Colbert seems to have been trying to recapture the feel of every old network holiday variety special from the ’70s and ’80s — and he succeeded, at least insofar as A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All consists of 45 minutes of cheesy sound effects, cheesier visual effects, and a nonsensical parade of seemingly random guest stars strung together by a plot that sounds like the product of a 64-gallon jug of brandy eggnog. It isn’t entirely without laughs — and may actually be worth purchasing if for no other reason than the chance to see Elvis Costello dressed up as the Nutcracker, a clown, and a bear who has eaten Elvis Costello — but the overall effect is similar to a bad episode of The Colbert Report. It’s a shame, because there really aren’t very many bad Report episodes, and Colbert is one of the funniest people on TV, but A Colbert Christmas swings feverishly back and forth between gratingly nonsensical and unexpectedly funny with exhausting speed. One consistent highlight, however, is the musical portion of the program, which includes an explosion-laced Christmas carol from Toby Keith, an plea for mankind to not “bogart love” from Willie Nelson, and an ode to nutmeg from John Legend. All told, any holiday special that ends with Santa in a knife fight with a grizzly can’t be all bad, but it’s nowhere near as funny as it should have been.

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