Tag Archives: cartoon network

Dec. 18 – Dumb and Dumber – “Santa Klutz”

Original air date December 16, 1995

After doing write-ups for the two cartoons inspired by Jim Carrey films from 1994, you must have figured I’d do the third today! Just as Carrey stormed the cinematic gates with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber in ’94, the television world followed suit in ’95 with an animated series based on each of those three films. While the first two were made for CBS to air on Saturday morning, Dumb and Dumber went a different route. Still proving that anything relating to Carrey was worth investing in, Dumb and Dumber found itself on another broadcast network, in this case ABC. Thematically and visually, it didn’t really fit-in with the whole One Saturday Morning vibe the network was rolling with, so it’s probably no surprise to find out it wound up on Cartoon Network.

And that’s where the show probably belonged as this is a Hanna-Barbera produced toon. In the mid-90s, ABC was under the Disney banner so it was odd to have a non-Disney developed cartoon on ABC, where as Cartoon Network was owned by Turner which owned Hanna-Barbera. This ended up being the final Hanna-Barbera cartoon produced to air on a broadcast network for a Saturday morning block, an interesting little factoid since Hanna-Barbera was once the king of Saturday morning cartoons.

Because this series went a different direction, it has no affiliation with the other two cartoons we looked at so if you were hoping Harry and Lloyd would meet Ace, I regret to inform you it never happened. Dumb and Dumber probably wouldn’t have survived long enough to pull off that trick any way, since only 13 episodes were produced. Once ABC had seen enough, Cartoon Network was willing to take the re-runs, but not commission more episodes, so it’s safe to say this one was a flop.

The cartoon basically picks-up where the movie left off. Harry (Bill Fagerbakke) and Lloyd (Matt Frewer) are back home after their adventures in Aspen along with their dog-shaped van. Joining them is a new pet, a beaver they think is a cat, and each episode is split into two segments where Harry and Lloyd wind-up in some odd misadventure owing to the fact that they’re a pair of men with very limited intelligence and observational skills. As a mid-90s Hanna-Barbera production, it has a familiar art style to those who were watching the various cartoons premiering under the What a Cartoon banner. The character designs here remind me a lot of Dexter’s Laboratory, only with a touch more ugliness. Even though Harry and Lloyd had pretty similar builds in the film, for the cartoon it was decided to make Lloyd tall and lanky and Harry short and stocky. They’re both rather ugly, with Harry a walking mess and Lloyd a collection of sharp angles and teeth. While one can certainly argue this wasn’t a show that should look like The Mask or Recess, it’s still understandable to not be particularly taken with the visuals here.

The eighth episode of the series is the one to feature a Christmas plot. The first segment is dedicated to the holiday via “Santa Klutz.” The episode begins with Harry and Lloyd out and about with Kitty in their van. They’re both confused to see Kitty cutting down a Christmas tree and slapping it on top of their van, even though they refer to it as a “Christmas tree” and not as an evergreen or pine tree. Harry panics and wonders if Christmas is in December again, and quickly confirms that they’re only three days away from Christmas! Both men need to get a present for the other, but both are also faced with the problem of not having any money to get that present. Neither wants to admit this fact to the other, so Lloyd casually suggests they head to The Big City and look for a part-time job just because.

Lloyd likes to dream big.

The two arrive at Big Department Store and head in seeking employment. Along the way, Lloyd fantasizes about buying Harry a space shuttle for Christmas, proving he has no idea how much a part-time job around the holidays pays, or that he has no concept of how much a space shuttle would cost, or maybe both? Lloyd ends up with a 2 dollar-an-hour job handing out perfume samples, while Harry stumbles upon the store’s Santa who is fed up with the job. He hands over his costume to Harry and he immediately gets sent into the fray.

I hope he gets paid per kid.

Harry is seated in front of an impossibly long line of customers barely looking the part. The costume comes without a beard, it would seem, and Harry has trouble remembering the line “Ho Ho Ho.” His first child turns out to be homicidal, while the second is a degenerate gambler. Meanwhile, Lloyd finds out women don’t like being sprayed with perfume at random. The men don’t either, and when Lloyd angers a large male customer the two grapple over a perfume bottle until the top pops off. It is apparently now a grenade, and as it bounces away Lloyd does the noble thing of falling on top of it. Though since it’s perfume, it explodes rather tamely leaving Lloyd with a pleasant taste in his mouth.

Pictured: not a nice old lady.

As kids cry on Harry’s lap or sneeze on him, Lloyd attempts to sell some perfume to an old woman (Ed Asner per the credits, though it sounds nothing like him). She immediately takes offense to anything he says, even though it’s all innocent. When she informs the manager (Harvey Korman) that Lloyd accused her of smelling of cheap perfume, he asks if she’d like the man fired and she does. Lloyd them imagines a Christmas in which his space shuttle gift is repossessed by an army general (Ed Asner) leaving him despondent.

Lloyd’s Didi cosplay is on point.

Lloyd takes a walk over to the Santa area and spies Harry seated on the throne. Upon seeing his friend dressed as Santa, he comes to the totally reasonable conclusion that Harry IS Santa! And he has been this whole time! He then tries to go have a chat, but finds out from security that Santa is reserved for children. After a couple of failed attempts to sneak up, Lloyd dawns a disguise. I already said this show visually reminded me of Dexter’s Laboratory, but seeing Lloyd in his costume really drives that home as he’s basically in the same outfit as Dexter’s sister, Didi.

Upon reaching Harry Claus, Lloyd tells him he wants Santa to bring him a bunch of money so he can buy his best friend Harry a gift. Harry sees through the disguise which leads to a confrontation as Lloyd is angry with Harry for holding out on him. The two get into a fight and the store manager shows up. He reminds Lloyd that he already banned him, and fires Harry for good measure. Despondent outside the store, the two men hang their heads in shame. Only Lloyd hasn’t given-up on Harry as Santa, so Harry does the only reasonable thing he can to convince Lloyd he’s not who he thinks he is – they take a ride to the North Pole.

I think this is where they live.

The two arrive at Santa’s Work Shop on Christmas Eve. The only problem is Santa isn’t there since it’s, duh, Christmas Eve! They have that confirmed to them by an elf (Scott Menville), and Lloyd sees this as proof that he’s right. The two then head back to wherever they’re from to have a little camp out. Harry is hopeful they’ll be able to catch the real deal in action. Sure enough, he does indeed show up, but Lloyd still isn’t convinced. In fact, he had the foresight to assume Harry would try something like this so he called ahead for Officer Doohickey (Harvey Korman) who shows up and arrests Santa on the spot.

How to get on the naughty list.

Santa (Asner) is pretty surprised that anyone would mistake Harry for him, so Lloyd asks him to prove he’s really Santa. He uses some magic to get out of the police cuffs, which magically appear on Doohickey who remarks “This happens more often than you think.” Still not convinced, Santa whips out his portable PC to check his naughty list. He looks up Doohickey and finds him on the naughty list for lying to his wife about his doughnut habit. Doohickey declares he’s the real deal and scrams leaving Santa alone with the morons. He then asks the two what they want for Christmas and both gleefully whisper into one of his ears.

The next day, Kitty is opening his present from his car seat while Lloyd tells Harry he asked Santa for a gift for Harry. Harry confesses he did the same for Lloyd and the two trade identical boxes. Inside are identical gifts: best friend in the world trophies! Kitty also got a log with a plaque that reads “Best Kitty in the World.” Lloyd then declares there can be only one best friend in the world, and it’s Harry, as he tries to hand over his trophy. Harry does the same, and we zoom out on the two arguing over who is the better friend.

Everything worked out in the end, and all it took was a little divine intervention.

“Santa Klutz” is short and sweet. While I think very little of the art style, I can’t say I hate this. Maybe it was the fact that it’s only around 10 minutes, but I think I’d rather watch that again than either of the specials from the past two days. The humor is not as slapstick as I expected as it’s mostly derived from the two not correctly reading a situation or just getting into arguments stemming from the fact that they’re both stupid. Lloyd mistaking Harry as the real Santa is a bit clever as most shows aiming for such an error would have Lloyd tricked by the costume. Instead, he just thinks his best friend has been lying to him this whole time. It goes for a happy ending when I actually expected it to be a bit darker. If this were a true Farrelly brothers production, Santa probably gets victimized in some way instead of just mildly inconvenienced.

Even though I didn’t hate this, it’s not at all surprising to see a show about two grown men of limited intelligence failed as a cartoon. It’s basically 2 Stupid Dogs, but with humans instead, and how is that any more fun? I don’t think anyone walked out of a viewing of Dumb and Dumber wanting an animated series, but that didn’t stop folks from trying! If you want to check this out, it’s mostly been discarded by Hanna-Barbera. You won’t find it on Boomerang and it also isn’t on HBO Max with some of the other Cartoon Network shows. Instead, you can purchase it through Amazon and Apple if you want to stream it. Warner Bros. did make it available in a manufacture-on-demand release back in 2015 on DVD. Because of that format, it’s never really come down in price, though there also isn’t enough demand to cause it to go up. Even so, I doubt very much anyone would stumble upon this and decide they needed to spend 25 bucks on this cartoon, but in the event one person did, at least you have that option.


Dec. 1 – American Dad! – “The Best Christmas Story Never Told”

img_1104Oh hell yeah, it’s time for Christmas posts! Welcome back for the year 2020 as The Christmas Spot comes at you with 25 days of Christmas posts! 2020 has been a crazy year with a lot of new normals tossed our way, but at least each year the calendar gets turned over to Christmas and for close to one month things seem consistent with prior years. And like year’s past, we’re turning this place into an advent calendar and looking at 25 festive topics. Most of which will be like this one, a write-up of a beloved or not so beloved Christmas television special. It may be one from the past, or it may be relatively current, but one thing is certain and that’s it will be Christmas. I have nothing against the other seasonal holidays occurring around this time, it’s just that Christmas is my jam and I want to share my enthusiasm with all of you.

For this year, we’re turning things over to an animated sitcom that has become fairly reliable when it comes to Christmas. American Dad! premiered after the Super Bowl in 2005 and immediately found itself in the shadow of Family Guy. That’s because the show is co-created by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and at the time it premiered it was being billed as the Family Guy replacement. This was during the hiatus for Family Guy following its cancellation, though the show would eventually return. As such, it felt like many Family Guy fans were immediately dismissive of American Dad! because it wasn’t the show they wanted. They wanted more Family Guy, not an imitation. You would think things would improve following the revival of Family Guy, but instead fans of that show once again seemed to look down on American Dad! as now that their beloved show had returned, what need of this new one did anyone have?

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Like Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers, American Dad! has become a reliable source for Christmas specials over the years.

Which was unfortunate, because American Dad! had very little in common with Family Guy. I suppose it resembled Season One of Family Guy to a point as both shows were influenced by the classic sitcom All in the Family. While Family Guy only borrowed from that show a little, American Dad! was practically a reimagining of that program in animated form. The show was co-created by eventual show-runners Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman and once the pilot was basically sold to Fox, MacFarlane backed away as he was soon pulled back into Family Guy duty. The show was conceived as a liberal’s answer to the Bush era political climate of the time. The conservative leading man, Stan Smith (MacFarlane) would be positioned opposite his young adult daughter Hayley (Rachael MacFarlane), a college-educated liberal, and rely on the conflict inherent in that relationship for several plots. Stan was presented as boorish and unfailingly patriotic, and as a member of the CIA he took national security very seriously to the point of suspecting anyone with brown skin as being a terrorist. Hayley was often the voice of reason, though also saddled with the usual college stereotype of being lazy and more interested in getting high than actually working to promote change in the political landscape. She would be paired with a boyfriend turned husband, Jeff Fischer (Jeff Fischer), that Stan hates which is basically the same relationship Archie Bunker had with “Meathead” in All in the Family.

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In this episode, Stan is going to learn the true meaning of Christmas and we’re going to learn about Roger’s past, seen here laying face-down in a mix of snow and vomit.

Eventually, the show found a niche and relied less on the Stan/Hayley dynamic. The rest of the family would play a more prominent role in furthering stories. Francine (Wendy Schaal) is portrayed as a stay-at-home mom and is the caretaker of the house and kids. She began life in the show as being a stereotypical conservative ideal, but over the years has developed her own quirks and failings, making her feel like a more fleshed-out character. Son Steve (Scott Grimes) has been molded into being Stan’s opposite ideal for a son. He’s a geek who likes comics and Dungeons & Dragons, but also is emotionally Stan’s opposite as he’s sensitive and comfortable with expressing his “non manly” emotions. As is the case with all MacFarlane shows, there’s a talking animal and in this one it’s a goldfish named Klaus (Dee Bradley Baker) who is a former German athlete trapped in the body of a fish. He’s mostly just there to make observations and the family often ignores him. By far, the big breakout character of the show is definitely Roger the alien (MacFarlane), who saved Stan’s life years ago and as reward is being kept safe from the government in the Smith household. He begins the show as an Alf knock-off, but the writers eventually found another role for him and that’s as an alien of many personalities. He often leaves the home in disguise and will even live other lives as he devotes himself to the roles he plays. He’s also literally the show’s worst character as he’s a sociopathic narcissist and will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. In that aspect, he somewhat resembles Cartman of South Park fame.

For what Wikipedia considers the show’s third season (it’s complicated), a Christmas episode was commissioned. It would be the first of several, as the very conservative Stan and his family naturally lend themselves well to the holiday. The episodes have become some of the show’s finest as they’re pretty big in spectacle and only seem to grow more and more outlandish. There would be a continuity established as well as the Smith family becomes the enemy of Santa. Because the show’s broadcast schedule is a bit erratic, not every year brings with it a new Christmas episode, but it’s certainly something I look for each year.

Since I have never covered American Dad! before in one of these countdowns, it would seem the best place to start is with that first Christmas special. “The Best Christmas Story Never Told” premiered on December 17, 2006. Some places consider that Season 3 of the show, though it would appear it’s production Season Two. Writing of the episode is credited to Brian Boyle with staff writers Laura McCreary and Erik Durbin also receiving credits. Boyle is also executive producer on the series, but has received a written by credit on several other episodes, including the 2014 Christmas episode “Dreaming of a White Porsche Christmas” which interestingly is similar to this one as it presents an alternate reality for Stan at Christmas.

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The Smith family ready to bask in the glow of the town Christmas tree.

