Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to Day Nine of our Twelve Days of Christmas celebration for 2023. Day Eight turned out to be a hearty a bottling bonzer of a special, full of giggles, shits and smelly Australian hobo-Santa goodness. We've had an unprecedented streak of luck this year, with a majority of the specials we've covered so far having turned out to be surprisingly entertaining. Today, however, our luck runs out, as the merry Christmas gravy train derails and goes straight off the trestle into a raging river of raw sewage. We've presented a lot of reputed musical merriment over the past five years, from calming classics and tuneless turtles to rhyming robots and piping puppets, but rarely have we found anything quite so lazy and excruciating as what we've endured for you today. Sometimes you've all got to thank your lucky stars that you're on the other side of the screen and just reading about this stuff. We actually had to watch it.

An effervescent eruption of edifying eructation.

We're posting a brand-new review of a Christmas special every other day beginning December 3rd, and culminating in what we consider the worst of the bunch on Christmas morning. Just the other morning I woke up bright an early about an hour before my alarm, and since there was no use at that point trying to fall back asleep, I strapped on the leather truss I always wear beneath my trousers to ensure I don't experience any unwelcome slippage and went downstairs to the canteen to feed the interns. I was just opening the first can of kibble when I heard a peculiar squawk from the direction of the door to Nate's old Home Theater/Man Cave in one of the ancient basements of Million Monkey Towers. I hadn't been down there since the incident with the gophers back in October of 2022, but not wanting a repeat of that embarrassing and costly invasion, I'd since been diligent in ensuring the door was always kept securely locked. At first, I thought little of any sinister source, assuming it was one of the pipes expanding from the old boiler in an adjacent chamber, but I figured I should at least put my ear to the door to see if the sound would be repeated. No sooner did I put my ear to the door than I heard it again and was surprised to recognize it as the quacking of a duck.

I couldn't imagine how the hell a duck could have even gotten down there. I tried the door, however and found it unlocked! I quietly crept down the cold stone staircase, with occasional clanks and quacks still emanating from below. Crossing past the theater area I noticed the powder room door was ajar and carefully opened it to reveal a shocking sight.

Say no to crack.

That's when it all came back to me. Pam had mentioned just a few days before that the last time she'd been down there she noticed the lavatory sink was draining a bit slow, and since she knew I'd be busy with my Shitmas articles she said she'd call a plumber to check it out. Just then the fellow himself lifted a leg and let one rip, and damn if that fart didn't sound just like a duck!

"That's gonna itch when it dries!" he declared, then noticed me standing in the doorway holding my nose. "Sorry pal! Mexican food last night...big bowl of beans and a chimichanga. Got me some bubble gut!"

I quickly turned away, headed back upstairs and left him to his work...and the moral of this story is if it walks like a duck and looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck, but if it only quacks like a duck, it might be somebody's ass.

Just to make things perfectly clear and to make sure we're all on the same page with this, Kathie Lee's Rock 'n Tots Cafe is completely repugnant and unnecessary, a tacky, noisome assault on the senses with no conceivable justification for its own existence beyond stroking the voracious ego of the woman who created it. I'm a plainspoken man, with my opinions and sensibilities somewhat hardened perhaps from the trials and vicissitudes of a challenging life, but I believe myself also to be fair-minded and open to new ideas and experiences. I call things as I see them, and when it comes to this special, I wish I hadn't seen it at all.

Kathie Lee Gifford, nee Epstein, was born in France to American parents. Despite her European Jewish roots, became a born-again Christian at the age of twelve after watching Reverend Billy Graham's evangelical film production The Restless Ones (1965). She attended Oral Roberts University, further cementing her Evangelical bona-fides. Her earliest professional job in the entertainment industry was as on the third of five iterations of the game show Name That Tune (1974-81), singing snippets of popular songs to which contestants would have to name the titles, followed by a brief stint on the Hee-Haw (1969-92, 1996-97) spinoff Hee-Haw Honeys (1978).

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

In 1980 she joined another music-guessing game show, a spinoff of Name That Tune called Face the Music (1980-81), which though short-lived brought her enough national exposure to secure a place as a correspondent on Good Morning America (1974-present). Her signature gig came in 1985 with Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee, a talk show co-hosted by Regis Philbin, which provided her steady employment and national renown for the next fifteen years.

