The Fairly OddParents!: Christmas Every Day

Title

Debuted in 2001

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Timmy is excited about Christmas morning and wishes every day could be Christmas. Cosmo and Wanda grant his wish and it becomes a major problem, with most businesses staying closed and other holidays getting upset. When every kid wishes for December 26th, life returns to normal.

Fun Fact: The Fairly OddParents! ran for 16 years on Nickelodeon, making it the second longest animated series on the network.

My thoughts: The Fairly OddParents! got its start as part of the Oh Yeah! Cartoons show on Nickelodeon and was expanded into its own series and even a few live action movies. Timmy Turner is a boy with fairy godparents and he makes wishes that inevitably create problems that need to be resolved, leading to the conclusion that wishes are probably not as great as they are cracked up to be. In this episode, the problems are global and all the kids of the world have to come together to solve them. I really liked the plot’s resolution here and thought the episode was a lot of fun. The other holidays represented here are the Easter Bunny, Cupid and the April Fool, who is clearly a parody of Jerry Seinfeld, punctuating every statement with ‘What’s the deal with that?’ There is a lot of creativity at play in this show, with Cosmo and Wanda able to shape shift into different things to avoid detection. I thought this episode was a lot of fun.

Natural enemies

The miracle of Christmas can turn the bitterest enemies into friends.

Nog obsessed

Timmy’s Dad has eggnog addiction issues.

Other holidays

The baby new year could use a little cardio.

Children of the world

Italian kids have amazing moustache game.

Individual Superlative: The Economic Impact – Several different specials and characters have taken on the problematic issue of wishing for every day to be Christmas, but this is the first one I’ve seen that looks at it how it affects the global economy. Kids are growing up fast.

Want to Watch it? The Fairly Odd Parents: Christmas Every Day is available on DVD and YouTube.

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Bewitched: Sisters at Heart

Title

Debuted in 1970

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Darren and Samantha host the daughter of an African-American co-worker while he is out of town on a business trip and she and Tabitha decide they are temporary sisters. After another child tells them they can’t be sisters because they’re not the same color, Tabitha accidentally gives them both polka-dotted skin and Samantha has difficulty changing it back. Meanwhile, a man who was going to hire Darren for his company’s big advertising account refuses because he believes Darren is in a mixed marriage and when he realizes that this makes him racist, he apologizes and swears to do better.

Fun Fact: This was Elizabeth Montgomery’s favorite episode of the entire series.

My thoughts: This special wasn’t in my original lineup to review this year. I caught it on TV earlier this month and happened to notice that the credits listed a high school class and their teacher as contributors to the story. So, of course, I dove into learning the history of the episode and it was too interesting not to share. A 9th grade teacher at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles was having trouble reaching her class through reading assignments and wanted to trying using the medium of television, which they all enjoyed. She contacted several shows, but Bewitched was the only one to respond. Elizabeth Montgomery and her husband paid for the students to visit the set and they were so impressed that they wrote their own episode of the show and sent it to her. The show’s scriptwriter tweaked their script, but Ms. Montgomery insisted that no significant changes be made without the students’ approval. The students were even invited back to be part of the rehearsal and production of the episode. In its initial broadcast, it was preceded by a special introduction by Ms. Montgomery. I enjoyed this episode a lot, especially when we see Mr. Brockway (the big company owner) own up to his racism and want to change, which I really love because it underscores the message that it’s never too late to become a better person.

Whiteface

Is ‘whiteface’ as bad as ‘blackface?’ Are they equally bad?

Polka dots

Yikes! It’s contagious!

Larry Tate

Larry Tate makes checks to make sure it’s still him before telling Mr. Brockway that he doesn’t want his million dollar account. I love this moment.

Families

I know we’re supposed to see a beautiful holiday image of tolerance and equality but all I see is that I want Samantha’s skirt.

Individual Superlative: Best Back Story – Seriously, though, how cool is the back story on this episode?

Want to Watch it?Bewitched: Sisters at Heart is available on iTunes and it often shows up on cable during the holidays.

