Carrie Underwood and her 'All-Star Holiday Special': What a nice seasonal surprise it was

Carrie Underwood has beaten the odds: at a time of the year when TV is clogged with Christmas specials, she managed to put one together that stood out. It had something for everyone — singing, sentiment, silliness, and sex. And she made its charms last for a full two hours.

At first, it was a little hard to see where the “holiday” in this An All-Star Holiday Special was going to apply. Underwood began by singing “Cowboy Casanova” attired in various tight black materials, with what looked like platform boots borrowed from KISS. Oh my, I thought, what a refreshing alternative to the seasonal red-and-green!

When I first read Underwood’s eclectic guest list — Dolly Parton and David Cook, no surprises there; but Kristen Chenoweth and Christina Applegate, too? — I thought, uh-oh, this could be a trying-to-please-everybody bland-fest. Instead, this varied line-up proved to be one of the strengths of the evening. Yes, she sang an impeccable duet with Dolly, a stark “I Will Always Love You.” But she also offered a sweetly raucous tribute to ’60s girl-group pop, as Underwood, Chenoweth and Applegate, in pink prom dresses and beehive hairdos, powered through a fine medley of songs such as “Leader of The Pack,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and “Be My Baby.”

The real theme of the show, a mix of songs performed in front of a studio audience and taped bits of comedy, was, as she put it, “a behind-the-scenes look at my life.” These included jolly little japes that played on Underwood’s supposed Hollywood innocence, such as trying to set up her sister Stephanie with dates that included Carson Kressley and a Johnny Depp impersonator. Underwood’s mom and dog Ace also got their brief, starring moments. Underwood’s own best funniness was a fake-flashback that showed her stuffing envelopes with cash for the Idol judges before her 2005 win.

Also highly amusing was Carol Leifer (hello, Carol!) playing Underwood’s manager, “Gwen Lefkowitz.” She had best line of the night, re Carrie: “It’s like hearing Bible verses come to life.”

Musical high points included “What Can I Say,” performed with the sharp young trio Sons of Sylvia. There was also a fine Carrie duet with Brad Paisley, with whom she sang while he was performing somewhere else and projected on a screen above Underwood. It could have been awkward; instead, it sounded terrific. Of course, it helped that the song they chose, “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” was the fine 1973 hit for a classic country twosome, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Toward the end, Underwood also delivered some fine Christmas songs, including “Jesus Take The Wheel” and “O Holy Night.”

Was An All-Star Holiday Special corny at times? Sure it was. So what? Corn is part of country music, and corniness around this time of year can pass for another word: sincerity. You’d have to have a heart of stone to dislike what Underwood tried to pull off this evening, and for the most part, succeeded glowingly.

Agree? Disagree?

Did you have a favorite moment?

(You can follow me on Twitter.)

Comments (371 total) Add your comment
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  • Jed

    I saw a little bit of it and didn’t think much of it t all. Hope it’s just a one time thing and it won’t air again. Fox really needs to fill these slots a lot better than with AI alums.

    • siopao

      there was nothing wrong with the special your probably another country hater, who doesn’t understand it.

      • Casey

        Just because it wasn’t fantastic in Jed’s eyes, doesn’t mean he hates country.

      • art

        Love Carrie. Love country. Could not stand this special. I kept trying to go back to watch and couldn’t get past 2 minutes at a time. I was really disappointed at how “cheap” it looked.

      • paul

        The 1st 15 minutes was great! The rest was garbage. The skits were all 1st drafts written by bumpkins on the short bus taking a ride to the zoo for the morning. They made Kristen Chenowith look bad!!!! (I didn’t think that was possible). Any old episode of HeeHaw was 10 times better . . . AND THOSE SHOWS SUCKED!!!!!!

      • Mallory

        Country today has gone to hell. What happend to people like The Judds, Conway Twitty, Jones, Hank, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Tammy Wynette? Yes, there are still a few real country artists out there but all these “new” country singers butchered country music. I hate the “new” Country it is HORRIBLE.

