Sabrina Animated Special Puts The Wit In Witchmas

December 2, 2016

Happy December fellow Christmas special fans! If you’re anything like me, you’ve started to get out your decorations and other holiday accoutrements. For me, those holiday belongings include a storage container FILLED with Christmas specials on VHS and DVD, which I sort through and arrange in piles like “must watch”, “not yet watched”, and “watch if you have time” To start things off this year, I decided to go with one in my “not yet watched” pile, the Sabrina the Animated Series episode “A Witchmas Carol”, one that I only picked up rather recently actually. I’ve been really into Archie comics and the whole Archie universe since I last updated this blog, and since Sabrina is from that universe, I figured I may get a kick out of the special, even if it was not too great. Luckily for me, the special is actually pretty fun! Wanna know how fun? Keep reading and I’ll fill you in!

51opkw93b8l
The special starts at school, where Sabrina is talking with her best friends Chloe and Harvey about Chloe’s upcoming Christmas party. After Chloe reveals how her father plans on embarrassing her that year, the group walks into the gym to see the richest, most popular girl at the school, Gem Stone, assigning all of the students mandatory presents they need to buy her. Seeing how Gem is treating the other students so poorly makes Sabrina furious, so she and her friends head to the mall to cool off.

Once at the mall, the gang sees Gem get dropped off by her parents to go shopping, and notice that Gem is given a large pile of money that she is meant to donate to the poor. Rather than actually do that, Gem uses all of the money on a makeover. Sabrina is even more upset than she was at Gem earlier, and after a brief scene the next day at school where Gem mocks the less fortunate, Sabrina decides she has to do something to teach Gem a lesson. While trying to figure out a plan, a commercial comes on for a sock puppet version of A Christmas Carol, which is called….

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-9-50-03-pmThis is one of the first jokes in the episode that is actually pretty funny and makes fun of traditional Christmas specials and how hokey they can be. Sabrina decides that with the help of her aunts and her cat Salem she can teach Gem a Christmas lesson just like Scrooge.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-9-52-29-pmAfter selecting which spirit they’ll each portray, Sabrina and her family head over to Gem’s house to set things up for the evening of “hauntings”. While Gem is on her way to bed, Salem’s face replaces the knob on her door and tells her that tonight she’ll be visited by three ghosts. Gem rightly points out that since she is being visited by Salem, and then three other ghosts, he should’ve said she’d be visited by four ghosts, since he should count himself. While Salem tries to work through the logic himself, Gem heads to bed.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-9-53-14-pmThe first ghost, as is tradition with this story, is the ghost of Christmas Past, aka Aunt Hilda. She tells Gem that she her bad attitude towards Christmas can be traced back to her early childhood, so off they go to see what event put Gem on her selfish path.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-9-53-35-pmWe are brought back in time to the mall where we see a young Gem in line to meet Santa. The boy in line in front of her is being a big brat, asking Santa for a rather long list of presents, and taking a long time to do so. When Santa suggests that maybe the little boy move along so other kids can have a turn, the boy starts to have a tantrum. When offering him a candy cane doesn’t stop the boy from crying, Santa and his elves lose their nerve and just give the little boy all of the candy to shut him up and make him leave. Gem realizes that all she has to do is act like a brat and people will throw presents at her to make her quiet, so she starts to do just that. We see her that Christmas morning acting like a little terror and getting a pile of presents and acting like a brat about it to get even more presents. When Hilda points out how awful Gem was, Gem agrees, but rather than admit that she was a brat of a kid, she says she was awful because she opened all of her toys, and if she’d only kept them in their boxes they’d be worth a lot of money! Realizing Gem isn’t likely to see the error of her ways in the past, Hilda brings her back to the present and gets her ready for the next ghost.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-9-55-05-pmUp next is Aunt Zelda as the ghost of Christmas Present, who plans to show Gem what everyone else is currently up to on Christmas Eve without her. The visit starts with a tour of Gem’s own house, where we see that Gem’s nanny is alone in her room watching…

specialGem mentions that nanny loves this show anyways, so it’s not a bad thing that she’s watching it all by herself. Then we see Gem’s parents, who hop in the car and leave for the airport so they can celebrate Christmas on vacation without Gem there to ruin it. Gem still misses the point, having no reaction to this at all, so Zelda takes her go to visit Chloe’s Christmas party.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-9-59-44-pmGem sees that a lot of kids from her class are there and are having a great time without her, and are even mocking her and having fun doing so! Rather than be bothered, Gem says it just means they must really care about her to be thinking about her on Christmas Eve. Zelda reaches the same conclusion as Hilda and decides to just bring Gem back to get ready for the final ghost of the evening.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-10-00-05-pmSabrina gets herself ready with her scary cloak and scythe to be the Ghost of Christmas Future, but while trying to scare Gem she trips on her outfit and accidentally reveals that she is the one under the cloak. At first Gem doesn’t wanna hear any of it, but after she convinces herself this is all just a dream anyways, she may as well go along for the ride. Sabrina shows Gem that she is a successful business woman in the future, but at the cost of all of her personal relationships with friends and family. Gem is just impressed that she has made a lot of money and influence, and doesn’t care that no one likes her. Sabrina figures that maybe a trip further in the future might open Gem’s eyes.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-10-00-51-pmThey go far enough into the future to go to Gem’s final resting place, a cryogenic chamber in a huge crypt. While Gem is impressed that her crypt is so fancy and impressive, Sabrina points out that not a single person has come to pay their respects, but again, Gem doesn’t care because she obviously died rich, and that’s all that matters to her. Sabrina is dumbfounded that Gem hasn’t learned her lesson at all, and heads home all upset. While she is venting about the situation, her Uncle Quigley points out that Sabrina was being selfish herself in trying to make Gem feel bad about herself, not necessarily teach Gem a lesson for the benefit of everyone else. Sabrina realizes her uncle is right, and that she should visit Gem to make peace.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-10-01-15-pmSabrina goes out early on Christmas morning and brings a present to Gem, who is shocked to be getting one from Sabrina since she wasn’t assigned one. She laughs it off and goes inside to tear open the box, and see that Sabrina actually got her a really beautiful locket. She realizes that this is the first time in years someone has bought her a present because they wanted to, not because they had to. She is actually moved by the nice gesture, and starts to cry.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-10-01-38-pmThe last scene is Sabrina and her family getting ready for her friends to come sing carols, when surprise surprise, Gem shows up. She has brought a huge load of presents she had “laying around” for Sabrina and her friends. Gem is planning on just leaving them and taking off, when Sabrina invites her in for cider and carols. Gem actually decides to stay, and everyone sings carols to round out the episode.

So, this episode fits into the trope of being a version of A Christmas Carol, which is one of the more popular themes for Christmas specials. This was actually a pretty clever take on the traditional version of this story, because while I’ve seen quite a few variations on this theme, this one had a lot of fun mocking and pointing out some of the outdated or silly flaws with the story. The characters actually had a lot of fun and clever lines that may go over the heads of kids watching it, but parents watching along with the young ones will have a good laugh. That being said, this is still clearly a show for children that has a lot of physical gags and cartoony elements, so the kids will have a fun time taking this one in as well.

I have to say, I really wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of this special, but I was really surprised at the fun, sarcastic, and satirical elements of this episode. Fans of Archie comics and/or the live action Sabrina the Teenage Witch show will definitely have the best time watching this, but casual viewers will have a pretty fun time watching this episode too. You really don’t need to know much about the characters or the show going into the episode, and it doesn’t appear to be an episode that in any way changes the plot of the show going forward. I highly recommend this episode to viewers looking for a fun take on A Christmas Carol, I think you’ll be surprised at this magical take on an old classic!

A Fun Christmas Special To Keep In Your Back Pocket!

December 4, 2014

Hello readers! No, you aren’t imagining things. Your prayers have been answered, and I am back at the helm of this blog to bring you more reviews and insights on Christmas Specials! I’ll be covering new and old, good and bad, common and obscure!

Speaking of obscure, did you know there is a bizarre children’s show in the UK called Grandpa in my Pocket? While the title sounds possibly very inappropriate, it is actually a pretty silly and admittedly charming show. It is about a young boy named Jason Mason, and his paternal grandfather, Jeremy (referred to simply as Grandpa), and the adventures they get into when Grandpa puts on his “shrinking cap”, a magical hat that allows him to shrink down to the size of an action figure. From what I gather from the episode and a half I have watched so far, these adventures are usually good natured fun and silly pranking, but nothing mean spirited or lewd. With that in mind though, does this Christmas Special of a bizarre kid’s show set itself apart from the herd and make for a seasonal favourite? Keep reading to find out!

To be fair, I HAD to buy this DVD once I saw the cover!

To be fair, I HAD to buy this DVD once I saw the cover!

The special starts on Christmas Eve, with Jason and Grandpa playing around in the kitchen, while grandpa’s sister, Great Aunt Loretta, is busying herself making stuffing for Christmas dinner. Jason’s mother enters the kitchen seeking help in writing a song about Christmas, and Grandpa and Jason tell her to make sure she includes some lines about the magic of Christmas, which makes Aunt Loretta scoff. She insists that there is no such thing as magic, even at Christmas, which makes Grandpa rather upset. He excuses himself to go have a “lie down”, which is the code he uses to excuse himself when is is going to shrink himself down. Jason pops his head into the other room just in time to see Grandpa put on his shrinking cap and disappear somewhere into the kitchen. What is the crafty old man up to?

Jason doesn’t have much time to think about it, because just then, family friend Mr. Liker-Biker arrives at the house with a gift in tow! As I’m sure you may have picked up on from his name, Mr. Liker-Biker really likes bikes and bicycle accessories, and as such brought them a bicycle related Christmas present, a wreath filled with bells and horns. After hanging it on the shelf, it magically starts to honk and ding! Grandpa is up to one of his pranks, but everyone thinks it is magic, everyone except Great Aunt Loretta that is. She doesn’t fall for all that magic silliness.

Mr. Liker-Biker, an odd fella!

Mr. Liker-Biker, an odd fella!

After Mr. Liker-Biker takes his leave, Jason and the rest of his family head on over to Miss Smiley’s Cafe, to grab some sweets for after dinner. Shortly after they arrive, the local inventor Mr. Mentor arrives as well to pick up a special treat from Miss Smiley. She has baked him a special Christmas Pudding, and just before he grabs it to take it back to his house, Grandpa jumps right into it (which is actually kinda gross, but whatever) Jason tries to tag along to Mr. Mentor’s house to rescue Grandpa, but to no avail. Jason’s family heads home, while Great Aunt Loretta heads over to Mr. Mentor’s house to see some of his new inventions.

