Davey and Goliath: Christmas Lost and Found

Title

Debuted in 1965

29 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Davey doesn’t have the Christmas spirit so he goes out to do holiday errands, hoping he will be inspired. While buying the Christmas tree, he makes friends with Kenny, the boy working at the tree lot. The kids put on a Christmas pageant and at the last minute, Davey offers his role as a king to Kenny and in doing so, finally feels the Christmas spirit.

Fun Fact: This episode marked the last time that Davey’s voice was provided by Dick Beals, who was his original voice actor.

My thoughts: Davey and Goliath was a children’s television show using clay animation characters to tell stories that taught moral lessons. The show was funded by the Lutheran Church of America and when I was growing up, it aired here on Sunday mornings (so you could watch it on any mornings that you didn’t go to church and still say you got your dose of religion).  The animation was done by Art Clokey, who also did the Gumby series. This Christmas special was produced during the years between Season 3 (which ended in 1964) and Season 4 (which started in 1971). While some of the earlier episodes were less overt in their religious tone, this one lays it on pretty thick. The one thing I was struck by in watching this was the scarcity of adults and the fact that it looked like kids did most of the working and organizing of events in the town. Maybe Davey was just overworked from all the chores he had to do, including all the preparation for the Christmas pageant, and that’s why he wasn’t feeling Christmas. It was cool to see this again since I remember this show from my childhood, but I found it kind of maudlin.

Depressed Davey

Emo Davey is emo.

Tobacco store

Dude, you’re selling tobacco to a kid?

Joe's Sound truck

The Joe’s Sound truck provides plot exposition at no extra cost.

Smitten Sally

Sally is fully under the spell of baby Jesus and will do his every bidding.

Individual Superlative: Lighten Up, Kid! – Seriously, Davey is a major downer through this whole thing, constantly telling everyone how he just doesn’t feel Christmas and always wearing a sad sack expression. I mean, I get that he ain’t feelin’ it, but maybe a little perspective and a little less self-pity would have helped.

Want to Watch it? Davey & Goliath: Christmas Lost and Found is available on VHS, DVD and YouTube.

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Adam Ruins Everything: Adam Ruins Christmas

Title

Debuted in 2016

24 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Adam’s sister, Rhea, is stressed about their parents’ upcoming Christmas visit. As they prepare the house, Adam takes several opportunities to debunk some holiday myths and traditions and Rhea gets upset that he’s not being more helpful. He shows her a video from their childhood in which she tells him there’s no Santa and that it’s best to know the truth, which makes her realize she’s the one who made him so curious about the truth and they share a nice holiday with their parents.

Fun Fact: At the end of the special, we find out that the unseen narrator is Adam Savage (Mythbusters) which is a nice button on the rest of the show.

My thoughts: Adam Ruins Everything is a show that came from the College Humor website and it’s hosted by Adam Conover, who starred in the website segments as well. On each episode, Adam gives details, history and interesting facts about a different subject, disproving some general misconceptions and providing an entertaining and educational overview of the subject. It’s a lot like Penn & Teller’s Bullshit series only presented more as a sitcom with different characters. This is a really enjoyable episode, with a lot of interesting information, much of which was new to me. Comedian Rhea Butcher plays Adam’s sister and she provides a nice counterpoint to his character. The live action shifts to animation (reminiscent of A Charlie Brown Christmas) to tell some of the stories and I think it’s awesome as an homage and a comedic device, particularly when the story they’re telling is more adult in nature. As with any show of this nature, you may learn something that pushes you out of your comfort zone, but the good news is that how much you let that affect your holiday is pretty much up to you.

Saturnalia

What kind of cups does Starbucks have for Saturnalia?

Economics

The whole economy of gift giving section will make you rethink the gifts you’ve already bought.

Wonderful Life

Every time a bell rings, an angel puts an It’s a Wonderful Life parody in their special.

Krampus

Krampus, just put the baby down and walk away.

Individual Superlative: Favorite Message – Okay, at its core, this is a comedy show, but the underlying message that is repeated a few times throughout is that everyone should celebrate the holiday in a way that is meaningful for them and I think that’s a tremendously important takeaway.

Want to Watch it? Adam Ruins Everything: Adam Ruins Christmas is available on YouTube and will probably be shown again during this holiday season.

Daria: Depth Takes a Holiday

Title

Debuted in 1999

21 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Cupid and the St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun show up in Lawndale and tell Daria that they’re looking for Christmas, Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day, who have left Holiday Island and come here to start a band. Daria and Jane visit Holiday Island and discover that the high school there has been taken over by Presidents Day in the absence of the more popular holidays. Daria invites the missing holidays to bring their band to the Holiday Island High prom and that sets everything right again.

