Posts

Showing posts with the label Episode

The Alcoa Hour: The Stingiest Man in Town (1956)

Image
There were numerous live adaptations of A Christmas Carol made in the '40s and '50s, the majority of which were either lost or weren't notable enough to warrant a release. The Stingiest Man in Town seems to have been one of the better-regarded examples, and even that wasn't entirely exempt from being discarded. Until a black and white copy was found in the home of an Alcoa executive in 2011, it was believed lost. Since it's kind of miraculous any version exists, I won't complain too much about not being able to watch it in the original color. Let's back up. The Alcoa Hour was an anthology series sponsored by Alcoa, an aluminum company that's still around. This is the same anthology responsible for the 1955 version of Amahl and the Night Visitors . This 1956 musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol was one of the show's most famous installments. This was also remade as an animated movie in 1978. Scrooge is played by Basil Rathbone, best known as the de

Pepper Ann: A Kosher Christmas (1999)

Image
This episode has actually been on my radar for a while. I have vaguely positive memories of the show being around, even though I was in high school when it premiered, and we're always looking for ways to build up our archive of Hanukkah content. So when I saw that the show landed on Disney+ this year, I sought it out.  Unfortunately, this is just a boring episode of what (judging only by this episode) was a mediocre example of animation in the 90s. In fact, between the fashions, the inline skates in the opening, and the character dynamics and stereotypes on display - this is aggressively 90s content.  The only thing I remembered about the show was the absolute earworm of a theme song, but the animation of the song opens with a few seconds of a dream sequence where the main character is fighting off some... racist caricatures of native people? Yikes. So it's obvious from the beginning that not everything has aged well about this series.  On the other hand, some brief research te

LazyTown: "LazyTown's Surprise Santa" (2005) and "The Holiday Spirit" (2013)

Image
These days, we watch almost everything on streaming services, but early in the life of this site, we frequently picked up holiday-themed DVDs from clearance bins. That's how we ended up with a few of the more unusual selections we're planning to cover this year.  Prior to watching these episodes, I was only vaguely aware of the existence of this show and I knew nothing about it. My first impression after a few minutes was confusion that it didn't seem to be dubbed. There's something hard to define about the writing, some mix of absurdism and quirky word rhythm, plus physical comedy that feels a little like commedia dell'arte pantomime, that immediately said to me "not made in the U.S." Sure enough, LazyTown is an Icelandic production. It was intended to combat childhood obesity, although very little in the two holiday episodes we watched is directly about that. There are three characters played by humans: Stephanie, a young chipper audience stand-in, Robbi

Hilda: The Yule Lads (2020)

Image
Hilda is an animated Netflix series adapted from a series of graphic novels inspired by Scandinavian folklore. The art style mimics the feel of the comics it's based on, building a world that honestly looks like drawn pictures come alive. Depending on the episode, you might end up seeing something wacky and fun, magical and awe-inspiring, or even a little dark and unnerving. It's an absolutely phenomenal show, beautifully written and animated, and we recommend you watch it at once. Which of course poses a bit of a problem. The holiday episode I'm about to discuss is towards the end of the second season, so while I absolutely recommend it, I'd suggest watching the rest of the series first. This isn't so steeped in continuity that you'll be spoiled or confused: it's just better in context. The main character of the series, unsurprisingly, is Hilda, an adventurous preteen girl who moves to Trolberg, a cross between a modern city and a walled medieval village. T

Five Slasher Santa Movies that are Inexplicably Good

Image
If you read that headline and thought it was full of crap, you were at least partially right. I'll admit up front I technically went with four  movies and an episode, which is kind of cheating. That said, the episode in question isn't XMas Story from Futurama  - this is limited to horror, and all five of my picks come from that genre. The idea that I would be able to assemble this list at all would have been unthinkable a few years ago. This is, after all, supposed to be the dregs of holiday entertainment - the worst trope Christmas media has to offer. Only... it's not? While there's no shortage of abysmal slasher movies where the killer either is dressed as Santa or - in some bizarre sense is  literally Santa himself, there are a shocking number of movies where the otherwise tired premise results in something absolutely fantastic. Just to reiterate, by "shocking," I mean five. Okay, four and a half. I was going to start with some history on this trope, but...

The Flintstones: Christmas Flintstone (1964)

Image
Until this started, it didn't occur to me that it's probably been at least thirty years since I actually watched an episode of The Flintstones in its entirety. Honestly, I'd be happy going another thirty before repeating the experience. The show isn't bad, so much as dated. Half the joke was in the premise, which lacks the same impact if you've grown up thinking of it as an institution. For me, The Flintstones have always existed, so the knowledge it was somewhat revolutionary in its day feels academic. It also doesn't help that the central conceit of merging the stone age with cutting-edge designs is sort of lost now that those designs look antiquated themselves. I wonder if the next generation of kids look at The Simpsons the same way. Speaking of which, it's probably not an accident the premise for The Simpson's pilot mirrors this episode. The plot of the sole Flintstones Christmas episode centers on Fred taking a second job in a department store to e

DuckTales: Last Christmas (2018)