Mr. Mentor the inventor

Mr. Mentor the inventor

Mr. Mentor is quite the skilled inventor, as he even manages to invent things in his sleep! While showing off some of his newest creations, Grandpa sneaks out of the pudding to take a closer look at a miniature Santa Claus and sleigh on Mr. Mentor’s table. Great Aunt Loretta admires the toy, and Mr. Mentor explains he doesn’t know what it does just yet, but once the time comes, it will do what it is supposed to do. Great Aunt Loretta looks at a few more inventions, and then leaves.

Back at the house, Jason tries to convince his family to go over to Mr. Mentor’s as well, so he can get Grandpa back safe and sound. His father and sister want to hear none of it, but agree to head out to the toy store next to Mr. Mentor’s so they can get a new fairy for the top of their tree. Upon their arrival at Mr. Whoops’ toy shop, Jason’s sister Jemima finds a new fairy for the family, and Great Aunt Loretta joins them after seeing them through the window while walking by. Just then, Grandpa comes flying in the window in the tiny Santa’s sleigh wearing a Santa disguise, and everyone is won over by how magical it is. Everyone except Great Aunt Loretta, who points out that this is just another of Mr. Mentor’s silly inventions, not magic. That doesn’t stop Grandpa from convincing a boy in the store that the sleigh is magical by waving and winking at him. Jason grabs the sleigh, so he can “give it back to Mr. Mentor” (and smuggle Grandpa home), and heads back to the house with his family.

Mr. Whoops, the clumsy toy store owner

Mr. Whoops, the clumsy toy store owner

Jemima puts the new fairy on top of their tree and everyone starts getting ready for dinner, so Jason tells Grandpa it’s time to take off the shrinking cap, but Grandpa is still determined to make Great Aunt Loretta believe in magic, and has one last trick up his sleeve. Jason and the family gather in the kitchen, while Great Aunt Loretta goes to admire the new fairy, and low and behold the fairy is moving and talking! At first Great Aunt Loretta thinks this is just another invention, but when the fairy begins to talk to her about the magic of Christmas, she realizes that maybe there is a special sort of Christmas magic in the air. She heads into the kitchen to tell the family about what just happens, and we see Grandpa take off the fairy costume, jump down from the tree, and take off his shrinking cap. He and Jason go join the family in the kitchen, and just then the rest of their guests arrive. They all gather to talk about the magic of Christmas, and Jason’s mother hands out the lyrics to her new Christmas song. Everyone sings the song, about the magic of Christmas, as well as their small town of Sunnysands, before sitting down for a big Christmas dinner. Grandpa and Jason celebrate the fact that they were able to make Great Aunt Loretta believe in the magic of Christmas, high-five each other, and the credits roll.

This special falls under the category of being a one-off Christmas episode, where the characters of the show try to teach each other a lesson about Christmas. I think it does a good job of getting its message across, that you are never too old to believe in the magic of Christmas, even if it took a lot of use of another kind of magic to help prove that point. The message isn’t too heavy handy or rooted too heavily in religion, so I could see this special appealing to people of all walks of life.

I am really genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed not only this special, but the show in general. The premise is a little bizarre, but no more than a lot of other children’s shows I’ve had the displeasure of catching snippets of lately (Wizards of Waverly Place and Dog With a Blog spring to mind) While this show is clearly meant for young children, what with the silliness and physical humour sprinkled throughout, there is enough heart and good natured fun in the episode that people of all ages should find it a fun distraction for the holidays. Considering I really bought the DVD of this show as a joke based on how ridiculous the cover art was and how dumb the show sounded, I’m glad I spent that Toonie to grab this show, because I have definitely found a fun Christmas special that I can watch with my niece when she’s old enough, and any other kids who may end up at our place around the holidays. I highly recommend this special to anyone looking for a good special to watch with their young kids, or anyone who is a big kid at heart and still believes in the magic of Christmas. I’m definitely adding this one to the “must watch every year” list!

Thanks for reading folks, and I hope to have another entry up for you very soon! Until next time!

What-A-Mess Christmas Special Sets Itself Apart From The Usual Saturday Morning Specials

December 7, 2011

There are some shows that drift in and out of your life when you are growing up, usually for various reasons. Either they were short lived, were on a channel you didn’t get at home, or you just lost interest. Most of the time, these shows remain just a faint memory, because they haven’t yet made it to DVD, or haven’t been syndicated since shortly after their original run. Sometimes, however, you come across a VHS release that was put out during the show’s run that has an episode or two on it, and you have that moment of indecision. Do you buy the tape, and revisit your childhood, or look at the tape, smile, and put it back? If you buy the tape, you’ll either find that the show is just as fun as you remember it, or, as sometimes happens (I’m looking at you Bucky O’Hare), you’ll watch it and wonder what the hell you were thinking as a child, because the show is unwatchable. Well, when I ran across a What-A-Mess tape at a thrift store, I was on the fence, until I saw that it was a Christmas episode. Even if the show wouldn’t live up to my memories of it, I would at least have another Christmas Special to watch and add to my collection. So, did What-A-Mess, and, to an extent, the episode “Santa What-A-Mess” end up being as goofy and funny as I remembered the show being? You’ll just have to keep reading. But first, I’ll tell you about What-A-Mess, because I’m sure most people reading are unfamiliar with the show. (I apologize for not having screen shots from the episode. I only have it on VHS and there are no copies on youtube, so I will just be posting shots of characters from the show)

The titular character, What-A-Mess

What-A-Mess was a cartoon show that only ran for one season and was produced by a company called Dic, who also produced a batch of other memorable kid’s shows from the 90s, namely Sonic The Hedgehog and Captain Planet. It aired on saturday mornings on ABC, and was centered around a scruffy Afghan puppy named Prince Amir of Kinjan, better known as What-A-Mess. Although he comes from prestigious breeding, he is nothing like his ancestors, most of whom were reportedly brave, smart, and the pets of royalty. Instead, he is scruffy and clumsy and always making a mess, hence his nickname. He and his mom are the pets of a family of humans, and seem to be well taken care of. When he’s not making messes at home, he is usually out bugging the neighbour’s cat named Felicha, playing with his mole friend Ramona, running around with the flea-ridden Norton, or being tormented by the neighbourhood bully dog named Trash. Most episodes focus around What-A-Mess getting into some kind of trouble and making a huge mess, but his owners always ends up forgiving him. That’s really all you need to know about the show, now on to the special called “Santa What-A-Mess”

The special starts with What-A-Mess asleep in a cabinet, when his mother comes to wake him up. She tells he he shouldn’t be so lazy during the winter, because his great-grandfather used to hunt snow leopards all winter long for the king. What-A-Mess doesn’t want to go outside because it is so cold, but his mom stares him down and he heads out. While outside, he runs into Felicha, and she says he can’t play with him because she is busy working on a Christmas list. What-A-Mess has no idea what Christmas is, so he heads back inside to ask his mom.

Felicha, the neighbour's cat

When he finds his mom he asks her what Christmas is, and she tells him it is a day of giving for friends and family, and that that there is a man named Santa who brings presents to all of the good boys and girls in the world, and he can’t believe it! He has to go tell someone, so he goes to tell all of his friends. When he reaches the front of the house however, he finds Trash stealing groceries from the back of his family’s car, and tells him he should stop, otherwise he won’t get any presents from Santa. Trash tells What-A-Mess that Santa is nothing but a phoney and a scam these days. Neither What-A-Mess nor Felicha, who was eavesdropping on the conversation, believe Trash, so he takes them down town to show them why they are wrong to believe in Santa.

Trash, being his usual bully self

Once they arrive down town, they run into Norton, who has just had his holiday flea bath. Trash shows them all that there are Santa impersonators everywhere at this time of year, so there can’t be a real Santa, otherwise he’d put a stop to all of the folks pretending to be him. What-A-Mess, Norton, and Felicha all feel dumb now for believing in Santa, and all head back to their respective homes.

After a brief chase through the house with his boy owner, What-A-Mess still isn’t feeling better, and now feels bad for his family because they don’t know the “truth” about Santa. He decides the only way to keep them happy is to become Santa Claus himself. After digging up all of his treats and scrounging through the house for other gifts, he gathers all of the presents together in a wagon, waits until after midnight, and then he is off to go be Santa What-A-Mess!

Norton, biting at his fleas

He makes his rounds all over town and makes sure to drop off a gift for everyone, ending with Trash. He tries to drop Trash’s present off quietly, but accidentally wakes Trash up. Trash is furious, until he realizes that What-A-Mess has brought him a present. He is touched, but thinks that What-A-Mess isn’t doing anyone any favours by making them believe in a phoney like Santa Claus. Just then on the lawn arose such a clatter, as Santa and his sleigh make a crash landing. Turns out the reindeer have become ill, and Santa needs What-A-Mess and Trash to help fly the sleigh. Neither think they can do it, but Santa tells them he has Christmas dust that can make them fly, so What-A-Mess goes off to recruit the rest of his friends, even waking Ramona up from hibernation, to help out as well. They all arrive at Trash’s house, skeptical, until they lay their eyes on Santa and the sleigh.

Ramona the mole, who helped along with the dogs and cat to fly Santa's sleigh

After a quick sprinkling with the dust, all of the pets are off and flying and helping Santa make his deliveries. They fly all over the world and make sure every last present gets delivered, and they finish just in time too. When they arrive back at Trash’s, the reindeer are feeling better now and will be able to take Santa back to the North Pole. Before leaving, Santa makes sure to give all of the pets a gift, and as he is doing so, What-A-Mess asks him why some people don’t believe in Santa. Santa tells him that everyone has a little bit of Santa in them. And even if it’s only a small part, as long as it is in there, he will always be around. Santa takes off in his sleigh, and everyone realizes he forgot to give What-A-Mess a present, when just then Santa’s hat comes floating down and lands on What-A-Mess’ head. Santa has given it to him for being such a great helper and for being a great Santa What-A-Mess.

We cut to Christmas morning back at What-A-Mess’ house, and the presents he had gathered for his family are not so much a hit, but they are surely presents that will never be forgotten. A few jokes play out, and the special comes to an end.

This special mainly falls under the usual category of being a one off episode that is used to teach a Christmas lesson or two. While it teaches the one lesson that it’s good to be selfless and kind towards your friends and loved ones around the holidays, it touches on another lesson that can really only be approached by shows aimed at a certain age group, and that is why you should believe in Santa.

