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.

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Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration

 

TitleDebuted in 1987

24 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Two dinosaurs, Rex and Herb, serve as hosts and introduce short Christmas musical vignettes. In between the musical numbers, they make jokes, eat snacks and share a little history about some of the carols included. At the end, all the different characters from the songs join them in the final song.

Fun Fact: This special won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.

My thoughts: Patric Miller, who did the music for this special, shared his story of this special’s history and how it was originally going to be more geared toward young children. Gradually, it changed and the animators wanted to make it more hip and appropriate for an older audience. The inclusion of the California Raisins sets this special pretty firmly in its time period and I think that their segment, which is a version of ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,’ is the weakest segment of the show. My favorite segment is ‘Joy to the World’ which uses clay painting and a bluesy sound to celebrate joy in the context of the birth of Jesus and the love that families and friends have for each other. The animation is beautiful and the song is great. The banter between the hosts (who are reminiscent of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert) is a little forced and the recurring joke about the real lyrics of ‘Here We Come A’Wassailing’ doesn’t hold up to repeated viewings, but overall I really enjoy watching this one.

Hosts

You can instantly tell which is the serious one and which is the goofball.

Bell

And this guy is never going to get anything right.

Walruses

Walruses are always funny.

Raisins

These guys overextended their 15 minutes.

Individual Superlative: And Your Name Is? – Depending on where you look it up, this special is either called Will Vinton’s Claymation ChristmasA Claymation Christmas Celebration or just A Claymation Christmas. Either way, though, it’s Claymation. That much, we can be sure of.

Want to Watch it? Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration is available on DVD and YouTube.

Back at the Barnyard: It’s an Udderful Life

titleDebuted in 2009

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Otis throws a big holiday party on Christmas Eve and his high school friends Donner & Blitzen drop by with Santa during their delivery run. Otis accidentally gives Santa the wrong cup of eggnog and he comes down with ferret fever, incapacitating him for the night. Otis and the barnyard animals step in and deliver the last presents to prevent Christmas magic from disappearing forever.

Fun Fact: The title is a reference to It’s a Wonderful Life and Snotty Boy’s Christmas wish to receive a Red Ryder BB Taser references A Christmas Story.

My thoughts: This is the Christmas episode of Back at the Barnyard, which was a television spinoff of the 2006 animated movie, Barnyard, written and directed by Steve Oedekerk. The TV series ran for two seasons and this was the only Christmas episode. There’s a lot going on here and most of it seems to be trying to be in your face and edgy. There are some moments that made me laugh, but I’m not a big fan of this animation style or this type of humor, so most of it went a little wide of the mark for me. The idea that Christmas magic will disappear if Santa doesn’t get all the presents under the tree by midnight seems to reinforce the materialistic theme that so many specials work to defy. I feel like this is a show where you have to know something about the characters (and there are lots of them – they’re hard to keep straight) in order to really appreciate the special. So probably I’d say this is one for fans of the show, but not necessarily for anyone else.

narrator

The narrator is a bit of a hot mess.

snotty-kiss

Mistletoe can be the start of a beautiful relationship.  But not this one.

santa-has-the-fever

Santa in the grip of Ferret Fever.

hoobermans

The show is full of bizarre (but also pretty funny) plugs for Hoobermans bakery.

Individual Superlative: Don’t Eat Before Watching – There are several gross-out jokes in this show, including the narrator giving himself a root canal, filing his foot calluses and asking the audience to look at the boil on his neck.

Want to Watch it? Back to the Barnyard: It’s an Udderful Life is available on DVD.

Gullah Gullah Island: A Gullah Gullah Christmas

title

Debuted in 1997

23 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Shaina dreams that she goes to the North Pole and meets Santa. When the reindeer all get sick, Binyah Binyah Pollywog stands in for them and pulls Santa’s sleigh. The family enjoys Christmas together.

Fun Fact: During its original broadcast, Gullah Gullah Island was Nickelodeon’s highest-rated preschool show.

My thoughts: It’s easy to dismiss Gullah Gullah Island as yet another saccharine representation of a picture-perfect family with parents who balance wisdom and kindness, cherubic well-mannered children and even a wonderful extended family to smooth over the rough spots if anyone has a slip. But there’s something immensely likeable about this show and I found myself entertained by the fun they all seemed to be having and the genuine care they all showed for each other. The mother and father here are Ron and Natalie Daise, who are married in real life and the kids are played by their own children, who are all actually talented. But the show wasn’t a vanity project (as you may imagine from the cast) but rather a celebration of the Gullah culture of the sea islands around South Carolina and Georgia. The character of Binyah Binyah Polliwog is the most tiresome part of the show for me (but probably also a favorite of kids, so I’ll cut him some slack) and he features largely in this Christmas special. There are some cute touches, such as the garden that grows Christmas ornaments, and there are lots of fun musical numbers, but overall, it’s not one I watch every year.

binyah

Is Binyah Binyah throwing gang signs here?  I have concerns.

santa

Santa’s beard game is on point.

mrs-claus

But Mrs. Santa seems to be channeling the Bride of Frankenstein.

elfis

And Elfis is channeling…no, I don’t want to know.

