Fans were definitely tuning into Fox's "A Christmas Story Live!," quickly sending it to the top of Twitter's trending topics on Sunday night, but it seems they were a little confused by what they were seeing.
This wasn't quite the beloved Christmas story they remembered. Not only were the actors different, with Maya Rudolph and Chris Diamantopoulos portraying the parents of Andy Walken's Ralphie, but the whole production felt different. And what was up with all the singing?
The original "A Christmas Story" has become one of the most beloved and well-known holiday films of all time, thanks in part to it playing on TNT or TBS in a 24-hour cycle over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day every single year. Its fans can quote the movie by heart, know every moment and vignette, and can't picture anyone else playing their favorite characters.
Rather than just try to recreate the film in a live production, Fox went with a variation of the Broadway musical production, and made a few other changes along the way. While it's still completely recognizable as "A Christmas Story," with all the classic moments you remember, there were some pretty big changes along the way. Here are eight of them.
Perhaps the most jarring thing about Fox's live version of "A Christmas Story" for a lot of viewers was that it was a musical. Viewers took to Twitter in shock and outrage that the characters kept bursting into song and elaborate dance numbers because that's not the "Christmas Story" they remember.
"A Christmas Story: The Musical" premiered on Broadway in 2012 and it has been running seasonally since 2014, but Fox viewers can be forgiven if they didn't know that. It's not nearly as well known as the film, and Fox called this "A Christmas Story: Live," with no mention of it being the musical. Most viewers probably figured it was just a live version of the movie, like a teleplay.
The Old Man Softened
With musical numbers and a deeper dive into the Parker marriage, the musical pieces took us further out of Ralphie's vantage point by humanizing his parents more than was absolutely necessary. One of the quirks of the original was that the Old Man was so much an enigma, hard to read and difficult to get through to for the viewers in the same way he was for Ralphie.
It was an accurate take on a stereotypical 1940s father, who was more distant and cold to his children than their mother. This Old Man was softened to the point he wasn't even all that scary or intimidating when he was losing his mind over the furnace or those dogs, and it weakened the slow reveal of how much he really did love his children.
That moment came at the end, and it was well-earned, but both the musical and this live production brought the narrator Ralphie right into the action. Matthew Broderick was fantastic as the older Ralphie, narrating the action from within the scene with just the right amount of boyish wonder and middle-aged wisdom.
The musical put the older Ralphie on the stage, but he wasn't as immersed in the scenes as he was on this television production, and it really added a lot of weight to those moments. It was the best of both worlds without having to deal with faceless narration throughout a live production, and offered a nostalgic wistfulness as he saw his childhood through fresh eyes.
Leg Lamp 2.0
The infamous leg lamp that the Old Man was so proud of was given an upgrade to make it even more gaudy and awful for the stage musical, and it was that version that made it into Fox's production. Now, it's not just the bulb at the top that lights up, but rather the entire fishnet-clad leg.
This way, no matter how far away from the house you might get, there would be no mistaking that one-of-a-kind image shining through the window, much to Mrs. Parker's dismay. To top it off, the Old Man got a gold leg lamp trophy and got to perform on stage with literal dancing leg lamps. Thankfully, his poor wife didn't have to see that particular fantasy.
Some scenes didn't make it into the three-hour musical at all, like Ralphie's dismay that his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring was little more than an advertisement ploy. Perhaps producers figured kids would't know what a decoder ring was ... or Little Orphan Annie, for that matter. Also overlooked was bully Scutt turning on his cohort after Ralphie made the "loser" kids out of reach, as well as a lot of the little moments around the house, like the fuse blowing when the decorated Christmas tree was plugged in.
The goal of the musical was to shine a spotlight on the most iconic and classic moments from the film, expanding them and offering new insights into them, while also emphasizing inclusion in a way that the original didn't have, so some of the lesser moments had to go, though viewers might have preferred less dancing and more vignettes.
Fans of the original know that Ralphie blamed his utterance of the dreaded f-word on a friend, leading to a whooping for that poor boy, but in this iteration that boy's mother got a musical number. Ralphie went to apologize and it set Ana Gasteyer up for a song about the Jewish holiday of Hannukah and the power of miracles. This piece is original to the Fox version, not even appearing on the Broadway stage.
Jewish representation in "A Christmas Story" was only the first example of inclusion, with an incredibly diverse cast from the kids on up to the adults, and even David Alan Grier as Santa Claus. One of the praises often heaped on the original film was how flawlessly it evoked memories of real life. It reveled in minutiae, making it feel almost like a documentary over a fictional account of one family's Christmas.
In 2017, we know that real life is diverse and always has been, even if it wasn't always shown that way in the movies or on television. That oversight was rightly corrected in this production in regards to both race and body shape.
Folks on Twitter were actually nervously anticipating the film's closing moment, where the Carolers sing to the Parker family. In 1983, it wasn't that big of a deal to play on the stereotype that Chinese people can't say the letter L properly, substituting the R sound instead. It was a cheap gag played for easy laughs.
While a vocal minority was upset to hear perfect diction, most applauded the update, and Ken Jeong gave a perfect send-up to the original, asking the Old Man if he was expecting something different. It's a tongue-in-cheek awareness that the original missed the mark on sensitivity with that one, though it was a time where that sort of thing was often overlooked.