I was a little bit taken aback when the special headed in that direction, proclaiming that Santa was a phoney and something only kids believed in. That’s a risky topic for any family show, especially a cartoon, to try and address. The way that the characters just abandon their faith in Santa Claus, and Christmas altogether, was something I couldn’t believe I was seeing. This was a saturday morning cartoon, and to have the first act be about characters losing faith in Santa Claus is pretty heavy for a show for that age group. But when Santa Claus crashes down into the special, it was nice to see that Trash was wrong about him. I wasn’t sure how they would address the issue of all of the pets thinking he was a fake, but I love the way they just had What-A-Mess, a puppy, and the character that the kids are meant to relate to, ask Santa himself why people don’t believe in him. I really like the answer Santa gives: “I always say there is a little bit of me in everyone. Sometimes, very little. But, it’s there, and that’s why I am always going to be around” What a great message for kids watching the show. For those who are young enough that they still believe, their beliefs have been reaffirmed by Santa himself. On the flip side, for those kids who may have had the Santa talk with their parents, they are given a new outlook on how to feel about Santa. Even though they may be 99% sure that he isn’t real and that there is nothing really magical about Christmas, they will still have that 1% left in them that really hopes and wishes that Santa is real, and that 1% is what Santa says keeps him around.

I highly recommend this special to children and adults alike. The young kids will feel great after watching it, knowing that even though someone may have told them on the playground that Santa isn’t real, they now have a little more faith in him knowing that he knows some people don’t believe in him. The older kids who have already had the Santa talk may not like it as much as the young ones, but I think the message that Santa will always be around as long as you believe in him just a little bit is a positive one. Even as adults, we all wish and hope deep down that there is a Santa out there somewhere giving people gifts and making miracles happen, even if we are 99% sure there isn’t. Christmas is about having faith and hoping for miracles, and with that in mind I have added this special to my regular rotation and wouldn’t hesitate to put it on my favourites list.

Winnie The Pooh And Christmas Too Is Cute, Sweet, And Adorable Too

December 6, 2011

Although I have been enjoying watching all of these specials over the past two weeks, tonight’s special is the first one to put a huge smile on my face and make me feel giddy inside, and it was Winnie The Pooh and Christmas Too. Winnie the Pooh has always been a favourite of mine, and I really forgot how much I enjoyed this special. I don’t think I had seen it in a few years, but now I am going to make sure not to go so long between viewings. But before I tell you why I loved it so much, just a brief synopsis of Winnie the Pooh incase anyone out there isn’t familiar with the characters and the show.

Winnie the Pooh is a show about a little boy named Christopher Robin and his little animal friends who live in the Hundred Acre Woods. There’s a little stuffed bear name Winnie the Pooh, a little pig named Piglet, a donkey named Eeyore, a rabbit named Rabbit, a tigger named Tigger, an owl named Owl, and mother and son kangaroos named Kanga and Roo. Most episodes focus on Pooh getting into some kind of trouble and by the end of it he learns a lesson. Enough about Pooh, now on to the special.

The cover of the VHS tape

The special starts with Christopher Robin and all of his animal friends writing a letter to Santa. Rabbit asks for a fly swatter, Eeyore asks for an umbrella to protect his house, Tigger asks for a snowshoe for his tail so he doesn’t sink when jumping in the show, Piglet asks for whatever Santa feels like bringing him, and Christopher Robin asks for a sled big enough for him and all of his little animal pals. When the letter is finished, Christopher Robin checks his weather vane, sees it is blowing North, and throws the letter into the wind.

We cut to the next day, Christmas Eve, and Pooh is nailing a star to the Christmas Tree that he drew on his wall when Piglet comes in. He tells Pooh that he forgot to ask for something when they were writing their letter, so he won’t get anything for Christmas. He decides the best way to remedy this is to go out with a net and try and catch their letter before it makes it to the North Pole. After a little while of chasing the wind, Piglet and Pooh find the letter caught in a branch. They head over to Rabbit’s house to add something for Pooh to the list, and after they all get carried away with adding things to it for each other, Pooh takes the letter and throws it to the wind, not realizing it is blowing in the wrong direction.

The wind is blowing the wrong way, unbeknownst to Pooh

While Pooh and Piglet are tending to the letter mailing, the rest of the gang wake up Gopher so he can help them cut down a Christmas Tree. After waking from hibernation, Gopher helps them cut down the largest tree in the Hundred Acre Woods, which they spend the rest of the afternoon decorating. After mailing the letter, Piglet and Pooh head to their prospective homes, and just as Pooh is settling in for the night, their letter to Santa blows underneath his door. He realizes he needs to do something about it, and goes to ask Piglet’s advice. Piglet isn’t sure what to do with it being Christmas Eve, so Pooh takes it into his own hands to ensure everyone gets what they asked for for Christmas.

We cut to Tigger’s house, and there’s a knock at his door. He opens it, and it is Pooh Bear dressed as Santa! Tigger doesn’t realize it’s Pooh Bear, and after making him go back outside and come down the chimney, Tigger accepts the gift from Pooh and sends him on his way. He opens it to find that it is a barrel with a spring on the bottom with a shoe attached to the spring. He tries it out and it works for one bounce, but then explodes when he crashes back down from a high bounce.

Santa Pooh

Next we see Rabbit in his house keeping some bugs busy because he is expecting a gift that will get rid of them. Santa Pooh comes in through the window and gives Rabbit his present, which is a homemade bug sprayer made from an old pump and a tea pot. Rabbit tries to gas the bugs, but the sprayer falls apart and the bugs chase him outside smacking him with his broken fly swatter. He runs into Tigger, and they both talk about how their presents from Santa have broken. Then Eeyore comes along and we see that instead of the fancy house he asked Santa for in the revised letter, he has been given an old suitcase to live in. The three friends head off to go find Santa, and they come across Santa Pooh and Piglet trying to bring a few old wooden steps to Christopher Robin as a makeshift sled. The friends confront Pooh, and after he accidentally falls down a hill, they realize he is Santa. Pooh apologizes and shows them the letter. They decide that someone has to bring it to the North Pole themselves, and Pooh volunteers because he feels that the letter was his responsibility. Pooh sets off on his journey, and his friends go back to their Christmas Tree.

The gang sitting around the tree

Just as Pooh is making it over the ridge, the wind picks up and blows the letter out of his hands. He tries to chase it, but to no avail. It is gone. He is heartbroken, but decides to head back to see his friends. At the same time, all around a fire under the Christmas Tree, Pooh’s friends are talking about how much they miss Pooh. They realize they’d rather not have the presents if they could just have Pooh back. They get their wish, as Pooh comes over the hill and tells them about the letter. They tell him they are just happy to see him, and just as the sun is coming up, they hear a sound in the distance. It’s Christopher Robin on a brand new sled! He sleds his way over to see them and has a bag of presents from Santa for them. Rabbit’s fly swatter, Eeyore’s umbrella, Tigger’s show shoe, Piglet gets a thingamabob and Pooh gets a big old jar of honey. He looks upset, and Christopher Robin asks him why. Pooh tells him about the troubles with the letter, and that he doesn’t deserve the honey. He says it was nice of Santa to bring him a present, but that he thinks “being with your friends is nicer”. He then uses the honey pot as a stepping stool so he can give Christopher Robin a hug, and the special comes to an end.

Pooh hugging Christopher Robin

This is such a cute special. Like really really cute. Winnie the Pooh always puts me in a good mood and puts a big smile on my face, and this special is no exception. The episode really has its heart in the right place. It’s a one off special that teaches Christmas lessons, and the lessons it teaches, while being the casual fare, are done adorably.

Mainly, the special teaches that it isn’t about the presents you ask for, it’s about who you spend your holidays with. Even though by the end everyone gets the present they wanted, they realize that they would have given up all of their presents to spend the day with Pooh. Pooh also realizes that even though he got the gift he wanted, he is happier to be spending the day with Christopher Robin and all of his friends. Although both are essentially the same lesson, they go about getting them across to the characters differently. Pooh comes to his revelation after he gets his present, not wanting to accept his present, while his friends come to theirs before they get their gifts, wishing to have Pooh back rather than get presents. While this is not a lesson unique to this special, I don’t think any show has done it cuter than this.

I highly recommend this special to children and adults alike. Winnie the Pooh is a show that is cute for any and every generation, as it is appealing to nearly everyone I know. The kids will enjoy the cuteness of the characters, while the adults will enjoy the cuteness of the lessons taught. If you’re anything like me, it will actually make you feel like a kid again to watch it. It’s also a bonus that the special clocks in at less than 20 minutes, so the very little kids won’t be bored by the special. I am making sure to put this in my regular Christmas rotation, and it is definitely in my top 10 favourite specials. Winnie the Pooh can bring a smile to anyone’s face, and if you watch this Christmas Special it will bring a huge Christmas smile to yours.

Arthur’s Perfect Christmas Is Perfect For All Winter Holidays

December 4, 2011

While I am sure that I mentioned a few posts back that there aren’t many modern day cartoons I am really into anymore, there are still a few that started when I was a kid and are still running today. While some of them are more adult oriented, like The Simpsons and South Park, there is one cartoon that has been on the air since I was 9 and is still as family friendly as it ever was, and that would be Arthur. It’s great to have grown up with a cartoon as a kid, and enjoyed it as a kid’s cartoon with some nice lessons thrown in at the end, but it’s even better to also to be able to watch it now and pick up on the pop culture jokes and guest stars that I never noticed as a kid. I’m not ashamed to say that although I am 24, Arthur is one of the most watched shows on my Netflix. It’s never too childish or preachy, rather it tries to stay topical and just be consistently funny. Although there have been a few Arthur Christmas episodes over the years, today I’m going to tell you about Arthur’s Perfect Christmas. But before I do, a bit about the show.

Arthur is a cartoon show on PBS that is based on a series of books by author Marc Brown. The show mainly focuses on and Aardvark named Arthur and the situations and problems he faces in his day to day life as a kid in the third grade. He has a mom, a dad, and two younger sisters, D.W, who is 4, and Kate, who is just a baby. Arthur’s best friend is a bunny named Buster, who lives with his mom because his parents are divorced and his dad is a pilot. Arthur has a few other friends as well, including Francine, Muffy, The Brain and Binky. Some episodes focus on issues his friends are facing, but most are about Arthur. That’s all you really need to know about the show and the characters, now on to the special.

The cover of the VHS tape

The episode starts with a montage of everyone in Elwood City (Where the show takes place) preparing for Christmas. From buying gifts to picking out a tree, everyone seems to be in the Christmas spirit. The montage ends at Arthur’s house, where we see Arthur playing the piano. He starts singing a song about how great Christmas will be and we see a music video taking place in his imagination. When he finishes his song, D.W. comes over and asks him how he can be so calm with Christmas only 3 days away. He tells her not to worry, and she asks him to help write a letter to Santa. Arthur writes it out all out for her, and she goes off to bed.