While I do think American Dad! is quite different from Family Guy, it does amuse me that this inaugural Christmas episode begins the same way as Family Guy’s first Christmas episode. The whole family is gathered in the town square for the annual lighting of the town Christmas tree. Stan is quite jubilant about the whole thing, while Roger is face-down in the snow and booze (and vomit) since Christmas makes him feel like a failure. It’s here Roger’s origin is retconned a bit, possibly for the first time, as he reveals he’s been on Earth for over 40 years. In other words, he had a lengthy existence before meeting the Smith family. Stan doesn’t care and implores him to acknowledge the holiday. When it’s announced the lighting has been cancelled at the last minute due to the town being unable to celebrate a secular holiday on town property, Stan gets angry as a crew moves in to demolish the place. Stan rages it’s the liberals and atheists telling them how to celebrate their holiday, and when a passerby tries to reason with Stan, Stan laments he can’t wait for The Rapture. As Stan tells them they’ll be left behind, Francine tries to smooth things over by telling the other family they’re free to use their pool after they’ve been raptured, provided it’s not boiling. Francine then suggests they go to church instead and Stan dismisses that suggestion on account of church being boring. He then declares he needs to go someplace where he can learn the true meaning of Christmas – the mall!

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Take note of the little person working the camera.

Stan contentedly looks on as his kids sit on Santa’s lap and ask him for toys. He remarks that this is what Christmas is all about and as he does so the show decides to use a regrettable slur for little people and even has Hayley, who should know better, use it casually as well. The kids then implore their father to get something for Roger for Christmas, but Stan doesn’t want to since Roger isn’t Christian. Roger has no say at the moment for he’s passed out in a baby stroller. Stan then takes sight of The 99 Cent Depot and decides he can spare a buck for Roger.

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I bet you expected Stan to react this way to “Happy Holidays.”

Stan heads to the register and asks for one of the store’s wares. The clerk hands him a cassette of disco’s greatest hits from 1974-1980 and Stan deems this satisfactory. When the clerk tells him it costs $1.07 due to taxes, Stan suggests they change the store’s name, but the clerk points out that’s not his decision. Stan smiles and is satisfied with that response, but when he wishes the clerk a “Merry Christmas,” (you know where this is going) and gets a “Happy Holidays” in return his mood changes. Angry, he demands that the clerk acknowledge his holiday, but the same excuse about the sign is not enough to sway Stan this time. He pulls out a gun to demand action and we cut to Stan being tossed outside by security. When he calls back to remind them he had a gun, a gift-wrapped gun is tossed to him.

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Did you take note of that little person two pictures ago?!

At the Smith household, Stan is still visibly outraged by the “liberals” who are destroying Christmas. The family tries to reason with him, but he’s more than a little stubborn. Stan then rhetorically asks the family who is to blame for all of this, and they respond with exhaustion in their voices because this is something Stan must remind them of often, Jane Fonda. Apparently Stan blames Ms. Fonda for spreading liberal ideas through her protests against the war in Vietnam and it’s not something he’s about to let go of. A ring of the doorbell gets Stan’s hopes up momentarily as he thinks carolers have arrived. He opens the door to the costumed group, but finds out they’re only here to spread awareness of the Holiday Rapist and hold up a flier. This is the tipping point for Stan as he demands they refer to him as the Christmas Rapist. He slams the door and sets to destroying the festive decorations in the house, including tossing most of them through the living room window. Steve begins to cry that Daddy destroyed the toys Chinese kids made for him while Francine scolds Stan for his behavior. She tells him he’s sleeping on the couch tonight which Stan tries to protest by pointing out the now missing window and the presence of the Christmas Rapist on the loose.

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The Ghost of Christmas Past has been assigned Stan Smith this year. Unlike other ghosts, she apparently works alone on Christmas.

Stan is shown sleeping on the couch (in his suit, for some reason) looking a bit cold when a woman materializes beside him. She’s quite fairy-like I suppose, and when she wakes Stan he snaps open his eyes and shouts “Holiday Rapist!” and dives behind the couch before quickly correcting himself with “Christmas Rapist.” The woman then explains, in a faux British accent, that she’s the Ghost of Christmas Past (Lisa Kudrow) and she’s here to help Stan lean the true meaning of Christmas. He soon brightens up and the ghost takes him all the way back to 1970.

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The idyllic Christmas of Stan’s youth.

There the two peek into the Smith home where a young Stan is opening his Christmas presents. Stan is amazed that they’re really back in 1970 and the woman reassures him by mentioning how things are different. One of those mentions is Jane Fonda, who is presently filming to movie Klute nearby causing Stan’s eyes to narrow in a menacing fashion. He then takes off running, much to the bewilderment of the ghost, who just calls for him to come back, dropping the accent. When he doesn’t obey, she just starts grumbling to herself about how this is her first turn as Past and she already screwed it up. Apparently, she used to be a Tooth Fairy. She then reveals to us her name is Michelle, and mentions she should have just stayed with some guy named Chad.

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Jane Fonda on the set of Klute. Fonda, and the other celebrities of this episode, were offered to voice themselves, but all turned the show down. I bet they would have said “Yes,” to The Simpsons.

Stan is able to track down the filming location for Klute and watches as Jane Fonda (uncredited, but sounds like Wendy Schaal) is filmed feeding a cat, and then herself. She explains her decision to eat the cat food to the director which just irritates Stan even further. Stan is grossed out and remarks “You are so dead,” to himself.

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In order to find Stan, Michelle is going to need Francine’s help.

Back in the present, Michelle appears in Francine’s room and splashes her with water in order to wake her up. She explains to Francine what happened, and when Francine gets mad Michelle asks rhetorically if she blames mothers who lose their kids at the mall. When Francine gives her an “Are you serious?” look in response, Michelle answers the question emphatically herself with a, “No! No, you don’t!” Realizing what Stan is up to, Francine reluctantly drags herself out of bed and heads for the bathroom. When Michelle expresses her impatience, Francine tells her she isn’t going back to that filthy decade without some Purell.

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Stan makes an important discovery, and we find out Donald Sutherland is a real creep. Maybe that’s why he declined to voice himself.

Filming wraps for the day and Stan keeps close as Fonda retreats to her dressing room accompanied by Donald Sutherland (Chris Diamontopoulis). It’s while watching these two interact that Stan realizes it was Sutherland who put those liberal ideas into Fonda’s head. He then corrects himself that Fonda isn’t his target and that he must instead kill Donald Sutherland! Sutherland immediately confronts him as he was apparently standing beside Stan, but he’s a bit clueless and asks Stan if he’s here to give Fonda her massage. Stan decides that he is indeed here to do just that remarking that it would be rather nice to do so. Sutherland then leaves him to it and as Stan closes the door to Fonda’s dressing room we hear him announce his arrival and tells her to finish her cat food.

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Roger, about to make a life-changing discovery.

Stan then follows Sutherland and Fonda out to a restaurant, Elaine’s, but is prevented from entering since he’s not on the list. He then goes around the back to sneak in with the restaurant staff while stashing his gun in his pants. Once he disappears inside, we see some waiters come out for a smoke break. One of them is clearly Roger in disguise. When the other waiter asks if he got the part he tried out for he replies, “No, they were looking for someone more flesh-colored with a nose.” The other waiter tells him to give up on his dreams and leaves him. As Roger sits dejected, he notices something in the snow. It’s the disco tape that fell out of Stan’s jacket before he went inside. When Roger reads the title he announces it’s from the future! And since he’s an alien from outer space, he deems that plausible.

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The encounter that will doom Christmas.

At the restaurant, Stan is finishing up in a restroom when a hairy-looking dude emerges from a stall. Stan notices the man is smoking marijuana, and Stan admonishes him for doing so. The guy doesn’t seem bothered by it, and goes on to introduce himself as Marty, Marty Scorsese (Grimes). When Stan begins to gush and says he loves his films, Marty is shocked and assumes Stan has seen his film of a guy shaving. Stan is amused, but then assures him he’s going to be great, but that he’ll never win an Oscar if he’s hooked on drugs. Marty agrees, and starts humorously removing all of the drug paraphernalia on his person which includes many bags, joints, and even a bong in his pants. Stan is touched, and the two have a nice, men’s room, hug.

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The artists don’t usually get to draw dinosaurs so let’s throw ’em a bone!

Meanwhile, Michelle has overshot her magic and taken Francine back to the Jurassic period. They observe some cute little dinosaurs running past before a T-Rex eats them causing the two to scream before Michelle gets them out of there. You can’t play around with time travel and not show a dinosaur at some point.

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Stan assuming his cool, assassin, pose.

Feeling quite satisfied, Stan returns to the task at hand:  killing Donald Sutherland. He spots Sutherland and Fonda having dinner and when Sutherland suggests Fonda get involved in politics, he offers to talk about them over a drink at “my place.” Stan counters as he pulls out his gun with, “Let’s talk about it over your brains. Maybe all over the place?” Before he can pull the trigger, and before anyone seems to notice him, Michelle and Francine appear and pull him aside. The two express their anger with Stan, and when Francine says they won’t allow him to kill Jane Fonda, Stan corrects them to point out he’s now targeting Sutherland, the lanky, Canadian, Kiefer-spawning bastard! That doesn’t matter much to Michelle and Francine as they’re not about to let Stan murder anyone and they quickly take him back to the present.

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Something clearly went wrong.

Or do they? When the trio arrive, they find the Smith living room looks different. It’s drab, with cinderblocks for furniture and Communist posters on the wall. When Francine calls out for Steve and Hayley, a Russian man comes down the stairs firing a shotgun at them. They quickly run out into the street and find the country is now under the dominion of the Russians! Michelle gets to turn all glowy and dramatic as she informs Stan that he destroyed America! Francine then pauses to pee beside a car as she’s been holding it in since the 70s.

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A monument commemorating the birth of this new, Russian, empire.

Michelle then does some sleuthing on some tablet she has to try and figure out what happened. She knows Stan did something, but he insists he did nothing that would change the past. She has him go over what he did while in 1970 and when he gets to the part about meeting Scorsese in the bathroom Michelle gets a hit. It seems by getting Scorsese off drugs, he never went on to make Taxi Driver. And since he didn’t make Taxi Driver, John Hinckley never became obsessed with actress Jodi Foster and thus never attempted to impress her by assassinating President Reagan. Since Reagan didn’t survive an assassination attempt, he lacked the good will to beat back Mondale in the presidential election of 1984 and upon becoming president, Mondale would hand the country over to Russia. Stan then realizes that in order to stop Russia from overtaking America, he needs to travel back to the past and film Taxi Driver. When Francine objects to point out how crazy that conclusion is, Michelle steps in to say Stan is right as she’s apparently just as crazy as he is.

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Roger and his precious tape.

As those three set out to right Stan’s wrong, we check-in on Roger who’s about to make his first million selling disco songs to Clive Davis. He’s been milking that cassette he found like Biff from Back to the Future Part II and having a good time of it. He celebrates his fortune by heading to a nightclub and shouts at the sky for his mom to see him now! He then tells her to stop looking while he snorts some cocaine, and then tells her she can look again as he resumes dancing.

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Stan Smith is not a Robert DeNiro fan.

On the set of Taxi Driver, Stan is watching as Robert DeNiro (Diamantopoulis) rehearses. DeNiro is talking to himself in the mirror and Stan objects. He instructs DeNiro to talk at himself in the mirror and not at the mirror, which DeNiro finds absurd and quits. Francine is pissed at Stan for driving DeNiro away, but he assures her it’s fine since they only need Hinkley to fall for Jodi Foster. Michelle, once again, goes along with Stan who is now delighted he can make Taxi Driver with the leading man he thinks would be best:  John Wayne.

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Ever wonder what Taxi Driver would look like with John Wayne in the lead role?

At a showing of the finished film, Stan, Francine, and Michelle find John Hinckley in the audience and observe him watching the film’s climax. In it, Foster’s character is tied up and about to be set on fire by Native Americans doing an inflammatory dance routine. Wayne shows up in his cab and emerges, old and fat and with a mohawk under his traditional cowboy hat. He shoots all of the Native Americans and rescues Foster as a boom mic comes into the shot and knocks over a background, indicating they shot and edited this thing rather poorly. When it’s over, Francine immediately starts asking Hinckley what he thought and when Francine suggests that Foster was pretty hot he acts disgusted. Realizing their plan failed, Michelle identifies one last resort.

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Roger did not take Larry’s advice and switch off speaker phone.

In 1981, Regan is staying at the Hilton and he’s about to be shot. Only now, he’s not. Meanwhile, high above Roger is partying away when his phone rings. It’s someone named Larry, who informs Roger his last album only sold 90 copies and that disco is dead. He’s broke. Roger can’t believe it and when he asks how he could be broke when he has a bunch of investments and race horses, he then says “I thought you were feeding them?!” indicating there was some confusion over what to do with the race horses once purchased. Roger then tries to kill himself by jumping through the window of his penthouse, but that glass is pretty damn thick and he just gets knocked out.

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It’s time for Stan to get nuts!

At ground level, Michelle has spelled it out for Stan that in order to save Christmas (remember, this is a Christmas episode) he needs to shoot his idol, Ronald Reagan. Stan insists he can’t do it, but he’s reminded he needs to do it if he wants Christmas back. Stan reasons they could learn Russian and be happy, though he also laments he’ll probably miss a lot of elevators at first while he learns how to say “Hold the door,” in Russian. He then reminds Francine that they’ll be fine as long as they’re together as a family, indicating that maybe he has learned the true meaning of Christmas. Or at least one of them. Michelle then informs him there’s no guarantee Hayley and Steve exist now, and if he really wants to save Christmas and his family, he’s going to have to shoot Reagan. Stan reluctantly agrees, and when Michelle reminds him that he just has to “wing him” Stan laughs and thanks her for reminding him indicating that he was probably going to shoot to kill.

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If you’re doing A Christmas Carol, even loosely like this one, you still have to have this scene.

As Reagan is shown leaving the hotel. Stan makes his way through the crowd like a crazy person. He pulls out his gun and then starts shouting “Merry Christmas!” over and over as he opens fire. The screen goes white and then fades to reveal Stan and Francine asleep in their bed. Francine wakes up and immediately wakes Stan who runs to the window and opens it. He sees a paper boy outside who looks almost exactly like the kid on the cover of Paper Boy for the Nintendo Entertainment System. When he asks the kid what day it is, he responds that it’s Christmas and Stan then barks at him to get off his lawn!

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Stan mostly puts Christmas back together.

Downstairs, Stan has boarded up the broken window and re-setup the mangled tree. The gifts are re-wrapped and Hayley and Steve come down the stairs overjoyed to see that Christmas is back. Roger then comes into the room drunk explaining that Christmas reminds him how he created disco and then lost all of his money. The family laughs at him and then Stan is summoned into the kitchen by Michelle. There she thanks him for bailing her ass out by giving him a gift. He opens it to find a shiny, new, Glock. Michelle says she had just enough time to hit the mall last night for it, and when Stan questions how she got it so fast apparently bypassing the waiting period, she reminds him that he only shot Reagan. He never hit James Brady, and thus there was never passage of The Brady Bill which means guns are as easy to buy as a stick of gum. Stan is delighted and mugs for the camera with a “Best Christmas ever!”

