Monday, December 10, 2012

Ho, Ho, Ho!

Hung with care - check!
Okay, let's get one thing straight.  In a world which has entire radio stations switching their format to Andy Williams and Bing Crosby to saturate the airwaves with Christmas songs, there's really not a war on Christmas.  Don't believe the hype - Christmas is so far from being under attack in the USA that it's nearly laughable.  Retailers expect to turn a profit for the year based on sales made in the final six weeks of the year - the very name "Black Friday" comes from a business turning a profit (recorded in black ink) as opposed to running at a loss (red ink) and they certainly want to welcome Christmas shoppers.  (Note:  They also want to welcome Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and, I daresay, Solstice shoppers.  It's the desire for profit that drives the more inclusive "Happy Holidays," not some sort of animosity towards the Christ Child.  Face it - Santa sells.) For further evidence, I live in the American South which seems to have an entire cottage industry based on turning out bizarrely festooned Christmas sweaters.  And yes, I own a couple, so I know of what I speak.

Radio stations aren't the only media to hop on the Christmas bandwagon.  The world of the Christmas special is upon us and I thought it would be a good time to mention ten of my personal favorites.

  1. First off, you can't go wrong with any of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion specials.  Rudolph (you know, the one with the elf who wants to be a dentist), Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, and The Year Without a Santa Claus - all are lovely tales, best served with cocoa.  Don't blame me if you find yourself thinking about misfit toys or humming the Snow Miser song.
  2. Don't forget the Grinch!  C'mon, Boris Karloff??  Cindy Lou Who?  Plan time for this one.  Plan time to ignore the Jim Carrey one.
  3. And let's not overlook the special that gave us the "Snoopy dance" - A Charlie Brown Christmas.
  4. The Muppet Christmas Carol.  Words cannot express how much I enjoy this one.  Gonzo the Great as Charles Dickens (helped out by Rizzo the Rat) was a wonderful idea, but to really make this one work, you need to understand the source material.  (Think of it this way.  You can enjoy Blazing Saddles if you've never seen another Western, but if you know the general structure and tropes of that type of film, the jokes become much, much funnier.)
  5. Another parody of Dickens' tale is the Bill Murray film Scrooged.  I love this one, mostly for the spin it takes in having television take the place of Scrooge & Marley's bean-counting firm.  Darkly comic and it retains the transformative message that is the hallmark (if you will) of the Dickens story.
  6. So what version of A Christmas Carol would I suggest?  Honestly, there are a lot out there to choose from (see this list!), but I like the George C. Scott version.  Really - watch this before you tackle the parodies listed above.    
  7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer never did "a very special episode," for which I've always been glad, but there is a lovely Christmas-themed episode ("Amends" in Season 3) that deals directly with whether redemption is deserved or a gift without strings - and what to do if you feel you don't deserve such a gift.
  8. Supernatural has a Christmas episode ("A Very Supernatural Christmas" in Season 3) that's become a recent addition to my "must watch" list.  It's irreverent and slapstick-funny in places, but also too violent for the smallest among us.  It's also bittersweet as you see the young Sam and Dean try to create Christmas in one of Supernatural's many cheap motel rooms.
  9. And the very first Doctor Who episode I saw was the Christmas special ("The Christmas Invasion") from Russell Davies' relaunch of the series - and the first full one with David Tennant.  
  10. Also, if you can find it, the short-lived 90s series My So-Called Life has a fantastic Christmas episode ("So-Called Angels") that's well worth seeking out.

There are many others, of course, but there's a decent start!

By the way, there's not a Christmas episode of Breaking Bad, for which I think we can all be grateful.

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