D.W. mailing her letter to Santa

We cut to the next day and we see D.W pop the letter in the mail box before the kids are driven to school. Before Arthur arrives however, Muffy and Francine are on the front steps of the school and Muffy tells Francine how she can’t wait for her Christmas party the next day. Francine tells Muffy she can’t go, but Muffy isn’t listening and walks away. Francine is visibly upset, and then Arthur comes along. He asks her what’s wrong, and she tells him that even though she has told Muffy over 20 times that she can’t com to the party because of her conflicting Hanukkah party, Muffy hasn’t paid attention once. Arthur just tells Francine to keep trying, and they head inside.

Inside the classroom, Arthur’s friend George is giving a presentation about the Christmas traditions of Sweden, even going as far as to pass around Lutefisk (A Scandinavian fish dish that sounds rather interesting). After everyone’s presentations are done, Arthur goes to check on Buster, who looks like he could pass out at any minute. Buster tells Arthur that ever since his parents got divorced, his mom wakes up early every day leading up to Christmas thinking it is Christmas morning and wakes Buster up at 5:30, makes pancakes, and gets the presents ready. After he eats, he tells her what day it is, and she goes back to bed. Buster thinks his mom is worried that he won’t have a good Christmas because his dad isn’t there. He wishes he could tell his mom she doesn’t have to make such a big deal.

Buster's mom on December 23rd, thinking it is Christmas morning

We cut to later on that day and Arthur is at the mall with his mom and they split up to find their last presents. Arthur buys his dad, who is a chef, an olive pitter and jar of olives, and is at a loss about what to get his mom, when he sees something sparkle in a store window. It’s a small glass bird, just like the one she had that he accidentally broke last year. It’s perfect! He lines up to buy it, and when he is done paying, has just enough time to get back to where he and his mom were supposed to meet. Arthur has found all of the presents he needed, but his mom ended up one present short: The toy D.W. asked Santa for.

Now we are back at Arthur’s house, and Arthur’s parents have to have the tough conversation with D.W. telling her that sometimes Santa can’t get you the present you asked for because he has run out. D.W. is convinced however that she might not get the talking cat doll she wanted because Arthur wrote her letter wrong. Just then Arthur’s dad comes in with Uncle Fred’s Christmas video. He wishes them all well, and tells them he is going to Florida rather than their place this year. Arthur says he’ll miss Uncle Fred this year as he is so funny, and reminisces about when Uncle Fred broke his mom’s china set last Christmas. They all sit down to dinner, and the night comes to an end.

Christmas Eve Eve dinner at Arthur's

The next morning, like clockwork, Buster’s mom gets him up and it is only Christmas Eve. Buster looks upset and obviously wishes he could lighten his mom’s load, but doesn’t want to upset her.

Later on, at Muffy’s party, Muffy calls Francine up to get the first gift, only to realize Francine isn’t there. She calls her from her cell phone and Francine tells Muffy she told her over 25 times that she wouldn’t be coming because it’s her Hanukkah party. Muffy makes a comment about how Hanukkah isn’t as important as Christmas, and Francine loses it and hangs up. Elsewhere at the party Buster has fallen asleep in his food, and Brain and Arthur tell him he should just tell his mom that they can do their own thing on Christmas, maybe even celebrate a different holiday just for them, call it Baxter Day (Baxter being Buster’s last name) Buster imagines how great that would be, and debates whether or not to tell his mom.

Buster's imaginary Baxter Day with just he and his mom

Later on, Arthur has come home from the party and decorates the Christmas tree with his mom and D.W. After they finish, D.W. gets Santa’s milk and cookies ready and then it’s time for bed. Just as Arthur is falling asleep, he hears someone at the door. It turns out Uncle Fred is here, his truck having broken down on the way to Florida when he stopped to drop off their presents. Arthur gets up to say hi, and notices that Uncle Fred’s dog is running around with his mom’s present in his mouth. After chasing the dog around the house, Arthur finally gets the present back and decides to put it away for safe keeping, and then heads off to bed.

It is now Christmas morning, and D.W. wakes up and runs around the house waking everyone up. After a brief mix-up involving D.W. thinking Uncle Fred is Santa, everyone heads downstairs to open presents. At the same time, Buster’s mom is finally up early on the right day. She jumps out of bed and runs around trying to make sure everything is perfect, but in her hurry accidentally burns the pancakes. Meanwhile, at Muffy’s house, she has opened all of her presents and would love to call Francine to tell her about it, but remembers her and Francine aren’t talking. She realizes that Christmas and presents aren’t so great if you don’t have anyone to share it with. Since Muffy seems down, her dad suggests they go out for a car ride.

Muffy, with no one to call

It’s a little while later, and back at Arthur’s, his whole family has arrived and they are ready to open presents. Arthur runs upstairs to get his mom’s, but he accidentally drops it and breaks the little glass bird. He is devastated, and runs to hide in his room while everyone waits for him to open their presents, and D.W. nearly has an aneurism. Uncle Fred goes up to check on Arthur, and Arthur tells him what happened to the bird. Uncle Fred tells him it will all be ok, and they head downstairs.

Meanwhile, Buster is out to brunch with his mom, and even though she has a day full of plans, he tells her he’d be happy just to spend the day with her at home. She is touched and seems slightly relieved.

At the same time, Muffy and her family have stopped at one of the only local places that is open, Brain’s family’s ice cream shoppe. Brain explains to them that his family is celebrating Kwanza, which won’t start until the next day. He explains to them what Kwanza is all about, and Muffy decides she’d like to celebrate Kwanza next year so that maybe she could spend it with Francine and not worry about Hanukkah overlapping it.

Back at Arthur’s the presents are almost all open now, and Arthur is about to tell his mom what happened, when Uncle Fred says he found Arthur’s present for his mom under the tree. She opens it, and it is a mug to replace the one Fred broke last year. She is touched, and so is Arthur, knowing this was actually Fred’s gift for Arthur’s mom. D.W. opens her last present, hoping it is the talking cat, only to find a talking duck instead. She is not pleased, and throws a tantrum.

D.W. freaking out

Over at Francine’s, they are finishing their Chinese food dinner, when Muffy and her father arrive. Muffy apologizes to Francine, but still doesn’t seem to understand why Francine missed the party. Francine tells Muffy all about what Hanukkah is about and why it was more important to her than a Christmas party. Muffy finally understands, and her and Francine are back on good terms again.

Francine's family celebrating Hanukkah

We are shown a montage of everyone in town celebrating their traditions, ranging from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanza, and we finish on Arthur wishing everyone a Happy Holidays.

Where to begin with this episode. It is a Holiday episode, rather than just a Christmas centric episode, which makes sense for a show funded by a public television station. It does a good job of balancing each character’s own holiday celebrations, which is why it took me so long to write my blog on this special. As far as which category it falls under, it’s mainly a Christmas/Holiday special that gets more than a few messages across. Arthur episodes usually convey some kind of message, so this special is in keeping with the show’s usual format, which is something I like. I’m not a fan of when a show changes gears and becomes very preachy just to teach a Christmas lesson. It more often then than not comes off as awkward and forced, but with a show like this, a Christmas/Holiday episode makes perfect sense.

I like every lesson taught in this episode, and while most of them are the usual lessons most specials try to convey, this episode one ups the the others by touching on how important it is to understand and accept other people’s traditions and holiday celebrations. By the end, Muffy understands why Hanukkah is so important to Francine, which is a nice thing to teach kids. Some kids just don’t get people not celebrating Christmas. Buster and his mom discover that they don’t need to do Christmas traditions to have a great day, they can make up their own traditions and holiday and just enjoy each other. Although no issues arise with Kwanza, Brain reveals that his parents choose to celebrate it instead of Christmas because of how and why it was created, and they are supportive of what it stands for.

Other than those lessons, we have a few traditional Christmas ones. Muffy teaches us that Christmas isn’t special if you don’t have anyone to share it with, a cliché, but a good one. Although I already touched on Buster, it’s also a nice message that they touch on that as long as you are with your family, it doesn’t matter how you celebrate. Arthur’s Uncle Fred teaches Arthur the importance of being selfless by giving up his own present and giving it to Arthur so that Arthur doesn’t feel bad. D.W. learns that even if you don’t get what you want for Christmas, you may just end up enjoying what you get instead. I may have missed one or two, but you get the idea. The writers really did a great job of tackling different holidays and teaching many lessons, but they never end up coming off as preachy. It’s a tough things to do, but in just under an hour, they did it.

I highly recommend this episode to both children and adults alike. The kids will love the silly cartoony elements and musical numbers, of which there are no shortage, and they will definitely benefit from the lessons taught. It’s great for adults as well because they touch on the frustration of not getting your kid what you want, as well as the pop culture references and jokes that only a parent would get (Like the fact that Muffy’s dad brings Francine’s family a ham for Hanukkah, despite the fact that they are Jewish). It’s a special that I enjoy watching, as does my girlfriend, and my brother (All of us over the age or 20). It will definitely be put it into my regular rotation of Christmas specials, and is one I suggest everyone seek out.

Modern Family Christmas Episode A True Classic

December 3, 2011

As much as I have been enjoying watching animated Christmas specials the past week, I really wanted to take a break from doing so and watch a nice sitcom Christmas episode. I love cartoons as much as the next TV junkie, but I was feeling a little wonky and tired today, and knew I needed something with rapid fire jokes that would keep me awake and laughing. Having just received the blu-ray of Season 2 of Modern Family in the mail the other day, the show was fresh in my mind, and I remembered how funny the Season 1 Christmas episode is. I can honestly say, as soon as I popped in the disc, I started to feel my exhaustion slipping away, and was brought right out of my funk by some solid belly laughs. It’s a very funny show to have on DVD or Blu-ray and just watch a bunch of episodes back to back, but is the Christmas episode one worth going out of your way to watch? I’ll talk about it in a second, but first a run down of the show for those who aren’t familiar with it.