Fun Fact: In the Daria fandom, this is widely considered one of the worst episodes of the show.

My thoughts: The character of Daria got her start on the Beavis and Butthead show and was spun off into her own series, where she became more snarky and cynical. Not being a big fan of that brand of humor, I had never seen the show before so this was my introduction to it. Overall, I mostly enjoyed it. It seems to be written almost as a parody of Christmas episodes and there is apparently a lot of debate in the fandom as to whether or not this episode can be considered canon, as it seems to be mostly based in fantasy and not in the real world. The holidays are all represented as teenagers, which is new and interesting. Halloween is a goth girl and Guy Fawkes Day looks suspiciously like Sid Vicious. Even Santa has the appearance of a surfer dude with a Santa hat on. There’s a subplot where Cupid shoots Daria’s parents with his love Taser (no, that’s not a euphemism) to keep them out of their way and Daria’s younger sister, Quinn, is worried that they’re trying to have another baby. It’s nothing really special, but it’s definitely not the same old thing, which is its own kind of cool.

St Patrick and Valentine

Valentine’s Day has maybe been hitting the chocolates.

Parents kissing

Get a room, Mom & Dad!

Other holidays

Are Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day fighting again?

Presidents

Presidents Day is picking on Arbor Day.

Individual Superlative: Through the Wormhole – The holidays tell Daria that they were able to come to Lawndale through a wormhole behind the Good Times Chinese Restaurant. Apparently, fan fiction writers use this plot point to create all kinds of alternate universe stories for these characters.

Want to Watch it? Daria: Depth Takes a Holiday is available on iTunes and YouTube.

Christmas Is

Title

Debuted in 1970

25 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Benji is disappointed to be a second shepherd in the Christmas pageant because he doesn’t feel that it’s an important role. He falls asleep and dreams that he’s in Bethlehem, where he meets a shepherd who was at the stable when Jesus was born. Realizing that baby Jesus is the only important one in the play, he embraces his role.

Fun Fact: This special was produced by the Lutheran Television company.

My thoughts: It was no surprise at all to me to see that this special had been funded by a religious organization, since it comes across as a little heavy handed with its plot and characterizations. It opens with a song (Christmas All over the World) being sung by a tableau of children in the traditional costumes of many different nations. I find this a little interesting when it then goes immediately into a story based on Christian tradition, thereby flying in the face of several of the countries and nationalities depicted in the opening song. Benji is comically emo about his pageant role, sarcastically calling it ‘so original’ to sing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ once they get to Bethlehem and being a little judgmental to his friend, Jimmy, who is playing an elf in his own school play. These same characters appeared in a follow-up special, The City that Forgot Christmas, in which Benji is a little older. There were also Easter and July 4th specials featuring Benji and Waldo, too.

Angry teacher

This teacher is not putting up with shenanigans.

Children of the World

Children of the world, unite!

Emo Benjy

Before you go all pissy about your role in the play, maybe get off your dog.

Elf vs Shepherd

Does he really envy Jimmy for that hat?

Individual Superlative: O Holy Dog – Waldo seems to be a part of the pageant somehow, but no one explains why he’s there. I don’t remember a dog being one of the animals by the manger. Maybe he’s portraying a sheep, since he’s a sheepdog.

Want to Watch it? Christmas Is is available on YouTube and sometimes shows up during holiday programming.

Buster & Chauncey’s Silent Night

TitleDebuted in 1998

45 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: The small Austrian town of Oberndorf is preparing for a visit from the Queen and two musical mice named Buster and Chauncey are determined to make their fortune during her visit. Meanwhile, a pair of thieves is in town to steal the church’s fortune and they plan to pin the crime on an orphan taking shelter in the church. The church’s organist hears a melody that Chauncey plays on his violin and sets the pastor’s poem to music, creating the song, ‘Silent Night,’ which they perform for the queen, who volunteers to help the orphan find her family.

Fun Fact: Providing the voice for Chauncey is comedy great Phil Hartman, in his final role.

My thoughts: In a genre that is already rife with convoluted plot lines, this one still stands out. There is so much going on in this mess that it was a real struggle to condense it into three sentences that still made sense. (Well, some semblance of sense, anyway.) It actually plays out like a typical musical and the songs are the best part, written by Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. The big opening number actually raised my expectations for this show, but I’m sorry to say that the rest of the special didn’t live up to it. At its core, this is the story of the creation of the carol, ‘Silent Night,’ with a lot of claptrap padding the story out. There have been several specials about this particular carol and they all have a different version of the story, mostly based on a legend about the church’s organ being broken. I can’t imagine any version being more long-winded and needlessly complex than this one.

