Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

titleDebuted in 1988

44 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Ebenezer Blackadder is the kindest man in England and although he’s only planned a modest Christmas for himself and his employee, Baldrick, he ends up giving away all their money, food and presents. The Spirit of Christmas visits him during the night to congratulate him on his goodness and mentions that his ancestors were not as good, showing him the sly craftiness of two of them. When Ebenezer Blackadder sees what the future hold if he stays good versus what happens if he becomes devious and greedy like the others, he sees that ‘bad guys have all the fun’ and changes his ways.

Fun Fact: Robbie Coltrane’s appearance as the Spirit of Christmas is very similar to his appearance as Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies and, since J.K. Rowling started writing the first book two years after this special, some believe was inspired by this when writing the character.

My thoughts: It’s always great to see a take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that is truly innovative and this one absolutely turns it on its head. Here, the Scrooge character starts out good and becomes bad because of what the ghost shows him and it’s very funny, particularly if you’re already familiar with the characters from the Blackadder BBC series.  The show ran for four seasons, each set in a different time period and centered around Edmund Blackadder (played by Rowan Atkinson), a scheming man whose motivations lean toward acquiring more power, money or status for himself. This special aired between Seasons 2 and 3 and showed new scenes from Season 2 (which took place in Medieval England) and Season 3 (which was set during the Elizabethan Era). The future scenes showed Blackadder’s descendant becoming a galactic High Commander and marrying a queen if he goes bad versus becoming a slave to Baldrick’s descendants if he stays good. The show is full of laugh out loud moments and silly characters, and there’s a great moral punch line where Ebenezer discovers that his new bad behavior has directly prevented him from receiving a special reward from Queen Victoria, showing how ultimately, you reap what you sow. It’s a fun and enjoyable take on the classic tale.

spirit-of-christmas

The Spirit of Christmas looks like he could use a good conditioner.

queen-elizabeth

I like to think Queen Elizabeth looked and acted exactly like this.

piglet-features

It’s too late to cover her ears now, Albert. She already heard Blackadder call her ‘Queen Piglet Features.’

future

It takes a courageous man to wear that skimpy costume.

Individual Superlative: Most Bizarrely Hilarious Rewritten Christmas Song – The very large orphans serenade Mr. Blackadder with a version of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ in which they replace almost all the words with repetitions of ‘piggy wiggy woo’ and that ridiculous version has become a holiday staple in our house.

Want to Watch it? Blackadder’s Christmas Carol  is available on DVD and iTunes.

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.

Black Dynamite: A Crisis for Christmas

TitleDebuted in 2011

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Black Dynamite tries to make himself more likeable to the orphans in order to give them a happier Christmas and he discovers that they all look up to his old nemesis, O.J. Simpson, who is preparing to travel to the moon. Black Dynamite decides to go to the moon as well and just before launch, O.J. abandons ship out of fear of not surviving the trip. The ship does have a major malfunction (where it explodes), but Black Dynamite survives and makes it safely back to the Whorephanage.

Fun Fact: All of the main characters are voiced by the same people who played the roles in the 2009 movie.

My thoughts: I usually mention when a special I’m reviewing is one that gets watched every year. Since we added this one to our collection, it is one of the few that gets watched multiple times every Christmas season, usually whenever someone comes over who hasn’t seen it yet. Like the live action movie that inspired it, this show is definitely not for kids (the inclusion of something called a Whorephanage might have tipped you off to that) but we found it absolutely hilarious, with lots of quotable lines of dialogue that keep us laughing through the whole year. The show is set in the 1970’s and the inclusion of O.J. Simpson as the most likeable black man in America is wincingly perfect, remembering his squeaky clean image from those days and knowing what we know now. The series ended after only two seasons, but I’m sure glad they managed to produce at least one Christmas episode, because this one is an irreverent and ridiculously funny gem.

Intimidating Santa

Black Dynamite may have been a little too forceful with Jolly Old St. Nick.

Spelling Bee

A flashback scene shows young Black Dynamite (with a full moustache) up against young O.J. Simpson in a spelling bee.

OJ and the Whorephanage

O.J. kindly takes over management of the Whorephanage after Black Dynamite is assumed dead.

Amazon moon orphans

“Amazon moon bitches got kids, too!”

Individual Superlative: Fa La La La What? – Black Dynamite’s version starts out with ‘Check them hos, but keep them jolly’ and that’s when you know you’re in for something out of the ordinary.

Want to Watch it? Black Dynamite: A Crisis for Christmas is available on the Adult Swim website.

Robot Chicken’s ATM Christmas Special

Title

Debuted in 2012

11 minutes

Plot in 1 Sentence: Comedy sketches include Santa dreaming about missing Christmas, Justin Bieber singing a Christmas song and G.I. Joe characters confused about what to get Snake Eyes.

