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Dec. 9 – “Robot Chicken’s Santa’s Dead (Spoiler Alert) Holiday Murder Thing Special”

Original air date December 10, 2019

Yesterday, I sung the praises of American Dad! for its ability to give me fresh, Christmas, content seemingly on an annual basis. I should also apply the same to Robot Chicken, for even though it goes about making people laugh in a completely different manner from a more traditional animated show, it does have a solid track record of getting festive each and every December. I didn’t tally them up, but I would assume the number of Robot Chicken Christmas episodes actually compares quite favorably to American Dad!. The main difference though is that while American Dad! is essentially a sitcom, Robot Chicken is basically sketch comedy and sketch comedy doesn’t always lend itself well to such exercises.

As is customary for Robot Chicken holiday specials, this one begins with an homage to the old CBS Special Presentation logo.

The writers of Robot Chicken must have had me on the brain then when it unveiled its latest Christmas special, the insanely long-winded Robot Chicken’s Santa’s Dead (Spoiler Alert) Holiday Murder Thing Special. I’ve now typed it twice and I have no desire to type it again! This episode though is not a typical episode of Robot Chicken. While it’s still largely animated using stop-motion techniques, it actually possesses a narrative instead of just a theme. It’s going to introduce a plot in the early moments and just stick with that until it’s over. This makes doing a write-up a lot more rewarding than the typical episode. I’ve done those in the past, I’m just not convinced they make for good reading material. Feel free to correct me in the comments if you so wish.

Someone killed Santa, and it’s up to Jesus to figure out who among these characters is guilty!

This episode premiered in 2019 and is the most recent Robot Chicken holiday episode as-of this writing. The whole episode takes place on a train and unfolds like a typical murder mystery, only with some Robot Chicken humor tossed in. Tonight, our victim happens to be the big man himself: Santa Claus. Someone has put an end to the jolly, fat, man and answers need to be found so the culprit is brought to justice! Who would kill Santa? A jealous Jesus? Spoiled coal recipient? Overworked elves? The list of suspects may be longer than you think, and we’ve only got 11 minutes to solve the case!

Comet being an annoying chatterbox who confused The Polar Express for The North Pole Express will be a running gag throughout.

Our story begins on The North Pole Express, not to be confused with The Polar Express, as we’ll soon learn. Our conductor is the cheerful Porter (Timothy Simons) who is happy to boast about the train’s zero murder rate. Onboard, a snowman named Snowball (Zahn McClarnon) is seated beside the famed reindeer Comet (Breckin Meyer) who won’t shut up about this train being different from the other famous one. The snowman then moves to sit beside Krampus (Jason Alexander) who openly wonders what happens to their crap when they take a dump on the train causing the snowman to move once again.

Santa is dead. Very dead.

The scream of Porter interrupts Comet and Krampus, who were now seated together, and all rush over to see that he has discovered the corpse of Santa Claus (Seth Green) in another passenger car. He’s clearly been stabbed, many times, but that doesn’t stop Comet from assuming suicide. The passengers insist they need to de-board the train immediately, but Porter says no one is leaving until this mystery is solved. He then turns to the only man who could possibly solve this case: Jesus. Jesus (Meyer) immediately dubs himself Inspector Jesus and boasts that not only will he solve this case, he’ll do it without his powers! Despite Porter insisting to him that’s not necessary and he would actually prefer he use his powers, God takes them away with a blast of light. Jesus smooths his moustache into more of a handlebar variety and begins his investigation by ordering everyone away from the crime scene.

Santa needs better performance out of his reindeer and he’s found a solution.

Everyone is assembled in a passenger car. Jesus paces the room initially and then sets his eyes on Comet. In searching for a motive for the reindeer, Jesus zeroes in on whipping scars present on Comet’s rump. Comet comes clean about the whipping, insisting they all enjoy it, then casually asks Jesus if he’d also like to hear about the drugs. He obviously does and Comet then details how Santa has been shooting up the reindeer with performance-enhancing drugs for years. Apparently, poor Prancer lost his life to an equipment mishap when his legs were torn off accidentally. Santa is shown shoving needles in the ass of reindeer and it would seem that Jesus has stumbled onto a reason for the reindeer to want the big man dead.

Nutsy has reason to get agitated with Jesus.

