03 January 2012

Holiday Television Special Review Spectacular!

Ed. Note: This post was originally composed in the weeks leading up to December 25 and should have been posted at that time. However, the author fell headfirst into the black hole of the holiday season and finds himself now beleaguered, unshaven, and unable to button his jeans, with a sizable holiday hangover and a to-do list a mile long. Including uploading this post, which he winced and did just now, still not certain it was quite finished. Merry 2012, everyone.

It’s that time of year again. The season of joy, giving, familial obligation, and excessive gift-giving. Not to mention, holiday season TV specials. One of the special joys of my own childhood, as well as my wife’s, and pretty much everyone else I know that is my age, is that yearly two- to three-week period when the networks roll out the old standby kids’ holiday specials, occasionally tossing in a few new ones, which invariably pale in comparison to the so-called classics of the genre, particularly those produced by the geniuses of Rankin-Bass.

Of course, like everything else Christmas-related, the slalom of holiday-themed television specials has grown increasingly frenzied over time, to the point where this cycle of shows begins as early as Thanksgiving and spans the entire month of December. And where in the past we typically viewed an average of three or four such specials (from experience and memory, I’d say How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman were the main attraction), it seems everyone has gotten in on the act and there has been an explosion, not necessarily of creativity or quality, but definitely of quantity, when it comes to these holiday specials.

And since the advent of basic cable, they now play in an almost constant rotation, with networks like ABC Family touting their 25 Days of Christmas programming, featuring multiple showings of each holiday special or Christmas movie, and TBS featuring 24 hours of A Christmas Story, on December 24 and 25 (admittedly, perhaps the single greatest idea in the history of television).

And so, we have begun the indoctrination of the Doozer into the tradition of holiday special viewing. We watched a few last year, but his memory is hazy, and so we started again this December. So far, here are some random observations from our family viewings, a rundown of the kid-friendly, parent-approved (somewhat) programs we have watched (or repeatedly been subjected to). Merry, merry!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — There's a pretty dark moment in this one where Yukon Cornelius goes over the side of a mountain with the abominable snow monster and everybody thinks he is dead. Burl Ives, in voice-over, says, "They are all sad at the loss of their friend." This is dark for this kind of show, right? Luckily, the Doozer has never asked. Obviously he knows now that Yukon is okay. But that first time? What was he thinking when this happened?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas — Okay, so when the Grinch realizes that the Whos are still celebrating, even though he took all their stuff, he has a line where he says, in disbelief, that Christmas came without packages, boxes, or bags. Every time he says this, our son completely loses it. Who knew this was the funniest line ever written by old Theodore Geisel? I mean, if the Doozer’s reaction is anything to go on, it’s a one-liner on par with anything Woody Allen ever produced.

A Charlie Brown Christmas — Is it just me or is that little shoulder-shrugging, feet-shuffling dance they all do just about the greatest bit of animation ever committed to film? And what’s the deal with Woodstock? He’s in the Thanksgiving show, but not the Halloween or Christmas one. Where did he go? Did he fly south for the winter . . .?

Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas — The Doozer is a big Curious George fan. There's a moment in this where the Man in the Yellow Hat says that George is really thoughtful. Which is weird to me. Because he’s a monkey. This is a weird relationship. The Doozer, however, sees nothing strange in the cohabiting of the Man in the Yellow Hat and George. At what age will he question this arrangement?

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town! — Another Rankin/Bass one, this one featuring the Burgermeister Meisterburger, perhaps the greatest named character in the history of television. But alas, it is stuck in DVR limbo as we are unable to rouse the Doozer’s enthusiasm for this one. I tried telling him Fred Astaire was in it, but he just stared at me blankly.

Mickey's Christmas Carol — You forget what these stories are like. You see Disney characters and you’re like, This is fine. Then Tiny Tim dies and Scrooge McDuck is thrown into an open grave, about to be engulfed by flames, while a maniacal, cigar-smoking dog looks on and laughs. And your kid says, “What is that mouse doing?” as Mickey Mouse (as Bob Cratchit) sets Tiny Tim’s tiny crutch by his grave. And you’re like, “Umm, well, he’s . . . oh, look it’s Christmas morning and Scrooge is back in his room!”

Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure — Much like the regular Christmas Carol, they travel through past, present, and future. In the past, there's an entire sequence of babies crying that we must always fast-forward through. Every time we watch. Which is now . . . too many times to count. Look, kid, I have some bad news. That little brother we keep telling you about, the one that’s in your mama’s belly? Yeah, it’s going to be kind of like that.

On second thought, maybe we’ll put a pin in that conversation for now. We'll talk about it after Christmas.

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