and all across the nation
all of America's eyes
were tuned to one TV station.
This week, holiday specials have been everywhere,
as the networks scramble with no new shows to air!
Charlie Brown upon Grinch upon ogre upon Claus,
it is time to sit back, take a breath and hit "pause"
as we review three holiday specials airing this week,
of course I watched them all -- I'm a television freak!
So take a break from your television drama,
because it is time for the holiday special review-o-rama!
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Originally aired: December 9, 1965
The episode opens on the Young Skater Tabernacle Choir, setting the scene for that little holiday that we all would forget about if it weren't for the ads that began airing in August.
The majority of the special is spent discussing Charlie Brown's bouts with seasonal depression (what else is new...). Apparently, if its a day ending in "-day," then Charlie is depressed. On the advice of his Shrink, Charlie gets involved in Christmas, directing the school's play for all of the foghorns parents of the town. Unfortunately, the actors would rather dance then act, and a lot of valuable rehearsal time is spent on dancing...not that I am against sporadic dance parties, but don't they realize that their director is on suicide watch?
Frustrated at the over-commercialization of the holidays exhibited through his greedy friends and family, Charlie decides to make the play as traditional as possible, starting with a tree. Unfortunately, the town's Christmas Tree lot only sells tin trees, save for one small mini-tree desperately clinging to life. Stuck in his mindset, Charlie and Linus choose the tree, much to the horror of the play's cast. They wanted a huge tree with flashing lights and musical tinsel! Is that too much to ask for?
Frustrated, Charlie cries to the heavens and everyone listening for the answer to a simple question: "Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?" Fortunately, our little bible expert
Wow. What an amazing special-
Wait. What is this? WE STILL HAVE ANOTHER THIRTY MINUTES?! Following A Charlie Brown Christmas is Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales, a series of short vignettes compiled in 2002 to remind people that ABC is not too preachy. Unfortunately, the shorts are wayy too cheesy, and although they look and act the same, the characters are not Charles Schultz's gang.
Back to A Charlie Brown Christmas. Even though I am Jewish, I can totally appreciate the message of the special: We oftentimes forget about the true meaning of the holidays as we spend way too much money on presents and not enough time on tradition. Aside from the month of Christmas music played by Sunny 99.1 and the 24-hour Christmas Story marathon on TBS, there is not much to look forward to year after year on Christmas. Through the teachings of the great Linus Van Pelt, we all can learn what it truly means to be thankful this holiday season.
Cheer Rating: ***** (For the sake of the blog, those are snowflakes.)
Note: For more laughs, check out this hilarious re-dubbing, courtesy of the cast of Scrubs.
2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Originally aired: December 23, 1966
Time for another classic tale, featuring the fantastic voice talents for Mr. Boris Karloff (The original Frankenstein film). The special opens on Christmas Eve in the small (pun intended) town of Who-ville, where, as we learn through song (rhymed in a way only Dr. Seuss could pull off), all of the citizens prepare year-'round for Christmas. Everyone is frantically decorating for the day, eagerly anticipating the arrival of Santa. Unfortunately, one Who-ville resident is not looking forward to the holidays- The Grinch.
Apparently, the Grinch was born with a heart defect that does not allow him to feel the warmth and love of the holiday season. Sadly, this is not enough for Mr. Grinch. He must also stop everyone else from enjoying the holiday...because the celebrants make too much noise. unfortunately, it seems that the children of Who-ville not only asked for toys, but they also want to play with their toys -- I totally see the Grinch's point! What an odd tradition!
Also, acting as the Who-ville rep for PETA, The Grinch speaks out against the eating of roast beef, proclaiming it as the thing that he likes the least. That is, besides singing/ noise/ holiday cheer. On Christmas Day, every Who gathers in town square to sing around the Christmas Tree, joyfully celebrating the magic of Christmas. This idea does not sit well with our green friend. The whole holiday must be stopped! But how?
Channeling Danny Ocean, The Grinch hatches the perfect scheme- dress up as Santa Claus, and steal Christmas! Cue the training montage, to the tune of my favorite holiday song. Enlisting the aid of his dog/slave, Max, Grinch hatches his plan, going through the town and stealing everything, from the stockings to the presents to the yuletide log! His plan is almost foiled by one tiny Who named Cindy, but luckily kids are gullible and easy to lie to. With a sled full to the brim with holiday cheer, the Grinch heads back up to Mt. Crumpitt to listen for the cries of sadness from Who-ville.
What we does here, however, is something completely different. The sounds coming from the town were not cries of sorrow, but...joy. This is not Charlie Brown's town -- no one here is the least bit materialistic! With or without holiday decorations and presents, the Whos are just happy to be together.