The show is shot in a mockumentary style, much like The Office or Arrested Development, and focuses on the lives of a quirky extended family, split into 3 smaller families of their own. The first is Jay Pritchett and his young, beautiful, Colombian second wife Gloria, as well as her very mature for his age son from her first marriage, Manny. Their stories mainly focus around Jay and Gloria and their cultural clashes. Next would be Jay’s daughter Claire’s family. She is married to Phil, a quirky man child who makes his living as a real estate agent. They have 3 kids together: Haley, a popular 15 year old who isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box, Alex, a nerdy 13 year old who resents Haley and focuses mainly on her grades, and Luke, their 10 year old son who marches to the beat of his own drum. Their stories focus mainly on the complications that arise from raising 2 teenage girls and an odd ball middle school aged son, as well as Phil’s goofiness and how it doesn’t sit well with uptight Claire. Finally, we have Jay’s son Mitchell’s family, consisting of himself, his long time boyfriend Cam, and their adopted Vietnamese baby girl named Lily. Their conflicts mostly arise from the two of them trying to keep each other in check, with Cam being fairly high strung, while Mitchell is more laid back, but very much a snob and a perfectionist. Most episodes switch back and forth between all three families and occasionally has them all together for larger family gatherings where they confront the larger, overlapping issues. Those are the basics, now on to the Christmas episode titled “Undeck The Halls”

The episode starts on Christmas Eve Day with Claire’s branch of the Pritchett family tree all standing around Phil’s laptop dressed in hideous Christmas sweaters. It turns out that Phil has got his father down in Florida on Skype to show off the sweaters that Phil’s mother had sent them. While showing him their tree and the new glass ornament Phil’s dad had sent them, Claire notices a small cigarette sized burn on the arm of the couch and loses it on her kids. Phil tries to stay upbeat and keep talking with his father and try not make a scene, but with all of the kids denying it was them and Claire about to explode, he quickly wishes his dad a Merry Christmas and logs off.

Everyone in their Christmas sweaters

After the theme song, we cut to Jay and Gloria’s house, where Jay is on the couch watching Miracle on 34th Street with Manny, whom up until this year has spent every Christmas in Colombia and has never seen the Christmas classic. Jay, ever the manly man, is even moved to tears by the film, and just as he thinks Manny is getting into it, a scary monster pops up on the screen and Manny and Gloria start laughing and calling Jay the “Innocente!” It turns out in Colombia, everyone plays tricks on each other at Christmas time, and Manny has just gotten Jay good. Jay is upset not only because he was frightened, but because he doesn’t buy into most of their Colombian traditions and wants to have a traditional Christmas like he used to have when Claire and Mitchell were kids.

Innocente!

We then cut to the mall where Cam and Mitchell are in line to get Lily’s first photo with Santa, and Mitchell is doing nothing but complaining about how long they have had to wait. Just as Cam is trying to tell Mitchell to look on the bright side of things, a group of carolers come along and Cam becomes visibly perturbed. It turns out it is the singing group Cam founded a few years back who gave him the boot last year, and he is still bitter about it. Now both Cam and Mitchell are about at the end of their ropes, when they finally get to the front of the line. Just as they do however, the jolly fat Santa goes on break, and a much slimmer, very un-jolly Santa takes the chair. Mitchell makes a fuss and says he’d rather wait for fat Santa to come back, so he and Cam go to the side of the line while Cam heckles the carolers.

Now back to Claire and Phil’s house, where all three kids have been sat down on the couch and are being grilled about who it was that smoked in the house and burned the couch. After they all continue to deny it, Phil takes the dramatic step of telling them that unless someone steps forward, he and Claire will be cancelling Christmas. The kids, and Claire, are all upset and don’t believe Phil, but he even goes so far as to tear the tree down and drag it outside.

Phil, taking away the tree

Back to the mall with Cam and Mitchell, they have finished their visit with Santa and their shopping, and are packing things into the car when slimmer Santa comes along to help them fit Lily’s stroller in the trunk. He tells them he is an expert car packer, after having lived out of his for so long. They thank the helpful Santa, who tells them he was just fired from his job as Santa because people complained that he didn’t look the part. Both Cam and Mitchell feel awful, so to help themselves feel better about the situation, Cam invites homeless and now jobless Santa to Christmas Eve dinner.

Meanwhile at Jay’s house, Jay is running down his usual Christmas routine with Manny and Gloria, who are upset that Jay doesn’t want to include aspects of their Colombian Christmas in his traditions. Manny becomes very upset and goes up to his room, and Jay just doesn’t get why Manny doesn’t want to just go along with his traditions.

Back at Claire and Phil’s, the kids are all trying to figure out who burned the couch, but none of them will say they did it. Alex has the idea that if they all come forward ala Spartacus, their parents would be so touched that they stuck together that they’ll just forgive them, and they’ll get their Christmas back. The girls talk Luke into confessing first, and after he does, Alex and Haley back out. Just as Phil is bringing the tree back in, Luke admits it wasn’t him and the kids all start fighting again, and Phil drags the tree back outside.

Over at Cam and Mitchell’s, Scott (Homeless Santa) is telling them the stories of his hard luck life, from being in the Marines, to going now from town to town picking up odd jobs. He is really grateful that they invited him over, and are letting him do his laundry. Just as they are feeling bad enough to tell him they got him fired, he gets pretty intense and they decide to keep it a secret. Scott goes to throw in another load, and Jay shows up to drop off a few presents for Cam and Mitchell. He starts telling them about how Manny and Gloria are trying to change his traditions, and they tell him that what he is aiming for is recreating memories, while he should be making new memories and new traditions. Cam and Mitchell tell Jay that they love making new traditions every year for the holidays, to keep things fun and interesting, and just then Scott walks back into the room wearing only his Santa pants, and the room is filled with an awkward silence as Jay doesn’t know what to say.

I don't know what I'd say either

While Jay is out, Manny and Gloria are taking the opportunity to talk about Jay’s resistance to their traditions. Gloria explains to Manny that Jay is just set in his ways and is looking forward to recreating his old memories from his old family with his new family, and Manny finally gets it and decides the best present to get Jay is to try and uphold his traditions.

Meanwhile Claire and Phil are trying to decide whether cancelling Christmas is really the best option when Alex comes downstairs and tells them that she is the one who smoked and burned the couch. She begs that they bring Christmas back, and is willing to accept any punishment handed down. They ground her for a week, and then Phil goes outside to get the tree while everyone else sets the decorations back up.

A little bit later, dinner is winding to a close at Cam and Mitchell’s, and Scott is packing things up to go. They still want to tell him that they are the ones who accidentally got him fired, but just can’t bring themselves to. Just as Cam is saying goodbye to Scott, he hears the carolers outside, and flys off the handle. Scott tells Cam to calm down and that the best thing he could do would be to forgive them, because if he hadn’t forgiven Cam and Mitchell that afternoon for getting hin fired, he never would have had such a great Christmas dinner. They realize now that Scott knew all along, and Cam takes the high road to go tell the carolers that they are doing a great job, when the new leader of the group insults Cam. Scott isn’t going to let him get away with it and punches the guy square in the jaw, and then realizes he better high tail it out of the neighbourhood, telling them that while forgiveness is nice, some people are just assholes and need a good pop in the mouth.

Scott punching the caroler in the mouth

Jay has come back from being out to drop off presents, and walks into the kitchen to see Gloria and Manny making Colombian food instead of a traditional Christmas feast and yells at them about how he wants things his way. They both look hurt until Jay yells “Innocente!” and tells them he is excited to make a few new traditions, starting with setting off fireworks on Christmas like they do in Colombia. Manny and Gloria are ecstatic, and Manny and Jay go in for a hug.

It’s now Christmas morning, and Claire and the family are all opening presents when the couch starts to smoke. It turns out the glass ornament from Phil’s dad acted as a magnifying glass and burned the hole in the couch, not a cigarette. Phil and Claire realize they were wrong to not believe their kids were telling the truth, and to make it up to them Phil foolishly tells them he will take the family on a vacation to Italy, much to Claire’s dismay.

We now cut to a montage of Christmas dinner at Jay and Gloria’s and a voiceover by Jay starts playing. He goes on to say “We talk a lot about tradition this time of year. But as much as we love our traditions, sometimes our best memories come from the times that were…untraditional. We remember when Mom and Dad when crazy, we remember when Santa punched out the caroler. But for me, this was the year the word “tradition” got a lot bigger.”

Everyone enjoying Christmas Dinner

We have a final sketch as the credits roll, and as Jay and Manny are watching the DVD Jay made on Christmas, the monster pops up on the screen again and Manny has made Jay the “Innocente!” one last time, a nice light ending to the episode.

This is a great current sitcom episode, and hard to fit under my usual categories. It is mainly an episode to get a few nice Christmas lessons across, but at the same time is not totally a one off, because the show does have certain continuity that pops up again in later episodes. The first lesson is that Christmas is a time for forgiveness, and if someone didn’t mean to wrong you (Like Cam and Mitchell toward Scott), all can be forgiven if you’re willing to make an effort. The other lesson they teach is basically what Jay touches on in his speech, that as nice as it is to have regular Christmas traitions and memories, the years that really stand out are the ones where things don’t go according to plan, because they’re the ones you’ll always remember. Both are very nice lessons for a Christmas episode to try and get across, and because of the human connection of live action shows, they feel slightly more real than most of the cartoon Christmas episodes I’ve been watching.

I shied away from using the world special when talking about this episode, because while it does touch on a few lessons everyone could do to be reminded of around the holidays, it’s not a special in the sense that it sets out to do nothing else but teach lessons. It’s a regular episode of the show that just happens to take place at Christmas, and while the lessons are a nice touch, most of the first season of Modern Family focussed on a lesson or two being taught by the end of each episode. Not that this in any way detracts from the show. Quite the contrary, I like the fact that the show is so well written that they can get away with inserting a Christmas lesson or two and not make it feel hokey or out of place. This show really was perfect for having a sweet and funny Christmas episode that can be enjoyed by both fans of the show and casual TV watchers alike.

I recommend this episode to adults and families, but wouldn’t recommend that kids watch it on their own, because most jokes might need explaining to a younger audience. This show is really great for most demographics, and I can’t say I think that one age group would enjoy it more than another, because there are just as many jokes aimed at teens and 20 somethings as there are aimed at people in the 35+ demographic. It’s a really great family show that I actually watch with the family when they are around, but at the same time I love watching it just me and my girlfriend as well.

I would consider this episode to be a new classic that I have put in my regular rotation for the holidays, and would recommend it to pretty much anyone with a sense of humour.

6teen Christmas Special Will Bring Out Your Inner Teenager

December 2, 2011

When I wrote about Rocko’s Modern Life yesterday, I touched on how great the crop of Nickelodeon cartoons from the 90s were for being fun for not only little kids, but also for teenagers and young adults. These days, from the shows I’ve seen, not too many cartoons are able to walk the tightrope between a kid’s cartoon and a cartoon that teenagers can find appealing. A few years back however, when I was just exiting my teenage years, I discovered a Canadian cartoon called 6teen on Teletoon, and suddenly I had faith in the tween cartoon market again. It was funny enough with physical jokes for the kids, but at the same time had jokes and pop culture references that were very age appropriate for anyone in the 15-24 age group. I finally had a show I could watch on Teletoon that was on during the day, and also didn’t run for only one season, meaning there were more than 13 episodes to watch. I have enjoyed watching the show when I catch it on TV and rarely see the same episode twice, but I hadn’t ever seen the Christmas episode until today. I picked up the DVD release of it this afternoon at the thrift store, and decided to watch and talk about it today because I was just excited to see it. Is it one I will put into my regular rotation? Keep reading and you’ll find out.

