December 5, 2015

I always suspected that hanging with Bill Murray would be one long, strange trip, and his new Netflix Christmas special, "A Very Murray Christmas" (directed by Sofia Coppola) confirms it.

It starts with a familiar premise: Bill Murray is under contract to do a live Christmas Eve variety show from the Carlyle Hotel, but there's a big storm and everything's closed. Which (if any) guests will get there for the special? As it turns out, a few. Enough to hold our interest until the acid wears off, anyway.

This is not a Hallmark Christmas special. Almost everyone's depressed, cynical or otherwise unhappy, which on some level, made me feel right at home. On another, it made me sort of exhausted. (I welcome the Christmas season so I don't have to feel the way I do the rest of the year!) Imagine "Holiday Inn," only everyone's drunk and/or mildly suicidal.

But there are some wonderful little bits in this hodgepodge, with Paul Shaffer providing piano accompaniment throughout for guests like Jenny Lewis and Miley Cyrus.

For instance, the young couple who's supposed to get married at the hotel (Jason Schwartzman and Rashida Jones), but their guests can't make it and so they start fighting. Murray asks them to think about the first moment they knew they were in love -- "and sing it," he advises them. (They respond with a sweet rendition of Todd Rundgren's "I Saw The Light," with additional verses and harmonies by David Johansen & Maya Rudolph.)

There's some really bad singing, too. I haven't heard singing as bad as Chris Rock's duet with Murray on "Do You Hear What I Hear" since Candice Bergen sang in "Starting Over."

The festivities also include a surprisingly moving cover of "Fairytale of New York" with the whole gang, and it was my favorite musical performance -- even if the whole show has the feel of an extended joke Murray might be playing on the audience.

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