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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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.

Daria: Depth Takes a Holiday

Title

Debuted in 1999

21 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Cupid and the St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun show up in Lawndale and tell Daria that they’re looking for Christmas, Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day, who have left Holiday Island and come here to start a band. Daria and Jane visit Holiday Island and discover that the high school there has been taken over by Presidents Day in the absence of the more popular holidays. Daria invites the missing holidays to bring their band to the Holiday Island High prom and that sets everything right again.

Fun Fact: In the Daria fandom, this is widely considered one of the worst episodes of the show.

My thoughts: The character of Daria got her start on the Beavis and Butthead show and was spun off into her own series, where she became more snarky and cynical. Not being a big fan of that brand of humor, I had never seen the show before so this was my introduction to it. Overall, I mostly enjoyed it. It seems to be written almost as a parody of Christmas episodes and there is apparently a lot of debate in the fandom as to whether or not this episode can be considered canon, as it seems to be mostly based in fantasy and not in the real world. The holidays are all represented as teenagers, which is new and interesting. Halloween is a goth girl and Guy Fawkes Day looks suspiciously like Sid Vicious. Even Santa has the appearance of a surfer dude with a Santa hat on. There’s a subplot where Cupid shoots Daria’s parents with his love Taser (no, that’s not a euphemism) to keep them out of their way and Daria’s younger sister, Quinn, is worried that they’re trying to have another baby. It’s nothing really special, but it’s definitely not the same old thing, which is its own kind of cool.

St Patrick and Valentine

Valentine’s Day has maybe been hitting the chocolates.

Parents kissing

Get a room, Mom & Dad!

Other holidays

Are Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day fighting again?

Presidents

Presidents Day is picking on Arbor Day.

Individual Superlative: Through the Wormhole – The holidays tell Daria that they were able to come to Lawndale through a wormhole behind the Good Times Chinese Restaurant. Apparently, fan fiction writers use this plot point to create all kinds of alternate universe stories for these characters.

Want to Watch it? Daria: Depth Takes a Holiday is available on iTunes and YouTube.

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.