Kathie Lee's Rock 'n Tots Cafe was a direct-to-video vanity project produced at the height of Gifford's fame. Three volumes were released between 1995 and 1996, including Rockin' Roundup, A Christmas "Giff" and Kathie Lee's Big Surprise. The razor-thin premise is that Kathie Lee is a perky, singing waitress at a diner with a multi-ethnic clientele well below the age of consent, who seem to enjoy being roped into bland, expressionless sing-alongs even more than eating the greasy diner food cooked by a gruff, wisecracking and unidentified animal whose only visible part is a single dirty paw...which is appropriate, I suppose because Paw is also his name. There's a weird and ever-present rancor between Kathie Lee and Paw, indicating some long-standing rivalry or tawdry backstory between them. Present also is a big lummox of a life life-sized, football-loving teddy bear named Giff, named for Kathie Lee's former football pro husband Frank Gifford, and a busty mouse waifu waitress named Moochie, whose cosmetically enhanced eyelashes, million-dollar gams and sexy baby voice gave me a whole host of new and confusing feelings.

Her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.

Speaking of confusing feelings, Giff is clearly crushing hard on Kathie Lee in an "aw shucks!" puppy-love, awkward erection sort of way, and she plainly notices, as she giggles provocatively and leads him along by the nose like the sexually frustrated, scheming cougar we always knew she really is. That's an awful lot of deeply uncomfortable, icky-racy, people-on-puppet sexual subtext humming along just below the surface, and it gives the frequent, vapid musical numbers an uncanny valley undertone that's impossible to ignore.

There was an album release of the songs from this episode, too, and a tie-in book for the entire series called "Moochie's Surprise," which presumably had the promiscuous rodent having an STD screening which miraculously comes back clean.

Since this is primarily a musical special, I'm going to default to my old stand-by zero to ten song performance rating system as seen in my previous articles here and here. For today's purposes, and because all of the songs are Christmas standards, I've chosen a scale where ten is represented by a luscious Victorian Christmas trifle, and zero is represented by a desiccated fruit cake from 1911 that's been declared a lethal biohazard by the EPA.

First up is the theme song, and everything you need to know about the entire series is in the first two lines:

"Hey cool kids, it's me! Your waitress and your best buddy Kathie Lee!"

Remember this was not a project taken on by a television newcomer desperate to break into showbiz or a fading star willing to take any offer to remain in the public consciousness, but was conceived by Kathie Lee herself at the height of her fame and clout within the industry. She chose to make this, and aside from the intensity of the ego on display, it just smacks of a desperate need to show "the kids" how cool she is. I get it. When it comes to being with children, everybody wants to be the cool adult, and most adults think they are the cool adult, but not everyone gets to be the cool adult. If you have to think about being the cool adult, you're not, and if you have ever in your life uttered the phrase "Hey cool kids" you never will be. It's the absolute kiss of death.

For the record, I'm the cool adult.

So, here we are. Kathie Lee finishes her song ad a bunch of the titular tots file in skipping and dancing and smiling as their parents are being paid for them to do. They line up at the tables and Kathie Lee brings over some boxes and says that since it's so close to Christmas they're all going to spend the day decorating for her. So right away we've gone from "fun place for kids" to "forced child labor."

Kathie Lee's Komsomol.

Kathy Lee asks them what they like about Christmas and they each give their pre-scripted, captor-approved answers. Some like the food, some like the presents and some like how pretty everything looks when it's decorated, but one thing they all agree on is they all love to sing and dance and have fun, especially when there's a jolly man just off-camera with a cue card and a festive bullwhip. That gives Kathy Lee an excuse to introduce a talking juke box named Duke the Juke who who'll be providing the backing tracks for the assembled moppets to lip-sync to.

He looks a little shifty to me.

Kathie Lee asks him for something rockin' and swingin'. From behind a pass-through window, Paw groans. He hates when Kathie Lee sings, and he's not shy about expressing his sentiments. They're sentiments I heartily agree with. She has one of those middle-American Wonder Bread voices that do the bare minimum of merely hitting the notes without performing or expressing them. I find it interesting that in an ego-stroking vanity project centered around the stroked ego's voice there should be an almost rancorous running gag about how shitty a voice it is. It's almost as if she subconsciously knows she's utterly unremarkable and she's vicariously copping to it through this character's barbs.