Suddenly, the Grinch's heart, through some medical miracle, grows three sizes in his chest! Saving the sled from being demolished at the last minute, the Grinch rushes down the mountain and returns Christmas to the town, even staying long enough to carve the roast beef. If you can't beat them, join them, right?
Although completely different, the same message that Linus tries to get across to his friends is evident here -- it is not the presents and decorations that make Christmas special. It is the people, the cheer and the festive traditions that make the holidays memorable. Well, that and the ridiculous eggnog stories.
Cheer Rating: **** (Snowflake deducted for the lack of bible references)
3. Shrek the Halls
Originally aired: November 28, 2007
*Featuring the voices of Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas
From one mean, green fellow to another, we now travel away from Who-ville to the kingdom of Far, Far Away, where a happy ogre family is celebrating the last days of summer. Unfortunately, Donkey shows up channeling the mind of corporate America, reminding Shrek that there are only a few days until Chirstmas...better get to work! Shrek dismisses these reminders, refusing to plan ahead of time for Christmas. Suddenly, it is too late, and Shrek is left empty-handed as Fiona eagerly anticipates her first Christmas with her family.
Shrek ventures through the snow, ice and blizzards to purchase a copy of Christmas for Village Idiots. Simply put, Christmas is broken down into steps, the most important of which is retelling the Christmas story. Reassured by this step by step guide, Shrek steps out of the store and smack into the middle of the last minute-shopping hurricane, randomly sending parents careening into stores looking for that one action figure that can't be lived without.
The next day, Fiona wakes up surprised to find Shrek decorating the house for Christmas and getting into the spirit. As always, Donkey stops by to hatch a plan that in theory sounds great but probably won't work until the very end of the special when a lesson is learned. Just a hunch.
Together, Fiona and Shrek prepare for Christmas, utilizing the natural manna of the swamp for inspiration, decoration and mastication. Pretty soon, everything is perfect for Shrek's retelling of The Night before Christmas, which probably hasn't even been invented yet, but whatever. Of course, this is when Donkey shows up, bearing gifts and followed by the entire Shrek clan- Gingy, Big Bad Wolf, Puss in Boots and more.
Naturally, everything is ruined as a rave suddenly pops up in Shrek's house, courtesy of Fatboy Slim and Journey.
Angered, Shrek storms out, missing his family-style Christmas. Inside, things have gotten even crazier, as "drunk" Gingy begins to belt out a rendition of "Don't Stop Believing". Resigned to defeat, Shrek calls his kids over to continue telling his Christmas story. Bored, Donkey cuts in, and tells the story of his impressive decoration display, complete with a parade and 50-foot waffle robot- don't ask.
Next, Puss tells his tale of his time back in Spain, acting out the role of Santa "Claws". Next up is Gingy, discussing his time at Make-out Peak with some cookie floozy. Sadly, tragedy strikes as a giant Santa devours Suzy...the horror!!!
Finally, Shrek has had it, and freaks out, setting off a chain reaction that ends up...you guessed it...ruining everything. Finally, Shrek gets rid of everyone, ready for quiet time. Sadly, Fiona takes the side of the chaos, and puts on her coat to follow the crowd. On Christmas, according to Fiona, the rules can be bent. Yes, it is crowded, yes it is loud, but friends become family. On the bright side, Shrek finally has his alone time!
In front of the fire, Shrek begins to reminisce on the past 15 minutes of the special, remembering all of the good times...
Outside, Donkey is fuming about the whole situation, refusing to acknowledge what Shrek wanted. Suddenly, Shrek appears, ready to apologize -- apparently, Christmas alone is just not the same. Perfection is not what Christmas is all about, and Shrek admits that this is his first Christmas too -- apparently, ogres are not Christian. One awkward apology later, everyone heads back to Shrek's, ready for more zaniness.
At the SLEEP OVER!!! everyone prepares to sleep, but not without a bedtime story. Throwing the rule book out the window (literally), Shrek tells his version of The Night Before Christmas, starring Ogre Claus! Using his magic burping power, Ogre Claus "beautifies" the house and uses his mucus to squeeze up the chimney, proclaiming a "smelly Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
Cue Santa flying across the screen, and...fade to black.
Lacking in the depth of the other two specials, Shrek the Halls is certainly no classic. However, aside from all of the fart jokes and one-liners, there is still a message of the importance of family...and, as I noticed, also a message of tolerance. Gingerbread men, wolves, pigs and ogres can all be friends!
Cheer Rating: ***.5 (Snowflakes deducted for no pop culture references, the redeeming point of the Shrek movies)
In my opinion, that is quite enough holiday spirit for one night. However, with Chanukah just 5 nights away though, it is time to start celebrating!
Happy holidays to all, and remember- it is not the presents that matter, but the people that give them to you. The presents just help.