The Boondocks: A Huey Freeman Christmas

Title

Debuted in 2005

21 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Mr. Uberwitz gives Huey creative control over the Christmas pageant and Huey writes a new story called ‘The Adventures of Black Jesus.’ He fires all the kids for not being committed to the show and then brings on Quincy Jones to do the music. Although most of the parents boycott the show and Mr. Uberwitz loses his job for his decision, those who do see it give it a standing ovation.

Fun Fact: The Boondocks got its start as a comic strip that debuted on Hitlist.com and went on to be published in newspapers.

My thoughts: The Boondocks ran for four seasons on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim between the years of 2005 and 2014, telling the story of the Freeman family and their friends. The show is full of social commentary and satire, mostly relating to the experiences of an African American family living in a largely white neighborhood. There are some funny moments in this one and a good message about not compromising your artistic vision due to the prejudices and feelings of others, but overall, the show is dark and a little too angry and hostile for me. I know folks who love the show, though, and it was pretty well received by critics during its run, so I have to think that my issues are probably just mine. I was really expecting the play to crash and burn, so the fact that it turned out to be awesome was a welcome surprise. I was really rooting for things to turn out well for Huey, which is a testament to how well the character was represented, in my opinion.

Jazmine

Jazmine is preaching the gospel of Santa and she is feeling the spirit.

Santa vs Chair

Looks like Santa is the one who ‘better watch out.’

Riley's letter

I don’t imagine this is the usual sentiment for a letter to Santa.

Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones voices his own character.

Individual Superlative: Art Imitates Life – In the show’s postscript, it says that Mr. Uberwitz went on to become an African American studies professor at University of Maryland, which is where show creator Aaron McGruder went to school, where he majored in African American studies.

Want to Watch it? The Boondocks: A Huey Freeman Christmas is available on DVD and iTunes.

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The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas

Title

Debuted in 1991

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Peter falls asleep thinking of how he needs everything on his Christmas list. Nilus the Sandman takes him to the North Pole, where he learns that the evil Toy Master has taken over production, because Santa could no longer keep up with the increasing demand for toys. Peter defeats the Toy Master by giving up the toys on his list and is pleased to receive one simple gift from Santa instead.

Fun Fact: Elton John took his stage surname from Long John Baldry, who provided the voice for Nilus the Sandman.

My thoughts: I remember catching this one when it aired for the first time on The Disney Channel. When it starts up, the first thing on screen is a credit for Long John Baldry as Nilus the Sandman and I assumed that he was a known character somewhere. But this special was his first appearance, which was followed by two more specials and then a television series that lasted two seasons. I was unsurprised to learn that the series featured Nilus entering the dreams of children to teach them lessons and I imagine they were every bit as heavy handed as the lesson in this one. The animation in this special is bookmarked by mediocre live action that transitions to animation when Peter falls asleep. The Toy Master is a really creepy looking clown, who towers over Peter and Santa like a nightmare monster and as his musical number, he gets a rap song about how efficient his toy production has become. (See Superlative below.) Santa’s song about how kids got super greedy is very pretty, even as it’s banging you over the head with its morality. Overall, this one felt like a launching vehicle for Nilus as a character and not much more.

Nilus

He has literally just burst through the cloud to say, “That’s me!” and wink to the audience. Ham it up, Sandman.

Sad Santa

There’s no crying in Christmas!

Toymaster

Yikes, right?

Peter

I think he’s just happy to have survived the Toy Master.

Individual Superlative: Least Evil Bad Guy – I will readily admit that the Toy Master is creepy looking as all hell. But I am not sure what he’s doing that’s so terrible. It seems to me that he’s automated the workshop and is still planning to deliver all the toys to the kids. Is it just that he’s put Santa out of work? I’m missing something.

Want to Watch it?The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas is available on DVD 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.