The show’s logo

Before I get into the special, as always, I will tell you a bit about the show (Because while not necessary for some shows, I know this one is unknown to most of my friends) 6teen is sort of like an animated teenage version of “Friends”, or at least in the style of “Friends”. We follow the lives of 6 teenagers who all work or hang out at the local mall pretty much every day. There are 3 guys, Jonesy, Jude and Wyatt, as well as 3 girls, Caitlin, Jen and Nikki. Jonesy is a schemer and a womanizer, always looking for easy money and he has a new job in the mall in every episode, not being able to last at any one of them for more than a day or 2. Jude is the surfer dude skateboarder who doesn’t often have a job, and mainly just hangs out. Wyatt is the struggling musician who takes jobs at the mall while working on his songbook. Caitlin is the popular girl who got cut off by her parents and had to take a job at the lemonade stand in the mall, where she works the entire run of the show. Jen is kind of a high strung straight A student who works at the sporting goods store, also for the entire series. Last, and definitely not least is Nikki, the edgy girl with the piercings who could only get a job at the Khaki Barn with 3 nearly identical preppy girls who drive her crazy, and although she hates it, she also works the job the whole run of the series. We follow their adventures in dating, getting jobs, and on the odd, occasion even school life. It’s hard to really describe other than that, so I’ll move on now and tell you about the special called “Deck The Mall”

The cover of the DVD release of the episode

We start with Jen and Caitlin in the sporting goods store, and the place is a zoo. Jen is running back and forth trying to grab everything for her customers, but isn’t able to keep up. Caitlin is slightly freaking out because she has agreed to buy everyone’s presents for each other, and has left it until the last minute. Jen cracks under the pressure, and leaves the store to go scream in frustration the elevator. We then cut to the theme song.

When we come back, Caitlin, Jude and Jen are all hanging out at the lemonade stand and Caitlin is putting up decorations. Jen reveals to Caitlin and Jude that one of the reasons she is so stressed is because this is the first Christmas since her parents got divorced, and her mom and Jonesy’s dad have been secretly dating. Jen’s dad has also gone away for the holidays, so she and her sister have to spend the holiday with her mom at Jonesy’s house, a house filled with gross guys not used to girls being around, and very set in their ways when it comes to holiday traditions. Jen and Caitlin go off shopping together, and Jude sets out to wrap some presents. We see him later in the same spot covered in tape from a wrapping mishap, and Nikki comes over to see what’s going on. They talk about Jen and Jonesy, and just then Jen and Caitlin come back. Caitlin gets a phone call and it’s Jonesy telling them he got a job with the mall Santa, so the 4 friends set off to find Wyatt so they can go visit Jonesy at his new job.

The gang, sans Jonesy and Wyatt, hanging in front of the lemonade stand

We cut to Wyatt standing in line at the coffee place, obviously in need of a caffeine boost, but just as he gets his drink, it spills all over him. Now tired and burned, Wyatt joins the gang and they head over to see Jonesy, and they all get to see a lot more of him than they bargained for. Jonesy is one of Santa’s elves, and happens to be wearing tights that leave very little to the imagination! They all mock him, and not even Jonesy, who is normally quit witted and able to convince people anything is cool, can put a positive spin on the outfit.

Jonesy in his elf tights

Jude and Wyatt head off on their own, and end up at the Khaki Barn looking for a present for Caitlin. The preppy girls convince Jude to buy her a “Somebody Loves Me Sweater”, and when he goes to loof for Nikki, he finds her hiding from the other girls in a change room while pretending she is helping a customer. Jude tells her what he got for Caitlin, and she tells him it’s perfect, and shoos him away before the other girls know she isn’t working. Meanwhile, Jen and Caitlin are at the sporting good store and while Jen is frustrated with wrapping and bothersome shoppers, Caitlin seems upbeat, having bought most of everybody’s presents for each other. Jen is so stressed she even tells off Santa, and reveals she is angry Jonesy hasn’t tried to include any of her traditions in his family’s Christmas plans.

Speaking of Jonesy, we see him working with Santa and after a kid makes fun of him, Jonesy threatens the kid and he walks away pouting. Jonesy notices the kid has a hot mom though, and goes over to try and hit on her. Her kid, none to pleased with Jonesy in the first place, pulls down Jonesy’s tights in front of the mom, to which Jonesy is slapped and fired for being a pervert.

Jonesy after being pantsed (Is it still pantsed if you are wearing tights?)

A half hour or so later, the whole gang is off work and are hanging around the lemon. Most of them are bummed about their jobs and having to shop for each other (Even though Caitlin did most of it). Caitlin, trying to lift everyone’s spirit, suggests they all go do something fun together. Jonesy says he can sneak them all into a movie, so Caitlin gathers all of their gifts up and leaves them beside the lemon, and off they go to the theatre. As much as Caitlin was hoping this would bring everyone together, it just puts everyone at each other’s throats, cause no one can agree on a movie. They  draw straws, and end up going to Jude’s pick, a Vin Diesel driving movie. The theatre is full however, so they all have to sit in the isle, which causes everyone to fight even more. After they all tell each other off, they get kicked out of the theatre and end up getting lost in the service tunnels of the mall on their way back to the lemon. They wander around for a while, and when they finally end up at the lemon, the presents are gone and the mall is empty. They were lost during closing time, and when they try to leave they realize they are now locked in the mall on Christmas Eve!

The doors are locked!

Everyone starts to turn on each other, especially Jen and Jonesy, and Caitlin finally loses it. She’s been trying to make everyone happy all day, even wearing herself out by doing everyone’s shopping for them, and they are all just being so miserable. She tells Jonesy and Jen that she always wished for a big family growing up, and that they should celebrate the fact that now in a way their families are even bigger, even if they don’t like each other’s traditions. Jonesy appologizes to Jen for taking over the family traditions on the home front and they end up reconciling. Everyone apologizes to Caitlin, now realizing how important spending time with them is to her. Coming from a small family, she saw this as her first real chance at having a big family style Christmas with all of her friends. They are all now in a much better mood, until they remember they are still stuck in the mall. Wyatt however remember that Jonesy has a skeleton key to the mall that he got while he was working mall security, and they can all leave! But before they do, they take a little time and enjoy having an empty mall to themselves, riding the roller coaster for free and helping themselves to a few snacks. On their way out, after all of their fun, they spot their missing presents! It looks like they are in the lost and found, but when they check the box, they realize it’s actually a charity donation box, and in the spirit of Christmas, decide to leave the presents where they are, so they can hep the less fortunate.

The gang leaving their presents behind

We cut to everyone hanging around the lemon the day after Christmas right before the mall opens. Jen ended up having a fun time at Jonesy’s, and everyone is looking forward to everything going back to normal, when they realize that it’s Boxing Day and as soon as the mall doors open, the mall is overrun with shoppers (Just incase any non Canadians are reading this, our Boxing Day is the equivalent to the American Black Friday. It’s the day in Canada everyone goes shopping with their Christmas money and buys themselves the things they wanted and may not have gotten) We cut to the credits, and I think this was a perfect way to end a Canadian Christmas special.

This episode is really a mix of a few of the usual Christmas special clichés. The first is using the episode to teach a Christmas themed lesson. Jen and Jonesy learn that even though they have separate family traditions, there’s no reason they can’t compromise and enjoy a few of each other’s traditions for the sake of their parents. The episode also touches on the fact that you shouldn’t take advantage of a friend’s good nature, when everyone realizes how they were really just using Caitlin to do all of their shopping for them. Speaking of Caitlin, we also learn a lesson from her, that if you don’t do many family things for the holidays, you should try and spend time with the people you love: your friends. Finally, everyone learns to be grateful for what they have, and end up donating all of their presents to people who really them more than they do.

As much as the episode is mainly a one off, it is one that can’t be missed by regular 6teen viewers, as this is the episode where the whole gang learns about Jen’s mom and Jonesy’s dad dating. Missing this episode could cause some confusion when watching future episodes.

I highly recommend this show to both young adults as well as teenagers and adults. I wouldn’t recommend it for young children, as there aren’t too many wacky cartoony elements in this episode like there are in other episodes of the show. Sadly missing from the special is the mall head of security, who is a spoof of Christopher Walken, and a character young kids would find funny. The young adults and teens may relate to a few of the issues mentioned in the episode, and unlike some specials, none of the problems are too heavy or feel out of place in a young person’s show. The adults will like the special because it may remind them of their more carefree holidays where all they had to worry about was buying gifts for their friends and family, and not worry about credit card debt and unpaid bills. The humor is also the right speed for adults, and while skewed to a slightly younger generation, I could see most adults getting a kick out of the jokes in the episode. If you were a fan of Friends, but could never relate to a bunch of 20 somethings living in New York, than I think you would definitely like 6teen, because most people can relate to being a teenager and hanging out at the mall.

While I wouldn’t consider this one a true hidden gem or modern Christmas classic, it is really funny and enjoyable for a wide audience, and I did enjoy it enough that I will for sure enter it into my regular Christmas Special rotation.

Rocko’s Modern Christmas A Modern Classic

December 1, 2011

The 90s were truly an interesting era for Nickelodeon shows, with many of the shows being made not just for kids, but for teenagers and young adults as well. Their most grown up was Ren and Stimpy, with many of the others, such as Rocko’s Modern Life, being aimed at a young audience with its cartoony elements, and a more teenaged audience with its jokes. While I have already touched on one great Nickelodeon special, Hey Arnold’s “Arnold’s Christmas”, I am here today to tell you about another great special from Nickelodeon, Rocko’s Modern Life’s special called “Rocko’s Modern Christmas”. But, as usual, before I get into the special, I’ll touch on the show briefly.

The cover of the VHS tape I watched it on

The show is about a wallaby named Rocko who moves to O-Town from Australia with his cute little dog Spunky. He finds a friend in a young bull named Heifer, who funnily enough is the adoptive child to a family of wolves. Through Heifer Rocko meets and befriends a very neurotic, Woody Allen type turtle named Filburt. Rocko also has a grumpy neighbour named Mr. Bighead, who has a short temper and isn’t Rocko’s biggest fan. Other than that, the show is basically a zany 90s Nickelodeon cartoon with jokes that will go above the heads of kids, but enough physical jokes for keep the kids entertained. With all of this in mind, I’ll tell you about the special.

