I’m, admittedly, a sucker for a good Christmas special; this time of year is always quite enjoyable for precisely these types of events, things that wouldn’t be seen during a different time of year. Collecting together numerous recording artists and television personalities in a New York soundstage to create a Christmas special with humorously-themed songs isn’t something that happens every day, and that’s one of many things that I enjoy about this season.
What “A Colbert Christmas” does best is revel in its unique place within the pop cultural spectrum, one based on the duality of its star. Stephen Colbert (the character) is a conservative pundit who fights against the war on Christmas, while Stephen Colbert (the performer) is a hit amongst young liberals. What you get, then, is an entertaining cross-section: Toby Keith stops by the rebel against those who are trying to fight against this most sacred of holidays, while indie darling Feist is just as comfortable as an angelic switchboard operator.
When the special is at its most comfortable, it’s wonderfully entertaining; it never lets Colbert’s character go too far, and its use of its guest stars never drops below “mildly disinterested and awkward to be acting in front of a green screen.” Where it does go a little off the rails, with an overly obnoxious laugh track, feels like an honest enough error in judgment; I just wish they would have trusted us to insert our own laugh track, because I think they would have come out just fine.