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Roger no longer needs to be depressed that he hasn’t accomplished anything in his time on Earth, now he can lament that he lost his fortune when disco died. Also, his genitals are located near his armpit.

This is a pretty great early episode of American Dad! Stan is very much the conservative whack-job throughout and it’s obvious that the absurd War on Christmas notion is what drove the writers to craft this plot. It’s also possible they worked backward from the premise of what if Stan had to shoot his hero in order to save Christmas? The show is jam-packed with jokes as almost every sentence Stan utters is a joke of some kind. They’re just understated jokes, which is one of the main differences between American Dad! and Family Guy. Family Guy seems to rarely trust its audience with knowing what is and isn’t a joke and everything is practically screamed at the audience. American Dad! is far more confident, and while it does get absurd and thrust things into the forefront at times, it rarely feels obnoxious.

Since Stan is essentially an easy target, there are some jokes in this episode that could be considered easy, maybe even lazy. Even with those though, the show goes the extra mile to add a spin to make them seem less conventional. A perfect example is Stan’s argument with the clerk over his holiday greeting. The episode makes a point of demonstrating that Stan can be agreeable and even sympathetic to the plight of the working man who has to do as he’s commanded when the clerk makes the comment about not being able to change the name of the store from The 99 Cent Depot to The $1.07 Store to account for tax. Stan accepts that, but he can’t accept the kid saying “Happy Holidays” even though he’s directed to by his boss who can and probably will fire him for saying anything else. And because Stan’s a maniac, it has to escalate to Stan pulling a gun for added comedic effect.

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Coming up with a plot that involves Stan finding the true meaning of Christmas thus saving the holiday doesn’t take a ton of creativity. Having Stan replace John Hinckley Jr. as Reagan’s would-be assassin? Now that’s genius!

If the episode did begin with the premise of Stan shooting Reagan to save Christmas, then the writers also did a good job of making that happen. While American Dad! mostly behaves like a sitcom, it’s not afraid to get fantastical and do some crazy stuff. Granted, so many shows have done a variation of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life that weren’t particularly crazy, but it’s still quite a leap to have your characters time travel. This show will get way more fantastic in that regard, but this episode is largely able to rise above the notion of being an adaptation of that holiday classic without really feeling like one. Normally I hate to give time to anything that indulges in the trope, but American Dad! makes it work quite well.

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Lisa Kudrow is pretty wonderful as Michelle, The Ghost of Christmas Past. The show gives her a lot to work with and her personality meshes well with the character.

The only downside with this episode is that it’s actually pretty light on Christmas. It begins festive enough, but once we jump back in time it’s actually easy to forget that this is a Christmas episode of American Dad! It manages to hang onto its premise though and that’s Stan needing to learn the true meaning of Christmas, which the episode defines as basically family time. It’s actually a surprisingly warm conclusion for a show not afraid to do cynical or dark endings. Of course, there’s a touch of the show’s cynicism in the ending since Stan has created a world in which guns are even more accessible. This probably isn’t my favorite Christmas episode from this show, but it’s definitely a good measuring stick for all of them. And since I’ve managed to avoid American Dad! (not intentionally, it just happened that way) while doing this countdown for years now, you can safely assume it will return next year as there’s a lot more I can turn to.

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“Best Christmas ever!”

American Dad! currently airs on both TBS and Cartoon Network almost daily. As a result, you should have no problem finding an airing of this episode at some point this month, and probably more than once. And if cable isn’t your thing, the show is streaming on Hulu and also available on physical media and for digital purchase all over the place. This should be an easy one to find and it comes recommended.


Dec. 16 – George of the Jungle – “Jungle Bells”

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Original air date November 7, 2007.

For a show that only lasted 17 episodes, George of the Jungle has had a surprisingly enduring legacy about it. The show was basically conceived as a Tarzan parody and was the spiritual successor to The Rocky and Bullwinkle show given that it was produced by Jay Ward and Bill Scott. The show premiered in 1967 and was arranged like The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in that a George cartoon was paired up with others, in this case Tom Slick and Super Chicken. The most memorable aspects of the show were likely the theme song and the fact that George was inept when it came to vine-swinging, thus why that catchy theme includes the line, “Watch out for that tree!”

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The original George from 1967 was quite the hunk.

The show made enough of a cultural impact that it continued to be aired in syndicated packages into the 1990s when cable was exploding and the need to fill programming hours helped bring shows like George of the Jungle back from the dead. I remember seeing it mostly on week day mornings on Cartoon Network, usually when I was home sick from school or during school vacations. I would often stay for the theme song, and then check out. I remember the first time I tried to give it a shot I made it to the opening line from the narrator in which he mentioned George was enjoying an air-conditioned tree. For some reason, this was just too preposterous for me and I changed the channel. Eventually I came back to it as during the summer months I often turned on Cartoon Network when I woke up and just left it on all day. I watched a lot of crap during those years and, to be honest, I don’t know if George of the Jungle was part of that crap or not. I have no strong memories of the show, be they positive or negative. The premise of the show seems fine, so maybe it was charming, but I don’t know.

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George was deemed worthy of a reboot in 2007.

That show is merely how the world was introduced to the character of George of the Jungle, but he didn’t stop there. A live-action movie premiered in 1997 starring Brendan Fraser in the lead role. He was joined by the always effervescent Leslie Mann in the role of Ursula, and I honestly have no memory of the film despite seeing it. I think I thought it was fine, but it obviously could not have been that great for me to have no real recollection of it. That was it for awhile though as George went back into obscurity. Then, for seemingly unknown reasons, the show was revived in 2007 by Classic Media for the Teletoon channel in Canada and Cartoon Network in the US. It ran for 26 episodes with each one containing two segments. It received what is considered a second season, but that came in 2016 and was more like a soft reboot of the show as a lot of the characters were changed-up and even redesigned. That second season also ran for 26 episodes ending its run in February of 2017. I guess we should expect a third season sometime in 2025.

The Christmas episode “Jungle Bells” was part of that first season. In it, the character Ursula (Britt Irvin) tries to teach her jungle friends about Christmas. It’s a fairly straight-forward plot about a Christmas-educated individual trying to bring the holiday to some place foreign. There will be trials along the way and the goal is for everyone to understand the true meaning of Christmas by the time the episode ends. Since this is a comedy series though, perhaps we can expect a twist or something along the way or maybe even an unexpected conclusion. I’ve never watched this show before today so anything is on the table in my mind.

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The ever alert denizens of the jungle.

The episode begins with the characters seemingly getting a lesson on astronomy and jungle life from Dr. Towel Scott (Mark Oliver). It seems to be going over the heads of everyone and boring them as well giving the Witch Doctor (Brian Drummond) an opening to educate them on the Season of the Great Baboon. That apparently refers to a time of year when everyone takes back all of the stuff they’ve given away before retreating to hide in a cave and subsist on leaves. Ursula then notices that Christmas is coming given the orientation of the stars in the sky. George (Lee Tockar), Ape (a literal ape voiced by Paul Dobson), and Magnolia (a jungle girl with an American southern accent voiced by Tabitha St. Germain) have no idea what she is talking about. After she gives them a brief rundown of the holiday Magnolia notes it sounds better than the great baboon, and yes it does.

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Ursula describes the wonders of Christmas.

The next day, George and Ape are playing catch (they’re using a poor little bird as the ball and large leaves as mitts) while Ursula goes on and on about how great Christmas is. She describes how it would snow at Christmas time and she would go snowboarding causing George to remark how wonderful it must be to go around trees instead of crashing into them. She continues by talking up the lights and the food, but this only further confuses the others since they don’t know what trimmings or a pine tree are. Ursula runs off to find her father, Dr. Scott, who is out catching insects for his studies. She asks him what they’re doing for Christmas, only to find out that since they’re going to be in the jungle he was planning on skipping it. This does not go over well with Ursula.

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Ursula is going to bring Christmas to the jungle no matter what the cost.

Ursula then gathers everyone and commands them like a drill sergeant. She informs them they will indeed have the best Christmas ever and produces a plan on how to do that. She assigns everyone a task:  George is on tree duty, Magnolia is to create “whimsical winter outfits,” Ape is in charge of caroling, and some elephant named Shep is expected to handle the lights. Ursula wants all white lights, no multi-color strands, which means she’s after my heart (though I do like the white and blue strands as well as the white and red).

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If there is a lesson to be taken from this special it is that crocodile eggs do not make for quality eggnog.

We then cut to that night and everything is setup for a Christmas celebration. It looks pretty good, all things considered. There’s a big tree and everything seems relatively festive. Things quickly go off the rails though. As Ursula boasts how wonderful everything looks, she’s holding onto some kind of garland that is apparently made out of eggs which begin hatching giving birth to weird jungle spiders. George presents her with some eggnog and has it spat all over him as it was apparently made out of spoiled crocodile eggs. Shep shows up with some lights, so apparently not all is lost. He sucks them up in his trunk and then spits them all over the place. It’s then Ursula realizes they’re in the jungle and do not have access to an electrical outlet. She’s about to crack, but then remembers the carols. Everyone then gathers to sing Christmas carols, but it’s awful and offkey. I’m not even sure they’re all singing the same song. The noise causes a stampede putting a merciful end to this horrid celebration as Ape admits they didn’t do any rehearsals. Ursula takes the failure rather hard and announces through sniffles that she’s going home to bed. Magnolia then vows they need to make this right.

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She gives up rather easily.

George, Ape, and Magnolia pay a visit to Dr. Scott for assistance on how to save Christmas. It’s via him they learn about Santa Claus giving George the idea to track down Santa and force him to make Ursula’s Christmas awesome. They quickly set off and a narrator (Michael Daingerfield) takes over the story-telling. George and his friends first end up at the South Pole where a penguin apparently directs them north. They make a stop at a police lineup full of non-Santa holiday mascots before arriving at the North Pole. There an elf gives them the run-around and then, laughing rather maniacally, is shown heading into Santa’s workshop. The montage ends with George, Ape, and Magnolia atop a tree searching around in the jungle. Ape questions how a big, red, dude could be so hard to find and George agrees. He also declares he needs a nap and immediately goes to sleep. Ape and Magnolia decide to join him and as the trio sleep they slide into the canopy of leaves and down the limbs of the tree getting tangled in some vines.

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Well now, who is this jolly old fellow?!

The three wake up to find themselves suspended upside down. George panics momentarily, but then an image fills his sight. It’s a large, red, creature with a white beard! George immediately mistakes him for Santa Claus, but it appears to be the great baboon the Witch Doctor described earlier. He helps them down, and is then confused when George jumps onto his lap with a list of demands, number one being that Ursula needs a chimney so Santa can visit her. The baboon appears agreeable, but then asks them what they’re talking about with a crazy-sounding “Ho ho!” George groans, realizing he’ll just have to do this himself.

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Who knew a swarm of bats could make for a good reindeer alternative?

And that’s what George should have done from the start as he quickly assembles a rather nice looking chimney in seconds later that evening, though he does get stuck in it. They then turn their attention to creating a sleigh as they’re apparently going to play Santa. Ape loads it up with toys, while George gets poison ivy for some reason. They’re then shown trying to make the sleigh fly with a team full of bats lazily depicted mostly as a cloud. It’s not working and George thinks they need a leader. He turns to Tookie, the little pink bird who was serving as their ball earlier, and plants a red nose on him. Tookie takes one look at the bats with antlers shoved into their heads and seems scared, but he bravely flies to the head of the team. Apparently there was some Christmas magic in that bird as the sleigh soon takes flight.

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At least it’s not cold.

While flying above the jungle, Ape tells George to release the presents and he does so. All at once. The sack lands in a volcano which causes it to spew ash into the air. It rains down like snow on the jungle and the Witch Doctor can be seen making ash angels while Shep samples the flavor. Ursula is then shown asleep in her bed with a single tear dangling from one eye. George and Ape drop in with the chimney and get to work making the place look nice. And they succeed! The place looks like a Hallmark card, the only thing missing is a stocking over the fireplace. George nails one to the mantle, but it causes the entire chimney to crack and then crumble ruining the house.

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And this is the part where things predictably go wrong.

Ursula and her dad are roused from their sleep by the noise and find George and Ape amongst the rubble. They somewhat coyly say someone ruined her house, and her Christmas, but are then confused to see her smiling. She runs outside into the falling “snow” and remarks how it looks just like Christmas back home. She all but thanks George for going through all of the trouble to make this happen when Magnolia comes barreling into the screen by tackling George. She thanks him profusely for decorating her hut, then remarks his looks even better. George and Ape are confused, so they head over to check it out.

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At least George’s place still looks nice.

George’s hut looks rather amazing as it’s all decorated for Christmas. Magnolia assumes Santa did it, and George is confused why he would decorate his hut too. Ursula basically gives him a response of because it’s Christmas, and George doesn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t understand, but he likes it so requests to do it again next year. Magnolia then beckons them to the window where they look and see a shadow against the moon. It scratches itself, and they assume it must be Santa and wish him a Merry Christmas. The figure returns the gesture, and becomes well lit revealing it’s actually the baboon. It’s he who ends the episode with a, “And to all a good night!”

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Quick! Everyone rush to the window for a glimpse of Santa!

And that’s it, a pretty straight-forward take on the plot of Christmas coming to a location it was previously foreign. You have the frustrated character who can’t seem to convey the holiday’s message to the newcomers and the newcomers sort of stumbling into a way to make it happen with a dash of Christmas magic tossed in for good measure. There’s no message in the end though, a part from maybe the old adage “It’s the thought that counts,” as we don’t really learn anything about Christmas. It has a bit of a twist in the ending with the baboon being mistaken for Santa, but it doesn’t really add anything. I guess it’s a little funny, but in the end did it matter that it wasn’t Santa? We basically just found out Santa doesn’t really care about the denizens of the jungle and that apparently the Witch Doctor has been honoring this baboon guy in the wrong manner.

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Only it’s not Santa. Eh, close enough.

George of the Jungle is not an impressive looking show. It’s flash-animated, and being from 2007, means it looks rather “puppetty.” The characters are simple models that are animated in a fairly simple manner. Only what needs to be animated is repositioned while the rest of the image remains static. It’s not particularly fluid. The designs of the characters have a slight resemblance to the 1967 show, though Ursula looks particularly modern in her attire and George is actually quite skinny. Shep and Dr. Scott in particular remind me of the old show, but what’s lacking is the background and general art design. There’s nothing memorable as it’s just a fairly typical jungle setting. The voice acting is pretty good, though I’m not crazy about the voice given to George. Sometimes I get the impression he’s supposed to sound really stupid, but it’s almost noncommittal. Is he dumb? Ignorant? I don’t know.

