American Dad: Season’s Beatings

titleDebuted in 2011

21 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Stan is disappointed to be told he’s too fat to play adult Jesus in the Christmas play, so when he sees that Roger has been cast in the part, he beats Roger up and it’s caught on camera. Father Donovan excommunicates Stan and tells him there are only a few ways to be allowed back into the church. Hayley and Jeff adopt a baby boy who turns out to be the Antichrist and Stan tries to kill him to get re-admitted to Christianity.

Fun Fact: The Aramaic words that Steve is speaking when he’s possessed loosely translate to ‘Your days are numbered because of your actions. Praise Satan.’

My thoughts: This is the Christmas episode from the 8th season of American Dad, which is now heading into its’ 14th season and has had six other holiday episodes. I am not a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane, so I’m not a regular viewer of any of his shows. I’ve seen several episodes of most of them (mostly the Christmas episodes, of course) and there are usually a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments in each one, but most of the humor falls a little short for me. Shock humor always feels kind of manipulative in the same way that overly sappy sentimentality does and if your joke is just gross with no other substance, I’m not likely to find it funny. As you may imagine from the summary above, this is not an episode for anyone bothered by sacrilege and there are plenty of other groups likely to be offended by one thing or the other here. But that feels like what MacFarlane is going for, so I don’t suppose that’s a problem for regular viewers. I liked the parts that were parodying The Omen and Hayley’s unexpected maternal feelings, but most of the rest of this one gets a ‘meh’ from me.

santa-vs-jesus

Santa versus Jesus – it’s the age old battle.

head-math

One of my favorite jokes in the show, when Stan is initially relieved to see a 662 on Nemo’s head before revealing the rest of the equation.

service-dog

An example of the ratcheting shock humor – Stan shoots a dog that turns out to be a service dog for a blind man, who asks for help and then is run over by a truck.

sarah-palin

And Nemo is adopted by Sarah Palin. Two apostates of Hell in one picture!

Individual Superlative: Most Prophetic Joke – When Father Donovan tells Stan what he needs to do to get back into the church’s good graces, he tells him he could find the Holy Grail, kill the Antichrist or donate $10 million to charity and adds that the charity bit was how Jared from Subway got back in. This was four years before the child pornography scandal that ended Jared’s career and landed him in prison.

Want to Watch it? American Dad: Season’s Beatings is available on DVD and Youtube, plus the holiday episodes are usually re-run during December.

Olive, the Other Reindeer

title

Plot in 3 Sentences: Olive, a dog who doesn’t behave like a normal dog, hears Santa saying he will have to cancel Christmas unless ‘all of the other reindeer’ can save the day and she mishears it as ‘Olive, the other reindeer.’ Believing that she can save Christmas and that her owner Tim doesn’t want her anymore (due to another mishearing), Olive heads to the North Pole, accompanied by Martini, a penguin con man. Although a villainous postman tries to stop her, Olive manages to help save Christmas and is reunited with Tim.

Fun Fact: Schnitzel, the reindeer who almost gets into a bar fight with Olive and ends up singing a song, is voiced by Michael Stipe of REM.

My thoughts: This special was based on the 1997 book (of the same name) by Vivian Walsh, with illustrations from J. Otto Siebold. The book is lot simpler, with Olive joining Santa for his ride and helping out here and there along the way. The special adds in a lot of other characters and the bad guy postman who wants to stop Christmas because of all the extra work he has to do during the holidays and because he is always on the naughty list. Drew Barrymore voices Olive with a good balance of naïveté and pluck, making her a very likeable character. The animation uses paperlike character art combined with 3D environments and traditional animation and is heavily based on Mr. Siebold’s original book illustrations. There are a lot of funny moments in the special, including Olive asking about Rudolph and being told he’s an urban legend or a package addressed to her from ‘Deus Ex Machina’ that helps advance the plot. It does feel that a lot of extra stuff has been jammed into a simple story (to flesh it out into a full hour time slot) but since most of it works, I can’t complain. This one is definitely worth watching if you’ve never seen it.

dangling-olive

I get the idea Olive isn’t quite pulling her weight here.

mailman

The postman always schemes twice.

the-pope

I’m pretty sure this is the only special I have with an animated Pope.

christmas-in-tokyo

Christmas magic makes best friends of bitter enemies.

Individual Superlative: Best Mondegreen Cameos – On her journey, Olive runs into Richard Stands (from the Pledge of Allegiance) and Round John Virgin (from Silent Night). Pretty clever.

Want to Watch it? Olive, The Other Reindeer is available on VHS and DVD and sometimes shows up in holiday programming.

The Simpsons: Simpsons Christmas Stories

TitleDebuted in 2005

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: In the first story, Homer Simpson has to lead the Christmas service at church and he tells a very different version of the nativity. In the second, Grampa tells the story of his long-standing resentment of Santa Claus, after Santa left him stranded on a desert island during the war. The third story is a comical look at Christmas in Springfield, set to songs from The Nutcracker.

Fun Fact: When Bart (as baby Jesus) performs the miracle of turning wine to water, he does the head nod from I Dream of Jeannie.

My thoughts: The very first episode of The Simpsons was a Christmas special and they have done another 11 Christmas-themed episodes since then. This one is a compilation episode comprised of three separate comic stories, all based around Christmas. I enjoyed all three of these stories, but the last one was probably the funniest to me. The notion that Homer’s realization that “The Nutcracker Suite” is in the public domain leads to a series of vignettes featuring the residents of Springfield, including a montage of Moe attempting suicide (which is probably very offensive to some) and a very sweet scene in which Marge’s gift to Homer is a gift for him to give to her, since she knew he’d forget to get one. This isn’t my favorite of the Simpsons Christmas specials, but it is a pretty funny one that I always enjoy watching.

If Bart is the savior, we're all doomed.

If Bart is the savior, we’re all doomed.

Santa and young Mr. Burns make a very cute couple.

Santa and young Mr. Burns make a very cute couple.

Lisa and Millhouse make a less convincing couple than Santa and Mr. Burns.

Lisa and Millhouse make a more awkward couple than Santa and Mr. Burns.

Because Christmas is doing for others what they would have done for you if you hadn't done it for them already.

Because Christmas is doing for others what they would have done for you if you hadn’t done it for them already.

Individual Superlative: Most Mischievous Newborn King – Bart Simpson as baby Jesus? Ay caramba!

Want to Watch it? The Simpsons: Christmas Stories is available on the Season 17 DVD or Blu-ray set.