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CMA Country Christmas recap: Music to our ears

Christmas is officially here. And our proof comes in the form of CMA Country Christmas!

Host Jennifer Nettles, in the most sequined suit ever seen on TV, starts the special with a fun rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” She’s accompanied by some seriously talented male dancers in matching (although much less sequined) suits.

“Are y’all ready to party?” Nettles asks the Tennessee audience—and viewers at home—as it kicks off. Yes we are, Jennifer!

The on-stage band is huge, a seriously awesome live orchestra with all sorts of instruments.

Brett Eldredge, CMA’s new artist of the year, does not disappoint as he plays to the crowd and camera with a country version of Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means to Me.” He totally does the song justice, and the camera pans to ladies in the audience swooning as he belts it out.

Nettles, swapping out her sparkly suit for a classic red dress, introduces 16-time CMA award winner Alan Jackson, sitting comfortably as he croons “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” It feels like I’m watching my insanely talented uncle sing in the living room while I sip hot cocoa. I can dream, can’t I?

Little Big Town comes out to perform “I Pray on Christmas,” a fun, clappable ditty that the group sings with such soul. It is impossible not to bop your head and hum along. Literally impossible. I tried and failed.

Courtesy of CMA

Idina Menzel takes the stage next in a spectacular, flowing white gown. She sings “White Christmas.” The song is a fitting accompaniment to her snowy gown, but I can’t help feeling a little bummed she isn’t singing “Let It Go.”

“Carol of the Bells,” one of the most technically difficult songs ever composed, is sung to perfection by LeAnn Rimes. I wonder if the lyrics are in English or tongues, because they are fierce. Her final notes bring the audience to a standing ovation.

Lucy Hale sings “Mistletoe,” a fun Christmas song so catchy, you can bet I’ll be singing it in the car tomorrow. And the Pretty Little Liars star’s black-and-white frock is so classic yet chic.

Nettles returns in a blue beaded dress and says, “If you’re like me … you’re obsessed with the movie Frozen.” I press my face against the TV. Could it be? The camera pans out to reveal Idina beside her. They sing “Let It Go,” and my life is complete. You would have to be an ogre, not the friendly Shrek kind but the heartless beast kind, not to cry during this song. It is pure magic and will remind you of the first time you watched Frozen all those months ago.

Michael W. Smith is on piano and accompanies Carrie Underwood as she defies physics by hitting every high note in “All Is Well.” No matter how famous she becomes, she’ll always remain that blond girl I voted for on American Idol. But tonight it’s especially difficult to comprehend that this bona fide superstar is the same girl. The duet is simply beautiful and the audience gives it the biggest ovation of the night.

Hunter Hayes is up next, jamming on his awesome red guitar to “Merry Christmas Baby” with the confidence and stage presence of pros who have been performing longer than he’s been alive.

Sara Evans, wearing about a thousand bracelets I must add to my collection, sings “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Again, I just couldn’t stop my hands from clapping to the catchy beat.

Alan Jackson returns with a song he wrote, “Let It Be Christmas,” and the fireplace scene behind him could not be more fitting as he croons with a choir of adorable children.

And then Steven Tyler shows up. And of course he brought mistletoe and is wearing plaid pants. Ah, we love you, Steven. Brad Paisley plays with him as they rock out to “Run Rudolph Run.” The pair actually managed to turn a song about a sweet red-nosed reindeer into a pretty cool rock ‘n’ roll-country fusion. Then Steven breaks out the harmonica, because it just wouldn’t be a Steven Tyler song without that.

The idea that LeAnn Rimes could pull off a Stevie Wonder song is just insane, so my mind is certainly blown when she does it again with “Someday at Christmas.” She manages to make the song of peace really sweet while singing it just as powerfully as it was meant to be.

Michael W. Smith accompanies Little Big Town in a rendition of “Silent Night.” Their voices complement one another so well, and … where can I download this song? Do you think it’s online yet?

Idina Menzel returns to sing “Do You Hear What I Hear,” surrounded by a bunch of children who are sure to be the envy of all their friends for getting to chill with Elsa herself. Okay, even I’m pretty jealous of those kids.

Singing “Santa Baby,” Clare Bowen comes on and outcutes herself, with her sparkly eye shadow complementing the sequins on her gown perfectly. I still can’t believe she’s from Australia. She’s more country than most country singers!

Jennifer Nettles sings a song she wrote, “This Angel,” to “all the mothers out there.” She dons a gorgeous blue pantsuit and puts her hair in a ponytail to belt out this passionate song of hope. If the show ended right now, it would end on a high note, but that’s not how CMA does it. They go big here.

The special ends with Nettles singing “Jingle Bells.” And then, could it be? Santa! Santa Claus comes out and accompanies her down the stairs and into the audience to sing and dance with the crowd as the credits roll.

And now I am officially ready for Christmas. Or at least I am in spirit, until I finish all my Christmas shopping.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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