The show is also short on laughs. Ape has a deadpan delivery to a lot of his lines that works and I did enjoy the joke of George pining for a scenario in which he avoids trees, but aside from that little made me laugh. They confused the South Pole with the North Pole, which is a joke that’s been done many times. I guess I like that Santa was shown to exist, but the elves are just secretive about it. Ursula going mad early on is supposed to be funny, but it’s again too conventional. George getting eggnog regurgitated onto him was definitely the grossest moment of the show and it was a bit humorous to see it go on and on, but that also made it feel too much like a Family Guy gag.

At least we learned that Christmas can indeed come to the jungle. And if you want to experience it for yourself it’s very easy as the whole show is free to stream on YouTube. I mean, I don’t recommend you actually do it as it’s apparently free for a reason, but if you liked the old show and always wanted to see George interact with Christmas well now’s your chance.


Dec. 12 – Teen Titans Go! – “Halloween vs. Christmas”

 

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Original air date October 27, 2016.

It’s a battle for the hearts of children around the world! What is the superior holiday:  Halloween or Christmas? Today’s entrant is founded on the premise that Halloween is the only holiday to rival Christmas as far as what children look forward to most. This feels more or less on point as a kid I definitely had strong affection for both, with Thanksgiving serving as the necessary evil standing in between the two of them. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that Christmas was indeed my preferred holiday of the two, but Halloween was not without its charm. As for second best? Yes, I suppose that title went to Halloween though Easter was pretty close. It included candy as well plus I always got a toy from the Easter Bunny to go along with that candy. And as a kid, I much preferred toys to candy. Still, I’d probably go with Halloween because the whole costuming and going out at night was pretty charming. And as I got older it became a chance for mischief when parents no longer supervised the trick and/or treating that took place.

Even though I’m in agreement that Halloween is quite popular, I’d never put it on equal footing with Christmas. Especially not as a kid. As an adult, there are things that come with Halloween that I enjoy more now. And as a parent, dressing my kids up and unleashing them on the neighborhood is its own unique brand of joy. It doesn’t rival Christmas morning though, and I’m big on the whole build-up thing. Yes, Halloween is great, but don’t make me choose between the two because Halloween just can’t win that one.

And that’s partly what makes this episode of Teen Titans Go! so interesting. One would think if Halloween was to be pitted against Christmas the challenge would come from Halloween or a being associated with Halloween. It does not. Rather, this episode comes at things from the opposite perspective, but it creates a character that makes it work

mummy santaThe episode begins on Halloween night. Everyone is getting ready for trick or treating, but a group of individuals dressed as mummies are up to no good. There are four of them, one much larger than the others, and they’re swiping everything Halloween related from town:  candy, decorations, even costumes right off of the children! The Teen Titans happen to be in the area as Robin (Scott Menville) instructs the other Titans that they must secure provisions for the evening’s festivities. As they do so they come to find there’s nothing in town to purchase. Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) tells them to fear not, for he has saved some candy from last year that they can hand out to trick or treaters. He reaches into his pants and pulls out a greasy looking jack-o-lantern bag of treats and the others do not seem repulsed enough by this.

After Beast Boy produces the candy, the mummy group arrives to request it. They offer a “Trick or treat,” when prompted and Beast Boy is ready to hand over the candy, but then they notice something is off with these trick or treaters. One seems too old for the activity, while the others are really small. They wield Christmas stockings instead of Halloween bags or buckets and the big one even has what appears to be a white beard sticking out through his bandages. Robin correctly realizes that this group is really Santa Claus (Robert Morse) and his elves in disguise and he orders the Titans to the car.

The Teen Titans speed off as Santa gives chase in his sleigh. Rudolf leads the way firing lasers from his eyes that eventually pop one of the tires of the escape vehicle. Robin converts it into a nifty hover jet and it flies off into the Titans’ headquarters. Once inside, the Teen Titans regroup and all wonder what’s going on. Robin has it figured out though when he hypothesizes that Santa views Halloween as the only threat to Christmas so he’s seeking to gain control of it by seizing all of the candy and decorations. The other Titans are horrified, and then Santa shows up to basically confirm that Robin is correct.

santa megaphoneSanta hovers outside the armored HQ in his sleigh pulled by three reindeer. He demands they hand over the last bag of candy, but the Titans refuse. He then offers them bribes in the form of gifts, which nearly tempt Starfire (Hynden Walch) into handing over the candy. Robin instructs her to remain strong and the Titans are able to resist. This forces Santa to try a new tactic:  Christmas music! The music is supposed to infect the group with so much Christmas cheer that they cannot resist the demands of Santa. Cyborg (Khary Payton) is the first to crack as he attempts to run and grab a tree, but he’s stopped by his team members. They all confess that it’s too hard to resist the Christmas spirit with even the dour Raven (Tara Strong) affected by it. Robin concedes they must agree to meet Santa and make a deal.

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That treacherous Santa came armed.

The Titans let down their guard and allow Santa access to their roof where they all meet. Santa isn’t alone for he has two large grunts and three elves with him. Robin is outraged that they brought weapons and demands they lay them down. Santa does as Robin requests, but he asks that his little elves be allowed to keep their candy cane snacks. Robin allows it and the group begins to barter. Robin offers up other holidays in hopes of appeasing Santa, starting with President’s Day. He tosses a bound George Washington at Santa’s feet, but the fat man isn’t having any of it. Robin counters with a tandem of St. Patrick’s Day and a baby that’s either representing Baby New Year or maybe it’s a cupid. Either way, Santa brushes aside the offering of “trash holidays” and demands Halloween. The elves then turn their candy canes on the Titans revealing they’re actually guns forcing the group to retreat back inside their base.

With the negotiations failed, Robin turns to Raven and her dark arts for help. She requests a pumpkin, but Beast Boy offers up a gourd. In a throwback to the candy sack gag from earlier, the gourd comes from his pants. When asked why he would have a gourd in his pants he offers the same reason, suggesting you never know when you’ll need it. I choose to believe he’s using it to enhance his “package” and the little mugging he does for the camera makes me think I’m right.

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Behold! A new icon for Halloween!

With the gourd in her possession, Raven begins an incantation. She summons the Spirt of Halloween (Payton) who strongly resembles Samhain from The Real Ghostbusters, only with a gourd for a head instead of a pumpkin. The spirit is not alone though, as the Titans return to the roof to unleash their new team on Santa’s minions:  Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and The Wolf Man! Together with the Titans, they put up quite a fight, but Santa ends up getting his claws on the Halloween Spirit and the Titans are forced to surrender.

santa vs halloweenWith defeat pulling their chins towards the ground, the Titans hand over the last sack of candy rather than see Santa kill the Spirit of Halloween. Santa is delighted to have the candy in his possession, but when he opens the sack he finds it’s full of dynamite. Cyborg detonates it with a remote blasting Santa all the way back to the North Pole where’s shown with his head stuck in the snow. The Titans all celebrate, and in what is a parody of many Christmas specials, the Halloween Spirit uses his magic to bring Halloween to the town. He even creates a sleigh with skeletal reindeer not unlike what Jack Skellington rode in The Nightmare Before Christmas. As Robin wishes everyone a Happy Halloween, the Titans and Halloween Sprit ride off into the night with the full moon serving as the perfect backdrop.

“Halloween vs Christmas” serves as an offbeat Christmas special. Or is it a Halloween special? It features both so I think it counts as both, similar to the previously mentioned The Nightmare Before Christmas. Where that movie leans more towards Christmas, this one definitely leans more towards Halloween, which is fine. It doesn’t really settle the premise implied by the title, but together with the Spirit of Halloween, the Teen Titans are able to preserve Halloween by fending off St. Nick. It features the usual Teen Titans Go! brand of humor. The villainous Santa the episode came up with is pretty amusing. He gets by with a touch of shock humor since it’s a surprise to see Santa behave in such a manner, but American Dad has been running with an adversarial Santa for quite awhile now too. I really like the performance of Robert Morse as Santa and his affinity for referring to the Titans as “garbage children” kept making me chuckle.

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Happy Halloween everyone! Or, Merry Christmas?

The look of this show is something you either like or do not like. It’s very flat as it’s a modern 2D animated show, but it’s also colorful and the actual animation is pretty good. There’s an obvious anime influence to the action shots and in how the characters emote. I find it charming, but I also wasn’t a viewer of the more traditional Teen Titans show that came before this. Some fans of that show seem resigned to hating this one for being a comedy show, but that’s their loss, I suppose. I don’t think this show is going to be remembered as one of the best of its era, but it’s fine and it’s not something I mind watching. It knows when to leave a joke behind and the episodes are too short to really get stale, though I do wish Cartoon Network didn’t show massive blocks of this show seemingly every day when it has plenty of other quality shows it could boost.

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It’s more of a Halloween special, but it still knows to end on a moon shot after a flying sleigh just went by.

This is the second Teen Titans Go! episode to appear in one of the countdowns, the other being “Second Christmas.” Neither is a traditional Christmas episode, which feels appropriate for the brand. I found both entertaining, but the holiday mash-up gimmick utilized here makes me appreciate this one just a bit more. Regardless, Cartoon Network is likely to show both more than once this December so keep an eye out if it’s something you want to check out. You can also buy the episode digitally and may even be able to stream it on Cartoon Network’s app. It should be one of the easier specials to find this year should you choose to seek it out.


Dec. 2 – Robot Chicken’s ATM Christmas Special

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First broadcast December 16, 2012.

This is going to be a bit of an experiment. These recaps the last few years have basically focused on cartoons or live-action shows in which a story is told over some duration. I have so far avoided sketch shows, not purposely, but it’s definitely been in the back of my mind that doing a write-up in this style is a bit more challenging with a sketch show. It’s like reviewing or recapping several micro episodes of a TV show.

And when it comes to micro-sized entertainment, Robot Chicken should be the first show that comes to mind. Each episode is about 11 minutes long and contains an irregular number of sketches within that 11 minutes, some of which are literally just a few seconds long. Most of these are animated using stop-motion techniques with action figures in place of true puppets. Often these action figures require modification to animate in a more desirable fashion and when that is needed clay appears to be the medium of choice.

img_4139Robot Chicken is the brain child of Seth Green and Matthew Senreich. Green, as the most visible star associated with the brand, often handles a lot of the voicing duties and appears to get a lot of help from his Family Guy co-stars as well. Senreich, along with writers Douglas Goldstein and Tom Root, are veterans of ToyFare magazine which would often contain a comic in its pages called Twisted ToyFare Theater that is basically Robot Chicken in print form. Those sequences were popular, so it’s not that surprising to see the concept was taken to television where Robot Chicken has had a presence on Adult Swim since 2005.

Robot Chicken has been an ally to Christmas from almost day one. There have been several holiday editions of the show and some themes have sprung up. Santa Claus is a reoccurring character in these shorts and he is, I believe, always voiced by Seth MacFarlane. The show will often poke fun at classic holiday specials or just do something nerdy and goofy like pit Goku from Dragon Ball against a Christmas villain. There’s elements of shock humor to go along with the mostly nerd humor and shorts often get pretty violent for comedic purposes. It’s not a show for everyone, but it’s certainly aided by its brief runtime so when an episode misses the mark it’s usually not around long enough to truly stink up the place.

In 2012 Robot Chicken debuted its ATM Christmas Special, which I assume stands for Ass to Mouth because that’s the sort of humor the show goes for. Even though the show is on Adult Swim, it may have been difficult to actually get that phrase into the episode title and it’s a bit cheeky to make it an acronym anyway.

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Santa is pissed he nearly slept through Christmas.

The special opens in festive fashion with a parody of the old CBS Special logo that leads into a story about Santa (MacFarlane). It seems Santa forgot to schedule a wake-up call as he wakes up late for Christmas. It’s a scramble to the work shop where a ranting Santa takes his anger out on the poor elves. Santa is done as a doll, while most of the elves look like claymation and doll parts or something. The scramble continues to the sleigh and the reindeer are all messed up prompting Santa to fire the elf attendant, who cries, as Santa leaves.

 

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Someone got fired for that one.

From the skies Santa and his assistant chuck presents rather than do the usual infiltration thing. They’re depicted more like bombs as they cause all kinds of destruction, including claiming the life of a poor homeless man. A satellite image from space shows Earth with little tiny explosions dotting the surface. Santa makes it back to the North Pole relieved he pulled it off until he finds a lone present he missed. He vows to make the delivery and races to the home where it apparently belongs. I guess because time’s a factor, he opts to use the front door rather than the chimney, but it’s locked. As Santa pulls and wrestles with the door knob, the scene changed to reveal this is all a nightmare and Santa is at home in bed choking his wife. Some elves race in and use a cattle prod on him to subdue him, causing Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Banks) to declare she hates Christmas.

 

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And whoa this thing got dark pretty quick!

We then smash cut to the real opening credits, which largely depict the short we just watched, but everything is in red. There’s also some clips of shorts still to come as we head into our next skit.

 

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This guy is angry at Jewish people for making him work on Christmas. That’s the joke.

A Chinese man is shown on the phone at a restaurant. He’s talking to his wife, but we only hear his side of the conversation. He’s bemoaning that he can’t come home and celebrate Christmas because a Jewish family is there and is just hanging out after their meal. We can see them at a table in the background. The man then declares he hates Jews, which is apparently the punchline of the skit.

 

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Well isn’t this a nice holiday setting!

We then jump to a living room setting on Christmas. A delighted Christmas tree (Henry Winkler) is busy declaring how lucky it is to have been adopted by this family. It’s a happy, warm, Christmas setting that ends with a little girl hugging the tree. Then we cut to a woman dragging the browning tree out the front door. It is completely unaware of what is about to happen and the woman tells the tree they’re going on vacation. It’s pretty excited and remains so as she leaves it on the curb for the garbage man to collect. As the tree is tossed into the truck, it insists it’s not garbage, but then it sees the father and daughter watching from a window as they close the curtains.

 

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On Robot Chicken, there are no happy endings.

The tree is taken to a toilet paper factory, and several weeks later we see what became of it. It’s toilet paper and sitting on a shelf in a grocery store. The image of the tree on the packaging is capable of talking and narrating the thoughts of the still sentient plant as it openly hopes it mostly gets used for boogers or urine. Then it recognizes something offscreen, and it’s the mom and daughter of the family who threw it away. It’s actually happy to see them, until the mother declares they’re having Indian food for dinner.

 

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Check it out! He had a big foot! Laugh!

We then get a brief skit of some kids looking at the stockings over the fireplace. One is huge, and they declare “No fair,” as the camera pans to reveal it belongs to Big Foot Danny, a kid with a really big foot.

 

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Well, at least he’s not choking her this time.

Back to Santa, who is seated in a lounge chair with an apparent broken leg. Mrs. Claus comes in to give him his Christmas present:  a candy cane (get it?). Santa is excited and he stands up to test it out and, finding it’s an actual oversized candy cane, collapses to the ground as the cane snaps apart. He then scolds the woman for making a cane out of candy and expecting it to work. The skit ends with Santa wondering if he broke his tibia while I worry for the well-being of Mrs. Claus.

