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Showing posts with the label 90's

Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire (1999)

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Hooves of Fire is a BBC claymation special about the son of Rudolph joining Santa's team. Rudolph's name is never explicitly spoken due to copyright issues, but there's no ambiguity about Robbie's heritage. The same can be said about Aardman animation - their name isn't on this, but their style permeates the special. Also, this was directed by Richard Starzak, who'd later go on to create Shaun the Sheep.

Overall, I enjoyed this, thanks to some clever jokes and fun designs. That said, the concept was a bit one-note, there were some unfortunate character directions, and the tone needed work. In short, it was good but not amazing.
The special starts with Robbie arriving at the lodge where Santa's reindeer live and train. Instead of glowing, Robbie's nose functions as a sort of navigator. Also, he later learns to bounce off it, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The nose is basically all Robbie has going for him - he's lazy, out of shape, and self-ob…

Blossom: It's a Marginal Life (1991)

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Blossom is one of those shows I remember watching, but I don't actually remember specifics about. It was about a girl, who wore big hats, and her friend? Watching this episode only convinced me that I'm probably better off forgetting it.

It's an incredibly generic-feeling sitcom, featuring the broadest acting imaginable. You're on film, you don't need to play to the cheap seats.

The titular character lives with her father and two brothers, all of whom spend this episode bumbling around to an impressive degree. There's an early subplot about Blossom being a terrible student driver. Her grandfather takes her driving, only for them to just barely luck out of a ticket for driving 7 miles per hour on a main road. The punchline is that her grandfather is a terrible driver too (no one knows how he got to their house, he doesn't seem to live there) and they're all in danger/recklessly endangering others. Laugh track, fade to commercial.

The more holiday-ish pl…

Family Matters Christmas Episodes (1990 - 1997)

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I remember this show, of course. I think everyone who grew up in the nineties at least remembers Family Matters.

What I hadn't remembered was that Family Matters is actually part of the Mypiot Cinematic Universe, which is to say it's a spin-off of Perfect Strangers. Harriet Winslow was a series regular on Perfect Strangers before getting her own show, along with her husband, Carl, who'd appeared in a handful of episodes.

And speaking of Carl... he's played by eternal police officer actor, Reginald VelJohnson, who played a similar character in the perennial holiday favorite, Die Hard (assuming they're not, in fact, the same man).

But any discussion about Family Matters is ultimately going to fixate on the series most famous character, Steve Urkel. Arguably television's most famous nerd, Urkel represents the personification of the stereotypical nerdy character years before Big Bang Theory would whitewash the concept and build an entire sitcom out of the idea.

Un…

Full House: Arrest Ye Merry Gentlemen (1994)

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Can you sense it? Sitting there, reading this on your computer screen or your smartphone, can you sense the relief embedded in every word I type?

There's no great mystery - it's simply the sense of freedom that comes with the realization that, in all probability, I will never again find myself watching another episode of Full House in my entire life.

Of course, I've said that before. About once a week, since the early 90s, the thought has echoed through my head. Sometimes I've feared otherwise. Woken up in the dead of night in a cold sweat with the thought of an episode hanging over me. Then, after decades, I felt the weight of existential dread as I realized I'd have to watch and write up the Christmas episodes.

But with those out of the way, it should be smooth sailing here on out.

Sorry - I'm getting off track. Arrest Ye Merry Gentlemen is a holiday episode from the series's eighth and final season. And, despite the rather ominous introduction written a…

Full House: A Very Tanner Christmas (1992)

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You know what I want? More than anything? I want a cut of this episode where every time they cue up the laugh track, we instead hear sounds of people weeping. Sobbing. Pleading for mercy.

Because I honestly think that would be far more synchronous. It's what we, as the audience, are feeling after all.

This episode was set in season six of the show, and I found it far more trying than the one we watched from season 2 (which was already pretty awful). The central plot seems to revolve around DJ and her high school boyfriend, Steve, who's just been accepted into a crappy college in Florida.