The special starts with Rocko and Spunky coming out of Rocko’s house all dressed up for a blizzard, only to find there is no snow. Rocko has his sled with him, and wishes that it could snow, because it just doesn’t feel like Christmas with no snow. He notices that the cloud above his house is trying to drop snow, but seems to be constipated. It drops one big flake that knocks Rocko out. Rocko imagines a big snow storm and everyone sledding around and skating, and this serves as the credit sequence.

The constipated cloud

Rocko wakes up from his day dream, and is hopeful that it will snow, but just then it starts to rain. He is cheered up though when he notices he has new neighbours moving in who seem to have the holiday spirit. He and Spunky go back inside, much to the joy of Rocko’s other neighbour, Mr. Bighead. He and his wife are just readying their Christmas cards (seems a little late what with it being Christmas Eve, but whatever), and he is overjoyed that it isn’t snowing, because he hates Christmas. He is not happy when he sees the new neighbours have decked out their house with all sorts of Christmas decorations.

Rocko has decided that to try and lift his spirits, he is going to invite Heifer and Filburt and a few other friends over for a Christmas party that night. Things get out of hand however, and soon nearly everyone Rocko knows has heard about his party and are intent on coming. He makes up invites for everyone, mails them, and he and Spunky head off to the mall to get a tree. On the way there, they pass by the new neighbour’s house, and see one of the new neighbours out front. He is an elf! One of Santa’s elves. He is really timid, and afraid to talk to Rocko, but secretly follows Rocko and Spunky off to the mall.

The silent elf outside of his house

Outside of the mall, Rocko goes into a tent to buy a Christmas tree, and it just so happens to be run by Filburt and Heifer. Rocko gets the last real tree, and heads off into the mall to look around before heading home. The elf also goes into the mall, and while at the shoe store, is picked on by a group of Alligators who work there. Rocko sees his neighbour being bothered, and distracts the employees long enough for the little guy to escape. Rocko sees it as his job to see the little guy home, and off they go.

They go back to the elf’s house, and after knocking on the door, another elf comes to answer it. He thanks Rocko for bringing the little silent elf home and invites him inside for some tea and cookies. Rocko realizes they are Santa’s elves, and invites them to his party that night. The elves will be done working by the time the party starts, so they are happy to accept the invitation. As Rocko is stepping out of the house, Mr. Bighead sees that the house is owned by elves and hatches a plan.

The inside of the elf house, full of Christmas toys!

A little while later, after he has dropped off Rocko’s tree, Filburt is walking by Mr. Bighead’s house and asks if Mr. Bighead is going to Rocko’s party. Since he hasn’t received an invitation, and hates Christmas and elves, he starts a rumor that the elves have a contagious foot fungus, which greatly upsets Filburt, a very serious hypochondriac. The rumor spreads and soon no one is going to be coming to the party except the elves. The elves though hear about a gang of diseased trolls going to the party, and don’t want to get mixed up in any of that, to the great disappointment of the little silent elf.

Rocko gets everything ready, not knowing that no one plans to come. Before he knows it it’s midnight, and no one has come to the party. He tries to call his family in Australia to wish them a Merry Christmas, but all of the lines are busy. Just then, the doorbell rings, and the little silent elf is there. He comes inside and sees how sad Rocko is, and tries to cheer him up by having him read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas out loud to the elf and Spunky. It puts Rocko to sleep, and as the elf leaves, he is so touched by Rocko’s kindness that he is able to use his magic and make the constipated cloud able to snow. It snows all night, but only over Rocko’s house.

The snow falling on Rocko's house

The next morning, everyone wakes up to see the only snow in town is at Rocko’s house. The elves come out of their house and reveal to everyone that the silent elf made it snow because only he and one other person in town showed true Christmas spirit, and that person was Rocko. Rocko just so happens to open his door at that moment, and Filburt apologizes for spreading rumours and skipping the party. Heifer apologizes for skipping the party to sell trees. Everyone else apologizes to Rocko and they all go inside his house for a Christmas party after all! Everyone that is, except for Mr. Bighead. He is still furious about not receiving and invite. He hears a knock at the door, and the silent elf is there on his front step. He hands Mr. Bighead an invite that was clearly lost in the mail, and as Mr. Bighead decides to come to the party, the elf smacks him on the foot with a hammer to get back at him for starting the elf rumour. Mr. Bighead chases the elf, but trips, falls into some christmas lights, goes flying into Rocko’s house, and ends up as a makeshift Christmas tree. Rocko realizes now that everyone had Christmas cheer inside them all along, and tells the elf that this is the best Christmas ever. The phone rings, and it is Rocko’s family to wish him a Merry Christmas. We cut to outside his house and now it is snowing all over the town, and the special comes to an end.

Decked out Christmas tree Mr. Bighead

This special falls under the category of being a one-off special that teaches a Christmas lesson, and I think it does a pretty good job at doing so. While it teaches a few other minor lessons, like that it is better to spend time with your friends at Christmas than it is to be greedy (Heifer), or that it is wrong to spread rumours because doing so may have very negative results on a friend (Filburt), I think the main message is that if you get together with all of your friends and family and really celebrate and enjoy each other’s company, you can have a great Christmas. It’s a nice message to get across, one that comes up a lot in Christmas specials, but one that never really gets old. So often around Christmas people really forget that the important part of the holidays is to spend it with family, not focus on presents or money, and these specials serve as a great reminder of that.

I really love the way this special touches not only on its lesson, but also on other Christmas time things like the importance of snow. Having grown up in Canada, I agree with Rocko that it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without snow. While I hate driving in it and shovelling it, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas morning without a blanket of snow on the ground. Luckily for me though, I don’t normally have any issues with constipated clouds.

I recommend this special to both children and adults. The kids will like the cartoony elements of the story, while the adults enjoy the pop culture references and adult oriented jokes that will most likely go over the heads of the kids. The overall runtime for the episode is around 25 minutes, so it is a perfect length for an episode of this style, and never really drags or gets boring at any point. This is a special I make sure to watch every holiday season since I bought it, and if you like those 90s era Nickelodeon cartoons that are hard to believe were ever made for kids, I think you’ll want to make a habit of watching it too.

Magic School Bus Recycles Holiday Special Clichés In The Name Of Science

November 30, 2011

As anyone who went to school in the 90s might know, there were 2 reasons to look forward to science class: Bill Nye The Science Guy and The Magic School Bus. As hokey as a lot of the edutainment we watched in school was, Bill Nye and Magic School Bus were the perfect blend of funny, educational, and entertaining. I remember the whole class would always be excited when we walked into science class and saw the teacher had signed out the TV and VCR for the period. I think that both shows are great and still hold up today, but I only have the holiday episode for one of them in my collection, and that’s the Magic School Bus Holiday Special. It’s got recycling, The Nutcracker, and a celebrity guest voice, but before I can get into it, I’ll give you the rundown for The Magic School Bus.

The show is quite simple to explain. A creative, zany teacher named Miss Frizzle has a class of 8 kids whom she takes on awesome field trips almost every day. Miss Frizzle has a Magic School Bus, hence the show’s name, that can transform itself into other vehicles, shrink itself, or even turn into a planet! She takes them on these field trips to teach them lessons about science, ranging from physics to biology to astronomy, and while taking a few liberties here and there (Which they do address at the end of each episode), the science is fairly accurate. Most people my age learned their science basics from this show, and still remember a lot of the lessons to this day. Having said all of that, I’ll now tell you about the special.

The cover of the DVD I watched it on

The special starts with a stage production of The Nutcracker that is just wrapping up. We see one of Miss Frizzle’s students, Wanda, in the audience, and just as she is clapping and cheering, she is snapped back to reality. She was day dreaming while the class is sorting recyclables for a trip to the local recycling plant. The other students ask her what she was thinking about, and she tells them all about how excited she is to be going to see The Nutcracker that night. It’s her family’s yearly tradition, and she really loves it. She has even brought her toy soldier, which she has had since she was a young child, with her to school so she can go straight from there to the play.

Wanda holding her toy soldier

The class is almost done sorting, but they are waiting on Arnold before they can go. He comes in and apologizes for being late, but tells everyone he was spending Hanukkah time with his mom because he won’t be home that night for the first night of Hanukkah. They sympathize, and he starts to help them all pack up the recyclables to the bus for the trip, when he drops a cool cross section mineral rock from his pocket. He tells Wanda that his mom gave it to him as an early Hanukkah gift. They are just about to leave when he sees Wanda’s soldier on the floor, and thinking it was meant to be recycled, tosses it into one of the blue boxes.

Wanda admiring Arnold's rock mineral

The children sing a song in the bus on their way to the recycling plant,  and before they know it they have arrived at a large recycling facility. Everyone carries some of the recycling inside, and it is here that we meet Miss Frizzle’s cousin “Murph”, voiced by Dolly Parton. She tells the kids where to sort the recycling by singing them a song about doing so, her first of many in the episode. Everything gets sorted and put in the right place, and then Wanda sees that he soldier has been mixed in with all of the other plastic. She tries to tell Murph that she needs to get it out of the bin, but it is too late. The plastic is all washed, melted, and cut into small plastic pellets! Arnold apologizes profusely and feels rotten about what has happened. In true It’s A Wonderful Life form, Wanda wishes there was no such thing as recycling, so that she could have her doll back. Luckily, it just so happens the Magic School Bus has a button for that, and everyone leaves the plant, boards the bus, and Miss Frizzle hits the recycling reversal button. It causes the recycling plant to turn into a pile of garbage, but this is just the first in a series of things to disappear because recycling is no more.

Liz, the class mascot, pressing the recycling reversal button

As the bus travels back to the school, all signs of recycling or recycled materials from blue boxes to playground equipment transform into garbage. Trees also start to disappear, what with no paper being recycled. By the time they make it back to the school, Wanda realizes how important is, but still want to go in to the class in hopes that her doll would be there. When they arrive at the school however, they can’t get in because the playground has been turned into a landfill!

The landfill playground

Wanda realizes the error of her ways, and wants to undo all of the un-recycling they just did, but by the time she comes around to the idea, the bus itself has all but disappeared, what with it having been made of recycled materials. The class all band together though, and with the help of Murph and one of her songs, begin recycling old cans and bottles and scrap metal into a new School Bus. It isn’t too long at all before they have a newly recycled bus and are ready to re-do all of the recycling they undid. As they drive back to the recycling plant, we see things going back to how they were, and it all looks much better. By the time they get back to the pile of rubble that was the recycling plant, Wanda is happy that recycling exists, even if it cost her her favourite doll.