 

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I guess Justin Bieber jokes were still funny in 2012. I guess.

In a warmly lit den by the fire decorated for Christmas, Justine Bieber (Lucas Grabeel) prepares to play us a song. He’s joined by Santa on guitar and a snowman on drums. He then rips into the song, which is probably titled “Fuck Christmas” because that’s what he mostly says. It’s an aggressive, angry, tune that gets its point across. The scene ends with two executives watching this unfold. One remarks they should have just stuck with David Cassidy, while the other enthusiastically declares that Bieber is a true artist.

 

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It’s Santa vs Jason Bourne! The fight you never wanted!

We’re then taken to a more desolate location. It’s Jason Bourne, a convincing looking doll, and he turns his head dramatically to spot someone closing in from behind. It’s Santa Claus, and there are no words spoken as Santa pulls a sharpened candy cane from his coat. The two fight, and the choreography is actually pretty intense. Bourne gets the better of the Kringle though, ending the fight by stabbing Santa with his own candy cane.

 

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How did you expect it to end? The guy is beyond elderly!

Santa is then shown laying on the ground coughing up blood. He remarks that Jason is a hard man to find and pulls out a Christmas present. Okay. Bourne takes it as Santa bleeds out and dies and seems to react enthusiastically to receiving a copy of the board game Parcheesi.

 

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Hey kid, I know how you feel as I had the same reaction to this joke.

A quick skit of a Lego family at Christmas runs. The kid seems unhappy to have received another block for Christmas and reacts with mock enthusiasm. That’s it.

 

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What are you supposed to get a ninja for Christmas? Robot Chicken seeks to answer that very question.

At G.I. Joe headquarters, some of the Joes are sitting around trying to figure out what to get Snake Eyes for Christmas. These appear to be actual toys from the toy line. They don’t know what to get him because he never tells them what he wants (he’s mute, in case you were unaware) and we see a cut-away to last Christmas when they just gave him a coffee mug that says “I Heart Ninjas.”

 

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Storm Shadow has never looked better.

Scarlett (Banks) declares she knows what Snake Eyes really wants, and we cut to the Joes surrounding a building in a snowy environment. They enter and it’s revealed to be the home of Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes’ rival. He’s in his usual white ninja suit, but also is sporting a pink bath robe. The Joes attack, but they get their asses handed to them.

 

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The question remains unanswered.

On Christmas morning, Duke (Skeet Ulrich) approaches a seated Snake Eyes and tosses his present at him. It’s another mug. Meanwhile, we can see the rest of the Joes have all been beaten up pretty bad and look rather miserable. Snake Eyes, even though he’s wearing a mask, seems perplexed by the hostile treatment.

 

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Nothing says “Christmas” quite like Kano.

We’re whisked away to a store where a woman is in the embarrassing position of having her credit card declined. The clerk can’t do anything about it as she bemoans how tough life has been for her and her two boys since their father passed away. The man behind her overhears the clerk say her name, Mrs. Cage, and it causes him to remember. The man is Kano, of Mortal Kombat fame, and a thought bubble appears over his head showing him rip the heart out of Johnny Cage post match.

 

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I knew he was an asshole the moment I first laid eyes on him!

Feeling guilty, Kano helps the woman to her car and accepts an offer to join them for Christmas dinner. At the Cage residence, he uses his somersault maneuver to hang Christmas lights, and when saying “Grace,” he puts on a yamaka as a joke and everyone has a good laugh. As he helps Mrs. Cage put the kids to bed, he confesses he can’t hide from her anymore. He apologizes for what happened to Johnny and gives the widow a gift. She opens the box and is confused. Kano claims it’s Johnny’s heart, but Mrs. Cage informs him it’s not a heart. We then smash cut to Johnny Cage on a beach in a tropical environment relaying how Kano ripped out his appendix by mistake to a group of bikini-clad women. He then grabs one and the skit ends before the orgy can commence.

 

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Possibly Robot Chicken’s most popular character is The Nerd.

In our next sketch it’s Christmas morning at The Nerd’s (Green) home. He awakens excitedly in a festive red onesie and races downstairs only to find that Christmas has been stolen. His parents give him the bad news, but he takes it fairly well. That is until his mom reveals during “Pretend Christmas” what the thief made off with:  a 1985 AFA Graded Snake Eyes action figure.

 

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I like where this is going…

Despondent, The Nerd takes to the streets to find the whole neighborhood has been victimized. He finds a group of people forming a circle and one man explains it’s a vengeance circle as they’re asking The Spirit of Vengeance to violently punish the asshole who stole their stuff. He’s then told by another that he’s mistaken and this is the wrong circle, the vengeance one is nearby. This forces things to click inside The Nerd’s brain. What Christmas story involves a burglary followed by the victims holding hands and singing? He then turns around to gaze at a nearby mountain where the thief is still in the process of getting away!

 

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When you’re down and out and in need of encouragement, look to Larry Hama.

The Nerd heads off after him, and as he climbs the mountain he bemoans his choice in clothing. As he ponders giving up, he looks to Snake Eyes for help. Since Snake Eyes is mute, he doesn’t offer anything encouraging when he appears in a cloud above The Nerd’s head. Larry Hama appears though in a similar vision to encourage him to continue. The line he feeds The Nerd is corny and unoriginal and The Nerd calls him out on it. In a bit of self-deprecation, Hama remarks how he spent his career writing comics that were essentially toy commercials and is able to spur The Nerd along by threatening to read him an excerpt from his unfinished novel.

 

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He really is a stupid looking Grinch.

The Nerd makes it to the summit where he confronts the thief – The Grinch! He moans when he sees it’s not even the good Grinch from the cartoon, but the Jim Carrey Grinch. Grinch (Green) tells him it doesn’t matter, but then The Nerd uses his anger over the film ruining the “greatest cartoon ever” to motivate him to kill this Grinch. Declaring he doesn’t care about his presents, he simply kicks the sleigh (with Grinch in it) off the mountain. He then turns around to see Max whom he refers to him as the little Stockholm Syndrome dog. Max has something for The Nerd, his precious Snake Eyes toy! Only now it has teeth marks which are sure to affect the grading.

 

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And now he’s dead and likely about to get raped.

Back at street level, one of the neighborhood men drags the Grinch’s corpse over and happily displays it. The same man from earlier rejoices that The Spirit of Vengeance answered their prayers. Another man then questions if The Spirit of Vengeance would like them to rape the corpse. The first man declares why not? – it’s Christmas! And that’s how our special ends; with a rape joke.

 

Robot Chicken’s ATM Christmas Special is certainly a sight to behold. The animation is pretty great, even when the source “puppets” are old G.I. Joe toys. I like the little through-lines with reappearing Santa throughout and the G.I. Joe sketch being sort of referenced further in the finale. The big Grinch parody was saved for last and it feels like the right spot for it. I like the self-realization of The Nerd becoming aware that he’s in a Christmas special, and even though internet nerd anger is pretty stupid, I did take some joy in this character hating on the Jim Carrey/Ron Howard Grinch while praising the superior Chuck Jones cartoon.

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There’s a tendency of the show to rely on shock humor, like a homeless guy getting decapitated by a Christmas present, but when that’s your thing it’s hard to remain shocking.

Some of the other stuff hasn’t aged super well. The “I Hate Jews” sketch, in particular, doesn’t play so well. It’s brushed off because a lot of the folks involved with this show are Jewish, and I suppose someone in a similar situation could empathize to a point, but it still felt like poor taste and just shock humor. And rape jokes are just kind of “meh” at this point. It’s another line that’s supposed to create a laugh out of shock, but the show is often so crass that it loses the ability to be shocking. I expected those people to want to desecrate the corpse of The Grinch thus negating the punch of the remark.

 

This special is loaded with guest stars who all do a pretty nice job. MacFarlane is involved with the show so often that it hardly feels right to even consider him a guest star at this point. Elizabeth Banks plays a few characters, and I was surprised to hear the voice of Henry Winkler. Larry Hama’s part isn’t acted all that well, and it was clearly shot on the cheap (maybe even wth a cell phone or something), but his willingness to basically poke fun at his own career helped to sell the moment.

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Henry Winkler’s Christmas tree is the type of character the show’s dark blend of humor works best with. Although the sketch still ended with a poop joke.

The stuff with Santa was mostly enjoyable, though the Bourne sketch wasn’t particularly funny (even though it looked great). I’m not much of a fan of G.I. Joe so that sketch fell a little flat for me. I did find the Mortal Kombat one pretty amusing, if a tad predictable, and the Christmas Tree was tragically funny as well. Overall, there were some laughs found in this tidy little Christmas special and they mostly outweigh the duds. It doesn’t stick around long enough to suck, and by positioning the best short at the end it actually does leave you wanting more. Had it ended on G.I. Joe or the stupid Bieber song I probably would feel different.

If you want to catch this special this year just keep an eye out on Adult Swim. They’re practically guaranteed to air this and the many other Robot Chicken Christmas episodes at some point this month, often even reserving some for Christmas Eve.

 


Dec. 21 – Rick and Morty – “Anatomy Park”

img_2952Rick and Morty is Adult Swim’s latest hit. Premiering in December 2013, it appeared to be just another Adult Swim cartoon, but come the season 3 premiere it seemed to really take off. That was the episode, you may have heard, that involved a certain flavor of discontinued McDonald’s McNugget sauce that went viral. It caught the attention of McDonald’s, who seeking to capitalize on the spotlight, re-released this sauce in limited quantities and geeky fans did what geeky fans do – they went nuts.

As a result of that debacle, Rick and Morty seems to have engendered a bad reputation. Or rather, its fan base has. Some of that is due to lead character Rick, a super scientist of extreme, almost god-like, intelligence who also happens to have real character flaws. He’s a user and an abuser, but he’s almost always right and the victor of each episode causing some fans to view him in a positive light. He’s really not supposed to be though and viewers should be laughing at him, not with him, as the saying goes. He’s kind of like a Walter White, or if you want to get real nerdy, a Raistlin Majere before that character had his redemption arc.

Is it the show’s fault when its fans act stupid in its name? Yes and no, but I lean more towards the “no” side. Ignoring the drama, Rick and Morty is just a really fun, inventive show created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland. It’s ugly, cynical, gross, and strangely captivating. It took me a little while to get into it, but that was mostly because the Rick character and his constant burping and drooling just kind of grossed me out. I don’t know what it is about his constant burps, but it just makes me queasy and I’m not usually the type who is turned off by gross humor. I got over it though, and once I did I got pretty well hooked. This is the kind of show I can just drop in and out of and usually have a laugh. There is some connective tissue between episodes, but in general you don’t need to keep up with it to know what’s going on and to enjoy an episode by itself.

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Are you ready for a Jurassic Park parody at Christmas?

At its core, Rick and Morty is like a deranged Mr. Peabody and Sherman with a touch of Back to the Future. Rick is the old man and a super genius. Morty is his neurotic grandson. Together they go on interdimensional adventures where sometimes Morty learns a lesson, and sometimes he does not. Sometimes they stay home and watch television and don’t even bother with the adventure. They have a some-what combative relationship. Morty is a need for Rick and the why is a bit of a deep dive I don’t want to go on right now. For Morty, Rick is a presence who exerts controls over him. Sometimes he’s a means to an end, and usually his ends are like most teenaged boys, and sometimes he wants to go on crazy adventures, but usually he does not. Do they love each other? It’s hard to tell. Sometimes the show will tease genuine affection on the part of Rick only to reveal it was a farce and sometimes it does but leaves the interpretation open. He’s probably not a truly repugnant grandfather, but he’s certainly not the best.

Rounding out the cast is Morty’s family. Rick lives in their garage and the home is owned by his daughter Beth (Sarah Chalke), a failed doctor who had to settle for veterinary work. She embodies some of her dad’s poorer qualities, like alcoholism and likely depression, and she’s in a rather loveless marriage to Jerry (Chris Parnell). She and Jerry got pregnant young and had a shotgun wedding and never really figured out if they were even in love, though they seem some-what dependent on one another. Jerry is a meek and insecure individual and he loathes Rick and the influence he has over their son. Summer (Spencer Grammer) is Morty’s older sister and is a fairly typical teen. She tries to ignore the dysfunction of her home life, but sometimes she gets pulled into one of Rick and Morty’s adventures.

“Anatomy Park” is the show’s third episode and it’s lone Christmas episode to this point and it originally aired on December 16, 2013. What starts off as a fairly conventional sitcom plot, turns into an outrageous Jurassic Park parody. It also gets rather dark and uncomfortable for a sitcom Christmas special, but that’s Rick and Morty for ya!

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Jerry’s parents have arrived and they’ve brought an unexpected guest.

The episode opens with Jerry, dressed in a festive sweater, getting angry at his family for being too attached to their various electronics on Christmas. He makes them all put their tablets and phones into a stocking, and when Summer refuses he threatens to create a Facebook profile. He tells them his parents are due over any minute for Christmas dinner and it’s revealed they haven’t been by in several years. The rest of the family seems indifferent. Meanwhile, Rick shows up with a gross looking Santa. When Gerry questions who this guy is Rick says his name is Ruben (Jess Harnell) and every Christmas Rick takes him in and gives him a full check-up as some kind of charity case. Jerry isn’t buying it, and the only thing Ruben can say is “Pearl Harbor” while the rest of the family seems charmed. Rick and Ruben disappear into the garage and Jerry’s parents then turn up with an unexpected guest. Leonard (Dana Carvey) and Joyce (Patricia Lentz) have brought Jacob (Echo Kellum), a young african american male, along for Christmas dinner. They don’t really explain who Jacob is, and when asked they explain they’ve had a spiritual awakening of some kind and are focused on experiences and living while in the twilight of their lives. This seems to please Summer and Beth, but Jerry is just confused and anxious.

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Rick also has a festive surprise guest.

Rick pops back in to greet Jerry’s parents, but mostly to take Morty with him to the garage. Once there we see Ruben, naked on a table save for his tattered Santa hat, who Rick says is in bad shape. He’s speaking rather hastily and pushing Morty along who is growing increasingly concerned and panicked as Rick outfits him to look like a poor man’s astronaut. Rick doesn’t explain what’s needed of Morty, and only barks out important instructions as he shoves him into a device and then shrinks him into a tiny syringe. As he jabs the syringe into Ruben, Beth pops in to ask where Morty went and Rick explains he’s busy.

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The episode is a parody of Jurassic Park, but Anatomy Park is also clearly a parody of Disneyland. And the show is not above going for the easy jokes here.

