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Taraji and Terrence's White Hot Holidays' skits shine, song fall flat

Terrence Howard (left) and Taraji P. Henson (right) do their best Kanye West and Kim Kardashian impersonations for the Taraji and Terrence White Hot Holidays Christmas special on Fox.


Terrence Howard (left) and Taraji P. Henson (right) do their best Kanye West and Kim Kardashian impersonations for the Taraji and Terrence White Hot Holidays Christmas special on Fox.



Falling woefully below expectations from the first note to the last, Taraji and Terrence's White Hot Holidays was a mess of sloppy performances from seasoned entertainers and two very funny skits. I mean really funny. 

The charm of Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard has always been their undeniable on-screen chemistry. From Hustle & Flow to Empire whenever they are together the energy and attraction is, well, white hot. But it's not exactly the type of relationship that screams for a Christmas special. In fact, I wouldn't' let the TV Lyons anywhere near my Yule log or egg nog.

Still, Fox decided to follow the season finale of the hit series Empire with a Christmas special from the stars at the center. It was revolutionary -- a testament to the show's success -- to let non-variety show stars and non-comedians helm a holiday special. If they hope to bring it back next year, they'd better hire better casting agents for the musical guests. 

Mary J. Blige, John Legend and Patti Labelle were all serviceable, not one gave a performance that I'd be rushing to download or even YouTube the next day.

Conversely, the skits were great. Henson hosted Saturday Night Live way back in April and nothing that show's team of writers produced came close to the hilarity of the two skits she and Howard delivered. The first, a riff on parents trying to keep their kids innocent and believing in Santa, centered around a hyperactive Henson disturbing her dad after a long day of work. "I've been at the Patti Labelle pie factory all day. Please go to sleep," Howard cracked wise. The #PattiPie jokes kept coming, buoying a trite idea into something fresh and distinctly 2015. It'll definitely be in the time capsule.

The second skit was a famous fake couple lambasting America's most ridiculous real couple, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Incessant selfies, mistaking a lamp for Sia, wild mood swings and not recognizing the baby, both actors impressions of the Kimye media juggernaut was so dead on, all of Twitter laughed about it long after it was over. 

Christmas specials are about music though, and that's why White Hot Holidays was a waste of time. 

The dumpster fire that is Chris Brown -- burning ever bright center stage -- tried to rekindle the magic of his original performance of This Christmas in the eponymous 2007 film, but he just can't sing that well anymore. Puberty, hard living, using all caps on social media -- something has strained his vocal cords beyond the point of being able to eke out a simple Donny Hathaway song. Not even the ever-stable, singer Tank could save that tragedy. It was the worse of the two renditions White Hot Holidays trotted out Wednesday night. Henson and Howard also sang the holiday favorite to open the show, but Henson began off-key and the duo was never able to recover. 

Blige's The Christmas Song cover did it's job, but the Empire cast performance of Joy to the World should have never happened. If not for the backing choir, Jussie Smollett would have been the sole in-tune person on the stage. They even shoehorned in a rap for Bryshere "Yazz" Gray, but the only thing I can remember is that he took the stage with his holiday Snuggie on backward.

Patti Labelle and John Legend teamed up for O Holy Night but it devolved into a shout fest by the end that wasn't pleasing to the ear or helpful to Labelle's legacy.

The night wrapped with the ghost of delivering the verse I must have missed on The Beatles' All You Need is Love.

Henson joked at the top of the show that they'd have musical guests Beyonce' and Adele... next Christmas. If they could really pull it off, I might consider giving them another chance.

[Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2015 11:14am]


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