All I want for Christmas is Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special on Apple TV+ [Review]

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Apple TV+
Festive fierceness incoming.
Photo: Apple

Let’s be honest, you already know whether you’re going to watch Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special on Apple TV+.

This isn’t an early Apple Silicon Mac where you need to read up on whether the transition to a new chip architecture has worked before making your purchasing decision. You either heard the words “Mariah” and “Christmas special” and thought “that’s an easy skip,” or immediately set about making space on your calendar to enjoy it in all its festive fierceness.

Nothing I write here is going to change your mind on either of these polarized takes. But, for the record, I enjoyed the show, which premiered today on Apple TV+.

Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special review

You know who Mariah is. A fixture on the pop culture landscape before Ariana Grande was even crawling (heck, she gets a shout-out on the Wu Tang Clan’s 1993 debut album), Mariah is the quintessential pop diva. She’s also one of the pop stars who, through a combination of canny marketing and, well, just great songs, has managed to become something of a Christmas fixture.

Everyone knows “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (from her 1994 Merry Christmas album), but there are plenty more Christmas belters where that comes from.

Restoring Christmas spirit

Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special starts with a reading of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” albeit with some appropriately 2020 reversioning: “’Twas the night before Christmas, all white with snow / But Santa was worried holiday spirit was low.”

Mariah, in her fabulous New York apartment, gets a call (obviously on a glitter-covered iPhone because what kind of a monster would use Android at the happiest time of year?) with a mission to turn things around. No, she doesn’t visit a Pfizer lab to help speed up the coronavirus vaccination process. Instead, she hops aboard what looks like a shoe-shaped sleigh and heads to the North Pole to practice poor social distancing with elves.

Production values are everywhere. This isn’t some MTV Unplugged-style, stripped-down show — or even a filmed version of one of Mariah’s arena shows. Instead, it’s a whole festive fairy tale, with skits, appearances from the Peanuts gang and a plethora of celebrities (Jennifer Hudson! Jermaine Dupri! Snoop Dogg dressed as Santa! Ariana!), a ballet performance, and, of course, a whole lot of songs.

There are the appropriately “slay queen” nods to divadom: “I don’t do schedules,” etc. There are a few inoffensive jokes about what a terrible year it’s been. And then it’s all over in just 43 minutes — with the pace never dipping during that time.

A wholesome, festive Christmas special

As I noted up top, nothing I write here will change your mind on whether you watch this. You’ve already decided whether Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special is for you. For my money (which, for Apple TV+ is, $4.99 per month or a free subscription with any new iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV), it’s eminently cheerful, festive stuff. The ensemble of talent here means that it’s all good, wholesome, entertaining stuff — and, boy, can Mariah sing!

If you watch this and don’t come away from it feeling at least a little more Christmassy, well, there’s plenty more on Apple TV+ for you. Try checking out our list of the best shows on Apple’s streaming platform here.

Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special on Apple TV+

Rated: TV-G

Watch on: Apple TV+ (subscription required)