Morty finds himself injected into Ruben’s body and there he finds Anatomy Park. Rick has constructed a microscopic amusement park inside the man’s body and he introduces it in grandiose fashion as Morty walks around and takes it all in. He seems impressed and strangely not panicked, until he arrives at the liver. It’s a scary place, and Rick fills him in on Ruben’s alcoholism and mentions you have to be in a pretty bad place to let someone build an amusement park inside of you. Rick needs Morty to find Dr. Xenon (John Oliver) as something has gone wrong. He first encounters Poncho (Gary Anthony Williams), a crazed military man who freaks him out. Dr. Xenon, some kind of a sentient germ or something, shows up though and welcomes Morty and also introduces his fetching young assistant Annie (Jackie Buscarino) whom Morty takes an immediate liking to. With them is Roger (Harnell) who resembles Steve Irwin. Dr. Xenon explains the security systems have gone haywire as a giant, yellow, xenomorph-like creature bursts onto the scene.

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Our “heroes” of Anatomy Park. Most of them will die.

Back home, the rest of the family is seated down for dinner. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves except Jerry, who is still really thrown off by the presence of Jacob. When he pushes the issue, his dad fesses up to what’s going on. Seeing as they’re getting older, Leonard and Joyce are focusing on the connections that will last beyond their years: their spiritual one. Less important is the physical, which is what brought Jacob into their lives. Jerry gets rather worried and asks if Jacob is their lover and is relieved when his dad says, “No.” That was a bit of a fake-out though as he explains that Jacob is actually his mother’s lover, he just likes to watch and often while wearing a Superman costume. Jacob acts like this is not the least bit awkward and the rest of the family seems amused by it, except Jerry.

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Beth and Summer seem to enjoy the hearing the truth about Jacob.

Inside Anatomy Park, the others run from the creature and flee into the lungs. There they’re joined by a cast member of the park dressed like a dog (Rob Schrab). When he removes his mask he is immediately chastised by Dr. Xenon; apparently breaking character is forbidden. As they look around the lungs, Morty decides to bounce around and have some fun, until they’re attacked by tuberculosis. The little black beings descend like spiders and Poncho opens fire, which rips holes in the lungs causing Ruben to cough. The dog-guy gets caught in a cough, but Morty grabs his hand and requests his name (it’s Alexander), but another cough causes him to go shooting out of Ruben peeling the skin from his bones. He splatters as phlegm on Rick’s face.

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Fare thee well, Alexander.

Rick then starts to pass along advice to our adventurers and prepares to cure Ruben’s TB, until he flat-lines. Proclaiming he can’t cure death, Rick starts to advise Morty that things are going to get dark so he should try riding Pirates of the Pancreas, which is a ride he designed and is really proud of (he insists it wasn’t white-washed and the pirates get really rapey). He also adds that getting them out of the dead man alive is the priority, but why not treat yourself too? Morty is not amused by Rick’s logic.

After the business with Rick is concluded, Dr. Xenon seems ready to eulogize his beloved park, but Morty shuts him up and insists they find a way out. Dr. Xenon explains, rather frankly, the way out is through the digestive tract and Morty insists they head there while Poncho is annoyed he’s supposed to listen to “some 12-year-old.” Dr. Xenon then warns Morty that what has happened to Anatomy Park is the work of an inside job, and cautions him about Annie in particular who was written up for her work at the churro stand. Undaunted, Morty tries talking to Annie where he awkwardly tries to explain he’s not 12, but 14, and it doesn’t go well prompting Rick to make a comment at his expense.

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Dr. Xenon is the only one who seems to enjoy this endless ride.

The group is then shown on the digestive tract ride, which is styled after It’s A Small World and apparently goes on for miles. They’re then set upon by gonorrhea, which rises from the brown water in a rather threatening manner. Dr. Xenon cautions that if they don’t move it won’t see them, then says “whoops” as he mistook gonorrhea for a T-Rex. Their boat is soon capsized, and they’re forced to swim away in the nasty looking “water.” They arrive “on shore” while the penile gonorrhea looms. Poncho then recalls Dr. Xenon saying the chamber was filling with gas and lights a match. With a cool parting line about a burning sensation, he tosses the match at the grotesque monster causing an explosion and destroying it.

At home, the family is gathered in a drum circle all except Jerry who is moping in the corner. Beth offers some consoling his way, but he knows she’s enjoying this. A teenaged boy then shows up and we find out it’s Ethan (Daniel Benson), Summer’s boyfriend. He’s pissed that Summer hasn’t returned any of his texts, but that’s because Jerry took her phone. Summer gets angry in return while Jerry demands to know if he is indeed Summer’s boyfriend which just causes Jacob to step in and defuse the situation suggesting that Jerry needs to get closer with his family.

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You don’t want gonorrhea. You really don’t want gonorrhea.

Back inside Ruben, the “heroes” of our story have reached the end of the digestive tract. They need to gain access to the enlarger ray or whatever it is that gets them out. Before that happens, Morty notices a weird, black, slime creature poking out of Poncho’s backpack. It’s bubonic plague, and it turns out Poncho is the traitor who released the TB virus earlier. He grabs Annie as a hostage and explains he hates working for Dr. Xenon and a lot of people would pay for the plague if he smuggled it out (damn, Ruben had a lot of shit going on in his body). Morty attacks, likely wanting to impress Annie, and Poncho tosses him aside but he does release his hold on the girl. The plague breaks free though and bites him. He loses his balance, and plunges to his death off of the catwalk they’re all standing on. Roger then lets them know they need to go, as the retaining wall they built for Ruben’s bowels is about to burst. As they run, Roger’s foot gets caught. He tells them not to worry, then goes into a long-winded speech about telling his wife what happened to him as the damn breaks and he’s killed by poo.

In the livingroom once again, Jacob is trying to counsel Ethan who is a very angry and troubled young man and the source of his anger is Summer. Jacob works his magic and of course the scene ends with Summer and Ethan in tears making an uncomfortable display of affection in front of everyone. Everyone is pleased, and Joyce is apparently turned on as she and Jacob begin making out while Leonard ducks into the closet to observe from a distance. This causes Jerry to finally blow and declare he hates this, and he’s immediately reprimanded by his mom. Declaring he hates Christmas, Jerry takes his leave.

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Ruben is going to go for a little ride.

Inside Ruben, the three living beings are for some reason taking in a show. It’s a parody of Great Moments with Lincoln, only it’s hosted by an animatronic Ruben. Dr. Xenon is enjoying it while Morty and Annie make out. Rick asks Morty to shut the radio off so he doesn’t have to listen in when Jerry bursts into the garage. Apparently they can’t get out via the digestive tract any more, and something Jerry says about his relatives gives Rick an idea. He has Jerry get him some dynamite and as he cuts open Ruben and shoves the explosives inside him Jerry decides to leave. Rick then tosses the cadaver in his spaceship and takes off, telling Morty he needs to get to the left nipple.

Dr. Xenon explains they can take the bone train and goes into a bit about it that Morty gets irritated by. When they get to the platform Dr. Xenon explains that one person will have to stay behind because the train doesn’t have an autopilot. He lets that hang in there an uncomfortable length of time before conceding he was a dick for doing that. Since Anatomy Park was his responsibility, he’ll be the one to stay behind. Before they can say good-bye they’re beset by ecoli and Morty and Annie jump into the train. As Xenon releases it he realizes it does actually posses an autopilot, but then claims he wanted to die heroically, but he’s not convincing.

The train takes Morty and Annie to where it needs to, while Rick deposits Ruben into space. There he enlarges the body well beyond its normal proportions (he’s a super scientist, after all) and Ruben floats over the United States. There the news picks up on this giant Santa and we see how everyone is reacting with relative calm at a giant, naked, Santa in the sky. All except a poor lumberjack who had the misfortune of being where Ruben’s penis made land.

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Saved by hepatitis!

Morty and Annie are preparing to flee through the nipple duct, when they’re attacked by the big yellow guy from early in the episode. Before it can get to them though they’re saved by Hep C in true Jurassic Park style. It gives the duo a thumbs up, which just confuses Morty as the two are rescued by Rick who can only admonish Morty for losing Dr. Xenon Bloom as Ruben explodes.

On earth, the explosion causes blood to fall from the sky. The family was preparing to head out for some holiday fun, without Jerry, but instead are forced to retreat in terror. There Jerry gets to comfort them assuring everybody things are going to be all right because the TV said so. He returns their tablets and phones and encourages them to relax. In the garage, Rick is a bit down that Dr. Xenon is dead claiming he was the only one capable of building an amusement park inside someone. Annie then chimes in that she thinks she learned enough from him and that she could possibly do it. Rick, apparently convinced, immediately shrinks her and puts her away for later use, which disappoints Morty. Rick assures him he dodged a bullet citing a “floppy vagina” but Morty doesn’t see the problem there. The two then head into the living room and find the family absorbed in their electronics. Rick goes on a rant about it being Jesus’s birthday and they’re all being self-absorbed, but no one cares and Jerry mugs for the camera. In a post credits scene, Rick is on speakerphone with Annie and her new team of developers as they build a new Anatomy Park. They question Rick’s design for Pirates of the Pancreas, causing Rick to hang up on them. The camera pans and we see it’s Ethan they’re inside and when he questions what’s going on, Rick goes on a rant how they’re building a monument to compromise inside of him. The episode ends when Ethan asks who’s paying him.

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It’s kind of like the Macy’s parade, but bigger and with more penis.

“Anatomy Park” is a vehicle for awkward humor that ties in the Christmas holiday. It wants to turn the holiday upside down, and is fairly successful at doing that. The holiday gathering with Jerry’s parents is basically a B-plot. After the reveal of Jacob’s relationship with Jerry’s parents is out-of-the-way, it’s fairly typically paced with the beloved outsider sort of usurping the holiday spotlight from the disgruntled patriarch. It runs out of steam, but those scenes are few and brief so it doesn’t overstay itself. The Jurassic Park parody is where the meat of the story lies, and it’s punctuated fairly well. The plot points aren’t afraid to “go there” with the poop jokes and such, but it’s really driven by the dialogue more so than the actual comedy bits. There are so many little jokes interwoven into the dialogue and I would be doing it a disservice by regurgitating them all here. Suffice to say, while this isn’t as outlandish an episode as it appears at first blush, it’s still very entertaining and I always like it when Christmas gets a little dark.

“Anatomy Park” should be an easy special to come by this holiday season. Adult Swim will likely show it multiple times, so if you were keeping up with the various holiday viewing guides you probably have seen it by now. And if you like waiting until the last minute (or first), Adult Swim is running “Anatomy Park” at midnight on Christmas Eve/Christmas morning. If you prefer to watch without commercials, Adult Swim streams it and it’s also available as part of season one on Blu-ray. I recommend just getting that as the whole season is full of laughs and it’s definitely worthy of a purchase.


Dec. 20 – The Garfield Show – “Caroling Capers”

Caroling_capers

Original air date December 15, 2009

Back in the 1980s, Garfield was pretty damn popular. His presence was pervasive in pop culture, so much so that younger people today would probably be surprised. He originated as a comic strip by Jim Davis, but his popularity grew enough to pave the way for some prime time animation specials. These proved popular, and were the springboard for his own show:  Garfield and Friends. Of those old specials, one of the most celebrated was A Garfield Christmas. It’s one of my personal favorite holiday specials and I included it in my countdown a few years ago as one of the 10 best holiday specials of all-time. It premiered in 1987 on CBS (my mother, who liked Garfield, somehow missed it when making our Christmas tape VHS that same year) and would be shown every holiday season for a few years, though it quietly disappeared in the 90s. Maybe audiences grew sick of Garfield, but I’m a bit surprised just how fast it fled from the annual network rotation. Later on in the 90s you could sometimes find it on cable, but now the special is seldom shown.

the garfield show

The Garfield Show ran from 2009 to 2016.

What’s not really remembered too fondly is the second cartoon series based on the fat cat. Simply titled The Garfield Show, it premiered on Cartoon Network in November of 2009 and would run for over 100 episodes, eventually making the move to Boomerang in 2015. The Garfield Show is a CG animated program executive produced by Davis and it actually returned a lot of the cast and creative group behind Garfield and Friends. It was a half-hour based program in which each episode was split into two cartoons. It’s not a show I am that familiar with. I was aware of its existence when it originally aired, mostly just from seeing it on the channel guide and mistaking it for the old cartoon. It’s not something I was supposed to be aware of though since I didn’t have kids at the time and few of my friends did. It was created to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the character and I assume it was to re-introduce the characters to a new audience. Since it ran for so long I’m left to assume it was fairly successful.

“Caroling Capers” is the show’s first Christmas episode and it aired during the first season on December 15, 2009. It features the main cast of characters. There’s Garfield (now voiced by Frank Welker as Lorenzo Music passed away in 2001) whose personality is unchanged from his other iterations. Odie (Gregg Berger) the dim-witted mutt with a heart of gold. Jon (Wally Wingert) is just as awkward as always and is constantly being pestered by his cat for more food. And in this episode we also have Nermal (Marc Saez) the vain kitten from next door who annoys Garfield to no end.

garfield and odie

“Caroling Capers,” like most Garfield stories, is all about Garfield trying to get some free food.

The episode opens with Jon decorating his Christmas tree and having a difficult time with the star. He remarks how Christmas is his favorite time of year and that it feels like just yesterday he took down the Christmas decorations from last year. Garfield, watching television and looking quite relaxed in a lounge chair, remarks that’s because he probably did and that Jon rarely gets to taking them down before Halloween. Odie is watching TV as well and seems very into the Christmas special they’re watching. He angrily glares at Garfield who won’t shut up about his growling stomach (the sound of which also seems to annoy Odie). On television, Garfield takes note of some carolers in the program Odie is watching. They sing for an old woman, who then gifts them some treats. Garfield, after being informed the Christmas turkey is still hours away from being ready, decides that this may be the solution to his tummy trouble.

Putting on a festive hat and scarf, Garfield hits the neighborhood hoping to score food in exchange for Christmas carols. He first shows up to the front door an old man whom he interrupts while cleaning the floor. He sings a carol and his performance is quite terrible prompting the grumpy old man (Welker) to toss a bucket of water on Garfield and slam the door in his face. Undeterred, Garfield goes to another house and its the home of some bachelor who I have seen featured in other episodes (and is also voiced by Welker, who basically voices everyone, it seems). Garfield again performs for this guy and he’s just as awful as before so the man fetches a spray bottle to get Garfield the Hell off his property.

garfield bucket

Garfield’s singing fails to impress.

Odie has been watching this whole time and laughs at Garfield’s misfortune. Nermal then shows up to offer his 2 cents and also to demonstrate how to properly carol. Nermal invites Odie to be his backup singer and the duo perform for the same man that just sprayed Garfield. He falls for the two and offers them a prime rib dinner and figgy pudding. Garfield faints in shock while the two chow down, with Nermal remarking you either got it, or you don’t.