Kathie Lee waves away Paw's insults, Juke spins his magic, and we get a pale, formless approximation of "Jingle Bell Rock." It's already amongst the least rockin' songs ever to have the word "Rock" in the title, and Kathie Lee and company further divest it of any spark, energy or interest.

Jingle bell rock bottom.

It sure doesn't help that the kids were clearly chosen for their ability to look like they give a shit about Kathie Lee rather than for their acting, singing, or dancing ability.

The choreography is breathtaking.

As the gang performs their opening simulacrum of a production number, Moochie and Giff hang out at the periphery swaying back and forth to the mild, somnolent beat, and eventually Kathie Lee walks over and grabs Giff for and pulls him into the fray. They form a conga line type-deal and build to a big finish where Giff and all of the kids appear to be making obeisances to her, perhaps as a prelude to a written request that she let them all go home and return to their families.

Later as they go through the boxes of ribbons, tinsel and ornaments, Kathie Lee finds an ornament that looks like a cheese ball, which she informs us was given to her by Moochie the sexy mouse the previous year. As she heads off with the kids to find a place to hang it, Moochie asks Giff what he got for Kathie, and he confesses that he hasn't gotten her anything yet because he hasn't found anything special enough for her. What he needs, he insists, is something that says, "You're peachy keen and really neat, and I'd love to get you alone in the supply closet for some Jingle Bell Rocking of our own." Moochie suggests he give her a strong liquor that tastes like chocolate.

"It's always worked on me."

Giff isn't sure booze would send the right message. He thinks maybe he should get her something he would like for himself, or better yet just give her something he would like for himself that he already has so he won't have to spend any money. He pulls out a few of his favorite things, which include a football autographed by Frank Gifford and some trading cards from when Gifford played for the New York Giants. Moochie suggests he should instead find something Kathie Lee would like, a statement that, whether by accident or design, suggests she doesn't actually care for her husband. I'm wondering if this was a coded cry for help signaling that her alleged fairy tale marriage, which she'd frequently and nauseatingly featured in saccharine segments on Live! with Regis and Kathy Lee might actually be some kind of toxic hellscape from which she longed to escape.

It's as good a theory as any.

Sad-sack Giff mopes away and we pan over to Kathie and the kids still sorting through the ornaments. Kathie wonders aloud what other folks light be doing to deck their halls, and Duke steps in to provide another scintillating song, set over location footage of three carefully chosen families of three carefully chosen ethnicities, all hanging out just enjoying some racial harmony, putting up tinsel, stringing up lights and setting big candy cane decorations up in a huge suburban yard, with Kathie Lee drooling out her slow, somnambulistic rendition of "Deck the Halls."

Deck the halls with anesthesia.

Back in the cafe, cheap-ass Kathie Lee is demonstrating how she makes ornaments herself using cast-away junk she found around the cafe, like cotton, construction paper and discarded cooking grease. As she runs off to the kitchen to get another bucket of it, we see that Giff is still sulking and bitching to Moochie about how he still hasn't found anything to give his crush. One of the kids is there, too, and suggests that since Kathie Lee likes do-it-yourself crafty stuff, maybe he should make her an ornament.

"Quit simping and get to work!"

Giff heads out to go hot-glue some shit, and Kathie comes back in dragging in a Christmas tree. She sets it up over by Duke the Juke and the kids all come running over to help her decorate it. Just then Giff comes out from the back of the Cafe with a bunch of bits of construction paper stuck all over him. Kathie Lee gives him a condescending, "Oh, you poor dumb thing" pat on the shoulder and Moochie gives him a box of soap flakes so he can go wash his fur. Kathie reminds the kids that though gifts and decorations are great and all, there's more to Christmas than just that. There's also snow...and if you don't think Duke has a song cued up to demonstrate that fact, you just haven't been paying attention.

You'd expect it to be "Let it Snow." You'd be wrong.

It's the world's worst music video, featuring footage of a whole gaggle of giggling children slipping, sliding and sledding down a snowy hill in a public park somewhere for two full minutes As Kathie Lee does her vocal energy vampire thing. It's unconscionably cheap, lazy, low-rent entertainment, clearly built with the attitude that kids will watch anything, so why bother putting in any effort or spending any money.