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.

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.

The Elf and the Magic Key

Title

Debuted in 1993

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Santa is kidnapped and the kidnappers want to exchange him for all the toys in the workshop. Toby the elf goes to see Mrs. Buzzard, who finds Santa in her crystal ball and gives Toby a magic key. Toby finds Santa being held by two guys who turn out to be Mrs. Buzzard’s two lost sons and Toby uses the magic key to reunite them all.

Fun Fact: The special was written by Lee Wilson, who plays Trixie the elf.

My thoughts: This special is a sequel to The Elf Who Saved Christmas, which debuted a year earlier. I originally watched these with my kids when they were little and other than Mrs. Buzzard (as played by Jo Ann Worley) coming off as a little scary to my son, they didn’t leave much of an impression. Both the script and the acting are over the top, as though you’re listening to someone patiently and slowly speaking to a person who doesn’t speak their language well. The two comic relief elves (Hoot and Smitty) bumble their way through some slapstick bits that just don’t manage to be funny, even to their intended audience. The only redeeming quality about this one is Santa’s big speech to the Buzzard Brothers. When they claim to have a right to be rotten because they were abandoned as kids, Santa explains that no one, no matter how tough their life has been, has the right to be mean to others. This is a really good message that more people need to hear. Unfortunately, not many people will sit through this saccharine packet of a special to hear it.

Big Mailbox

This mailbox does not comply with Post Office standards.

Bumbling Elves

Hoot and Smitty doing some antics.

Mrs. Buzzard

Okay, I can see why Mrs. Buzzard was scary.

Santa and Toby All Tied Up

These ropes don’t look all that secure.

Individual Superlative: Give Toby a Raise! – In both these special and its predecessor, Toby (who seems to be a pretty low level elf) takes matters into her own hands and saves Christmas. Dang, I hope she gets a good Christmas bonus!

Want to Watch it? The Elf and the Magic Key is available on DVD and YouTube.

 

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.

Santa’s Workshop

TitleDebuted in 1932

7 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: It’s Christmas Eve and the elves are busy prepping the reindeer and finalizing all the toys. Santa makes a final review of the naughty and nice list and inspects the toys before packing them up for his trip. A toy airplane knocks several shelves worth of toys onto the floor, where they have an impromptu parade into Santa’s bag and he bids everyone farewell, then flies away on his sleigh.

Fun Fact: This was the fourth Silly Symphony animated short to be released in full color.

My thoughts: Disney’s contract distribution deal with United Artists significantly boosted the quality of the studio’s animated shorts and this is one where you can really see the difference. The backgrounds are loaded with details and there’s so much going on in every frame. I think I saw this one for the first time as part of the Disney Channel Christmas special, when it was kind of meshed together with The Night Before Christmas (which picks up right where this one leaves off) and I loved it. I’ve always had a particular love of those cartoons that showed manufacturers or artists at work, with lots of funny gags on how things are made. This one is full of all kinds of silly concepts, such as checkerboard paint (for making checkerboards) and scaring the dolls with spiders to make their hair stand on end so it can be permed. The scene in which an African-American doll says ‘mammy’ instead of ‘mama’ is almost always removed when this short is aired. Santa is depicted as delightfully jolly and fun-loving, succumbing to the urge to play with his own toys a bit. And the elf who promises to add a cake of soap to Billy Brown’s stocking is voiced by Walt Disney himself. This one’s a nice dash of Christmas cheer.

Head elf

The elf who monitors good behavior doesn’t stand for shenanigans.

Santa and list

Could Santa be any jollier?

Tail drill

Yikes!  Did you get permission from the horses for this?

OK

Santa just approved this doll’s behind. No wonder he’s jolly.

Individual Superlative: Equal Opportunity Offender – In addition to the African-American stereotype doll, there are also Asian and Jewish stereotype toys in the toy parade at the end.  Just to make sure they didn’t leave anyone out in the ‘Wow, is this going to be controversial in a few decades’ category.

Want to Watch it? Santa’s Workshop is available on DVD and YouTube.