"If you had spent
any time thinking about anyone other than yourself or
your precious career, you wouldn't be seeing this right
now!" Chad erupts. "So how's your little
SPECIAL going on without me?"
Kelly looks terribly out of place there, but all the kids don't seem to mind. A volunteer comes in with candy, but he only has enough for each kid to "share half a piece." The scene breaks Kelly's heart; good thing she has millions of dollars....actually, the Narrator says Kelly decided to give them "the only gift she had on her at the moment."
So she sings. "I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas." They seem to enjoy it. As she's finishing up, Chad rushes in with her phone. "I DID IT! I GOT GEORGE CLOONEY ON THE PHONE!!" he tells her excitedly. "Hey George! What is this call about? Well....."
"....I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas. Bye!" With that she hangs up, while Chad stands there with his mouth open. That was quite a lot of work for nothing, but Kelly says she has a better idea now.
In a completely unrelated event, somebody was filming Kelly's performance at the shelter with their phone, and the video has now gone viral. After all the celebrities who rejected her see it, they change their minds. Danica Patrick sits there frustrated in her GoDaddy T-shirt, wondering why Kelly won't pick up. Robin Williams can't seem to get her on the line either. It's because she's not backstage anymore....she's decided she doesn't need any stars to make her special shine. She's enough!
....Which is kind of egotistical, suggesting she learned nothing, but whatever. Dressed up like a Christmas tree, Clarkson sings "You're All I Need" while the children from the shelter dance around her.
Afterward, Kelly and the kids run backstage -- to meet Blake Shelton, dressed like an elf complete with pointy toes. He thought he'd finally get a role in her special, but she didn't reform THAT much, so now he's livid. "YOUR SPECIAL SUCKED! I COULD HAVE MADE IT SO MUCH BETTER!" he yells as the credits roll.
"And so they all lived happily ever after," says Narrator Girl, "well, as much as possible."
Why didn't it fit in?
If Kelly Clarkson's Cautionary Christmas Tale had been traditional in any way, I probably wouldn't be writing about it. A straight-up concert would have bored me to tears, and though not all the attempts at humor worked for me, I appreciate the effort to make this interesting. As things with Kelly Clarkson in an acting role go, it's a vast improvement over From Justin To Kelly.
Does Uncanny Valley Webber Musical Cat-Person like it?
For today's second opinion, we asked the stars of Tom Hooper's Cautionary Christmas Movie what they thought. They just scratched their claws at us and one of them barfed up a hairball, and since it was a human face shoving out a CG ball of wet hair, it was very nauseating to watch. We'll be in the bathroom.