You get what you pay for.

When we return to the cafe the tree is fully lit and all the decorating is complete. Kathie tells the kids she's proud of them for doing her job for her, and that the whole darn place looks just about ready for Santa Claus to visit. Moochie reminds her they have one more thing to do, however, and that's leave a snack for him! Kathie Lee grudgingly admits she's right...and orders Moochie to go bake a whole new batch of cookies so there's enough for him.

"Or you could just give him your cookie, Moochie, like you do everyone else."

Kathie takes a tray of already-baked cookies over to the kids and asks them to help her decorate them, then goes off into some false equivalency bullshit about Christmas being just like a cookie, because it's made of so many wonderful ingredients that are great by themselves, like seasonal depression and family disfunction, but when you mix 'em together they're even better. The kids look at her like she's got an oozing goiter on her neck, but Giff, who's been secretly watching her every movement and listening to her every word for clues on how to woo her sees himself an opportunity. He figures if he's too clumsy and untalented to make her a simple paper ornament maybe he can do something far more complex like bake her something. He heads back to the kitchen to give it his best shot.

Meanwhile Paw sets out a plate of cookies of his own, hoping to suck up to Santa and finally get off the naughty list, but Kathie, with genuine spite in her voice, tells him it'll take a lot more than a few cookies, and suggests as a penance he should listen to her album ten times. There's definitely a tawdry backstory between these two if only we could piece it together. Maybe they were married once and opened the cafe together, but he got tired of her singing, bossiness and snark and that weird hairdo she's got going and decided to find a little side piece who could better fulfil his needs. One night, perhaps, he told her he had to stay at the cafe and do some prep work for the morning rush, but as soon as she was gone, he and Moochie hopped on the counter and did the old over-easy. Kathie Lee, perchance had forgotten her handbag at work that evening and had returned to find them in flagrant delicto. It might just be possible she then filed for divorce, but their shared ownership of the business made extricating their individual assets impossible, so they reached an uneasy understanding that Paw could boink Moochie any time he wanted, and Kathie Lee could sing whenever she wanted and maybe sometimes watch or join in with them.

Duke doesn't like it when mommy and daddy fight.

Anyway, Kathie Lee and Paw finally leave off shouting at each other and she turns to the kids and says, "Come on! Let's hip-hop!" which coming from Kathy Lee Gifford is the single most white person thing I've ever heard a white person say. Then she leaps headlong into the cultural appropriation abyss and raps the most white people rap a white person ever rapped.

This was not on my bingo card.

Halfway through the uh, song? Yeah, we'll call it that just for convenience' sake. Halfway through the "song" Giff steps out of the kitchen covered in dough, chocolate and cookie crumbs, so Kathie, ever keen to berate and humiliate anyone and everyone who's ever shown her any affection, begins rapping about that. She's got the hip-hop fever now, and nothing, it seems, can dissuade her.

When the abomination is finally over, Giff slinks off into the kitchen to wash away his shame. Paw, clearly delighted in own bitter, schadenfreudistic way quips "Here's the sound of one paw clapping!" and makes a less-than-subtle hand movement that can only be described as "air wanking."

Moochie knows it all too well.

I can't adequately describe how gob-smacking awful this sequence is. It's something that absolutely no one should ever have to see. I've taken some horrendous cinematic gut punches for the team here at MMT over the years, from belly dancers pretending to be vampires, to Bob-Dylan look-alikes pretending to be mythic heroes to skinny Italian film producers pretending to be costumed crime fighters, but Kathie Lee Gifford pretending to be a rapper is where I draw the line.

Even I have limits.

As Paw and Kathie continue tossing verbal grenades at each other but their toxic banter is interrupted by a thumping noise coming from the roof. Could it be Santa? We don't know and we won't find out, because they go straight into another song. This time it's Moochie doing the vocals, and say what you will about a promiscuous singing mouse with a voice like a sexy baby doll, at least she's not Kathie Lee Gifford.

Still...far from good.

The video is yet another example of the utter lack of interest the production team had in what they were being asked to do, with a bunch of random kids performing a Santa and Reindeer role-play in the snow, intercut with shots of Giff and the Children doing their best, yet still failing to synchronize the movements of a simple dance and Moochie sitting on top of a pile of gifts with her legs dangling and a puppeteer's hand up her ass.

