I am very, very happy to report that our previously banished real tree has wormed its way back into our hearts and our living room.
Turns out it's all about the base.
We secured a new base on loan and decided to give it one more chance. Because it looked horribly forlorn laying out in our front yard.
We put up the tree, let it sit inside undecorated for a few days (like a tree purgatory), and last night relit/ regarland-ed/ re-ornamented it.
And it's beautiful again.