Buster & Chauncey

Dang, these are some well-dressed mice.

Christina

Just in case they don’t feel sorry for the orphan, let’s cast her as an angel in the Christmas play.

Bad guys

Those are definitely villainous eyebrows. I never fell for their ruse.

The queen

What is the queen hiding in her hair?

Individual Superlative: Most Omniscient Queen – When they introduce the song ‘Silent Night,’ singing it for the first time, the Queen jumps in and takes the second verse, as if she knew the words all along. Maybe she was just a really good improviser.

Want to Watch it?Buster & Chauncey’s Silent Night is available on VHS and DVD.

Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration

 

TitleDebuted in 1987

24 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Two dinosaurs, Rex and Herb, serve as hosts and introduce short Christmas musical vignettes. In between the musical numbers, they make jokes, eat snacks and share a little history about some of the carols included. At the end, all the different characters from the songs join them in the final song.

Fun Fact: This special won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.

My thoughts: Patric Miller, who did the music for this special, shared his story of this special’s history and how it was originally going to be more geared toward young children. Gradually, it changed and the animators wanted to make it more hip and appropriate for an older audience. The inclusion of the California Raisins sets this special pretty firmly in its time period and I think that their segment, which is a version of ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,’ is the weakest segment of the show. My favorite segment is ‘Joy to the World’ which uses clay painting and a bluesy sound to celebrate joy in the context of the birth of Jesus and the love that families and friends have for each other. The animation is beautiful and the song is great. The banter between the hosts (who are reminiscent of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert) is a little forced and the recurring joke about the real lyrics of ‘Here We Come A’Wassailing’ doesn’t hold up to repeated viewings, but overall I really enjoy watching this one.

Hosts

You can instantly tell which is the serious one and which is the goofball.

Bell

And this guy is never going to get anything right.

Walruses

Walruses are always funny.

Raisins

These guys overextended their 15 minutes.

Individual Superlative: And Your Name Is? – Depending on where you look it up, this special is either called Will Vinton’s Claymation ChristmasA Claymation Christmas Celebration or just A Claymation Christmas. Either way, though, it’s Claymation. That much, we can be sure of.

Want to Watch it? Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration is available on DVD and YouTube.

Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

title

Debuted in 1980

25 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Willy Krueger is an apartment building custodian who lives with his cat in the building’s basement and on Christmas Eve, he fantasizes about being a well-respected gentleman in a fine house, helping to decorate the giant Christmas tree in Temple Square and conducting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. A group of carolers visits him and he invites them to stay, but they only sing one song. He envisions himself in Bethlehem and kneels to talk to Jesus, thanking him for being his constant and best friend, and then two of the carolers return and ask him to join them.

Fun Fact: James Stewart said that conducting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was a lifelong dream of his that he finally got to live out in this film.

My thoughts: This special was produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and features classic movie legend James Stewart as Mr. Krueger in one of the last roles of his fifty year career. (He only did two things after this and one of them was voice work on An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.) I’m a huge fan of his and think his performance here is really wonderful. The director has said that Mr. Stewart felt very strongly about the film, worried about the over-commercialization of Christmas and fearing that the real meaning of the holiday was getting lost in the shuffle. When he is imagining himself conducting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, there’s a moment at the end of the song when the choir applauds him and that was apparently spontaneous and unscripted. The ending is a little over-saccharine, with the little girl caroler telling him she loves him (even though they literally just met) as they are heading off to join the carolers and there’s a voiceover (from WKRP’s Gordon Jump) reminding us that Jesus loves us, too. But you have to expect that in a special like this and it’s worth watching if you’re a Jimmy Stewart fan.

snow-haze

In this (very blurred) vision, he is sleigh-riding while the choir is all around him singing Sleigh Ride.

dancing

What would a Christmas tree lighting be without dancers wearing HUGE skirts?

clarissa

Is Clarissa about to smile sweetly at Mr. Krueger or fire demonic bolts from her eyes?

mittens-on-the-tree

Somebody else’s forgotten mittens are the saddest tree decorations ever.

Individual Superlative: That Voice, Though – I grew up watching It’s a Wonderful Life every year on TV and hearing Jimmy Stewart say ‘Merry Christmas’ is like an injection of nostalgic Christmas warmth. He says it a lot here.

Want to Watch it? Mr. Krueger’s Christmas is available on DVD and YouTube.