Fun Fact: The show’s creators met with G.I. Joe comic book writer Larry Hama and recorded a short video clip with him that appears in the show.

My thoughts: Robot Chicken is very hit and miss with me. There are some funny ideas and I could pull together bits and pieces from all of their Christmas specials over the years to make one episode that I really enjoyed. There are almost always one or two references that I just don’t understand simply because I am not deeply immersed in pop culture, especially when it comes to video games and contemporary TV series. I usually know enough to get what the joke is going for, but not enough to find it funny. And while I am a fan of some shock humor, it wears thin on me if I feel like they’re just trying to see how far over the line they can go. I did think the idea of Santa trying to track down Jason Bourne just so he could give him a present was pretty funny but overall, I thought this one didn’t have much going for it.

Santa

This is not your mom’s Santa.

Bieber

And this is not your daughter’s Bieber.

Betrayed

It’s never easy to break up with your Christmas tree.

The Grinch

Okay, having the Nerd be even angrier at the Grinch when he finds out it’s the Jim Carrey Grinch was pretty funny.

Individual Superlative: Finish Un-Strong – To let you know exactly the level of comedy you can expect here, the show ends on a rape joke. Oh…and it’s a necrophiliac rape joke.

Want to Watch it? Robot Chicken ATM Christmas Special is available on Amazon Video.

South Park – Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics

Title

Plot in 3 Sentences: Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo, introduces musical numbers sung by the citizens of South Park. The songs include some new songs as well as traditional holiday songs.

Fun Fact: A TV station in Russia had to agree to never show this episode again, after complaints almost resulted in the loss of their license to air the show.

My thoughts: When it comes to truly offensive holiday specials, it doesn’t get much more ‘in your face’ than this. After Season 1 introduced us to Mr. Hankey, a talking piece of poop that visits during the holidays, this show raised the bar with scenes of John F. Kennedy reunited in hell with John, Jr. (who had died earlier that year) and Mr. Garrison verbally abusing those who celebrate any other religious holiday in an outrageously non-PC song called ‘Merry Fucking Christmas.’ An album featuring all the songs from the special (and a few extra songs as well) was released about a week before the special aired and reached #33 on Billboard’s list of Christmas albums for the year. As always, some of the original songs are really clever, although ridiculously offensive, and there are some very funny moments. Fans of South Park’s irreverent humor will enjoy this one a lot.

 

Singing Mr. Hankey

What a festive singing piece of poop.

Hannukah

It’s a whole new take on the dreidel song.

Gene and Diana

Princess Diana and Gene Siskel under the mistletoe, as Satan sings his Christmas song.

Jesus and Santa

Jesus and Santa have a lounge act where they battle religious carols against secular songs. Santa closes with Duran Duran’s ‘Rio.’

Individual Superlative: A Tender Moment Amidst the Chaos – The end of the show features a montage of all the show’s female characters, since this was the final episode in which they were voiced by Mary Kay Bergman, who died about a month before the show aired. This show was dedicated to her memory.

Want to Watch it? South Park: Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics is available on DVD.

A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All

TitleDebuted in 2008
43 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Stephen Colbert is trapped (by a bear) inside a mountain cabin when he should be in New York, taping his Christmas special with Elvis Costello. Friends stop by and perform musical numbers with him and an angel grants his wish, bringing Elvis Costello to the cabin, where he is eaten by the bear. Santa saves Elvis and reveals that the special is on DVD, which is the greatest gift of all.

Fun Fact: Stephen told all of his fans to download the soundtrack from iTunes at a specific time so that it would overtake Kanye West’s album. He called it Operation Humble Kanye.

My thoughts: There are lots of things I like about this special and I’m glad that it’s become one of those that Comedy Central replays every year. This format, which mimics those old cheesy (and yet awesome) Christmas specials from singers like Andy Williams or Perry Como, really works for Colbert’s television persona. The songs, most of which were written by David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger, are fantastic and it was no surprise when the soundtrack won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album. The inclusion of an acoustic version of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” is wonderful, throwing a little warmth and heart into the special. I really enjoy this one.

Stephen and Elvis

Elvis Costello looks like he’s having so much fun during this show.

John Legend

From what I know of nutmeg, it probably didn’t mind being objectified in this song.

Toby Keith

You can actually find this video on some conservative websites, where they don’t seem to know it’s intended as a satire.

Besties

If these two can be friends, there’s hope for all of us!

Individual Superlative: Most Inappropriate Gift for Baby Jesus – Marijuana is just not an appropriate gift for the infant son of God.  (Or the infant son of pretty much anyone, to be honest.  Even if it is on their registry.)

Want to Watch it? A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All is available on DVD, Blu-ray and iTunes. It usually airs in reruns on Comedy Central during the holidays.