It’s Better to Give

20180423-205349Debuted in 1963

5 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Jughaid is angry at Santa for never bringing him the bicycle he’s been asking for so Snuffy, thinking a kind gesture for Santa might help, suggests they build a television set as a gift for Santa. Meanwhile, Loweezy uses various pipes and parts to build a makeshift bike for Jughaid so he won’t be disappointed. On Christmas morning, Jughaid finds a real bike in his stocking and there’s also a real television for Snuffy, with a note from Santa, who is glad they learned the importance of giving.

Fun Fact: The original comic strip that these characters are based on is the longest currently running comic strip in the United States.

My thoughts: I remember Snuffy Smith from the comics section of the newspaper, which I really enjoyed reading when I was a kid. I don’t think I ever knew the history behind the strip, which started in 1919 with the character of Barney Google. In 1934, Barney travelled to the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina and met moonshiner Snuffy Smith. He was so popular that Barney kind of faded into the distance and Snuffy and his family took over as the main characters. King Features produced 50 animated shorts featuring these characters and the comic strip, incidentally, is still running today. The character voices are over-exaggerated ‘hillbilly’ talk that was played for humor back in the 60’s, but is mostly just annoying to listen to now. I think it’s particularly cute that Snuffy reacts to Jughaid’s (hey, it’s their spelling, not mine) anger by putting a positive spin on it and trying to teach him the joy of giving. Overall, I think this one is pretty forgettable unless you, like me, grew up with the comic and are just curious to see those characters in their animated forms.

20180423-205418

I kind of hope Santa brings Loweezy a good supportive bra.

20180423-205451

No matter how hard you hug it, Snuffy, that thing is not going to pick up HBO.

20180423-205502

She built a working bike from pipes and household items. Respect.

20180423-205546

When Loweezy (as Santa) has trouble getting back up the chimney, Snuffy just unzips it. Well, duh.

Individual Superlative: Most Self Confident Theme Song – The words to the theme song are ‘Great balls of fire, I’m bodacious!’ I supposed if you started every day out singing that to yourself, you’d have the confidence to master anything.

Want to Watch it? It’s Better to Give is available on YouTube.

Advertisements

Davey and Goliath: Christmas Lost and Found

Title

Debuted in 1965

29 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Davey doesn’t have the Christmas spirit so he goes out to do holiday errands, hoping he will be inspired. While buying the Christmas tree, he makes friends with Kenny, the boy working at the tree lot. The kids put on a Christmas pageant and at the last minute, Davey offers his role as a king to Kenny and in doing so, finally feels the Christmas spirit.

Fun Fact: This episode marked the last time that Davey’s voice was provided by Dick Beals, who was his original voice actor.

My thoughts: Davey and Goliath was a children’s television show using clay animation characters to tell stories that taught moral lessons. The show was funded by the Lutheran Church of America and when I was growing up, it aired here on Sunday mornings (so you could watch it on any mornings that you didn’t go to church and still say you got your dose of religion).  The animation was done by Art Clokey, who also did the Gumby series. This Christmas special was produced during the years between Season 3 (which ended in 1964) and Season 4 (which started in 1971). While some of the earlier episodes were less overt in their religious tone, this one lays it on pretty thick. The one thing I was struck by in watching this was the scarcity of adults and the fact that it looked like kids did most of the working and organizing of events in the town. Maybe Davey was just overworked from all the chores he had to do, including all the preparation for the Christmas pageant, and that’s why he wasn’t feeling Christmas. It was cool to see this again since I remember this show from my childhood, but I found it kind of maudlin.

Depressed Davey

Emo Davey is emo.

Tobacco store

Dude, you’re selling tobacco to a kid?

Joe's Sound truck

The Joe’s Sound truck provides plot exposition at no extra cost.

Smitten Sally

Sally is fully under the spell of baby Jesus and will do his every bidding.

Individual Superlative: Lighten Up, Kid! – Seriously, Davey is a major downer through this whole thing, constantly telling everyone how he just doesn’t feel Christmas and always wearing a sad sack expression. I mean, I get that he ain’t feelin’ it, but maybe a little perspective and a little less self-pity would have helped.

Want to Watch it? Davey & Goliath: Christmas Lost and Found is available on VHS, DVD and YouTube.

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.

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.

Christmas Is

Title

Debuted in 1970

25 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: Benji is disappointed to be a second shepherd in the Christmas pageant because he doesn’t feel that it’s an important role. He falls asleep and dreams that he’s in Bethlehem, where he meets a shepherd who was at the stable when Jesus was born. Realizing that baby Jesus is the only important one in the play, he embraces his role.

Fun Fact: This special was produced by the Lutheran Television company.

