If you skipped last night’s Glenn Beck holiday special, The Christmas Sweater: A Return to Redemption, you had company. The live event, beamed into 475 movie theaters nationwide, sold 17 tickets apiece in Boston and New York, and 30 in Washington, DC. At the downtown cineplex in San Francisco, a brisk walk from Mother Jones headquarters and the only theater in the city to air the program, the crowd could be counted on just two fingers—three, if you include this reporter.
The program revolves around a pre-taped, one-man stage production of Beck’s semi-autographical novel, The Christmas Sweater (now available in children’s book form), in which a young boy, Eddie (played by Beck), rejects his mom’s knitted gift, only to watch in horror as she dies in a horrific accident that evening. Eddie runs away from home and hits rock bottom—which a teary-eyed Beck illustrates by collapsing to the floor into a fetal postion—before finding finding salvation and discovering the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a real heartwarmer.
Following Eddie’s redemption, the event switched to a live forum profiling figures with stories a lot like Beck’s. As the sympathetic testimonials pour in—from a cancer survivor, a recovering drug addict, and a young man who says Beck’s novel brought him back from suicide’s edge—the lone constant, (other than Beck choking back tears, of course), is a barn-sized book jacket for The Christmas Sweater. For all the emotional rhetoric, A Return to Redemption is really just a big-budget infomercial.
Beck laments at one point that 2009 has been a year to forget, which is partially true, but not for him. Between the 9/12 project, his forthcoming plan to overhaul American democracy, and his movie, he’s become conservatives’ most versatile pitchman, a one-man WalMart for political outrage, literary grace, and, should you need it, a shoulder to cry on.
Sad you missed out on A Return to Redemption? Fear not. Beck will be back for an encore on December 10. Good seats are still available.