The Best Christmas Specials of All Time. OF ALL TIME.

Hey guys – did you miss me?

I apologize for my lengthy, lengthy time off. The semester decided to do a number of things to me (and my body) that were not appreciated. First of all, I was a bridesmaid in two weddings in the span of a month, which caused me to bruise a nerve in my throat. Then, I got a bulging disc in my lower neck that ended up pinching a nerve in my back, rendering me entirely unable to move from a prone position on the couch for an entire week. My physical therapist was awesome, though, and I’m much better now. (He did yell at me for using computer stuff while laying in bed, saying it puts undue pressure on my skull. You try to be a teacher, man!)

THEN, I had to take two GRE tests (scored well on one, did not do so well on the other) and commenced applying to several schools for PhD work. That was fun. But now I’m all done with the semester, my tree is decorated, and today, instead of cleaning my car, I decided to sit down and share some words with you.

I don’t really know what I can say about this year just yet. But! I have a really generic and stupid post for you guys to hold you over until that time that I can string words together in a more coherent fashion about this 2014 we all survived through. So for now, I give you my list of the Best Christmas Specials of All Time. OF ALL TIME. #kanyevoice

Note: I am a Christmastime freak. The minute it hits Black Friday I want to fire up the DVD and watch ALL of the specials. So some of these are from the same programs, and some of these are really random. Deal with it. I fucking love Christmas.

Friends, “The One With the Holiday Armadillo”.
The plot of this one is fairly simple – Ross gets to have his son for the holiday season. Since he and his son are part Jewish, Ross decides he’s going to teach Ben about Chanukah. When he finds out Ben isn’t too excited about this prospect and would rather see Santa Claus, Ross attempts to scrounge together a St. Nick costume two days before Christmas. Needless to say, it does not go as planned.

This is one of funniest sequences Friends produced. It’s up there with the “who knows each other better” game in “The One With the Embryos” and “you gave me a teeny weenie!” in “The One With the Rumor”. I think my favorite part of this whole sequence is Ross’s physical comedy in the armadillo suit. There’s one little gag with the tail but then the rest of the comedy comes from Ross trying to embody this armadillo with little  head shakes and the deep, booming voice he puts on to tell Ben about the Festival of Lights. Plus, Chandler’s reaction to Ross in the costume is priceless and it’s all worth it to see Chandler/Santa and Joey/Superman sitting on the couch, listening to Ross talk about Chanukah, and the culminating image of all three in costume lighting the menorah (“My favorite part was when Superman flew all the Jews out of Egypt!”)

Community, “Regional Holiday Music”.
When the original Glee Club is forced to cease and desist for copyright infringement, the director (Taran Killam) enlists the study group to help by infecting them with psychotic feelings of “glee”.

Basically I love this episode because I hate Glee. That, and I am a sucker for musical episodes of TV shows. So to have the entire cast of Community get hypnotized into an almost Body Snatchers-esque scenario in which they compulsively dance and sing while not having any clear understanding of why they’re doing it – except for the fact that they might make “Regionals” – is just hilarious to me. And it wouldn’t be an episode of Community without a super dark twist at the end (the glee director killed last year’s Glee Club and staged it to look like a bus crash) and a wonderful credits sequence of Pop-Pop, Chang, Dean Pelton, and Star Burns singing a rendition of “Carol of the Bells”. The high point for me is Alison Brie’s hysterical take on the “dumb girl in a Christmas song” trope by asking Jeff to teach her “How to Understand Christmas” while her speech and mental patterns devolve into baby talk by the end (“Boopy doopy boop boop sex!”)

South Park, “Mr. Hankey The Christmas Poo.”
Kyle Broslovski’s mom complains that the town of South Park, with its huge emphasis on Christmas decorations and song and forcing Kyle to participate in the school’s nativity play, is disrespectful to other religions, so the town decides to take away every single piece of religious iconography from its annual play, renaming it The Non-Offensive Non-Denominational Holiday Play. And then Kyle gets a visit from Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo who will teach everyone the True Meaning of Christmas. He’s literally a turd that comes to every good boy and girl that gets enough fiber in their diet. “Mr Hankey the Christmas Poo/He loves me, I love you/So, vicariously, he loves you!”