My thoughts: It was no surprise at all to me to see that this special had been funded by a religious organization, since it comes across as a little heavy handed with its plot and characterizations. It opens with a song (Christmas All over the World) being sung by a tableau of children in the traditional costumes of many different nations. I find this a little interesting when it then goes immediately into a story based on Christian tradition, thereby flying in the face of several of the countries and nationalities depicted in the opening song. Benji is comically emo about his pageant role, sarcastically calling it ‘so original’ to sing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ once they get to Bethlehem and being a little judgmental to his friend, Jimmy, who is playing an elf in his own school play. These same characters appeared in a follow-up special, The City that Forgot Christmas, in which Benji is a little older. There were also Easter and July 4th specials featuring Benji and Waldo, too.

Angry teacher

This teacher is not putting up with shenanigans.

Children of the World

Children of the world, unite!

Emo Benjy

Before you go all pissy about your role in the play, maybe get off your dog.

Elf vs Shepherd

Does he really envy Jimmy for that hat?

Individual Superlative: O Holy Dog – Waldo seems to be a part of the pageant somehow, but no one explains why he’s there. I don’t remember a dog being one of the animals by the manger. Maybe he’s portraying a sheep, since he’s a sheepdog.

Want to Watch it? Christmas Is is available on YouTube and sometimes shows up during holiday programming.

Aliens First Christmas

Title

Debuted in 1991

26 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: The Peoples family is celebrating their first Christmas on the planet Zolonia and it’s not going well. Roger accidentally destroys all the decorations and then tries to buy gifts that turn out to actually be dangerous creatures. Their neighbors, Mavo and Charlick Zox, try to lift their spirits by recreating the holiday and their kind thoughts help create a little Christmas magic.

Fun Fact: In Aliens Next Door, the first pilot in this would-be series, it looks like the planet was originally called Bolognia.

My thoughts: This was actually a second pilot episode of what the creators were hoping would get picked up for an animated series, but that was one Christmas wish that never came true. The show opens with a song that explains the backstory, in which an American family is relocated to a distant planet and I’m sure there were plans for all sorts of wacky hijinks to happen in which the Earthlings were seen as the ones with all the strange habits. This one is a mass of cliché and predictable humor and not much to recommend it, really, although you could watch it to see if you can count how many elements are stolen from other television shows. The family’s pet, for example, seems like the Jetson’s Astro and the Flintstone’s Dino got together and had a baby. The Peoples’ son, Benny, is like a poor man’s Elroy Jetson but with an absolutely ridiculous voice. Of course, their neighbors misunderstand everything about the holiday and get it all wrong, but who shows up to save the day? Santa Claus! Apparently his magical reindeer can not only fly, but can also travel in space!

Electrocuted

Roger is thoroughly shocked.

Not a hat

How does he seriously think this monster thing is a hat?

Alien Tree

The Zox’s misread ‘pine tree’ as ‘spine tree.’  It’s funny, right?

Surprise Xmas

Oh look, it’s a Merry Christmas after all!

Individual Superlative: A Man of Many Hats – Jerry Reynolds provides the voice of Roger, but is also a writer, director, producer, animator and composer on this show.

Want to Watch it?Aliens First Christmas is available on VHS, DVD and YouTube.

Buster & Chauncey’s Silent Night

TitleDebuted in 1998

45 minutes

Plot in 3 Sentences: The small Austrian town of Oberndorf is preparing for a visit from the Queen and two musical mice named Buster and Chauncey are determined to make their fortune during her visit. Meanwhile, a pair of thieves is in town to steal the church’s fortune and they plan to pin the crime on an orphan taking shelter in the church. The church’s organist hears a melody that Chauncey plays on his violin and sets the pastor’s poem to music, creating the song, ‘Silent Night,’ which they perform for the queen, who volunteers to help the orphan find her family.

Fun Fact: Providing the voice for Chauncey is comedy great Phil Hartman, in his final role.

My thoughts: In a genre that is already rife with convoluted plot lines, this one still stands out. There is so much going on in this mess that it was a real struggle to condense it into three sentences that still made sense. (Well, some semblance of sense, anyway.) It actually plays out like a typical musical and the songs are the best part, written by Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. The big opening number actually raised my expectations for this show, but I’m sorry to say that the rest of the special didn’t live up to it. At its core, this is the story of the creation of the carol, ‘Silent Night,’ with a lot of claptrap padding the story out. There have been several specials about this particular carol and they all have a different version of the story, mostly based on a legend about the church’s organ being broken. I can’t imagine any version being more long-winded and needlessly complex than this one.

Buster & Chauncey

Dang, these are some well-dressed mice.

Christina

Just in case they don’t feel sorry for the orphan, let’s cast her as an angel in the Christmas play.

Bad guys

Those are definitely villainous eyebrows. I never fell for their ruse.

The queen

What is the queen hiding in her hair?

Individual Superlative: Most Omniscient Queen – When they introduce the song ‘Silent Night,’ singing it for the first time, the Queen jumps in and takes the second verse, as if she knew the words all along. Maybe she was just a really good improviser.

Want to Watch it?Buster & Chauncey’s Silent Night is available on VHS and DVD.