The bus changing the rubble back into the recycling plant

After changing the recycling plant back to normal, Wanda realizes if they can make a new bus, they can surely make a new doll. Everyone goes back in side, and with the help of Murph, eight new soldiers are made from the plastic pellets, one for each student. Wanda now invites everyone to come with her to The Nutcracker that night, and they all say yes except Arnold. It turns out the reason he isn’t spending time with his mom that night is because his grandma is sick, and his mom went ahead to go check up on her, while Arnold and his dad are catching the late train. Everyone feels bad for Arnold, especially Wanda after a present from Arnold falls out of her bag. It turns out that he has given her his rock mineral to make up the loss of her original doll, and has included a note telling her to enjoy The Nutcracker that night. Wanda is visibly touched by Arnold’s gift, and wishes there is something she could do for him.

Wanda opening Arnold's present

We then cut to a shot of Arnold’s train that night, and he and his dad are settled in for their long journey. Just then, Arnold hears one of Murph’s songs coming for the back of the train, and heads back to check it out. He goes through a door to find that his whole class, along with Murph and Miss Frizzle, have attached the bus to the back of the train as a caboose and are all there to see him. He is shocked, because they are all supposed to be at The Nutcracker, but Wanda tells him that some things are more important than going to the ballet. She even has a present for Arnold, a bag of plastic pellets, which Arnold seems oddly pleased with. Then everyone joins in on one of Murph’s songs, and just before the special ends, the characters wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy Kwanza.

The whole class in the caboose bus to surprise Arnold

This special is a little hard to categorize, because it skates back and forth between a few of the usual holiday special tropes. The episode conveys two messages in the end, one Christmas oriented, and the other recycling oriented. Wanda realizes, ala George Bailey, that wishing something out of existence can have dangerous side effects, and may actually make for a worse world, a non Christmas message conveyed using Christmas Special clichés. She also realizes however, that sometimes being with a friend in need over the holidays is more important than doing something for yourself that you can always do again next year. Both are nice messages, and I’m glad The Magic School Bus was able to fit in an extra lesson at the end of an episode in the spirit of the holidays.

I like it when shows like this are able to do a holiday special, because even though the show was mainly made for edutainment purposes, the producers and writers knew that they could kill two birds with one stone by making a holiday episode. They were not only able to make an episode with a positive ecological message, they were able to use their soapbox and teach kids a great lesson in selflessness.

The episode’s only real downfalls are that like many other shows made in the 90s, they have included bad jokes that haven’t held up well over time. Also, as much as The Magic School Bus normally stretched reality to help prove a point, some of the things in this episode are downright silly and unbelievable, like Miss Frizzle having gigantic metal moulds to make a new school bus in her coat pocket. It was slightly lazy writing, but doesn’t negatively affect the show too much.

I would recommend this special to adults and kids alike. It’s a good special for the kids, as it teaches a couple of great lessons, and for anyone who grew up on The Magic School Bus, once you look past the dated jokes, you’ll realize the show still holds up pretty well. It’s also a nice special for all denominations, as it is not a Christmas Special, but a Holiday Special, and makes mention of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza as to not be exclusionary. Adults who didn’t grow up on The Magic School Bus might not love the episode, but there are enough fun songs and allusions to other holiday classics that most people should find something to like about it.

LazyTown Special Misses The Mark, But Is Still Zany Fun

November 29, 2011

I can honestly say that I am not a big fan of many of the kids shows that have been made since the year 2000. It takes a really funny or unique show to catch my attention, and only one of these post 90s shows so far has caught my eye. That show is Lazy Town, which aired for a few season between 2004 and 2007, and still runs in syndication on some children’s channels. It is truly zany and unique and I have never seen any other show like it.

Lazy Town is kind of hard to describe. First of all, the characters are a mixture of puppets and humans, kind of like the style of Sesame Street. The three humans on the show, Sportacus, Robbie Rotten, and Stephanie, are the main characters, while everyone else in LazyTown are puppets and make up the supporting cast. The puppets look kind of odd, as they are cartoony looking and made of vinyl, which may leave you taken aback when you first see them. The show is essentially about a place called LazyTown, where all of the puppet residents are content to be lazy all the time and eat junk food. Enter Stephanie, who moves to town and finds out that there is someone named Sportacus who watches over the town and it’s people, and that he would like to help all of the residents learn about better eating habits and exercise. Everyone in town is happy with the way Sportacus comes down from his blimp to help them, with the exception of Robbie Rotten, the only other human in LazyTown, who is only happy when everyone else in town is in a bad mood. He’s kind of the Dick Dastardly or Snidely Whiplash of the show, and certainly contains physical attributes of those characters. With that in mind, I’ll tell you about the Christmas Special entitled “Surprise Santa”

The cover of the VHS tape. Also available on DVD

The episode starts with Sportacus in his blimp above LazyTown, deciding it is time to decorate for Christmas. He does some backflips and spins (Because he is so sporty), and then uses a tennis racket to hit around some Christmas balls to decorate the inside of his blimp. It’s a cute little opener for the episode, and then we switch our focus down to LazyTown.

Sportacus decorating his blimp

Stephanie is at the mayor’s house with all of her friends, and they are planning for the annual LazyTown Christmas dinner party. We then see Robbie peeking in on them from his underground lair. He is jealous that he wasn’t invited to the party, and devises a plan to embarrass Sportacus, the guest of honor at the dinner, by shooting a giant snow ball from a cannon outside into the party and knocking out Sportacus. Robbie is excited about his idea, and goes back to spying on the mayor’s house to try and peek at all the presents. Stephanie’s friend Ziggy is acting very hyper, as it would appear as though he has had a little too much sugar. Their friend Stingy is there too, but isn’t helping everyone get ready, he’s working on a Christmas list that is so long it may as well be a book. He tells everyone that he likes giving gifts, but he really just loves getting them.

Later on that night, after everyone else has gone home, Stingy is still working on his list while the mayor is hanging lights on the outside of his house. He almost falls off his ladder, but Sportacus’ danger alarm goes off and he comes down from his blimp and rescues the mayor. At the same time, Ziggy has come back and is being really annoying towards Stingy, because he is still hopped up on sugar. Stingy shoos him away, and goes to ask the mayor’s girlfriend what she thinks is the best part about Christmas, to which she tells him that the best part of it is to give of course, not to get. Stingy wanders away to think about what he has heard.

The mayor, hanging off his ladder that is now being held up safely by Sportacus' skateboard

We then cut to Robbie, who is rigging his cannon to fire through the mayor’s window at the guest of honor seat, where Sportacus will surely be seated during dinner. He sets the timer to go off at 6:00, and then goes back down to his underground lair. While this is going on, Sportacus and Stephanie are building a snowman, and Ziggy comes over telling them he’d love to help. Problem is, he’s so hyper, he knocks it over. Ziggy runs away upset, but Sportacus tells him he shouldn’t be upset, rather he should just cut down on the candy and start eating “Sports Candy”, Sportacus’ code for vegetables. Ziggy feels better now, and even calms down a bit.

Sportacus, Ziggy and a piece of "Sports Candy"

We cut back down to Robbie’s lair, and he has decided that he wants to steal Christmas, so what better costume to sneak around in than a Santa Claus outfit? He dresses up in one while all of the other characters sing about Christmas and have a snowball fight. Robbie goes back up into the town, and is about to sneak into the mayor’s house when Ziggy comes across him. Ziggy tells him that he has been good, so to get rid of him, Robbie gives him some candy. Ziggy tells him he really shouldn’t, but Robbie tells him of course he should, because Santa has told him to. Ziggy eats it all, becomes insanely hyper, tells Robbie everything he wants for Christmas, and eventually leaves. Robbie thinks he is free and clear, when Stingy comes up and hands him his Christmas list, which must weigh 30 pounds. Stingy wanders off, satisfied to have dropped off the list, and Robbie makes his way up to the mayor’s chimney.

Robbie sneaking down the mayor's chimney

Everyone inside the mayor’s house is ready for dinner, when they realize they are missing a Christmas tree! They all take off to go find one, and Robbie sneaks in to steal all of the presents. He has almost all of them packed up, when he realizes that they have bought him a present, and don’t hate him after all! He unpacks the presents quickly, and tries to get away back up the chimney, but gets stuck. Everyone comes into the house, and thinks it is Santa! Ziggy is super excited, and helps pull Santa out, pulling off the costume and revealing Robbie is Santa! They ask why he is there, and he tells them he came to deliver presents!

They invite him to stay for dinner, and as a show of gratitude, they let him sit in the guest of honor chair. Everything goes well, until the clock strikes 6:00, and Robbie realizes a giant snowball will be headed their way any second. He tells everyone to duck, and Sportacus does some fancy flips on the table, catches the snowball, and throws it back outside. He thanks Robbie for the warning, and everyone sings and opens presents. Robbie finds out his present is a pair of socks, and decides he’d rather just stay a bad guy and not hang with this crowd. In his anger, the throws the head of the snowman Stephanie and Sportacus made through the air, and it lands in his cannon, which resets to go off in 1 minute. Robbie goes back down to his lair, and after he sits down, he hears his cannon go off, and the snowman head goes flying, lands in the secret tube down to Robbie’s lair, and lands on his head, a cute ending to the special.

Robbie's sad snowman head

This is kind of an odd special, because of the manor of the show, though I’d have to say it is an episode that teaches a non-Christmas related lesson, but uses Christmas as the reason to get a point across. The main lesson I got from the episode is that it is ok to have candy in small doses, but if you have too much it’s not good for you. Instead, have a little bit of candy, and then have a healthy snack, which I guess is a good lesson for kids from a fitness oriented show. I think they try and hint that Stingy should realize that Christmas is about giving and not receiving, but it is never implied that he picked up on the message, and he seems to stay as spoiled and bratty as always.

Also, you’d think that maybe they would have had Robbie be good for at least half an episode, but once he finds out they bought him socks, he goes back to being a jerk as well. I guess they didn’t want to confuse the kids by changing the attitudes of the characters, because in their eyes, Robbie is always a bad guy and Stingy is always a brat. For the older viewers however, it comes as a bit of a let down that with so many chances to teach the typical Christmas lessons, none of the opportunities are seized.

On the plus side however, the songs in this show are really catchy and fun and will have your toes tapping.

I would recommend this special for kids and adult fans alike. Kids will like the singing and puppets, and while the episode really doesn’t utilize it’s position to get across any cute Christmas messages, it’s still fun to watch the antics of Sportacus and Robbie, no matter your age. Their movements, Robbie’s especially, are so over the top and exaggerated, that it feels almost like watching an old silent movie when you watch all of his scheming and physical comedy. It’s a fun special to watch with the kids, or if you are into the zany action of LazyTown. Otherwise, I’d suggest skipping this special, because while I think some kids shows are universal, LazyTown is an acquired taste that many adults just won’t like.