Garfield rises from the ground and gives chase, proposing they share some of that delicious food in keeping with the holiday spirit. Nermal shoots him down pointing out that Garfield never shares his food with them, which Garfield is forced to concede. He then suggests he could be their vocal coach, and Nermal seems to find the idea absurd. Garfield demonstrates his singing once more, and a Christmas ornament on a decorated tree in someone’s yard shatters (which makes no sense, since Garfield is singing low, not high). When Garfield tries again, the needles fall off the tree. Even after such a poor demonstration, Nermal offers to let Garfield in on their caroling if he can hit a high C note. Garfield explains the best way to do that is to yank out a nose hair, which he does and then (mostly) hits the note while running around in pain. Nermal lets him in, and Garfield explains he’ll be the conductor at the next house. When they begin their caroling for an elderly woman, Garfield stops them and demonstrates how he wants them to perform, prompting the woman to dump a bucket on his head. Nermal and Odie then resume their duet for food as he reminds Garfield he’s just not adorable enough.

conductor garfield

Garfield is about as good at conducting as he is at singing.

Garfield decides he needs to find a way to be more adorable if he wants to score food with this idea. He peeks in on a gentleman watching the same special Odie had been watching and notes that the carolers all sing rather high. Garfield decides he needs to sing higher if he wants to impress, which strikes me as a bad idea. Garfield tries some warm-ups, that sound terrible, then tries again on the next guy. He seems startled to see this bulky gentleman in the doorway, but he goes through with his performance. Singing so high he sounds like Welker’s version of Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters, it’s not much of an improvement, but it certainly is higher. The gentleman at the house is not impressed though and thinks Garfield is making fun of his unusually high voice. As the high-voiced man glares down at the cat, Garfield runs away suggesting maybe he needs some back-up singers.

Garfield is then shown conducting in a shed. It sounds fine, and it’s revealed he’s leading a trio of performing mice. The mice agree to join Garfield’s troupe so long as they get first dibs on any cheese gifted their way. With that, Garfield leads his new band to the next house which happens to be inhabited by a young woman. She sees the cat and his three mice performing and immediately freaks out. She grabs a broom forcing the critters to run. The lead mouse tells Garfield they’re out.

nermal and odie

Nermal and Odie actually make for a fun pairing.

While Garfield is wearily walking down the street, Nermal and Odie are performing for the first house Garfield hit. They have a wagon full of food at this point, and the old man who once dumped water all over Garfield happily gifts them a pair of hams. Garfield can’t believe it, and angrily kicks a can that was sitting on the sidewalk which lands in a nearby wheel barrow. The pinging sound catches Garfield’s ear, and he gets an idea. Rummaging through a nearby trash can, he comes out with some sticks and more cans. The sound of steel drums are then heard and they attract Nermal and Odie who find Garfield drumming on the cans which he placed in the wheel barrow. They both look at each other as if to suggest they have an idea, and soon we get a montage of the two caroling while Garfield plays “drums.” The people they visit all react favorably and hand out more food, and Garfield finally gets to share in the festivities.

The montage ends at the Arbuckle residence with Jon setting out the turkey and calling for Garfield and Odie. Odie drags the wagon into the room with Garfield laying in it, patting his full stomach. Nermal is there as well and they’re all too stuffed to consider eating dinner. Jon remarks that Garfield not being hungry must be a Christmas miracle, which causes Garfield to rethink his fullness. He smiles at the turkey while remarking that maybe he can handle a few bites as the episode ends.

jon turkey

Jon is also still around and still making way too much food for a bachelor and his pets.

The Garfield Show, for one, really shows its age. I don’t think it looked particularly good when it aired, but the CG looks pretty dreadful in 2018. The show basically looks like a Playstation 2 game with very simple textures and backgrounds. There’s obviously some other limitations at work as Garfield and his buddies keep hitting the same houses throughout the episode instead of showing us new faces. Garfield’s mouth also moves this time, implying he (and Nermal) are actually talking though the mouth movements aren’t particularly good. There’s also lots of animation shortcuts as we usually see the aftermath of the water being tossed at Garfield, or the needles falling off of the tree, rather than seeing those things actually animated. I would not call the show ugly, but it’s definitely not as charming as the original specials and cartoon. I will say the Christmas decor looks fairly nice, and I like the festive clothing worn by the characters in this episode.

As the voice of Garfield, Frank Welker is obviously trying to do a Lorenzo Music impression and he mostly does a decent job. It’s sort of odd that someone with Welker’s background would feel the need to imitate another voice actor, but maybe he just also felt this was the most appropriate voice for the character. Garfield is a low energy character, and the sleepy quality of his voice is part of his charm. The other music in the episode is kind of weird and sounds like an episode of Rugrats. For the carols, the characters just say “La-la-la” or “meow-meow-meow” to the tune of “Deck the Halls” which is fine. The sound design on Garfield’s drums is quite nice though.

One thing this episode does get right is the humor of Garfield. It’s not a laugh out loud kind of show and is more of an understated brand of comedy. It fits with the character, it’s the limitations of the technology behind the show that ultimately hold it back and keep it from being a true holiday classic. I’d much prefer to watch the classic holiday special, which in addition to being funnier is also rather sweet and does a better job of getting that Christmas message into the show. This one is just fine though, and as a 12 minute cartoon the caroling scheme works well with the character. Garfield just wants to get fed while doing as little as possible.

If you want to watch this one this Christmas, then you have several options. While I don’t expect Boomerang to air it, the entire show is on Netflix. There was also a holiday themed DVD of the show released titled Holiday Extravaganza which may or may not be easy to come by. There’s also an official YouTube channel for the show, so I feel comfortable actually linking you to this episode since it’s apparently official. It’s also free!


Dec. 18 – I Am Weasel – “Happy Baboon Holidays”

happy baboon holidays

Original Air Date September 30, 1997

For today’s installment, we’re taking a trip back to Cartoon Network of 1997 and the animated short I Am Weasel – “Happy Baboon Holidays.” I Am Weasel originated as a segment as part of the Cow and Chicken show, which was part of the second wave of Cartoon Cartoons to become a full-fledged show. Like Dexter’s Laboratory, Cartoon Network asked the show’s creator, in this case David Feiss, to pair off the characters with another original character to provide some variety for the show. Feiss’s creation ended up being I. M. Weasel, a heroic weasel (voiced by Michael Dorn) who is beloved by all and always does the right thing. As an antagonist, there’s I.R. Baboon, a moronic and mean-spirited baboon who refuses to wear pants and hates Weasel. The pairing of a weasel and a baboon was inspired by the classic nursery rhyme/song “Pop Goes the Weasel,” and Feiss just thought it would be funny to have a heroic weasel instead of the typical weasel character which is usually scheming and selfish.

i am weasel

I Am Weasel ran from 1997 to 1999.

I Am Weasel ended up being popular enough to get spun off into its own show. The old segments from Cow and Chicken were also packaged together making the broadcast order of the show a little confusing. It technically spanned five seasons, though it really only had one 27 episode season as its own show. “Happy Baboon Holidays” was part of the first season and originally aired with episode 12 of the Cow and Chicken show which first debuted on September 30, 1997. None of the other shorts appeared to be Christmas themed, and I don’t know why a Christmas I Am Weasel was inserted into a Cow and Chicken episode before Halloween. As we saw with Johnny Bravo last year and Dexter’s Laboratory earlier this month, Cartoon Network didn’t seem to think it mattered if Christmas episodes premiered out of season.

The comedy of I Am Weasel is largely slapstick in nature, and it also relies on the dichotomy of the two leads. It also, like Cow and Chicken and many 90s cartoons, thinks butts are inherently funny. I. R. Baboon’s bright red rump is almost always in frame when he’s present and there are plenty of close-ups on it. It’s probably the most detailed aspect of the character too. The audience is also expected to laugh at how poor and miserable Baboon is justified by the fact that he’s stupid and mean. The squeaky clean Weasel is actually rather boring as he’s pushed into the straight-man mold. He speaks intelligently and is often accompanied by a heroic theme. The series was aware of the fact that Baboon was really the star, since the humor flows through him, and he basically overtakes Weasel in the fifth season.

baboon run

Of course, he exits butt-first.

This episode opens with I.R. Baboon (Charlie Adler) in his dilapidated trailer doing laundry. Baboon is too poor to own an actual trailer that one would live in and actually lives in something closer to a camper. There’s a knock on his door and he peers through the peephole to see his family:  mom, dad, and sister. His mom (DeeDee Rescher) announces they’ve decided to surprise him for Christmas, and Baboon goes into panic mode because his home is not prepared to host for the holiday. He jumps out the window, leaving his family outside in the snow, to go fetch a Christmas tree.

weasels discovery

Weasel’s tree actually isn’t much better than what Baboon ends up with.

As Baboon goes off tree-hunting, time passes and snow falls causing his family to freeze. Weasel sees them and drags them into his lavish home which towers over Baboon’s trailer and thaws them out. Once free from their icy prison, the Baboon family is quite taken with Weasel’s home and find him quite charming. Mom even seems tickled by Weasel, but concedes she’s married and offers up her rather large daughter (Marabina Jaimes). Weasel is much too polite to decline the young baboon’s affection, though he’s clearly not interested.

baboons big tree

Easily the episode’s best visual.

Baboon returns home with a gigantic tree that he shoves through his front door and through the back of his trailer. It basically just lays there looking ridiculous. He notices his family is gone, but looks up and sees them singing carols with Weasel from his balcony. This enrages Baboon and he takes his wrath out on Christmas. He smashes the inside of his home and totally trashes it, destroying anything resembling Christmas. He even rips all of the needles off his freshly harvested tree, but he’s not done, for he needs to take revenge on Weasel. He seals Weasel’s chimney so Santa can’t come and covers the roof of his house with explosives to ensure his Christmas is ruined. After his trap is laid, he seems to lose his enthusiasm for mayhem. He returns to his ruined home to cry.

she likes weasel

Baboon’s rather large sister really takes a liking to Weasel.

Weasel takes note of Baboon’s sad state, though his reaction feels a bit detached like he doesn’t even know who this Baboon is. He realizes that Baboon needs to be cheered up so he puts on a Santa costume and stuffs a giant sack into Baboon’s home. Baboon looks upon this “Santa” with cautious eyes as the sack is opened to reveal Baboon’s family. He snaps out of his depression and is now happy to have his family in his home for Christmas.

baboon hates xmas

Baboon revolts against Christmas.

Unfortunately, he fails to tell Weasel about the trap he left for the real Santa. An explosion rockets Santa (Bruce McGill) off the roof and plunges him into a snow bank outside of Baboon’s trailer. Weasel frees him, but finds Santa is feeling a bit blue as this is apparently not the first trap-laden roof he has come across this evening. To help reinvigorate Santa’s Christmas spirit, Weasel directs him to look in on the Baboon family where he sees the four happily exchanging Christmas gifts. This seems to warm Santa’s heart, and all is right on Christmas as the brief short concludes.

santa weasel

Weasel does get to play Santa in this one.

“Happy Baboon Holidays” is fairly low-key for an episode of I Am Weasel. There aren’t even many butt jokes, save for Baboon’s boxer shorts containing a hole to display his prized rear end. Baboon’s tantrum is rather brief, but I suppose the most entertaining part of the episode. It’s kind of sad to see him smash his meager possessions, though I think it’s supposed to be funny to see him stupidly harming himself. The Baboon family doesn’t offer much, and the giant, ugly, sister isn’t really funny either. I don’t think I actually laughed at this show, though I did find the visual of Baboon stuffing a full-sized tree into his trailer kind of amusing.

Visually the show is pretty simple. Backgrounds are rather sparse and the show has a very flat look to it. Baboon is designed with a lot of corners and straight lines and is meant to be rather ugly, though Weasel doesn’t exactly look pretty either. The snow looks nice though and I did get a sense of cold from the visuals. The depiction of Santa is kind of ugly though, not as ugly as George and Junior‘s Santa, but definitely not as nice as the Flintstones/Dexter’s Laboratory one. He comes flying in on a sleigh pulled by four reindeer, which earns instant demerits from this reviewer.

happy baboon christmas

A nice, warm, ass-exposed, hug makes any Christmas worth having.

“Happy Baboon Holidays” is not really worth watching. I suppose if you liked Cow and Chicken it might be worth it to watch the entire half-hour block this segment first aired in. I did enjoy that show when it originally premiered, but I doubt I would now. It was a very 90’s show so it was rather loud and obnoxious. It struck me as the type of show that reveled in appealing to children at the expense of their parents. The show was actually pretty popular and one of Cartoon Network’s most successful. Despite that though, I Am Weasel has not received a proper physical media release. Seasons 1 and 2 were released in Thailand for some reason, while season one was also released in Region 4 (Australia/New Zealand). For US audiences, only sparse releases exist of a few episodes at a time on VHS and DVD. If you want to see this particular episode, you’re actually in luck as it was part of the 2005 release Cartoon Network Christmas 2:  Christmas Rocks. That DVD will likely only set you back around 5 bucks making this special one of the cheapest, and easiest to obtain that we’ve covered. If you’re dead set on not acquiring more physical media though, Cartoon Network is pretty lax when it comes to these old cartoons so free versions are not hard to come by online.


Dec. 17 – Metalocalypse – “Dethmas”

metalocalypse

The boys of Dethklok (left to right):  William Murderface, Skwisgaar Skwigelf, Nathan Explosion, Pickles, and Toki Wartooth

A show that felt like it was made for, Metalocalypse was an animated show on Adult Swim about a fictitious death metal band and their misadventures. And yet, it was a show I could never get into. It began in 2006 as I was exiting college and heading into “the real world” in which I had a brutal commute and long working day. As a result, I was forced to abandon my night owl lifestyle which meant I missed out on a lot of the Adult Swim programming that began during this era. Even when things calmed down for me and I attained some normalcy, I never really returned to Adult Swim for no particular reason and I slept on this show, despite numerous friends telling me it was something I needed to watch. I saw an episode here and there, it just never stuck. It was also kind of annoying to watch on cable since the script for each episode is loaded with profanity so there’s a constant stream of bleeps when shown on television. This is a show best enjoyed on either home video or via an uncensored streaming platform.

“Dethmas” originally aired December 6, 2009. Unlike a lot of these simply animated programs on Adult Swim, Metalocalypse is a half hour formatted show (for season 3 only). It was the brainchild of Brendon Small, a musician himself who is probably best known for the show Home Movies, and Tommy Blacha. Only someone familiar with the European metal scene could dream up this show, and it’s pretty incredible that it received a green light from Cartoon Network given how niche the subject matter is. It ended up being one of the longer running shows for the network, finally coming to an end in 2013 with a one-off special. In total there were 63 episodes produced, and this episode was part of the show’s third season.

Dethmas tree

Christmas is coming for Dethklok.