Individual Superlative: Elfis Has Left the Building – One of the elves that Shaina meets in her dream North Pole is ‘Elfis’ who dresses and talks like Elvis Presley. I’m sure 90’s kids really loved that joke.

Want to Watch it? Gullah Gullah Island: A Gullah Gullah Christmas is available on VHS and DVD.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Title

Debuted in 1970

51 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: A foundling child is adopted by a family of toymakers and he grows up determined to deliver his family’s toys to children in nearby Sombertown, where toys are outlawed. In order to do so, he befriends the Winter Warlock, charms a local schoolteacher and finds ways to get around the town’s rules. He marries the schoolteacher, eventually limits his toy deliveries to once a year (on Christmas Eve) and becomes Santa Claus.

Fun Fact: This was the first time that Mickey Rooney provided the voice of Santa Claus. He did it again in The Year Without a Santa Claus, Rudolph & Frosty’s Christmas in July, The Happy Elf and A Miser Brothers’ Christmas. Maybe he was so good at it because his actual last name was Yule.

My thoughts: This classic special has been a part of my Christmas for as long as I can remember. I was terrified of the Winter Warlock and his razor sharp teeth, so his transformation was always a big deal to me. And I used to think that the ‘Put One Foot in Front of the Other’ song was a big waste of time, but as an adult, I can better appreciate the concept of achieving goals by taking small steps. (So now it’s just Jessica’s love song, ‘My World is Beginning Today,’ with its trippy animation that I forward through.) Fred Astaire reprised his role as mailman/narrator S.D. Kluger in a similar special that explores the origin of the Easter Bunny. Burgermeister Meisterburger is a fantastic villain here and I kind of like that the story resolves with the people realizing that his laws are silly and overturning them. I could make a really good political statement here, but it’s Christmas so I’m not going there. In addition to being a good origin story, this special sets Santa up as a role model for perseverance and positivity. I’m glad this one is still out there entertaining a whole new generation. (And let’s face it…this is where we all learned the word ‘burgermeister.’)

A baby baby

This scene is equal parts ridiculous and awesome. “A baby baby, Zingle.”

Winter and Kris

Putting one foot in front of another is still the best way to get where you’re going.

Burgermeister

Burgermeisters just want to have fun.

Fever dream

“Before we animate Jessica’s song, let’s all drop acid!”

Individual Superlative: They Cut What? – Over the years, they’ve trimmed the special down to allow for more commercials by cutting songs and taking out the ‘traumatic scenes’ of Burgermeister Meisterburger setting fire to the toys. But some versions have removed the clips of Kris Kringle jumping from house to house on the rooftops, out of fear that kids will emulate his dangerous behavior, which seems ludicrous to me when you’re talking about a guy who has flying reindeer.

Want to Watch it? Santa Claus is Coming to Town is available on VHS, DVD, YouTube and it still comes on TV annually.

Marvel’s Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. – It’s a Wonderful Smash

Title

Debuted in 2014

22 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: After a battle with some bad guys leaves parts of the city in shambles, A-Bomb wishes that the Hulks could be more appreciated for the good that they do. We next see them living the lives of their dreams, rich and famous in a luxurious penthouse, but that turns out to be a false reality the Collector is using to keep them prisoner. The agents of S.M.A.S.H. team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to break free, defeat the Collector and retrieve the Orb of Truth.

Fun Fact: This episode was produced to be part of Season 1, but aired during Season 2.

My thoughts: Let’s face it – I am not the target demographic for this show. I have enjoyed the recent Marvel movies (especially Guardians of the Galaxy) but have never been a big fan of the comic book hero genre overall. So I had my husband watch this one with me to get a second opinion, but we were pretty much on the same page. About halfway through the show, I asked what any of this had to do with Christmas and then remembered that the original battle takes place in a city decorated for the holidays. At the end, they explain Christmas to the Guardians of the Galaxy and have a warm and fuzzy moment when they talk about the sense of family that you have in a super hero group. In retrospect, it seemed like just I watched 15 minutes of weird things punching and shooting each other, with a few minutes of plot and a non-stop parade of new characters coming and going. I’ll give it a few comic points for having A-Bomb hallucinate having Eliza Dushku for a girlfriend when she does the voice of She-Hulk on the show. But this one is strictly for those who are already fans.

Destroyed city

The Christmas tree in the background makes the destruction look festive!

Guitar Playing

A-Bomb plays guitar in a band in his fantasy world.

Hulk and SheHulk

“Why Hulk wearing dumb sweater?”

Not Groot

No, you are NOT Groot.

Individual Superlative: I AM GROSS – Groot was awesome in the movie, but in this thing, he is absolutely terrifying. His tree face here looks like a nightmare of evil. I mean, look at him! I want the movie version back!

Want to Watch it? Marvel’s Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H: It’s a Wonderful SMASH is available on YouTube.

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.