I first saw this episode ON Christmas Eve, 1997. I was at my friend’s house for dinner with my family and they were watching South Park in the basement, and I died laughing. There’s really nothing funnier to a 12 year old than people in cartoons accidentally eating shit. But the main part of the joke that makes me laugh now as I approach 30 is the angle of the War on Christmas. The town decides that rather than just pay respect to Judaism, they suck all of the religion out of Christmas for fear of offending anybody and anything that watches it. I’m a Christian, but I definitely have non-Christian friends who get annoyed at all of the Christmassy things during December. Also, they get 8 nights of presents. They get the better deal.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Obviously, I’m talking about the original one from 1966. I mean, come on. It’s the best ever. Anyone who says anything different is lying. I don’t know what’s better – the Grinch’s increased mania as he attempts to become Santa, or his hapless dog Max trying to help him. And Chuck Jones’ animation is priceless, as he illustrates the slinky, yet clunky nature of the Grinch and the innocent sweetness of Cindy Lou Who (“who was no more than two”). The 2000 adaptation starring Jim Carrey is pretty great, don’t get me wrong. But this version takes the cake. I also think the AV Club had it correct in their review of this short – the Grinch isn’t greedy. He’s just pissed off that the Whos down in Whoville are making a huge fuss.

A Charlie Brown Christmas.
This special means more and more to me as I get older. Charlie Brown’s dilemma is something I feel every once and a while, but particularly this year, when so many godawful things have been happening one on top of the other in my life and in the world. Black children are being gunned down indiscriminately (or choked in the street). Women are denied justice in thousands of rape cases every year. Just this week, 130 kids were murdered by the Taliban for the crime of going to school and getting an education. So I can resonate with Charlie Brown when he tells Linus “I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.” The world can be pretty harsh sometimes, and Charlie Brown gets that. But then at the end, when Linus gives his wonderful speech quoting from the King James Bible (I love that he drops the blanket as he gains momentum), it all comes back to what should be the main focus of the season – love, peace on earth, and good will toward man. I’m not really the best Christian on the planet, but with a seriously badass Pope at the helm of the Catholic Church and a heart that desperately wants to see that the world can heal, that sentiment of love and redemption is something I definitely can feel strongly about. And of course, the halting line readings done by the real kids employed as the cast members (some of them had to be fed the lines one after the other because they couldn’t read yet!), and the adorable dancing and skating and the brilliantly simple animations done by Bill Melendez. And who could forget the absolutely beautiful jazz soundtrack by The Vince Gauraldi Trio?

Wee Sing: The Best Christmas Ever!
Now, let me just be clear – this movie is terrible. It’s badly acted, horribly scored, and insanely written. But I watched it for the first time when I was about 7 or 8 years old, and it has stuck with me like a goddamn venereal disease.
The plot is cellophane-thin: One of Santa’s elves blows off course in his snowflake sleigh and lands in the home of the Smiths, a typical 80s Wonder Bread family in horrible Cosby sweaters. They are shocked and amazed that an elf is in their presence, and not at all horrified. The elf takes them back to the North Pole and they help one of the other elves figure out why he can’t make the Christmas toys as fast as he used to (spoiler alert – he’s like 60 years old and needs glasses).
It sounds simple enough, but here’s where it gets bananas. The elf with the snowflake sleigh? His name is Poofer. Poofer. That’s not far off from “poofter” which is a homophobic slur. And they don’t do a lot to disguise the name’s origins – Poofer is portrayed as being jazz-hands level gay. The Smiths don’t come off well either – they have an adopted Asian daughter named Suzy, an adorable little kid who legit looks like the bobbed-hair emoji on the iPhone, and she speaks in nothing but rhyme the entire movie. Not just rhyme – really scenario-specific rhymes with matching hand movements, and the rest of the family just gathers in front of her and watches her do her thing like she’s a wind-up Christmas robot they found in the basement. This is one of the exchanges in the film:

Mom: Okay Suzy, you want to help me set the table?
Suzy: These are Mother’s knives and forks/This is Mother’s table/This is grandmother’s looking glass/This is baby’s cradle!

And every time she does these weird minstrel-like performances, the youngest son Johnny goes “YOU’RE AMAZING, SUZY”, like he can’t believe she’s a real human. NEITHER CAN WE, KID.

And I haven’t even mentioned the United Colors of Benetton carolers that come to the Smiths’ door and then end up just hanging out in the living room with them for a good fifteen minutes of the movie. You can tell this movie was made in the 90s because it’s so multicultural – there’s a kid in a wheelchair, a black kid, and there’s also a black elf in Santa’s workshop! And then there’s the fact that the entire family sleeps in the living room of the house (in sleeping bags?!) on Christmas Eve, so Santa and Poofer nearly trip all over them trying to get the presents under the tree.

About three years ago I found the entire thing on YouTube and laughed hysterically the entire time, so if you want to kill an hour (and maybe a few brain cells), give it a look. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRpgW1vIEGs

I’ll probably have one more post between now and Christmas but in case I don’t get to it – I hope all of you have a wonderful and happy Christmas. I know it’s a hard time of year for a lot of people, but remember the true reason for the season. Family, friends, and the people you love.

ally

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