The show opens with the band watching television. They’re watching the news (and the anchor is voiced by Mark Hamill) coverage of their “friend” Dr. Rockzo (Tommy Blacha) who has been arrested for stealing from a homeless charity to fund his cocaine addiction. Dr. Rockzo looks like an 80’s David Lee Roth if Roth were a clown strung-out on cocaine. Toki (Blacha) is given some grief by his band mates over his friend’s relapse, but Toki is quick to point out he’s severed all ties with the clown. The conversation then shifts to the upcoming Christmas holiday, and William Murderface (Blacha) wants to put on a Christmas special, but the rest of the band tells him that’s lame. He gets pretty pissed off and vows to go it alone. Nathan Explosion (Brendon Small) reveals that their moms sent them a DVD for Christmas, and the band reluctantly watches it. It’s pretty easy to tell which woman on the video is related to which band member, with the most obvious being Murderface’s grandmother who looks exactly like him except she’s obese and rides a scooter. Murderface is quite taken by Skwigelf’s mother, a buxom blonde who briefly exposes her undergarments Sharon Stone-style. The video ends with the revelation that the moms are coming for Christmas, and the band is not happy.

dethklok moms

The Dethklok mothers, and one grandmother.

The band is then shown lounging in a hot tub still complaining about their mothers and Christmas. We’re shown a brief montage of what happened last time the ladies visited, which apparently included a drunken game of Twister. They vow to not let their moms drink this time. Murderface then meets with his business partner, Dick Knubbler (Small), and he’s not happy that the rest of the band won’t be joining them. He informs Murderface that he won’t have any creative input, and when asked why, he lists out other failed business ventures by Murderface which included exploding pyro devices and a cologne of his own urine. They need to secure some financing though, and it’s going to be hard with just Murderface.

rockzo claus

One horrifying Santa.

Dr. Rockzo is also shown being released on bail. He’s told to stay out of trouble and get a job. Conveniently, Toki, being the only member of the band who seems to love Christmas, heads off to the mall to see Santa and that’s just where Dr. Rockzo ended up getting a job (as Santa). Rockzo is able to get Toki to take him back to the home of Dethklok where he continues to go through cocaine withdrawals. Murderface also receives a phone call from Knubler letting him know his proposed ideas for the special (he wanted tits and murder) have been rejected. Worse news, they only found one sponsor:  The Christian Church. When Murderface questions if aligning himself with the Church would be considered selling-out, the various yes-men on the line suggest it’s fine and he cheerfully goes along with it.

The mothers have also arrived, and no one is happy. The moms want the boys to take them shopping, and we get a brief sequence of Explosion trying to find a parking space at the mall which ends in a car accident. Meanwhile, Dr. Rockzo has escaped and has managed to score some cocaine. He happily prances around the park announcing his score to the world while waving his drugs around in a plastic bag until he runs into a cop.

murderface view

Murderface doesn’t seem to mind at least one of the Dethklok moms being there.

Murderface and Knubbler are forced to meet their sponsor, an unnamed priest voiced by Small. He wants to put on a very Christian production and Murderface appears more onboard than Knubbler who can’t stop swearing in the priest’s presence. When he returns to the homestead, he finds his band mates in Christmas sweaters completely miserable. This allows Murderface the chance to convince his bandmates to join the special with him as it’s something they can do with their mothers to get them off their backs. He also claims it will be brutal, which is a blatant lie, but is needed to get Explosion onboard. We then get a montage, framed by Rockzo’s coke habit, of the band and their moms getting ready for the special. A lot of the images show the band forcing their moms into manual labor to get the set constructed.

murderface special

This will not go well.

When the special arrives, it’s actually a fairly wholesome experience. Hosted by Murderface and Knubbler, they do the nativity in which the baby Jesus defecates repeatedly and the audience seems to enjoy the impromptu poop jokes. The priest seems pleased as well, and the scene shifts backstage where Murderface’s grandma is on the hunt for booze. She finds a door comically chained and locked and claims to smell alcohol behind it. Rockzo is also there, and he’s managed to gain access to the backstage area. Toki, getting ready for his prized Secret Santa portion of the special, finds all of his gifts are gone and he immediately blames Rockzo. Meanwhile, the rest of the band is watching the special unfold on live television from the green room, and Explosion sees who the sponsor for the show is and immediately gets pissed.

rockzo job

At least Dr. Rockzo got to enjoy himself.

On set, Murderface and Knubbler are dressed in tuxedos and are seated in a living room setting. A knock on the door prompts them to speculate on what surprise awaits them on the other side, in true corny Christmas special fashion. It’s the mothers, and now armed with booze are completely smashed. They stumble onto the set rather clumsily. Explosion is next, and he simply punches Murderface in his murder face and drops an f-bomb, which does not go over well with the priest. The other band mates storm in and they’re just as pissed, and Dr. Rockzo is there as well. He collapses onto the couch and Skwigelf’s mother begins giving him a handjob. Toki also gets crushed by a giant cross on set along with Murderface’s grandmother, which Murderface seems to enjoy. With the whole special in disarray, the priest attacks Murderface and begins choking him out as Knubbler is forced to hastily wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

“Dethmas” is a silly Christmas special, which you probably expected. It seems absurd for this show to even have a Christmas episode, but the setup works and it’s amusing to see the band get suckered into a Christmas production. It’s a very crass special, with tons of profanity and even the other F-word is used at one point, which surprised me. The context was that Murderface and Knubbler looked “sissy” while hosting their special. It makes sense in that context, since it’s coming from an aggressively macho metal band member, though I do wonder if it would have been used if recorded today. Rockzo and his cocaine addiction also gets a lot of play for laughs, though by the end of the episode I was mostly over that. Him getting a handjob during the special though made up for it, as that visual was quite amusing. I’m guessing Adult Swim wouldn’t let them get away with animating anything more salacious, such as oral sex, as the positioning of the characters suggests maybe that’s what they originally intended to have happen.

dethmas ending

Not the ending shot the Christian Church was banking on.

I did enjoy the portrayal of each band member and their response to the holiday incoming. Toki was the cute one who genuinely likes Christmas and Santa and all of that stuff. He just wants to give his buddies gifts and be merry. Meanwhile, Nathan Explosion hates Christmas, but he also keeps finding a silver lining in the holiday suggesting the Christmas Spirit could be a murderous ghost or something. Pickles (Small) and Skwigelf mostly can’t be bothered with the holiday, though their attitude towards it is closer to Explosion’s. Murderface just wants to make money off of it and enhance his star. As the least charismatic member of the band, it makes sense that he always has an inferiority complex and is willing to sell-out for additional fame.

If you think your holiday needs a satirical dose of Heavy Metal, then “Dethmas” should do fine. It’s actually fairly light on music, but the atmosphere is still there. It’s also easy to come by. If you just want to stream it, Adult Swim will let you watch it on YouTube for a couple bucks. You can also pick it up with the rest of Season 3 on DVD. If you go that route it will probably set you back around $25 if you want it new, less if you’re willing to go used. You can also purchase it digitally through Amazon for $2.99 an episode. There’s also the chance Adult Swim airs it this month. The network is usually pretty good about airing its Christmas Specials though it favors shows still in production so it could get passed over. If you want to see this one though, you have no shortage of options.


Dec. 7 – Dexter’s Laboratory – “Dexter vs Santa’s Claws”

Dexter_vs_Santas_Claws

Original air date April 29, 1998. Yes, you read that right.

After yesterday’s entry ran 3,000 words, it seems like a nice time to slip in one of the shorter specials we’ll be looking at this year. This one comes from the Cartoon Network original Dexter’s Laboratory. Created by Genndy Tartakovsky, Dexter’s Laboratory was one of the inaugural series to be spun-off from the Cartoon Cartoon/What A Cartoon! show which was basically an elaborate testing ground for cartoon pilots. Cartoon Network, which at the time mostly consisted of old Hanna-Barbera shows, would package together three cartoon shorts and air them over a half hour of television. Viewers could call into a hotline and vote for the short they liked best. At the end of the year, Cartoon Network would have a big New Year’s countdown ranking all of the shows in order of what was most beloved and what was not. The network wasn’t beholden to do anything with the results so for all we know they decided on what to promote and what not to, but Dexter’s Laboratory was one of the most well-received and it was the first to get a full production order.

The show is about the title character, Dexter (Christine Cavanaugh), a boy-genius with an elaborate and high-tech laboratory hidden under his parents’ house. They’re unaware of their son’s impressive intellect, but sister Dee Dee (Kathryn Cressida) is not. Despite Dexter’s best efforts, Dee Dee often finds a way into his lab and drives him crazy often times ruining whatever his latest invention is. He also has a rivalry with another boy genius, Mandark, and one of his laboratory monkeys also got to star in his own series of shorts. An episode was usually broken out into three short segments and I have mostly fond memories of it.

dexters fantasy

What Dexter thinks happens on Christmas.

“Dexter vs. Santa’s Claws” was the third segment of episode 37 of season 2 which first aired on April 29, 1998. Why did a Christmas episode air in April? I do not know. The show did have some issues with production delays, but that’s not out of the ordinary for a cartoon series. Often when that happens networks will just sit on a holiday episode and air it the next time that holiday comes around, but Cartoon Network apparently didn’t want to do that. The network didn’t even want to wait for Christmas in July. In looking over the episodes from season 2, a Halloween one premiered the prior month so I’m guessing this was supposed to air in 97 or something, or Cartoon Network just didn’t care.

santa magic

What really happens on Christmas!

The episode begins with Dee Dee using Dexter’s super computer to make her Christmas list. Dexter is irritated she would be utilizing his computer for such a foolish task and reprimands her. He explains she’s wasting her time for Santa Claus is just make-believe. When Dee Dee counters with a question of who puts the toys under the tree, Dexter explains, through rap, that their father does that. The humor is in how far Dexter thinks his parents carry the ruse insisting that their dad not only dresses up as Santa, but he disguises the car as a sleigh and puts it on the roof. Their mother, dressed as a reindeer, greases him up and sends him down the chimney with all of the toys. Dee Dee insists that’s not what happens, cutting his very poor rap off in the process, and gives the more conventional explanation of elves and magic. Dexter vows to prove her wrong.

jolly santa

Dexter confronts Santa, who only speaks in “ho’s”

That night, while everyone sleeps, Dexter sits in front of his monitors fighting off sleep hoping to catch their father in the act. When a sleigh and some reindeer go whirling past he thinks he’s got him. He emerges from his lab to find Santa in the living room getting down to business. The Santa model looks almost exactly like the one from A Flintstone Christmas only he seems incapable of speech and just keeps saying “Ho ho.” Dexter accuses him of being his dad in disguise, forcing Santa to magically flee up the chimney. Still not convinced, Dexter heads for the roof as well and confronts Santa once again as he climbs into his sleigh. He manhandles a reindeer, thinking it’s an elaborate costume worn by his mother, and even snaps its antlers off. Santa then takes off leaving Dexter stuck in the chimney.

dick dexter

Dexter is basically a violent, little, asshole this whole episode.

Dexter was apparently prepared for such a development as the chimney morphs into a high-tech spaceship and detaches from the house. In doing so it takes the side of the house with it leaving Dee Dee’s room without a wall. She awakens due to the frigid air and goes to shut her already closed window when she catches sight of Santa. She watches as her brother pursues him firing missiles which Santa intercepts with gifts (“Those better not be my presents!”). Dexter resorts to laser-fire and eventually he hits Santa causing him to crash into their home.

dee dee mad

When Dee Dee doesn’t have her pigtails in, the flatness of her head makes her look like Hulk Hogan.

Now with Santa incapacitated in the ruined livingroom, Dexter approaches armed with an electric razor. As he shaves off Santa’s beard his father (Jess Bennett) enters the room demanding to know what Dexter is doing. His mom (Kath Soucie) follows, still wearing her rubber cleaning gloves that she always wears, and is horrified to see the Christmas tree and everything else in ruin. Dee Dee then follows and scolds Dexter further demanding to know where her presents are. Dexter is forced to apologize for ruining Christmas, again, and apparently realizing he’s in a Christmas special, implores his family to treasure that they’re together and not fret over the destroyed gifts and decorations. He breaks into a rendition of “Oh Christmas Tree” and Dee Dee puts a stop to that telling him he’s wrong and calling him a block-head. When he asks what Christmas is about then, a beard-less Santa let’s him know, “The presents.”

look out santa

Do you like dog fights in your holiday specials?

“Dexter vs. Santa’s Claws” is a pretty odd entry in the world of Christmas specials. We’ve seen plenty of cynical specials, and some that are just bizarre, but this one has an all-together different feel. Dexter basically beats up Santa Claus. He’s relentless and cruel. Unlike network-mate Johnny Bravo, he didn’t mistake Santa for an intruder or something he’s just trying to beat a confession out of him. And possibly worse, he assaults a reindeer and breaks its antlers off, which just sounds painful. The only really cute aspect of the episode is Dexter’s hypothesis on what really happens on Christmas Eve. Even though he’s super-smart, he’s still a kid and isn’t capable of just assuming his parents stick presents under the tree, they have to make it elaborate. The ending of the episode with the message being that Christmas is about the presents is pretty much the cynical 90s cartoon take. A lot of the comedy shows delighted in upending norms and that’s a pretty logical point for this one to make.

destruction

Ruined Christmas.

Revisiting this series reminded me how flat the design is. The characters are about as flat as those on South Park and they practically slide across the screen rather than trying to create the illusion that they exist in three dimensions. It’s a stylistic choice more than a budget one, I think, but it’s not unique to this show as basically all of the Genndy Tartakovsky shows were animated in this fashion. I really enjoy Christine Cavanaugh (RIP) as Dexter. He’s one part Chuckie from Rugrats (who Cavanaugh also voiced) with an accent that kind of sounds like Ren from Ren & Stimpy, with perhaps a slight Swedish twist? It’s an accent that doesn’t exist in the real world and it’s a funny quirk of Dexter. The show is also very bright and the characters change attires even in this brief little short which is kind of neat. I also definitely liked the homage to the Flintstones Christmas special. I wouldn’t think they were able to actually re-use the model from that special, but this Santa was definitely drawn to look almost exactly like it.

no beard santa

There is something very unsettling about a beard-less Santa.

“Dexter vs. Santa’s Claws” is not going to make you feel good about Christmas. It might make you uncomfortable to see Santa get his ass handed to him, but it also might make you laugh. It’s certainly different and I don’t regret watching it or anything, but it’s more dark than funny so ultimately I suppose it comes up a bit short. If you’re looking to check it out this year, Dexter’s Laboratory can be found on Hulu and iTunes. The entire series is also available on DVD, but it’s out of print and kind of pricey. This specific episode can also be found on The Powerpuff Girls:  ‘Twas the Fight Before Christmas DVD and also on the Cartoon Network:  Christmas Rocks DVD and both are cheaper than getting the entire series. And as usual, if you’re not picky about quality you can probably find this one streaming for free somewhere on the world wide web.


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