INCOMING: The Gift Of The Murr-aye



SOPHIA COPPOLA: For me, the idea for the special all started from talking to Bill Murray about how I wanted him to do a week at the Carlyle singing old standards. I love seeing him in a tuxedo. He and Mitch [Glazer, the writer-producer] were talking about doing something for TV and wanted to talk to me about that. We were having drinks one night, and somehow the idea came together. What I like to have Bill indulge for my own pleasure and amusement — that’s what other people like to see from Bill, too. I always enjoy seeing him in distress and then getting out of it. So the idea of putting him in a situation in the special where he’s having the worst Christmas, and then it all turns around, was something we responded to because there is so much expectation around that time of year and it’s easy to be disappointed. I do think the holidays have a sort of nostalgic melancholy and joyfulness to them, and Bill is so good with showing both those qualities. There’s that melancholy moment after all the presents are unwrapped. […] Christmas is a time when you can be old-fashioned. We liked the idea of making our version of a corny holiday special that doesn’t seem to be around anymore, where you can kind of throw anyone together and it doesn’t have to have any logic — when David Bowie sang with Bing Crosby, that sort of thing, except with Bill Murray and Chris Rock and putting them in matching sweaters. MORE

VARIETY: At its best, the proceedings keep alive the spirit of the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby road pictures, in which thin reasons were created for personable performers to hang out with each other. The wispy premise here is that Murray is doing a cabaret set in the Carlyle Hotel, a performance that is also supposed to go out as a live TV broadcast. The weather interferes with that plan, but it supplies an excuse for Amy Poehler and Julie White to turn up as stressed-out producers, for Chris Rock and Maya Rudolph to sing a song or two, for Rashida Jones to play a jilted bride, and for singer Jenny Lewis to play a cocktail waitress with an exceptional voice. Murray, in expansive Crosby mode, doesn’t quite have a Hope to riff off, but Paul Shaffer provides adept musical accompaniment throughout, and the star gets to vamp with George Clooney and Miley Cyrus near the end of the hour. MORE