Bob’s Burgers: Nice-Capades

 

TitleDebuted in 2015

21 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: The Belcher kids kick a man out of a massage chair at the mall and then realize he’s the mall Santa. He threatens to report them to the real Santa so they come up with the idea to stage an ice show at the mall that will showcase how good they’ve all been this year. But Louise succumbs to her conscience and admits that she’s lying about the good she’s done, telling Santa that Gene and Tina are both good and Santa acknowledges that there’s good in her, too.

Fun Fact: Due to a scheduling issue, this episode aired a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving instead of during the actual Christmas season.

My thoughts: Sometimes I watch a Christmas episode of a show I’ve never seen and end up watching the show regularly. Bob’s Burgers is one of those shows and now I’m a big fan. They’ve had several Christmas episodes and I think this is one of the best ones. It’s probably not a coincidence that it’s an episode centered around Louise, who is my favorite main character. Her complex personality is truly showcased here and she manages to be devious but also genuine, child-like but also mature and cynical but also hopeful. Several of the supporting cast members lend a hand with this bizarre ice show, including the Fischoeder brothers, hilarious as usual, and Teddy, who is my favorite non-Belcher character. I love that the mall Santa’s approval means so much to Louise and that it’s the support of her friends and family that actually means the most to him. Of course, that doesn’t mean she gets what she was asking for, but that’s probably because she was asking for a shark. This is a fun episode of a really great show.

Talking to Santa

Somehow, I get the idea Louise is probably just making it worse.

Gene Portion

Gene tells the story of giving up the last taco on Taco Tuesday at school.

World Peace Teddy

I find Teddy very believable as World Peace.

Xmas morning

Louise gets a goldfish instead of a shark. It’s a starter sea creature.

Individual Superlative: Ayyyy, Santa! – Santa is voiced here by Henry Winkler, who rose to fame playing the Fonz on Happy Days. Nothing makes you feel older than when the sex symbols of your youth are cast as Santa.

Want to Watch it? Bob’s Burgers: Nice-Capades is available on iTunes and YouTube and will probably show up in reruns during the holiday season.

Angelina Ballerina: Angelina’s Holiday Treats

Title

Debuted in 2009

13 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: After their final rehearsal for the Christmas dance performance, Angelina, Marco and A.Z. go back to Angelina’s house to help her mom bake gingerbread houses for the recital party. They eat candy canes and lots of gingerbread cookies and wind up with stomach aches. Because they ate too much, Marco and Angelina don’t perform well at the show and they promise never to overindulge again.

Fun Fact: This episode is from the ‘The Next Steps’ series, in which Angelina is now 8 years old.

My thoughts: This holiday themed episode is a cautionary tale, advising kids to use moderation when eating Christmas sweets. Angelina is playing the Sugar Plum Fairy in their Nutcracker ballet and her teacher compliments her on her light and airy steps during rehearsal. She also compliments Marco on his accompaniment as he plays the celeste, which is cool, because it gives kids the chance to learn about a musical instrument that they probably don’t know much about. And they’ll be sure to learn something, because it seems like half the lines of dialogue are exposition and data. For example, as she’s dancing, Angelina says, “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is from my absolute favorite holiday ballet, The Nutcracker.”  Who is she telling this to? The whole special is also over the top on political correctness, even down to referring to the ‘holiday tree.’ While Angelina and Marco are scarfing down candy and cookies, their friend A.Z. is judging them and commenting on his healthier choices. Come on, we all have friends like this and we hate them. I’d say this one is probably good for younger kids, especially if you’re trying to get them to leave some Christmas cookies for you.

Candy canes

The shopkeeper offers them candy canes and they take so many.

AZ

Yes, A.Z., we all see you eating an apple instead. Hush your smug face up.

Stomach aches

These are the faces of regret.

Mud

Angelina feels like she’s dancing in mud. Ew.

Individual Superlative: The Moral Hammer – In case you may have missed the moral the first time, don’t worry. It’ll come up again. And again. And again.

Want to Watch it? Angelina Ballerina: Angelina’s Holiday Treats is available on YouTube.