Reasoning that steroids cost a lot of money, Jesus then turns his attention to a nutcracker by the name of Nutsy Goldberg (Wayne Knight), a Jew, as he “follows the money.” Nutsy takes exception to Jesus calling him out for being a Jew and adds he owes Santa his life. It seems nutcrackers were once a popular Christmas present, until Cabbage Patch came along. We see a kid (Matthew Senreich) removing a nutcracker from his stocking and his mom (Emmy Raver-Lampman) calling out from the other room asking him what Santa brought him and he casually chucks the nutcracker into an open fire and responds, “Fire wood!” It seems Santa was looking out for old Nutsy when it became apparent that no kid would want him and hooked him up as an accountant at the North Pole. Jesus then points out that Nutsy has a mink hat and Nutsy casually comes clean to embezzling here and there, like it was expected of him. Jesus accuses Nutsy of killing Santa when Santa found out, but Nutsy brushes him off and insists he’d never kill off his cash cow. Jesus then shouts back that it would be just like a Jew to kill Santa since they killed him, and Nutsy gets offended and calls him racist. Jesus apologizes and the two have a stare-down.

It’s doubtful anyone misses this act.

Krampus declares the case unsolvable and references the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldberg which causes Jesus to narrow his focus on him. Jesus refers to Krampus as Santa’s mortal enemy, and Krampus calls that an absurd characterization. He doesn’t hate Santa, just kids. He then says how they used to work together as a comedy duo and we see a little flashback to that. When Krampus uses Santa’s setup for a joke to make one about beating children, he storms off the stage in disgust and that’s apparently how that act came to an end.

Snowball and his family during happier times.

Krampus starts strumming his ukulele and singing a song about Santa when he’s interrupted by the train coming to a sudden stop. Jesus heads outside to see a small avalanche has blocked the tracks and it’s there he encounters Snowball. Snowball mentions how this stop is good for the murderer as it will allow the wolves to descend upon the train and desecrate Santa’s corpse thus destroying any physical evidence. Jesus then points his finger at the snowman, who has no problem admitting his disdain for Santa. We then see how the North Pole used to be a paradise for snow people, until Santa showed up and took over. He forced the naturally nose-less snow people to sport carrots and cover their heads all the while polluting the land with his toy factories contributing to global warming. We see a family of snow people being forced off land via a chunk of floating ice as Santa waves mockingly. Jesus accuses Snowball of doing the deed, but he responds with, “Does it matter?” and references the North Pole being lost to global warming. Krampus is there to make a “Global warming bullshit,” remark as we’re definitely supposed to view him as just the worst.

Ginger couldn’t handle just being the featured artist.

Porter then calls out to inform everyone who the real hero of the story is, him, as he shovels the snow off the tracks. Everyone returns to the train and Jesus takes note of the crumbs falling from the gingerbread woman, Ginger (Gina Rodriguez). He confronts her on the train for he spotted crumbs just like that on Santa’s corpse. He accuses her of killing Santa in a jealous rage since he wouldn’t leave Mrs. Claus for her. She confesses to being with him last night, but denies killing him, but does explain how she knows Santa. He discovered her in a night club one night and encouraged her to take her career to the next level. We see Ginger in a recording booth, and Santa shoves the engineer aside and starts rapping at the control deck. She explains creative differences drove them apart. Jesus presses further and she snaps, admitting she hated the guy and indicates she slept with him by complaining about his balls and small penis.

I think this joke predates the reveal on the working conditions inside Amazon warehouses.

As the suspects start feeling the heat, they turn things around on Inspector Jesus. They point out his many reasons to want to kill Santa, while also mistaking his heritage (“Santa was his father?”) which just frustrates him. Jesus then retreats to go examine the body once again, alone. The lights cut out though and when they come back on Jesus finds himself nailed to a cross! Worse, someone has written “BOOB” across his forehead! Removing himself, Jesus races out of the car and sees two candy cane-striped legs disappearing through an opening in the roof. He follows and encounters the elf, Peppermint (Emmy Raver-Lampman), on the roof of the train. The others gather around Jesus as he interrogates the scared elf and we see a permanent marker fall from her hand as she tries to deny any involvement in the murder of Santa or the recent attack on Jesus. It’s at this point Krampus informs us of the poor working conditions experienced by the elves. We see elves being mutilated by the equipment, urinating on the floor, and attempting suicide by jumping out of windows only to land in nets Santa strung up. Peppermint had tried to form a union, but Nutsy adds that Santa hired the Bumble from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to put an end to that nonsense. We are “treated” to a visual of the Bumble curb-stomping a poor elf as an intimidation tactic for the rest of them.

