How Murray Saved Christmas: Did NBC's Special Ho-Ho-Hold Your Attention?

How Murray Saved Christmas NBC

A holiday hero who dishes out pastrami on rye and calls Santa’s reindeer by Seinfeld character names? Yeah, we can get into that.

NBC on Friday premiered How Murray Saved Christmas, an animated special that follows a grumpy diner owner (voiced by Jerry Stiller, The King of Queens) as he’s pressed into service when Santa is unable to make his annual rounds.

Most of the action takes place in a town where all holiday mascots, such as the Easter Bunny and Baby New Year, live. On the whole, it’s a happy little ‘burg… until you listen closely to the elves tinkering in Santa’s workshop. “We work, work, work, work, work, work, work, we work with great endurance,” they sing. “We never miss a day of work, ’cause we don’t have health insurance.”

Turns out, Santa’s kind of a jerk, jerk, jerk, jerk, jerk, jerk, jerk (at least as a boss). And when he gets his karmic comeuppance and is rendered insensate by some falling toys, the town looks for someone to fill his spot.

An enterprising elf named Edison (voiced by Will & Grace‘s Sean Hayes) notices Murray’s ease in delivering complex lunch orders and thinks the old man would make a great replacement. Though Murray initially has no interest, Edison wears him down until the restaurateur is riding the sleigh around the world, nibbling cookies, drinking milk and stuffing stockings with bagels and lox.

Along the way, Murray realizes that making people happy makes him happy — and we learn that he was the mascot for National Milkman’s Day, but when stores started selling milk in cartons, he and his holiday were forgotten. Upon returning home with an empty sleigh and a full heart, he’s in the right frame of mind for an emotional reunion with his true love, Lady Liberty.

You’ve heard a version of this story before, you say? Granted, Santa’s been in peril in several other Christmas movies — and Murray follows the traditional playbook (does anyone really think that all the little girls and boys aren’t going to get their gifts come morning?).

What sets Murray apart is the truly funny script — several lines are laugh-out-loud funny, particularly those that include pop culture references, unexpected rhymes and a throwaway line about intolerance — and snappy song lyrics. Neither are a surprise, frankly, given that the special comes from Mike Reiss (The Simpsons) and Walter Murphy (Family Guy). Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a good celebrity voiceover? (Seinfeld‘s Jason Alexander, Cheers‘ John Ratzenberger and 24‘s Dennis Haysbert also lend their voices to the special.)

That’s what we thought; now it’s your turn. Grade the special via the poll below, then hit the comments to back up your pick!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Dwight says:

    Why did the “Woody Allen” Groundhog state exactly the OPPOSITE of tradition when he said that he saw his shadow, so Spring is on its way? (The traditionis that when the groundhog DOSEN’T see his shadow, Spring will arrive early; but when he DOES see it, there will be six more weeks of Winter.)

  2. Tom says:

    FRAK! I forgot this was on!

  3. ashley says:

    What is wrong with this world u put a children’s show on Tv and singing I’m gay I’m gay I’m gay then say not that way that’s not ok at all then they are bashing police men also like really Nbc should be sued for putting a Christmas show on like that.

    • Ted Wells says:

      I agree with you completely. There is a difference between irreverence and just plain ignorance.

    • TV Gord says:

      It’s no more a children’s show than The Simpsons or Family Guy. I’m less offended by those funny gags in the show than I am by your inability to write correctly. I had to read your garbage a couple of times before I could figure out what you were trying to say. Punctuation is your friend.

  4. GuessWhat says:

    I gave it a B.
    Storyline was JUST ok — but if you really listened to the lines, there was some funny stuff!

  5. Corbin says:

    I can not believe the raciest jokes they got away with! Not to mention the towns name where they all live… talk about sending children the message that its ok to smoke, I saw the flag and was like really!

    I was watching and was very disappointed in some of the content like when santa went int the 7-11 and the HINDU GOD was the person in charge of it and made a very crude joke back and forth.

    & don’t get me started on the Rapping Easter Bunny, and Jewish Groundhog who had his shadow wrong!

  6. susan says:

    Get your facts straight! Hindus
    don’t wear turbans and Sikhs don’t believe in multiple Gods….hence all the arms. I don’t have time to point all the other negatives..

  7. Jim Sydney says:

    Put this out on video! Excellent!

  8. Mark AfraidOfIdTheft says:

    – My perspective —

    As a child in the 60s Frosty, and the Red Nose Reindeer are Christmas to me. However, now days I am bored by those old shows.

    – How Murry saved Christmas —

    A+ for creation of an original Holiday (aka Christmas) show. In this economy, ya!! for the courage to spend and create something new.

    C- It’s a bit on the raunchy side. Would be nice if families of all types religious (prudes) & nonreligious (non-prudes) could watch without the parents hearing their little kids repeat lines like; ”You did her?”, ”My zipper is stuck” (There was no need for those lines in the show.)

