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Book Review: The Silence of the Elves

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The Silence of the Elves
Meg Muldoon, 2016

Premise: Holly's been demoted right out of the North Pole through no fault of her own, but she'll need more than hope to get her life back on track.

You may recall that I kind of liked another one of Meg Muldoon's holiday-themed cozy mysteries, so when I saw she had a new series that was explicitly about Christmas elves, I had to try it.

Unfortunately, I feel that this book was the author attempting to move outside her personal formula and failing. It's a bit like a palette swap. Nothing about the Christmas-elf premise felt committed to or explored fully, just pasted on.

There's a thin veneer of elf-ness: Holly mentions her elf instincts to be cheerful, kind, and festive, but we never really see this play out to a greater extent than it would with a naturally cheerful person. The elves are basically indistinguishable from humans, and while Santa, Mrs. Claus, and some extended relations are characters, they are indistinguis…

Bad Santa 2 (2016)

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If either Bad Santa or its sequel were 1% lower on Rotten Tomatoes, their sum total would be exactly 100%. It's a shame this isn't the case, as there'd be a certain poetry to having this occupy the space its predecessor does not; a symbolic representation of how it is the empty husk of what it tries to copy.

Ultimately, the one positive thing I can say about this pointless exercise is that it serves to emphasize how surprising it remains that the original was any different.

The plot of Bad Santa 2 follows a fairly routine heist formula. The same could almost be said about part one, except there the heist mainly served as a backdrop for a story of a nearly irredeemable man discovering the importance of a found family. Here, the focus is inverted - there's some lip service paid to the same theme, but the movie's attention is planted firmly on the crime. When the movie does drift off-topic, it's to exploit moments of depravity and gross-out jokes in an attempt to…

Presenting the Mainlining Christmas Podcast

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For the better part of a decade, we've been sifting our way through an endless ocean of yuletide specials and sharing the experience with those of you willing to follow along. Over the years, something odd happened: we started to learn something.

This was unintentional, I assure you.

We started noticing patterns and trends, and we began piecing together theories about the holidays' odd relationship with pop culture, genre, and literature. I'm not sure it's fair to call us "experts," but we certainly developed a rather unique perspective.

But while the blog has been a good forum for reviews and the occasional think piece, it's a poor environment for more in-depth discussion. We wanted to try something new.

And that brings us to The Mainlining Christmas Podcast.

We're working on pushing this out to various podcast outlets, but for now you can listen at Soundcloud. We've got plans for several more episodes, assuming there's interest, though we&#…

Will and Grace Holiday Episodes (Part 2: 2003-5)

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Fanilow (2003)

The season six Christmas episode begins at Grace's company holiday party. (Since it's just her and Karen, does it really count as a company party?) Will doesn't show, claiming some sort of charitable appointment, but really he's in line for tickets for a special Barry Manilow Christmas concert.

Grace discovers him there and holds his spot while he goes to use a restroom. Then she spots her mother having dinner with Jack, after telling Grace she wasn't coming into town for their Hanukkah dinner. Grace deals...poorly with this, first making a scene about how she's glad her mother isn't taking up her time, and then breaking down over missing their traditions.

Meanwhile, Will is in line at Subway to use the restroom and a man flirts with him awkwardly. Will brushes him off, only to discover later that he's Manilow's road manager. He tries to strike the flirtation back up, and the guy basically blackmails him into a date.

This episode occa…

Will and Grace Holiday Episodes (Part 1: 2001, 2002)

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Sometimes the best way to start a review is with words of wisdom from my Mainlining Christmas partner. Erin’s take: “These are all good comic actors wasting their time. These scripts really wish the show was Seinfeld.”

Will and Grace was notable at the time as one of many forces that helped some people understand that gay people are just like everyone else. Now anyone can be featured in mediocre, dated sitcoms, but it was (sadly) a big deal then.

Jingle Balls (2001)

The first Christmas episode is in season four. Grace has found out that Will is dating a mysterious man named Robert, but he refuses to arrange for them to meet, claiming that it’s too early in the relationship.

Sometime later, when Will picks up Robert for lunch, he finds out that Grace has invited him for dinner. He’s concerned, but decides it’s no big deal. When Robert comes, though, Will is incredibly self-conscious. Robert is a dancer, and he's demonstrative, flashy, and sensitive/artsy as can be.

Robert and Grace …

WordGirl: Oh, Holiday Cheese (2009)

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WordGirl is my go-to example when I want to argue good superhero stories can be told at any level of maturity. The series is unequivocally targeted at young kids - it's edutaiment, through and through, complete with vocabulary lessons repeated multiple times to the viewer. It's the kind of show you'd expect to be tedious and pedantic. Instead, it's ridiculous fun.

The reason WordGirl works is it understands its genres. The writers clearly understand the conventions of both kids television and superheroes, and they're eager to play with both. They're willing to mock PBS conventions in a good-natured way, and they're more than happy to embrace comic book tropes. The result is a series that plays like a pureed homage to Sesame Street, Powerpuff Girls, and Superman.
The holiday episode is a fine example. After the narrator introduces the episode's special words (curmudgeon and festivity, in case you were interested), the episode shifts to a brief battle be…

DC Holiday Special 2017

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I picked up DC Comics' Holiday Special this year, but it's kind of a rip-off. Unlike the pleasant surprise of last year, most of the tales in this one feel cramped and one-note.

The 90ish-page special opens and closes with a frame story of Clark Kent and Constantine in a bar, arguing with "Bibbo" Bibbowski over whether Superman (or anyone) is really making a difference in the world. Bibbo's an optimist and reassures Clark with a bunch of stories. Not that the stories which follow make any sense in that context.

Most of the stories are just too short to have any impact. I was thinking that I would have rather they had cut one or two and let the others be longer. However, it's not actually that they're all short on space; some of them just aren't paced well for the space they have.

Worst of the bunch: 

There's a weird, surreal, fatalistic Swamp Thing piece that doesn't end with much. Something called Atomic Knights wasn't so terrible in itse…