That's all the way across the country, which leaves DJ shaken. He's excited, since it means he actually got into a school, but she's convinced it means he's not serious about their relationship. This escalates when he gives her a sweatshirt bearing the school's name for Christmas. Meanwhile, she spent a fortune on a leather coat he wanted. They have a fight, he accuses her…

Cheers: A House Is Not a Home (1987), Christmas Cheers (1988), and Love Me, Love My Car (1992)

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These aren't the first episodes of Cheers we've looked here - five years ago, I reviewed the season one episode, The Spy Who Came in for a Cold One, which hadn't aged well. It took us a while, but we finally got around to what I believe are the series' other Christmas installments, all of which held up better in our opinion.

A House Is Not a Home (1987)
Although this episode was set in the summer, it features a Christmas celebration, so check off another example of Christmas in July (well, technically May, but I'm still counting it as a use of the trope).

This was actually a fairly significant episode, plotwise, coming right before the season finale culminating in Diane's departure. In this one, she buys a house without asking Sam, then spends the first act convincing him it was a good idea.

Just when he's finally on board, they meet the previous owners, an elderly couple who spent their whole lives there. Diane is devastated by the thought they're someh…

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

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I've been meaning to get around to this for a few years now. All I really knew about it was that it was set around the holidays, and it's something of a cult classic. In hindsight, I had no idea what I was getting into.

Where to begin? This was written and directed by the Coen Brothers, along with a little help from Sam Raimi. It's sort of a love letter to classic Hollywood love stories - I'm pretty sure I caught echoes of Christmas in July, Meet John Doe, and The Apartment - delivered with a twisted sense of humor.

The movie doesn't hold back on style - from the beginning, this is unapologetically grandiose and stylized. Everything from the music to the acting to the set design sets out to create a world that's a living, breathing caricature of its source material.

For those of you who don't know me, all that means I absolutely loved this bizarre, quirky movie.

I'm not going to delve into quite as much detail around the plot this time, both because it…

Boy Meets World Christmas Episodes (1993 - 1998)

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After watching a handful of episodes of Boy Meets World, I'm a little confused how the series lasted as long as it did (seven seasons) and why anyone remembers it at all. It's more unremarkable than awful.

The series mainly seemed to revolve around five characters. The title references Corey, played by Ben Savage (Fred's little brother), who feels like a poor man's Shia LaBeouf. His best friend, Shawn, fills in as the requisite "bad boy with a heart of gold", and Topanga serves as Corey's childhood friend/eventual love interest (hell, they get married in the last season). Corey's brother, Eric, is mostly interesting because he's played by Will Friedle, who voiced Terry McGinnis on Batman Beyond (we got far more laughs spotting accidentally ambiguous Batman lines from him than anything intentionally scripted). Finally, there's Mr. Feeny, their mentor who inexplicably winds up teaching at every school and/or college they attend.

The show's n…

Book Review: Murder, She Wrote: Manhattans and Murder (1994) and Murder, She Wrote: A Little Yuletide Murder (1998)

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Murder, She Wrote: Manhattans and Murder (1994) and Murder, She Wrote: A Little Yuletide Murder (1998)

By Donald Bain

The Christmas episode of the show was fairly lackluster, so I suppose it's fair that the novels match. These two brief books are part of a long-running spin-off series that apparently someone will continue to write until society crumbles. (Seriously, Book 47 is available for preorder.)

The two books have a few things in common. The author can write passable lines of dialogue and narration, but there's no build from scene to scene and the story as a whole is utterly forgettable.

Both books seem determined to raise but refuse to sensitively address social issues (drug addiction and teenage pregnancy, respectively).

Most bizarrely, both books feature a minor subplot about someone asking Jessica to write a true-crime novel about the events going on. Unless this was a running gag in all the books, it seems strange not to reference the first event, given the other sup…

Pokémon: Holiday Hi-Jynx (1998)

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Yes, there’s a Christmas episode of Pokémon. Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t know, though. This episode is actually a little challenging to get your hands on in America. It was dubbed and aired with the original run, but not much since.

The episode opens with Jessie of Team Rocket pretending to be asleep until a snare net goes off, trapping Santa, who had been coming in through the window. Of course, this was a test run, and “Santa” was actually James. Jessie is pleased how well her trap works, and indulges in a brief flashback to being a bratty child, waiting for Santa, only to have a Jynx Pokémon dressed as Santa come in and steal her favorite doll.