    • renee

      guess i’m a grinch too cause i watched all but the last 9 minutes and wasn’t wowed and i LOVE carrie. so don’t put that carrie or country hater title on moi. just found the performances all ranged from ‘take it or leave it’ to ‘that was kinda cute but not wow.’ the mom and sister and dog skits were not funny or entertaining. glad she’s country because we’re more accepting of the heart warming tired specials. if this were pop rock hip hop this special would be crucified for it’s mediocrity.

      • James

        I loved the special, though can it really be a “Holiday” special with only 3 Christmas songs at the tail end of the show? The girl group bit was cool, though what’s with Christina Applegate’s singing? She was hitting the right notes, it was just a high pitched deal that doesn’t match her speaking voice at all. All in all, very good special. Wouldn’t mind seeing a 2nd special next year :) Though, as her mother put it “I’d love to be a part of the next one, if there is a next one” lol. Good job all around.

    • elly

      we are hoping for more carrie underwood show.

    • acer

      VOTE FOR CARRIE!!!!!

  • lendyann

    I loved the Carrie Underwood Holiday Special. My husband and I are both in our 60’s and we enjoyed the entire show. I think my favorite would be Carrie and Brads duet. Thanks Fox for a great treat tonight.

  • Paula

    Loved it! Total success!

    • Sarah

      I thought the same, only one Christmas song for a Holiday show?

      Carrie, u did a great job…kudos..u have it all charm, grace n of course i found it amusing at its times,and humility as well…wonderful voice. Continued good luck girl ur mutli-talented n u pulled it off!

      Happy Holidays!!

    • kevin

      Not enough holiday, and she should have sang w/ Bo Bice! In fact, I think next year they should try to wrangle up as many Idol winners/runners up as possible and do a similar special! Carrie is cute, but Kelly would have done this better. Also, Was I the only one enraged and/or offended by the use of footaqe from Idol Gives Back Like 3 years ago showing Carrie in an impoverished country during her last song??? Don’t try and make it look like your over there all the time!!! I was insulted and it felt patronizing.

      • Kezbo

        They did do one years ago…Kelly, Clay, Ruben and Fantasia were among the performers. (This was when Kelly did Grown Up Christmas List).

        And btw, Carrie has gone back to Africa after Idol Gives Back…

      • KEVIN

        I remember this special kezbo, it was good! And how do you know she has gone back to Africa?

      • Kezbo

        Kevin, it was reported on one of the Carrie fan boards…and I believe she blogged about it on her official fanclub’s messageboard.

        But I agree so many new Idols, they could do another Idols’ Holiday Extravaganza…and we could get a Kelly/Carrie Oh, Holy Night duet.

  • Paula

    Thanks, Carrie! You hit it out of the park!

  • Jenn

    It was pretty lame, as far as the funny went. Actually, that was really lame. However, most of the singing was very good. My personal highlight was David Cook singing all by his lonesome. But I also liked Carrie’s duet with the brother group, and Dolly Parton. I don’t even care about her music, I just think she’s the sweetest person. I also love anything Kristin Chenowith does. I hope she goes for the role in Dolly’s show. She’s perfect for it.

  • Ashleigh

    I agree. I like the show. Carrie Underwood is a very pretty and extremely talented woman. She took on the role of hosting a tv show and she defentley pulled it off. Nice job!!

  • gaby

    Loved it! Corny as all get out at some points but I definitely still chuckled. All in all a very entertaining two hours! Way to go Carrie.

  • Sarah

    Jed.. you’re an idiot. Carrie Underwood is amazing. She’s beautiful, and has an amazing voice. She put on a great show for everyone and I love her to pieces. Seeing a little of it is not enough to pass judgement. She’s amazing.

    • Black Avenger

      Congrats for being the first person on this post to pointlessly insult another person for not liking what you like.Keep that Xmas spirit alive.

  • hilda

    Loved Carrie Underwood special. The variety of people kept it moving along fast and fun. Great songs and loved Oh Holy Night, what a gifted singer.

  • Phyllis

    I thought it was wonderful! Yes it was a bit corny at times, but what is wrong with that? Carrie shows the ability to possibly “carry” a weekly variety show.

