Xmas Favorites of TV

I’m writing this later than usual because I’ve been registering for a health care plan for 2015 and cursing bureaucracy and things that cost me money that don’t automatically gratify me with food or entertainment. I’m assuming the slowness and constant logouts were an indication that I was not alone in this venture today, especially considering it is the last day for it. In case you just uttered a panicked “Oh shit!” then redirect yourself here, my friend, and best of luck. My apologies for the potentially rushed feel of what follows. This was supposed to be bigger, but at least now I’ve got a start on my post material for next week. Merry Xmas anyway.

Last week I complained about Christmas music. This week I’m exalting Christmas television favorites (of mine). I’m sure you’ve heard of most of these titles you’re about to hear of before you hear of them from me, and you probably have seen and routinely watch some of them every December just as I do.

And so we start with the small screen, where every year I make sure to watch these great episodes of these great television shows:

“The Strike” – Seinfeld

It may not sound immediately familiar, but if you’re a fan of Seinfeld you have definitely quoted this episode many times. In “The Strike” George attempts to save money on workplace Christmas gifts by making donations in his coworkers names to a phony charity. When his boss discovers the charity isn’t real and calls him out on it, George calls upon a traumatic childhood holiday celebration invented by his father, Frank, called Festivus. “A Festivus for the rest of us!” In order to convince his boss that he celebrates the secular Festivus – which is a much more minimalistic, anti-commercial observance – in lieu of Christmas he invites his boss over to Festivus dinner. Unfortunately, it forces George to once again take up such ridiculous practices like “the airing of grievances” and “feats of strength”. No matter what holidays you celebrate this December, be sure you watch this hilarious episode beside your aluminum Festivus pole. Now Fesitivus is actually celebrated (on December 23rd) by people in a somewhat serious capacity – at least as much as one can while wrestling his father and vocalizing his disapoinments.

“Xmas Story” and “A Tale of Two Santas” – Futurama

My favorite cartoon also brought some original holiday trimmings to the table, predominantly in two memorable Christmas episodes. First is the ho ho pride of the second season: “Xmas Story, which explains how the jolly holly holiday that was Christmas in the 20th century changed to the frigid fearfest known as Xmas for the 30th. Turns out while Fry was cryogenically frozen, humanity decided to build a Robot Santa to deliver presents to everyone just like the mythical man everyone loved to think wasn’t their parents. However, a serious problem arose when Robot Santa malfunctioned and deemed everyone to be naughty, so instead of delivering presents every Xmas Eve, he delivers a reign of terror and death to anyone foolish enough to be on the street past sundown. In addition to the funny and fresh take on Santa, “Xmas Story” was great for developing the characters of Fry and Leela as the last of their respective kinds and building their relationship. Not to mention they end the episode with this song.

The Planet Express crew would run into Santa again in “A Tale of Two Santas” where they trap Robot Santa on his homeworld of Neptune and set off to restore Xmas to the Christmas that Fry used to love by having Bender become Santa for the night. Maybe not as touching as “Xmas Story”, but at least it gave us this little ditty from Robot Santa’s elf slaves for the toy-making montage. Plus, anytime we get to see Bender take on a role of responsibility and address it in his own unique and often criminal way is a good time.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”

Charles Schulz’s Peanuts featured in many a holiday special, but none as popular or resonant as their classic Christmastime is here celebration. I grew up loving it as a kid because Snoopy is awesome. Now I’ve become very aware of its not at all subtle Christian metaphors which I appreciate not so much as an observant Catholic (which I’m certainly not despite 18 years of schooling in such affiliated institutions) but as an aspiring story-teller. Also, Snoopy’s still awesome. Christians have always been good at cleverly packaging their  agenda in a good story; it’s a big reason why they converted so many pagans, barbarians, and general non-believers over the years. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a very endearing Christmas special no matter how much of a heathen or non-Christian you are. Very much about putting the “Christ” back in Christmas, it also represents the classic Biblical messiah story of the smallest, most unlikely something or other becoming the central figure of everyone’s harmonious reunion and enlightenment. Ironically, it’s calls for a less commercial celebration of Christmas are now more than ever drowned out by relentless TV ads encouraging you to buy stuff that help ABC stretch the ~20 min show to an even 30.

Thanks for reading! You won’t be so lucky for a short stack next week when I talk about my favorite Christmas movies. Talk to me at monotrememadness@gmail.com about all your blog reading needs and keep on keeping on until next week.

Happy Hanukkah,

Alex

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