Meanwhile, Ash and friends are on the beach when they spot a Jynx, holding a boot.

Now, Jynx is the reason for the problem with this episode. Jynx is vaguely female-person-shaped, and has black skin with big eyes and giant pink lips. Yeah, you probably know why this episode isn’t aired now. It’s unclear how much blackface iconograp…

Hey Arnold: Arnold’s Christmas (1996)

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I saw this episode was available on Hulu, read the description about reuniting a family, remembered that this show might be decent, but nothing else about it, and clicked play.

I got a bit more than I bargained for.

First, a little background. Hey Arnold is a late-90s product of Nickelodeon, and it focuses on a group of kids in a fictional city that’s sort of a hybrid (according to the creator) of Seattle, Brooklyn, and Portland (Oregon). Arnold lives with his grandparents, who own a boarding house.

This episode starts off simply enough - scenes of urban holiday fun, kids playing in a snowbound street, that sort of thing. Helga and her friend are walking down the street. (Helga is generally a bully, although she has a secret crush on Arnold.) Helga explains that she’s been asking for the hottest present of the season, official “Nancy Spumoni” snowboots, for months, and if her parents know what’s good for them, she’d better get them.

We switch over to Arnold and his best friend Gera…

Saved by the Bell: Home for Christmas, parts 1 and 2 (1991)

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I place Saved by the Bell in a similar category with Full House. Both shows aired around the same time, and many in my generation - myself included - are growing nostalgic for the joy of hating them.

Looking back, I'm not entirely sure how Saved by the Bell was green lit, produced, aired for multiple seasons, or made money. I don't think I've ever met anyone who unironically liked it. The series was truly and profoundly idiotic. It was aimed squarely at teenagers, but it talked down to its viewer, offering overly simplified solutions to watered-down problems.

Take this two-parter from the show's third season, for example. As far as I can tell, this is the only Christmas episode produced for the main series. It centers around a Christmas play the kids are putting on in the mall and a homeless teenage girl Zack has a crush on.

Laura is living out of a car with her father, who's unable to find work due to lacking a physical address. She works in the mall, but of cour…

Trapped in Paradise (1994)

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We’ve had a lot of firsts here at Mainlining Christmas. Our first movie, our first book review, our first watch-all-the-holiday-episodes-in-a-series binge… but this one is special.

This is our first Christmas movie starring Nicolas Cage.

Trapped in Paradise is the story of how Erin and I were trapped in hell for a very long two hours.

The movie follows Bill (Cage) and his two idiot brothers, who are getting out of prison early for Christmas. One brother (Alvin, Dana Carvey) is apparently a kleptomaniac and the other (Dave, Jon Lovitz) is a liar and schemer. Bill hates them, yet is too stupid too see through a series of pathetic ploys that send them all fleeing New York for Paradise, Pennsylvania.

Ostensibly, they’re there on behalf of a fellow inmate, who asked Dave to intercede with his estranged daughter. In fact, they’re there to pull an easy bank job and steal the town’s Christmas fund. Or something. The explanation for what the money is and how the town functions is pretty thin…

Party of Five: S'Wunnerful Life (1997)

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Seinfeld famously referred to itself as the show about nothing, a somewhat self-deprecating title meant to imply an absence of premise, plot, and purpose. But I've seen almost every episode of Seinfeld, and I don't ever recall seeing an episode where nothing significant happened. Actually, I'm having a hard time thinking of a single episode of any show deserving of that distinction.

Save, perhaps, this one. We just finished watching this episode from the fourth season of Party of Five, an hour-long drama from the 90's, and I'm already finding it difficult to retain shards of story in my memory. It's not that nothing happened - characters did and said stuff - but none of it felt at all meaningful or important. I can attempt to tell you some of what happened, but I can't tell you what it was about. Honestly, it didn't seem to be about anything.

There were a bunch of characters living their lives, and they experienced different events around the holidays.…

Music Review: Solitudes Christmas Albums

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I got a full-time job as an editor this year, which means that I often want to listen to music without words. This has lead me to many soundtracks and atmospheric albums, and eventually to rediscovering Solitudes.