  • mld

    I thought this was a Christmas show, only one Christmas song? Not very well done. mld

    • Kim

      For a “holiday” show it wasn’t very
      “holiday” I was very disappointed

  • Patricia

    I thought it was great! Her performances were amazing, and she is very funny! Fantastic job Carrie!

  • tr1gun

    i loved it, anyone know what the name of the last song she sang was?

    • Emmy

      The name is “Change.”

    • Ken


  • Roy

    I think it is one of the best specials that I’ve seen in a long time. She offered something for everyone and her version of O Holy Night was one of the best I’ve ever heard, sung with such feeling and emotion. My hat off to you Carrie for entertaining me for a full 2 hours. You deserve praise for this special.

    • J

      I agree Roy she is a fantatic singer I hope they will let her do this every year. Love you Carrie you are truly a true American Idol and I give you praise for any work you do.

  • Susannah

    I think we were watching different shows. This was gastly – the title should have been: I LOVE MYSELF BEST by Carrie Underwood. I have been a long-time fan of CU and expected her to have a lot of class with this special – wrong. Her remarks about gay people were inexcusable, she made her mom look foolish. The whole thing was just horrid and I have lost respect for her after this.
    Just my opinion (but check the blog to see how many people feel this was an awful spectacle).

    • Joshua

      Well It was A Holiday Special WITH Carrie Underwood. DUH!

    • Darryl

      I don’t understand your comments. It was a special that said STARRING CARRIE UNDERWOOD in the title. She did not make her mom look foolish. And her mother wouldn’t have agreed to do it if she believed so. And gay people comments? Really? Take it from a gay man, the comments were not offensive at all.

      I loved Carrie’s show. It was great! I only would have spread out some more Christmas/holiday songs throughout the two hours. It was a variety show, so of course it is going to be corny. and the ending performance of Change?! How could you not love this girl? :)

    • Jack

      @Susannah please go away…stupidity is not welcome here

      • sparkle the gym bag

        i like stupid let people have their own views

    • emmie

      Susannah–I totally agree with YOU. I loved a lot of the singing and I love Carrie Underwood as a SINGER but the overall show and the “comedy” bits were so bad I couldn’t take my eyes off the wreck!

      Bracing for the attacks…

    • Wimica

      Susannah..Apparently you watched the whole show by your comment. Or was it a fabrication in your mind? The music was great and her skit with her Mom was funny and sweet…Think a bit of jealousy is bearing it’s ugly wings here…Chill out and enjoy your dont have to always be a hater…remember if you had that talent you’d be on TV singing not an armchair critic!!!

    • Goose

      Carrie was just trying to show the world she has just as much personality as Taylor Swift… Epic fail.

      • travis

        Um since when was Taylor Swift dubbed queen of personality?? Taylor is a horrible singer, thats when they got an actual singer to sing and host. Taylor’s careet has peaked, Carrie will last just like Dolly Parton has!

      • acer


      • JEN

        So funny! Taylor definitely has so much more personality that Carrie- no contest.

    • PEETS

      Totally agree! Am CU fan as well but could not watch this special–made me feel uncomfortable watching her make a fool of herself. some skits were O.K.– but all in all — a disaster!

    • lynn

      I haven’t necessary lost respect for CU, but I too thought much of the special was ghastly. I enjoyed the singing and would have been happy with an hour-long holiday(?) special featuring just singing. The skits fell pretty flat at our house, however, as we found none of them entertaining.

    • java

      Agree – if it was one “belittling” that may have been funny, but she did “gay”, “mom” “sister” (having to buy her a date! Kristen Chenoweth(re Dolly). Did she have to make everyone else look silly? I wanted to like this “Holiday” special – but could not.

    • JAG

      Her remarks about gay people were inexcusable? I was rather disappointed that the queer was included in her special at all.

      He obviously agreed to it. If he doesn’t mind people laughing at him, then I say make fun of him all we want.

      • Jessica

        That is a cool pic. :)

    • JEN

      She’s always been self-absorbed and I’m surprised more people can’t see through her act. She’s got an amazing voice but I’d rather support someone more genuine.

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