It's Jihad, Farley Towne
It's almost Christmas, so time to turn on the TV and bathe in its seasonal warmth. I've already introduced three-year-old to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (and instilled a life-long fear of dentists) and I'm ready to watch my annual favourites: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (animated, of course), A Christmas Story ("You'll shoot your eye out!") and Scrooged.
We all have regulars that we return to year after year, but Joanna Wilson thinks there is a better way. The author of The Christmas TV Companion has watched hundreds of Christmas specials to create a guide to unusual, overlooked and often bizarre Christmas-themed television episodes and film releases.
(Above: It's Jihad, Farley Towne, from Denis Leary's variety show, Merry F#%$in' Christmas. "It really isn't such a bad little bomb. It just needs a little hate.")
Wilson's thorough book highlights many of the more offbeat seasonal offerings, especially if your tastes aren't exactly in line with White Christmas. Her section on animation (my favourite) digs up gems like Saturday Night Live's TV Funhouse's take on A Charlie Brown Christmas.
MAD TV: Raging Rudolph
A devoted fan of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion features (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, The Little Drummer Boy) she gives high praise to MAD TV's excellent parodies, placing Rudolph into Goodfellas and The Godfather. That is my kind of Christmas tale.
Futurama: A Tale of Two Santas
In the Sci-Fi section Wilson declares Futurama's yuletide tales "hands down, the far most interesting projection of Christmases future." Mostly because Santa is now a robot in the year 3000 who is out to kill everyone seeing as his naughty/nice gauge is set too high.
South Park: Jesus & Santa Medley
Wilson says, and I agree, that the "most jaw-dropping Christmas episodes have to be those from the series notorious for its crude tastelessness, South Park. In 1997, the creators popularized a new holiday icon for modern audiences: Mr Hankey, the Christmas Poo. The yuletide turd becomes a symbol that everyone in the town can embrace without offending their individual religious of family traditions.
While not the edgiest of their offerings, Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics has become a seasonal tradition for me. The duet between Santa and Jesus gets me every time.
Star Wars Holiday Special
Not surprisingly Wilson devotes a significant amount of time to the 1978 television special, The Star Wars Holiday Special. As someone who was eight when he watched this two-hour travesty when it originally aired, I mostly recall being bored. It really wasn't about Star Wars at all. I tried to watch it again last night but just couldn't get through it. But there it is above if you've only heard about it and want to find out for yourself. Good luck with that.
Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life
The real joy of The Christmas TV Companion is flipping through the pages and being introduced to something bizarre that you never knew existed. For me that was Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life, which "dramatizes the anxiety-filled absurdist writer Franz Kafka's struggle to create the opening line of his novel Metamorphosis on Christmas Eve." It's truly odd.
So this Christmas, do yourself a favour: get this book and go watch something a little strange to get yourself into the holiday spirit.
Previously on Popped Culture...
100 Pop Culture Santas (Almost)
Full Metal Rudolph
It's a Hey Ya Christmas, Charlie Brown