Solitudes are a lengthy series of albums that mostly combine new-age-ish instrumentals with recordings of wildlife and natural soundscapes. The series was created by Canadian Dan Gibson, who created new techniques and equipment to improve wildlife sound recording.

I had a compilation in the 90s (Favorite Selections), but I’d forgotten all about it until recently. I think they make great background music for office work, particularly if, like me, you’d rather be out in the woods than in a cubicle.

And there are Christmas albums! Here are three you can easily access on Amazon (or YouTube. Seriously, there are a ton of quality long instrumental tracks on YouTube).


Christmas Wonder (1996 CD)

Overall this is my favorite of these three. The songs often evoke a melancholy frost or, …

Murder, She Wrote: The Christmas Secret (1992)

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The secret of the title is half obvious and half boring. Just putting that up front.

Murder, She Wrote can sometimes be charming, and sometimes it can just be tedious. This is one of the latter. Angela Lansbury does her best to maintain unflappable enthusiasm and charm, but the story is downright dull.

We open in that deceptively peaceful Maine town, Cabot Cove, which is welcoming Charlie, a young veteran who is engaged to Beth, the daughter of a prominent family. Charlie is thrilled to be so embraced by the community, as he and his sister grew up in foster care. He has something important to tell Beth, and gives her a key to his hotel room so they can meet up later. Except they don’t.

Instead he finds a tape with a blackmail message on it, and he has dinner with Beth but doesn’t talk to her about anything important. We know that the son of Beth’s father’s business partner resents Charlie’s presence in town, but he’s a red herring.

There’s also another sketchy young man (Floyd) who…

Ronin (1998)

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The number of action movies set at Christmas is staggering. You can add Ronin to the list, though this one is really only a technicality - the holiday elements are faint to the point of being nearly nonexistent. But, for whatever reason, it's established that it's set during Christmas, so we're reviewing it in the interest of being complete.

Ronin might be one of the 90's better action flicks, though that's really not saying much. It's a tense, realistic spy thriller that masquerades as a heist movie. We never get more than a first name for most of the movie's characters, nor do we really get a good sense of their motivations. It's a movie about secrets, so don't expect a great deal of emotional depth.

Set in France, it follows its lead, Sam, played by Robert De Niro. He's a former CIA agent hired by Irish terrorists to work with a group of mercenaries in order to steal a briefcase before it's sold on the black market to the Russian mafia. …

Christmas in Connecticut (1992)

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Arnold Schwarzenegger has starred in dozens of movies, he's been the governor of California, and he is one of the most iconic actors who has ever lived. But, in his entire career, he's only directed one movie: the 1992 made-for-TV remake of Christmas in Connecticut. And how is this film? Well, it feels like it's a made-for-TV movie directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The story was updated to make Elizabeth a TV cook instead of a writer, and the titular Christmas in Connecticut a live televised event orchestrated by her manager. The other lead, played by Kris Kristofferson, is Jefferson, a Colorado Forrest Ranger whose log cabin burned down while he was rescuing a kid lost in a blizzard.

For reasons that are never adequately explained, the manager - who's standing in as Elizabeth's nonexistent husband - invites Jefferson to come early, so they can get to know him prior to the special. This is particularly confusing, as the manager's primary motivation is to cajo…

Animaniacs: The Christmas Tree (1998)

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"The Christmas Tree" opened the third-to-last episode of the series. They tacked on the holiday opening, featuring snow over the credits, too, before starting the story. It doesn't run the full thirty minutes, but it takes up about 2/3rds of the half hour slot.

The other shorts included a Katie KaBoom bit about her negotiating the rules for going to the prom and a Deadline short built around Chicken Boo. The Deadline bit was fun, if a bit repetitive, but I've never really been a fan of the Katie KaBoom shorts. But neither of these are Christmas themed, so I've got nothing more to say about them.

Back to "The Christmas Tree." The story opens in a snowy forest with a giant pine tree being cut down by lumberjacks. There's a touch of toonish absurdity to the whole thing, but there's also a bit of sincerity in the holiday music and the expressions on the lumberjacks' faces. They hop in their truck and drive off, heading for New York, where...

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