I just watched the trailer for ‘Christmas Shoes.’ I, uh …. Well, I regret it.
I don’t really plan these out. I have ideas in a TextEdit document and three different notebooks with bits scribbled into them. (I don’t have any of those notebooks with me tonight.) I start off with a general topic and before I know it I’ve careened off into some sort of red-hazed hate-spewing rage about Kids These Days and What’s Wrong With the World. Not all of this is my fault – I blame awful Christmas television and Delilah.
I’ve hated the Christmas Shoes song for as long as it’s been on the radio. My Holiday Mirth Meter was pegged years ago when I worked at the Evil Liquor Warehouse and the dial was permanently positioned on Lite 105. I worked nights. Do you know what that meant? It meant that, after three hours of enduring maudlin or saccharine or infantile Christmas novelty songs and forgettable shrieking starlet ballads … it all started over again with the John Tesh show at 8pm. I nearly burst a blood vessel the night I heard “Christmas Shoes” around 7:56pm on Lite 105 … and then it immediately played again at 8pm on the nationally-syndicated John Tesh Show.
Why do I hate this song so much? It’s completely artificial. It’s like Nicholas Sparks books – it was written solely with the intention of making you feel bad. Also there are lite rock chimes. And singing children. And a sappy child soloist. And it’s – just – so – bad – ! I’ve ground my teeth into powder just thinking about it.
Anyway, Christmas songs are another hate-filled diatribe. Right now I’m spewing forth white-hot rage at Christmas television. If I’m friends with you then there’s a good chance we all watched the same specials at Christmas. The essentials, as far as I was concerned, were Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Rudolph, Garfield, and the Muppet Family Christmas. Frosty was never a favorite, although it bears the distinction of featuring a villain who actually murders the protagonist, and the less that’s said about the ill-conceived sequel the better. There was another special about poorly-drawn humans and mice and a clock, but obviously it didn’t stick.
I just rewatched the first part of Mickey’s Christmas Carol for the first time in over a decade tonight, and it’s absolutely beautiful, from the opening title cards to the detail given to the bleak London setting. You know what kids get now? Kung Fu Panda and some winter festival nonsense. TWO Shrek holiday specials. And worst of the worst – live action Jim Carrey Grinch. Criminal. (And does anyone else think the Polar Express movie is kind of creepy? No? Also I don’t remember that much drama and death-defying peril in the gorgeous story book. Listen, friends, if it won’t film well as an original, maybe don’t film it … ?)
Granted, not everything produced in the halcyon days of our youth was great, either: Last year Georgia and I subjected ourselves to “Christmas Comes to Pac-Land” and the He-Man (I cannot get over how weird that is to type) Christmas special. We watched the latter to the end, myself more mystified than anything as I had zero exposure to He-Man as a child and thus no nostalgia. But Skeletor got a puppy, and I was reasonably sure that was out of character.
We lasted about four minutes into the PacMan special before Georgia summed up what I was also thinking: “I just can’t do it.”
A trouble with Christmas specials is the pressure to create one, put it out and sell advertising as quickly as possible, leading to all these already-merchandised holiday spinoffs. Even my favorite shows have produced some pretty disappointing Christmas installments, like the poorly-animated Venture Brothers extra and the deeply unsatisfactory Metalocalypse episode. I can almost see why people immediately jump all over existing source material, throwing scarves on their pre-existing characters and quickly painting (or computer generating) some wintery trappings into the backgrounds of familiar backdrops.
This is not to say the original material fares any better. The title of this post comes from the trailer to something called “November Christmas.” I happened to catch it the other night and was aaaaaaaaalmost drawn in by two factors: There was a border collie, and there was Sam Elliot, being all mustachey and noble and wise. However there was also a sick child and an unrealistic hayride Christmas tree farm, and also dad had the remote.
I’m sure he saved me from pain.
Look: Not one tree farm actually looks like that. Not one family is that goddamned shiny-smile and happy. Someone has always lost a mitten or has gotten stabbed with hay or is stabbing his brother with hay or is coooooold and wants to go hooooooooome. No one laughs that much or with their eyes and mouths open that wide – you can see the strain of pushing jolly all over the actors’ faces and frankly I don’t buy it.
Oh lord, I just checked the abcfamily site out of morbid curiosity and discovered something called “Christmas Cupid” will be airing. From the copy, “With just days away from Christmas, Caitlin takes Sloane on a journey to meet the ghosts of her ex-boyfriends from the past, present and future to try and guide her to true love.” So … we’re doing “A Christmas Carol” again. And poorly. When can we stop rehashing this story, and “It’s a Wonderful Life?” At mom’s the other night I caught the tail-end of some Lea Thompson Christmas movie (does that woman age? Serious question.) The acting was so bad I couldn’t believe it ever made it to television, and I just had to look it up to better mock it. The description? “A stressed out lawyer and mother of three gets her yuletide wish to see what her life would be like if she had chosen to pursue her career in law rather than marrying and becoming a working mother.”
Stop it. Just stop it! What can any modernized pop culture take on either classic tale do better than Bill Murray or the Muppets? (I’ve actually never seen “Scrooged,” but hey, Bill Murray. The Muppet Christmas Carol is the only post-Jim Muppets I like and the only Christmas movie I own because ALL RIGH ALL RIGHT I AM A SCROOGE).
This is pretty long and I haven’t even gotten into “Santa Buddies” or “The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation” (Jack finds personifying animals embarrassing) or HEY ABCFAMILY IS RUNNING MICKEY’S CHRISTMAS CAROL ON TUESDAY NIGHT! It only half-counts if the three shorts that ran with it originally are shown.
Anyway. Tomorrow I am going to talk about Christmas specials I actually like, including my personal mother-of-all Christmas specials sadly butchered by copyright conflicts.