    Unlike the previous poster, I saw nothing wrong with Murry singing he was happy and Gay…not that way… that way is OK….

    After all the OLD Christmas carol words are ”Gay happy meetings” & ”don we now our Gay apparel” And no one seriously thinks it referrers to sexual activity.

    – – – –

    With digital editing these days they ought to be able to tweak “Murry Saved Christmas’ during 2015 while voice over folks and computer files are still available. Then the show can take its place among the annual holiday classics.

    – >> So, you others reading this, what would you suggest they tweak. <<–

  9. Velma says:

    As I have become an adult (52), I really no longer watch the ‘animation holiday specials’ that come on every year. I was looking for Dateline and this came on. I continued watching and found it to me absolutely hysterical! It was more for adults if anything. And I really loved that everyone was included, various religions and groups…especially the little black elves. As a black woman, I like to see myself presented. The humor was spot on and yes, I will be purchasing the dvd. If you didn’t see it, you missed out!

  10. Ted Wells says:

    Horrible Horrible Horrible

    Halloween has gone from a holiday for children to one focused on adults. This program moves Christmas into the same category…leaving young children completely behind. (How can it possibly be “good” to present Santa as a deranged mental case?) Why do adults even need a Santa story for themselves?

    I have no problem with shows that work on more than one level (like the Toy Story, etc). However, this “special” was anything but. (Even the Simpsons usually manage to endear themselves to the viewer, despite their many shortcomings and human failings. We can all relate! But the main characters in this production never provoke our empathy –at least not long enough to make a difference.)

    Points also taken off for just plain getting facts wrong: such as the idea that everyone thought the world was flat before Columbus. Points off also for the horrified looks on everyone’s faces when Murray sings about being “gay.” So what if he WAS gay? That shouldn’t take anything away from the story (that he saved Christmas). So, the shows fails on an adult level too.

    The show is awful.

    • TV Gord says:

      I disagree. There’s plenty of Halloween for kids, just as there are plenty of Christmas specials for kids. This is one for adults. We need our Christmas specials, too. I thoroughly enjoyed this one! It was far from awful!

  11. L Bagner says:

    We loved, loved, loved it! xtremely clever, made us (ages 44 and 73) crack up repeatedly. If there is a DVD for sale, I want it. Congrats to all involved in the production. It wasnt disrespectful, it was fun.

  12. Toby says:

    If it was for adults then why was it on at 8pm on a major network? This was definitely NOT for kids! What was NBC thinking? Yes there were some crazy, funny moments in the middle of a strange show. But not a holiday classic!

  13. J Tyler says:

    I actually thought it was hilarious & would have given it “awesome” if it was not advertised for young kids.
    Glad mine are grown, as I would hate to explain the story. It would take entirely too many years til they finally “got it”! But it was funny!

  14. Nibarian says:

    When I saw that this was coming on, I was excited, as it was based on a children’s book that I really like, “How Murray Saved Christmas” by Mike Reiss and illustrated by David Catrow. I even read it to quite a few classes of elementary school kids and told them the show was coming on! (I WAS a bit disappointed that David Catrow didn’t do the animation, but after watching it, I’m GLAD he didn’t! I wouldn’t want my name attached to this, either!) Why they felt that they needed to make Santa so evil is beyond me, and there were quite a few scenes that were NOT in the book that were SO inappropriate for kids, it was ridiculous! There were quite a few “famous” names that did the characters’ voices and, in my opinion, they didn’t put much of their acting skills into it, that’s for sure! It sounded like they were blandly just reading lines! I’m actually embarrassed that I recommended it for kids to watch. I get that Mike Reiss can be a bit irreverent at times, and I like that about him, but if you’re going to make a show for prime-time that is based on a children’s book, KEEP IT FOR KIDS!!!

  15. Janet says:

    It would have been funny if it was on at 9 or 10. But not 8 on a Friday night, advertised as a new family holiday special. My six year old does NOT need to watch that. Bad move NBC.

  16. Harrison says:

    However raunchy or inappropriate the humor seemed in this cartoon, the main point of the story is this: people of different religions can have and share in the “Christmas spirit, do kindness to each other and be happy about it. Now, lets compare this cartoon to a disgusting Christmas episode of CBS’s “Two Broke Girls”, where the only Jewish people portrayed in the story were rich Jewish bankers who lent people money on Christmas, and a filthy rich, snotty she-devil who purposely bought expensive Hanukkah gifts for her friends just to shut them up. No other religions were mentioned, and ONLY those characters in that show of the “appropriate” religion participated in doing kind things for their friends. And yes, sex jokes and insults peppered throughout that show as well. Murray had the spirit, and did a kindness and service for others even though it wasn’t “required” of him. That’s the spriit!