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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Pucca: Christmas Shorts

Title

Debuted in 2006

23 minutes 

Plot in 3 Sentences: In the first of three stories, a ninja named Black Powder shows up to get his revenge on Santa for becoming a giver instead of a thief. In the next story, Pucca and Garu try to discover why the Northern Lights have gone out. The third story features Tobe kidnapping Santa to take his place in hopes of capturing Garu.

Fun Fact: In the show, Pucca is supposed to be 11 and Garu is supposed to be 12.

My thoughts: Pucca started as a South Korean series of animated internet shorts, each only running a couple of minutes. They were produced from 2000 to 2005 and then expanded into longer shorts for a TV series that ran two seasons from 2006 to 2008. I stumbled on this episode because it was Christmas themed, but kind of fell in love with the show and watched all the episodes after that. The basic premise revolves around a village of ninjas, where the niece of the guys who own the local noodle restaurant is smitten with a silent ninja named Garu. The village is full of bizarre characters, including Santa Claus, who is integral to this episode’s shorts. The show is very funny and clever, with fun send-ups of anime and short parodies featuring these characters in other genres. This one has made a few appearances at our Christmas special parties over the year and is always well received.

Naked Santa

I don’t think I want to know how Santa can pull a long string of lights from his mouth.

Fake Santa with Zombie

Yes, the zombie asks Santa for brains.

Abyo with Walrus

Abyo gets his workout ninja kicking a walrus. Seems legit.

Closing Santa Wreath

Christmas is all about love, especially funny love.

Individual Superlative: Best Use of Santa’s Belly – Santa’s signature ninja move is called the Belly Bounce and he uses it to defeat Black Powder twice. That’s why he needs all those cookies!

Want to Watch it? The individual Pucca short cartoons are available on DVD and YouTube.

Uncle Grandpa: Christmas Special

Title

Debuted in 2014

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: When Santa breaks his leg, Uncle Grandpa steps in to deliver the toys. He causes lots of trouble and then gets captured by Sally Smith, a naughty kid. His guardian lobster shows him what life would have been like without him and he manages to save Christmas and have a nice holiday with his friends.

Fun Fact: Cartoon Network developed a video game called ‘Sneakin’ Santa’ to promote this holiday episode of the show.

My thoughts: Well, there are no two ways about it. This show is nutso. In addition to the main character, there is also a talking fanny pack, a slice of pizza named Pizza Steve, a grumpy dinosaur and a photographic cutout of a tiger who can fly. Creator Peter Browngardt was influenced by Gary Larson, Robert Crumb, Tex Avery and Don Martin and it’s not too hard to see their fingerprints here, although the show is extremely original. Normally, each show features two 12 minute segments, but this show uses both segments to tell its story and appears to be the first double episode in the series. We find out early in the show that Uncle Grandpa and Santa are brothers and that Uncle Grandpa is still angry at Santa for ruining his talent show performance when they were young.  There are some good underlying messages about friendship and family hidden amongst the bizarre moments here and if you enjoy your specials a little on the wacky side, this one should be right up your alley.

Santa and elves

Elves make really good footrests.

Other holiday mascots

Sally Smith keeps a prison for holidays.  Not pictured: The Veterans Day Velociraptor.  (No, that wasn’t a joke.)

Skeleton

Does Mr. Gus wind up as a skeleton in a museum without Uncle Grandpa?

Rooftop

Photorealistic Flying Tiger is absolutely my favorite character in anything.

Individual Superlative: Born to Be Crazy – Contributors to this series include the folks who gave us both Chowder and Ren & Stimpy so there’s no way this show wasn’t going to be insane.

Want to Watch it? Uncle Grandpa: Christmas Special is available on Hulu and will likely show up in holiday programming.

 

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.

Rocket Power: A Rocket X-mas

Title

Debuted in 2003

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Otto and Reggie take up dog walking to earn enough money to buy their father a surfboard he has admired in a shop window. They have to work harder than they thought to raise the money and in the process, they upset their dad, who just wanted to spend time with them during the holidays. He’s thrilled to get the surfboard, but even happier that they can all spend time together, creating some new holiday traditions.

Fun Fact: This is one of the few episodes that references Otto and Reggie’s mother, who passed away when they were younger.

My thoughts: Rocket Power ran for four seasons on Nickelodeon and was aimed at older kids who were into extreme sports like skateboarding and surfing. It mostly centers around the Rocket family and the kids’ friends and neighbors. This is the only episode I’ve ever seen of the show and it only took a few minutes before I was tired of all the ‘cool lingo’ the kids use. My thought is if you have to try that hard to show your audience that you’re cool, you’re really not all that cool. Once again, though, I’m not their target audience, so maybe it goes over well with them. There were some interesting subplots going on in the episode, including a family friend who moonlights as a mall Santa, training to be Santa for the Mayor’s holiday party. Throughout the special, Ray (the kids’ dad) tries to keep their old family traditions alive, although the kids feel that they’ve outgrown them. Of course, they learn about the importance of family during the holidays and I love that they come up with some new traditions that they can all enjoy together. It’s a really nice way to end the episode.

