Bill Murray’s got him a new Christmas special out. It’s called A Very Murray Christmas, it’s an hour long, it’s on Netflix, and you don’t need anybody to sell it to you. You’re either already onboard or way, way, way off-board.
The idea of criticizing it is unthinkable. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or not. It’s called A Very Murray Christmas. He’s wearing a reindeer hat in the promotional still. You know what you’re getting. You’re getting an hour of a slightly more vérité version of his Nick the Lounge Singer character from Saturday Night Live. If you’re game for that and internet memes didn’t destroy the man’s appeal for you, then hey, get after it.
The premise is that he’s supposed to tape a big legitimate Christmas special, but he got snowed in, so he retreats to a bar with Paul Shaffer and does an impromptu, bleary-eyed Christmas special instead. There are some nice cameos. David Johansen. Maya Rudolph. George Clooney. It’s funny in a couple places, it’s sad in a couple places, it’s a bit maudlin once the gang starts drinking. It’s directed with detached coolness by Sofia Coppola. If people still bought physical copies of movies, it’d be a great bonus feature on the 25th anniversary edition of Scrooged.
Bill Murray’s always hosting a variety show on some level, so this special is a real effortless thing for him to do. And it’s nice to see him do it as an old guy. He’s got his usual Indie Rock Jimmy Durante vibe going on, where you can’t tell if he’ll go for a big laugh or quietly allude to a sad past. There’s a nice muted little dialogue exchange. Paul Shaffer enters the frame.
“Where are we going?”
“You haven’t quit drinking yet, have you?”
It’s just good chemistry. I rewound it a couple times. That’s the extent of my evaluation. And here’s where I note that the internet has thrown off our sense of conversational scale. Whenever there’s a new movie or TV show to talk about, there are all these arbitrary incentives to talk about it a lot and think about it too much. Nothing is quite allowed to be what this special is anymore, which is wallpaper.
There used to be lots of wallpaper entertainment – you know, some low-stakes, warmly lit affair that’s mostly just relaxing, where you have permission to tune out and talk over it, content to let it set the ambiance of a party or the hour where you hover near your bed but aren’t quite lying in it yet. That’s the real reason why Cheers and John Hughes movies endure, and it’s the reason this works.
A Very Murray Christmas is a show you sort of watch while you’re decorating a Christmas tree or making cookies. If they gave Emmys for shows you sort of watch, this should win all of them. It’s nice to hear, nice to look at, and not too much of anything.
I watched it by myself around eleven at night, after the neighbors turned their Christmas lights off and everybody was asleep, as a footnote at the end of a bad week. I didn’t pay much attention. It was nice. It’s too bad Bill Murray hasn’t made thirty of these things.