Image
The worst thing I can say about the DuckTales reboot is that nothing about the show feels particularly revolutionary. Obviously, there's no reason it should, but it's the only thing that differentiates it from any of the best animated shows of all time. It's not subversive and dark like Batman TAS; it's not shocking and cerebral like Mystery Inc.; it's not progressive like Steven Universe or as profoundly optimistic as Phineas and Ferb. It's just... nearly perfect in every way imaginable. I apologize for being so harsh. So is this just the level of quality we should expect going forward? If so, I'm not complaining - the DuckTales reboot is fantastic, and I'm loving every minute. It's just... I'm kind of bewildered. Given the significance of the IP coupled with the money thrown at this (I mean, just look at the voice cast), shouldn't this have been shredded through meddling studio notes or something? How the hell did this series not only r

Derry Girls: The President

Image
Derry Girls is a charming, hilarious sitcom set in Derry, Northern Ireland, in the '90s. Because it's set during the Troubles, a lot of the unique character of the show comes from how a constant threat of public violence is usually just background noise to the everyday lives of the characters. An example from the first episode: having to take a different route because of a bomb threat is just annoying to them, not anything weird. The other unique thing about Derry Girls is the characters. It's a show about teenage girls doing teenage girl things - school and friendship and family and mad schemes that escalate in exceedingly dramatic fashion. Erin (my husband, Erin - get ready for some confusion, because that's also the name of this show's main character) said that he appreciates that the main characters aren't "likeable" - that they're allowed to be extreme in a way teen girls on TV usually aren't. On the other hand, I do find them likeable - b

Milo Murphy's Law: A Christmas Peril (2017)

Image
Milo Murphy's Law is an animated Disney series from the creators of Phineas and Ferb. It's also in continuity with that show, featuring callbacks and eventually crossovers. I'm a big fan of Phineas and Ferb, so I was naturally interested in this, but - like so many things - it was difficult following at first. Once Disney+ launched, I caught up with the first season, which includes a Christmas episode. I should probably get this out of the way: the series, while well written and interesting, lacks the alchemy that made Phineas and Ferb exceptional. The characters just aren't as endearing, and the premise lacks the whimsy that really elevated its predecessor into something truly great. This is still good television, but (at least so far) it hasn't managed to recreate the magic. Half the series revolves around Milo Murphy, the youngest in a family who "Murphy's Law" was named after. In theory, whatever can go wrong around them does, though what this

Guardians of the Galaxy: Jingle Bell Rock (2016)

Image
My continuing quest for more science fiction holiday content led me to this episode of the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series. The series uses the team from the movies, but as far as I know, it isn't in continuity with anything else. The episode opens with the team tracking down a fugitive alien. Peter Quill is in a bit of a funk because it's Christmas back on Earth (how or why he knows this isn't clear from this episode), but he still gets the drop on their bounty. The alien begs for mercy and claims that the charges against him aren't fair, but they set off for their reward. The other team members do some research on Earth Christmas in the meantime, but other than briefly decorating Groot, this doesn't come to much. Quill claims that everything is fine, Christmas isn't worth being upset about anyway. When they deliver the fugitive to a snowy planet, he asks once more for their help, then asks them to at least tell his family where he's gone. T

M*A*S*H Holiday Episodes (1972 - 1981)

Image
M*A*S*H is a little before my time. I have memories of it existing, but I don't recall actually watching it. That said, I'm familiar enough with some of the characters, so I must have caught a handful of episodes from repeats through the 80s. And of course I've seen it referenced damn near everywhere - this was an influential series. If you're somehow not familiar with it, M*A*S*H is a series about an army medical base stationed in Korea during the Korean War. It's based on a movie I've never seen, which was in turn based on a book I've never read, so don't expect a lot of context on that end. Actually sitting down and watching through the Christmas episodes (along with a few tangential episodes we'll discuss in a minute) was a fascinating experience. First, it's not hard to see why it left a footprint: this show has a fascinating tone, striking a careful balance between the hardships of war with the comedic absurdity of the characters. The

Cupcake Wars: The Nutcracker, Hollywood Christmas Parade (2011)

Image
Cupcake Wars is a food competition show. I watch, let's be honest, a decent number of food competition shows, and I place this one squarely in the lower-middle tier of such fare. It’s fine background noise that’s somewhat entertaining, but it lacks the theatricality of shows like Cutthroat Kitchen or Beat Bobby Flay, the impressive flexibility and talent on shows like Chopped or Iron Chef, or the personal drama of shows with a continuing cast like Great British Bake Off or even Next Food Network Star. Even so, it is amusing enough to pass the time with when tied to the couch under a feeding baby. On my maternity leave earlier this year I watched a lot of reality shows, including two Christmas-themed episodes of Cupcake Wars. In this show, people who make cupcakes professionally (most either own a cafe or do catering) try to outdo each other to win a cash prize and a contract for a specific fancy event. In these episodes, said events were the opening night of the New York City B

Fargo: Season 3 (2017)

Image
The following is a review. The season being reviewed originally aired on FX between April and June of 2017. At the request of those who haven't seen the show, this review will keep spoilers to an absolute minimum. Out of respect for the series's creator and stars, the descriptions and discussions that are included will be presented as accurately as possible. ------------ Only this isn't just a review: it's a murder scene. The victim is in their late seventies, and the manner of death was asphyxiation. They may have gone by several names throughout their life, but around here they were known as the "Christmas episode." In life, they were a concept of an episodic holiday installment of a television series. They stood out from their peers in only one respect: they were set at or about Christmas. Anything else could change. Maybe they were a self-contained narrative, or maybe they were an episodic installment of a longer series playing out in real time.