Tito

Santa’s getting interrogated.

Muttboarding

The kids invent a new sport called Muttboarding. Do not attempt with Yorkies.

Watching TV

I hope their neighbors don’t mind them peeking through their windows in order to get a sense of their lost childhood.

Broken dad

Oh great, you broke Dad.

Individual Superlative: A Special Within a Special – One of the things that Ray wants to do with the kids is watch their favorite Christmas special, even though the kids think they’re too old for it. But is anyone ever the right age for something called Pinkie Pixie’s Christmas Flapadoozy?

Want to Watch it? Rocket Power: A Rocket X-mas is available on iTunes and DVD.

 

The Great Santa Claus Switch

Title

Debuted in 1970

51 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Evil Cosmo Scam kidnaps Santa as part of his plan to take over Christmas. When he starts replacing Santa’s elves with his own henchmen, a new elf named Fred discovers the plot. With Fred’s help, Santa is able to escape just in time to save Christmas.

Fun Fact: Ed Sullivan gave this time slot to Jim Henson in appreciation for all the Muppet appearances on his show.

My thoughts: I am a big Muppet fan from way back, but I had never heard of this special before this year. Apparently, Jim Henson had the idea for this story bouncing around for quite some time before getting the chance to bring it to the small screen on The Ed Sullivan Show. Art Carney plays the dual role of Santa Claus and Cosmo Scam and sadly, doesn’t seem to be giving 100% to either role, which is probably the reason this special didn’t have much staying power. The Muppets are always enhanced by the addition of an over the top human counterpoint and Carney’s somewhat phoned-in performance here doesn’t give them the opportunity to shine. But there are a lot of really funny moments and some good songs from songwriter Joe Raposo. It’s definitely worth watching, especially if you’re a Muppet fan, but it doesn’t hold up well compared to the movies and shows that came after it.

The Bad Guy

Anyone who names a child Cosmo Scam should know he’s headed for a life of crime.

Workshop Elves

Santa’s elves always sing while they work.

Santa's Kidnappers

Santa, quit staring at the tree and look behind you!

Monster Elves

The elves have been replaced by frackles!  And no one seems to notice.

Individual Superlative: A Muppet By Any Other Name – One of Cosmo’s frackle henchmen is named Snarl. Six years later, he showed up as a regular character on The Muppet Show as a performance artist named Gonzo. You can check him out in the picture above.

Want to Watch it? The Great Santa Claus Switch is available on YouTube.

A Christmas Story

TitleDebuted in 1972

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Goober the dog and Gumdrop the mouse realize that Timmy’s letter to Santa never got mailed so they go out to deliver it themselves. They run into several obstacles and have trouble finding Santa, but then they involve all the local animals. Eventually, they return home and fall asleep and when they wake up, Santa has been there and clearly found Timmy’s letter.

Fun Fact: Three of the songs from this special were reused in A Flintstone Christmas, five years later. And one of them was used a third time in Yogi’s First Christmas in 1980.

My thoughts: I hadn’t seen this one in years and I have to say I really enjoyed seeing it again. It’s a simple story, but they pack a lot of fun and heart into it and prove that you really don’t need more than 23 minutes to tell a good story, even when you include songs. The songs here are festive and fun, especially the one that Goober and Gumdrop sing about how to tell which Santa is the real one in a city full of corner Santas. In typical 70’s Hanna-Barbera style, a lot of animation is re-used over and over during the musical bits and there are lots of jokes that I recognize from lots of other animated specials and shows. Of course, it gets a little sappy toward the end, when Timmy asks his parents what they asked Santa for and his mom tells him they asked for peace on Earth. Clearly, Santa keeps deciding not to give this particular gift every year, because we’re still asking for it (although definitely not doing our part to make it happen). But this one is a warm throwback to a simpler time when peace didn’t seem like such a crazy thing to ask for.

Christmas Eve

Mom is hiding all the Christmas cookies in her puffy sleeves.

Goober and Gumdrop

Goober and Gumdrop should get a kickback from the Post Office.

Santa parade

Too many Santas!

Look for Santa!

Funniest bit in the whole show – this bulldog yells at the cats “Look for Santa!”

Individual Superlative: Hanna-Barbera’s Greatest Hits – With a script by Ken Spears and Joe Ruby (from Scooby-Doo) and classic voice acting from the actors who voiced Yogi Bear, Judy Jetson, Gargamel, Dr. Benton Quest and Mr. Slate (from The Flintstones), this represents some of the best of the studio’s talent pool.

Want to Watch it? A Christmas Story is available on VHS, DVD and YouTube.