Was it all a dream? Or did Mariah Carey really save Christmas 2020?
The singer who gave us "All I Want For Christmas is You" is known, at least this time of year, for her love of Christmas and glittery, flowing gowns. Carey teamed up with streaming service Apple TV+ for "Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special," which clocks in at just under an hour and dropped Friday.
Like a stocking on Christmas morning, it's stuffed full of goosebump-raising musical performances and cheeky celebrity cameos.
"Twas the night before Christmas, all white with snow, but Santa was worried. Holiday spirit was low," narrator Tiffany Haddish says at the show's start. "You see, the people of Earth had quite a rough year and few could muster up any holiday cheer."
We're then transported to the North Pole where Santa's secretary Billy (played by Billy Eichner), is seriously freaking out. Alarms are sounding and warnings keep popping up on various screens: "Joy level: Low," "Tidings not good," "Insufficient cheer." Checking in with various celebrities, Bette Midler tells an increasingly frazzled Billy, "I'm awful. It's been a horrible year — a year I'd like to forget."
Declaring a full-on emergency, Billy picks up the phone. Who's on the other end? Carey, of course. She's shown in her New York apartment answering a glittery red iPhone. She quickly springs into action. Her fireplace slides aside, revealing a sleigh that streaks across the night sky, transporting her to Santa's workshop.
Billy asks for advice on how to turn things around. Carey is quick with an answer: "Let's put on a fabulous Christmas concert and cheer up the world!"
The planning begins, with Billy assuring the singer he's got "four wind machines on standby and enough glitter to fill a swimming pool."
And off we go.
"Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special" is an elaborate broadcast where it appears no expense was spared. It's a sharp contrast to the stripped-down Christmas special Carrie Underwood dropped just a day earlier on HBO Max. But we are, after all, talking about Mariah Carey.
The Peanuts casts pops in for a visit, too. "I keep feeling that I'm missing something this year," Charlie Brown tells Linus. "What I'm missing is the music." Carey obliges, belting out additional holiday tracks, including "Christmas Time Is In the Air Again," "O Holy Night," "Joy to the World," "Silent Night" and finally, as an encore, her epic holiday hit "All I Want for Christmas Is You."
"No one can ruin Christmas with Mariah Carey," the singer assures during the show.
But, again, was this all just a dream? Or did it really happen? The singer teases us here. She's shown at one point near the end of the special waking up, surrounded by a group of children, telling them, "I had a dream I was helping Santa with Christmas and you guys were all there."
And yet moments later, she's back at the North Pole. Hmmm.
"I know you don't think Christmas is perfect this year," she tells the kiddos. "Nobody does. But we can still feel so lucky to be with ones we love. I know I do."
Follow Gary Dinges on Twitter @gdinges
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special' debuts on Apple TV+