A Christmas Story is one of the most beloved holiday movies of all time, so Fox’s live version of the story has some pretty big shoes to fill. But what the network probably didn’t expect was the strong reaction to the musical numbers and the on-camera presence of narrator Ralphie Parker (played by Matthew Broderick). Indeed, this was not your 1983 A Christmas Story, although it never claimed to be.
USA Today gave A Christmas Story Live! a measly 1.5 star out of four, pointing to the bizarre pop music prologue performed by a beret-wearing Bebe Rexha and a three-hour runtime that had even diehard fans of the story wondering when it would end.
All of the key scenes from the original story, based on humorist Jean Shepherd’s book In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash, played out on A Christmas Story Live!, but they were accompanied by little-known showtunes—and a lot of them. Many fans missed the memo that A Christmas Story Live! was going to be a musical.
Like the original movie, the story followed young Ralphie Parker in the days leading up to Christmas, circa 1940. Ralphie’s wish for a Red Ryder BB gun is squashed by his mom, his teacher, and even the department store Santa as he is given the ongoing mantra, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Because a 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon has aired on TV for decades on Christmas Day, it’s hard for fans to imagine anyone other than Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, and Melissa Dillon in the roles of the Parker family. A Christmas Story Live! featured Maya Rudolph and Chris Diamantopoulos as the Parker parents, and newcomer Andy Walken as young Ralphie. In a stark departure from the movie, the adult narrator Ralphie had a lot of camera time and a few cameos in smaller roles. (Look closely at the driver who delivers the leg lamp to the Parker house.)
Fans who have seen the story on Broadway may have been familiar with some of the songs in A Christmas Story Live!, but it seems the vast majority of viewers didn’t even know Fox’s production was going to be a musical.
On social media, viewers pointed out questionable moments in A Christmas Story Live!, including the fact that the outdoor scenes looked like a scene out of Gilmore Girls. According to Vulture, A Christmas Story Live! was shot on the Warner Bros. backlot where the Gilmore Girls was shot, so the live musical’s Indiana small town mirrored Stars Hollow.
Other fans of the story also took issue with Broderick’s on-camera presence in which an adult Ralphie breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the camera. In the original movie, adult Ralphie is heard and not seen. In addition, the unfortunate moment when Flick (JJ Batteast) pulled his supposedly stuck tongue off the flagpole just when the camera zoomed in on him did not go unnoticed by viewers.
Many fans noted the onslaught of Old Navy commercials—the clothing giant was the main sponsor of the show—and the fact that an Old Navy store was actually shown in a downtown scene in the 1940s-set A Christmas Story Live!
And while many complained about the musical numbers, others pointed out that A Christmas Story Live! is based on the Broadway musical, so singing was always to be part of the package.
You can see fan reaction to A Christmas Story Live! below.
Whoever decided to make A Christmas Story Live, you belong in the deepest level of hell for creating a disgraceful caricature of the best Christmas movie ever
— Cassandra Thompson (@casscat3199) December 18, 2017
Watching A Christmas Story live Let me put it this way, I'm actually rooting for Ralphie to shoot his eye out
— Mark Cranston (@MarkFocusPhoto) December 18, 2017
Please stop with all this singing. I came here to see a live version of A Christmas Story. Not a musical. Please stop ruining a classic. #AChristmasStoryLive
— TeamLightning (@PowerReviewerX) December 18, 2017
— Abigail Hyndman (@ARHyndman) December 18, 2017
Flick’s tongue didn’t stick to the pole. Kid, you had ONE JOB! ???? #achristmasstorylive
— Tonëriche (@TonericheMusic) December 18, 2017
— Tom (@trusso43130) December 18, 2017
Not feeling #AChristmasStoryLive Matthew Broderick is grating on my last nerve. We don't need to see the narrator.
— Kimma (@Kimma_S) December 18, 2017
— Em (@yeeyrl) December 18, 2017
Check out a musical number from A Christmas Story Live below.