Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie and the gang are all living in a New York City brownstone (for reasons not really explained), where the only human tenants are their adorable neighbor Claire (Madison Pettis) and her mom (Jane Krakowski). It's Christmas Eve, there's no snow on the ground, and for the first time ever, the Muppets aren't planning to spend Christmas together. Kermit and Miss Piggy are headed for the Caribbean, Gonzo is going to Hawaii, and Fozzie is heading out on a comedy tour. Before they go, however, they make a last-minute trip to the post office to mail their cards; Gonzo also promises to mail Claire's letter to Santa Claus.
An impromptu musical number at the post office creates some minor havoc, and Gonzo discovers that a few letters to Santa — including Claire's — have been left in his possession. Anxious to make sure they reach their intended recipient in time, he persuades some of his fellow Muppets to help him get to the North Pole to deliver them personally.
Notable as the first Christmas production for The Muppets after Disney bought the franchise, though it premiered on NBC rather than ABC. Followed by the 2011 feature film The Muppets, and in a holiday context, by 2013's Lady Gaga & The Muppets Holiday Spectacular.
This special includes examples of the following:
- As Himself: New York City's then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg! This is the second time the city's current mayor appeared in a Muppet production after Ed Koch's cameo in The Muppets Take Manhattan.
- Better than a Bare Bulb: The Muppets hang lampshades on everything.
- Christmas Elves: Just one, played by Paul Williams himself, who answers the door when the Muppets finally reach the North Pole. Beyond his long-standing association with The Muppets, especially their Christmas-related productions, this is an Actor Allusion to his playing an elf in the 1984 TV movie The Night They Saved Christmas. Interestingly, that film featured Art Carney as Santa Claus; Carney had previously played that role in the early Muppet production The Great Santa Claus Switch (which aired as a special episode of The Ed Sullivan Show).
- Christmas Songs: Most of the songs in the special are original holiday compositions by Paul Williams; more traditional carols are performed by a choir of rats.
- Christmas Special: Naturally.
- Deadpan Snarker: Rizzo, though less so than usual.
Pepe: Santa? Letters to Santa? (laughs) Okay, you know what? I will help you, okay. Eh, what is Santa's e-mail?Kermit: Well —Pepe: Oh, let me guess! Let me guess! Eeeh... firstname.lastname@example.org! (laughs vigorously)
- Pepe tries to be this, but ...isn't quite there yet.
- Eek, a Mouse!!: Claire's mom shrieks when the rat Muppets join the party in her apartment at the end. To her credit, she recovers quickly and apologizes, inviting them to make themselves at home.
- Furry Confusion: Appropriate to the season — the rat choir singing carols outside the brownstone are dressed as reindeer.
- Happy Holidays Dress: Uma Thurman's whole wardrobe for the special.
- Homemade Sweater from Hell: Fozzie wears one his mom gave him, and presents Claire and her mother with identical sweaters. One of the extras on the DVD has him explaining to an interviewer that his mother made the exact same sweater for everyone in the cast. (In Fozzie's mom's defense, they're not that bad... relatively speaking.)
- I Gave My Word: A driving force in the plot. Gonzo promised Claire that her letter would get to Santa, and it's going to get to Santa no matter what he has to do.
- Informed Judaism: Zoot, the saxophonist for the Electric Mayhem, shows up for the Christmas Eve celebration with a menorah, prompting Dr. Teeth to comment that he never knew Zoot was Jewish.
- It's All About Me: Miss Piggy, unsurprisingly, harbors deep resentment that Kermit is setting aside their vacation plans in favor of making sure that Santa receives the stray letters. She practically invokes the trope by name when he appeals to her better nature and she replies, "What about ME?" She gets over herself in the end... as much as a diva ever gets over herself, anyway.
- Just for Pun: All over the place. Possibly the most memorable is when they fly to the North Pole by clinging to the wing of an airplane, prompting Fozzie to declare that they're "winging it!"
- Let There Be Snow: While waiting in line at the post office, Kermit laments the lack of snow. Of course, by the end of the show it's snowing.
- Overreacting Airport Security: The Muppets are detained by TSA for Fozzie's bad jokes.
- Polar Bears and Penguins: Played with. At the airport, the Muppets discover that they can get to the North Pole via North Pole Airline, and wonder who exactly would want to fly to the North Pole. The question is immediately answered by a pair of penguins, who enter the scene loudly declaring to each other that they can't wait to visit the North Pole because they're sick of the South Pole.
- Rules Lawyer: When Gonzo and Fozzie discuss the possibility of opening the kids' letters to Santa to see what they asked for, Sam the Eagle shows up apropos of nothing to teach them, and the audience, that opening mail that isn't yours is a federal offense.
- Santa's Existence Clause: Most of the Muppets don't express an outright belief or disbelief in Santa, but Gonzo definitely believes, and Rizzo and Pepe claim they definitely don't. They only go along with the whole trip to the North Pole because, as Rizzo puts it, "We can't miss this train wreck!" As it happens, in the special Gonzo turns out to be right, as Santa shows up claiming that such a "pure Christmas wish"note deserved to be granted. This turns Rizzo and Pepe into believers when they meet the man himself; they weren't Flat-Earth Atheist types, just skeptical when there wasn't any evidence.
- Shout-Out: Probably. The brownstone in which the Muppets are living is very similar to the one located at 123 Sesame Street.
- Spoof Aesop: When Gonzo and Fozzie don't make it to the post office in time, they consider opening the kids' letters and seeing what they asked from Santa. They are stopped by Sam the Eagle, who tells them and the audience that opening mail that doesn't belong to you is not only immoral but illegal.
- Those Two Guys: Alongside the usual Statler and Waldorf, Rizzo and Pepe fall under this.
- Unnamed Parent: Claire's mother's name is never mentioned. The Muppets all refer to and address her simply as "Claire's Mom."