Now that’s just low.

Peppermint is fed up at this point and announces she’s ready to blow the whole thing open. Only she would have, if not for a sniper taking her out! Jesus demands to know who did that, but the other individuals all deflect attention They head back inside and Jesus orders Porter to alert the authorities at the next stop to be prepared to receive a prisoner for he, Inspector Jesus, has solved the case! Utilizing what Jesus refers to as the most exciting flashback yet, Santa is shown in his train car when he went to open the door for some “friends” he thought were paying him a visit. Only their intentions were vile! One by one, each suspect is shown stabbing Santa “For the Watch” style punctuating with Ginger snapping her hand off in Santa’s mouth.

It’s kind of like that Korn video from 20+ years ago.

The suspects still aren’t entirely willing to come clean, but Jesus details the evidence even further which includes entrails on Comets antlers and Ginger’s hand still lodged in Santa’s throat. Porter makes the announcement that they now know why they wanted to kill Santa, only for Krampus to interject that he’s wrong. They actually wanted Santa dead because he cheated at fantasy football by using his naughty and nice list to guess which players would get suspended. Jesus then makes the announcement that Santa was killed for the greatest sin of all: giving a shit about fake football! Krampus, angry at Jesus for exposing them, whips out a gun and fires away! The bullet travels in slow-motion passed the shocked faces of the other culprits until it passes right through the nail hole on Jesus’ hand and strikes poor Porter. Jesus retaliates with his magic, some sort of icy blast or something that decapitates Krampus, and then kneels beside the dying Porter. He thanks Jesus for solving the train’s only murder, then asks him if he was happy with his service? Jesus indicates his experience was satisfactory, 3 1/2 stars, and Porter dies.

I knew he wasn’t dead!

The North Pole Express stops at the next station and all of the murderers are taken away. Jesus is quite pleased with himself and does a celebratory dance, only to be shocked when Santa comes out and thanks him! Jesus, confused, asks how Santa could possibly be alive? He explains he was in the locomotive the whole time running a different sort of train (Comet’s voice can be heard calling out “There’s two trains!”), and then informs Jesus the corpse he found was none other than Tim Allen (Tom Root). They share a hearty laugh as we head to the credits which includes a flashback of Santa calling Allen to invite him on the train. He only speaks in those grunts he used to do all of the time on Home Improvement. We also see him in costume as Santa basically assures him he’ll be fine as he walks him into a death trap. A Stoopid Monkey card appears on the screen at the end of the credits wishing us a “Merry Christmas” while the monkey mascot lights a menorah, which is genuinely cute.

Everyone is relieved to find out it was only Tim Allen.

The Robot Chicken special with the absurdly long title is a solid way to spend 11 minutes this holiday season. Turning the classic murder mystery into a holiday special where Santa is the victim is a solid setup and the Clue-like resolution is also appropriate. The Game of Thrones reference for the murder means this sucker is already super-dated, but it’s not a reference viewers need to get in order to find the situation funny as Christmas mascots all shout, “For the Pole!” as they stab Santa. Snowball, who apparently hates Santa the most, stabs him in the crotch. The animation and character designs are fun to take in and there’s plenty of blood and guts, if that’s your thing.

R.I.P. Porter.

Where the special does stumble a bit is where most Robot Chicken jokes have a tendency to fall flat, and that’s just in how obvious the jokes are. Robot Chicken always goes for the easiest joke. When your show is basically the Wario Ware of television and the joke needs to be communicated in about 10 seconds, that sort of thing makes sense. Here they actually have some semblance of time on their side, but they still go for the easy setup and knock down. I did enjoy the “dad jokes” Jesus leaned on which were all just Jesus puns like saying he does Crossfit and pointing out how he’s been double-crossed. They were able to create a fun lead with the character which initially surprised me as I thought Porter was being setup to lead the investigation. I also enjoyed the dig at Tim Allen during the credits.

Aww, how sweet?

If you like the comedy stylings of Robot Chicken then you’ll probably be entertained by this episode. I can see some fans being disappointed in the format as it’s not what’s expected, but the jokes are fairly similar and the staff probably welcomed the chance to just deal with a few puppets and staging areas rather than the usual amount needed to shoot an entire episode. And if you’re unsure, well, it’s only 11 minutes of your life so it’s hardly much of a risk. Cartoon Network is assured to show this one during the month of December, likely multiple times, and Robot Chicken is also available on HBO Max. For the Pole!


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.

 


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