101 Dalmatians: A Christmas Cruella

TitleDebuted in 1997

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Cruella DeVil fires Anita on Christmas Eve and is then the victim of an accident, when a Christmas tree falls on her. When she wakes up, she is visited by three spirits who show her scenes from her past, present and future. Realizing she can be a better person, she gives Anita her job back and spends holidays with their family and all the puppies.

Fun Fact: This is the only episode of the TV series to be released on DVD.

My thoughts: I am a professed Disney fan, but my enthusiasm is geared more towards the movies and theme parks and less toward their television offerings. This is the only episode of the show that I have ever seen, but it doesn’t leave me wanting to watch more. The glimpse that we get into Cruella DeVil’s past here shows that she grew up with parents who were absent most of the time, leaving her in the care of nannies. We see that the one gift she always wanted and never got was a Dalmatian puppy, which is meant to give some meaning to her cruel nature where the puppies are concerned. Overall, though, it feels like a mighty big stretch. The problem with doing a Christmas Carol themed episode of a regular show is that, unless you’re drastically changing the show, the ‘Scrooge’ character has to go back to being bad after the episode is over. So the change for that one episode doesn’t mean much. There were a couple of funny moments in this one, though, including the fact that Cruella can’t find an open store to buy presents for everyone when she goes to spend Christmas with them, so she brings home office supplies from her office and hands them out instead. Overall, though, this one’s probably only for those who are already fans of the show.

Crazy Cruella

No person should have this many angles.

Angel

This is the ‘angel’ on the top of Cruella’s tree.  Seems about right.

Scary ghost

What the hell is going on here?

Unscary ghost

Least scary Ghost of Christmas Future ever.

Individual Superlative: When All Else Fails, End on a Pee Joke – At the end of the special, Cruella picks up a puppy to hug, only to be told she’s chosen Whizzer, who promptly pees on her. I have to think that Roger and Anita doomed him to this behavior by giving him the name Whizzer.

Want to Watch it? 101 Dalmatians: A Christmas Cruella is available on VHS, DVD and YouTube.

Sanford and Son: Ebenezer Sanford

TitleDebuted in 1975

20 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: After insulting his friends and family, taking advantage of a local kid who is looking to earn a little extra Christmas money and being too lazy to celebrate the holiday, Fred falls asleep in his chair. In his dream, his son Lamont appears as the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future and shows him the error of his ways. When he wakes up, Fred sets out to make things right and joins his friends for a Christmas party.

Fun Fact: Redd Foxx’s real name was John Elroy Sanford and his character was named for his brother, Fred.

My thoughts: Sanford and Son was an American-ized version of the 1960’s British sitcom, Steptoe and Son. I grew up watching this show and it was much later that I learned that Redd Foxx was notoriously filthy in his standup act. It didn’t really surprise me. I can’t imagine anyone else playing this character, though. Like many 70’s sitcoms, the show had a lot of recurring bits that you waited for in every episode. You know Fred is going to insult Aunt Esther and he does so hilariously here, responding to her declaration of having the spirit of Christmas by telling her she also has the face of Halloween. You know he’s going to have a fake heart attack and claim he’s soon to join his wife, Elizabeth. But you also know that there’s a good heart inside this guy and this episode plays that up bigtime. He owns up to his behavior, which is something you rarely see him do and he unselfishly gives away his own gifts to make things right for the kid who helps him out. And the show closes with him singing ‘The Christmas Song’ amongst the rest of the cast and it’s surprisingly sweet.

Aunt Esther

Aunt Esther, smiling in the face of the insults she had to have been expecting.

Fredsie and Mom

Fred’s mother calls him ‘Fredsie’ which so doesn’t fit his adult persona.

Christmas Future

The ghost of Christmas Future is Lamont in a space suit. Perfect.

Party

Fred may be crotchety, but he’s a well loved guy.

Individual Superlative: The Actor of Sanford Future – Eric Laneuville appears in this episode as Ronnie Small, the neighborhood kid earning money to buy gifts for his parents. He plays a different recurring character in the final season as Aunt Esther’s adopted son.

Want to Watch it? Sanford and Son: Ebenezer Sanford is available on YouTube.