Just the way she likes it.

After the song Kathie Lee notices Giff is having a sad. She asks if he's okay and he says he has a problem. Yeah, I have a problem, too, buddy. I still have about ten minutes of this seemingly interminable special and it's sure not gonna help my mood any if we're go straight into another fucking song...

I don't know, but almost anything is better than this.

Okay, glad that one's over...but now Kathie Lee wants to have everybody come over so she can talk to them, and I just know we're about to get one of those sanctimonious "true meaning of Christmas" speeches. She says, sure, we've been singing and dancing and baking cookies and insulting the cook, but now she's gonna get real. She asks if they all like birthday parties, and they all say yes, Kathie Lee, anything you say as long as we get to see our parents again. Then she asks "Did you know that the very first Christmas was really a birthday party?" She proceeds to tell them all about God sending his most favorite thing in the world to us, and the kids all have to pretend like they don't know what she's talking about so this egomaniacal harpy who's spent the entire rest of the special demonstrating how condescending and mean she is tells them how Jesus came to the world to show us all how to be "kinder and sweeter and more forgiving and more loving."

Bowl Cut Kid ain't buying it.

The kids offer that they can do better being kind, sweet, forgiving and loving, too, with one saying he'll be nice to his sister, another promising that she'll start listening to her mom, and Bowl-Cut Boy offering to do his homework and quit sniffing model glue. Another little girl foolishly asks Kathie Lee to tell us more, and she does, in the form of another low, breathy vocal performance more suitable to a torch song or a burlesque performance than a slow, reverent song about the one of the two highest holy days on the entire Christian calendar.

She sorta gives it a "Happy Birthday Mr. President" vibe.

As the mellow tones of Duke the Juke's rhythmic innards fade, much like a distant howl of excruciating pain echoing across the cold, unforgiving wilderness, one kid enthusiastically offers "I like Christmas even more now that I know why we have it!" In response, Kathie further proselytizes "God's love for us and our love for each other is the greatest gift of all," which gives Giff his big "eureka" moment about what to give Kathie Lee for Christmas. Instead of whipping out his big furry candy cane, he opts to show her his love through the timeless power of alleged music. And so, he accesses Duke's vast library of substandard arrangements of public domain holiday songs and begins to sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." He barely gets a verse in before Kathie Lee butts in and hijacks it, because, if anything, Giff is an even worse singer than she is.

Please wish me a speedy recovery from having watched this.

At least we get another look at Moochie's gams.

The kids all scatter after the song so Giff and Kathie Lee can have a tender moment together where he gets to profess how special she is to him. Kathie Lee, ever the saucy cougar, pulls out a hunk of mistletoe and says, in her sexiest come-and-get-some voice "How about a kiss, big guy?"

I wish I'd made that up.

She gives Giff a smooch on the cheek and the ever-exasperated Paw bemoans, "There oughta be a law." Yeah, I'm pretty sure there is. Most jurisdictions frown on interspecies lovin'.

So, all the kids line up at the counter so Kathie Lee can tell them to pack up their shit and go, and considering what we've seen so far, you'd think they'd be out of there before you could say "bestiality," but in a final act of suck-uppery to their temporary captor they all whine and complain about how they want to stay because they're having "too much fun." I'd never really been certain until today that there was even such a thing as "too much fun," but if Kathie Lee's Rockin' Tots Cafe is it, I've definitely had it. In fact, I may have reached my entire life quota for fun and might never be able to ever have any fun again.

And yet...there's still one more song to endure.

The final nail in fun's coffin.

I don't have much else to say. This was just plain awful. As is often the case with misguided vanity projects, it seems no one was willing to say no to the boss, no matter how dumb the ideas she was spewing. It's a bit of a bafflement as to why she'd willingly choose to present herself as so talentless, petty and unlikeable, but I suppose she was too blinded by the arc-lamp of her own high opinion of herself to notice. It's just as well this special is almost entirely forgotten...except by me of course, but then I seem to have a toxic Christmas media death wish.

This was rough going. I sure hope Day Ten isn't this bad...or even worse.

Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 21st!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2023.

Questions? Comments? Expressions of disgust? Why not skip the middleman and complain to me directly?


Go ahead.
Steal anything you want from this page.

That's between you and the
vengeful wrath of your personal god.