Thursday, December 14, 2006

South Dakota Dark's Advent Calendar, volume 2

Open up the little doors scattered about the candy box and eat the stale chocolate you find inside. What shape is it in? Why, it's in a decidedly Aaron Sorkin-y shape!

Dec. 5: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, season one, episode 12, "The Christmas Show"

Now, as most of you know, I'm no fan of Studio 60. It's good stuff (and, yes, there's a lot of good) is usually outweighed by its awkward stuff. The Christmas episode was interesting because it managed to overcome a lot of what doesn't work about the show through seasonal chutzpah. Example: The FCC subplot that was sprinkled throughout the episode was completely ludicrous -- there was no way this would ever happen in our world, where the show ostensibly takes place (if the FCC has this much power in Studio 60 land, it's a wonder the characters don't live in a dictatorship). But it led up to such a well-delivered monologue by Ed Asner that I almost didn't care. And the runners with the writing staff debunking Christmas and Matt's Christmas spirit were both amusing enough. It was all tied together with a sterling version of "O Holy Night," performed by New Orleans jazz musicians. This all sounds too schmaltzy to work, but it was a good kind of holiday schmaltz, fuzzy like too much egg nog. That scene where Danny tells Jordan he's coming for her is still all kinds of creepy though.

Dec. 6: Mickey's Christmas Carol

Hey, look. The first movie I ever saw in theaters has been uploaded to YouTube. That's somehow apropos.

Truth be told, this isn't the world's best adaptation of A Christmas Carol, but it's still pretty good, especially if you're the kind of person who likes to point out the cameos from the all of the Disney characters who pop up here and there. What's more, that song that opens the special ("Oh What a Merry Christmastime") is the very worst kind of earworm. It's been stuck somewhere in my head since 1983, and one viewing of this special loosed it again to wreak its havoc.

I recall that this special used to be aired with several seasonal Mickey Mouse shorts (to pad out an hour for TV time), and I wouldn't be surprised if those entertained me more now, but this was a nice reminder of a time when I was obsessed with A Christmas Carol and its trappings.

(Side note: What is it about ghosts that goes so well with Christmas? I suspect it's the melancholy underlying the holiday, but who knows?)

Dec. 7: King of the Hill, season four, episode 10, "Hillennium"

I had never seen this episode (which revolves around the citizens of Arlen getting Y2K jitters and letting it infect their Christmas -- to the point where giant packages of toilet paper are considered great gifts), but it was a treat, a mostly amusing episode that encapsulated that weird end-of-the-world paranoia we all suffered through in 1999. Some of the stuff doesn't make a lot of sense (Hank not knowing that he would need air when he was varnishing, for example), but there's a lot here that's perfectly charming, and it's a great reminder of just consistent this show was in its first few seasons -- it can still hit a home run from time to time, but it's not consistent, as with all older shows.

Dec. 8: Roseanne, season four, episode 12, "Santa Claus"

(Yes, that's from the Sarah Chalke years. No, this episode isn't from then. I'm sorry I've mislead you.)

I'm not a Roseanne expert, but I do know that its holiday-themed episodes were considered some of its best, and this one, from one of the show's best seasons (which conventional wisdom dictates run from roughly season two to season six), wasn't too bad, even if it was just an excuse to let Roseanne wisecrack while dressed as Santa Claus (no, really). Airing a week before Christmas Eve, the episode clumsily welded some Christmas-y type stuff to another plot that appeared halfway through the episode. Fortunately, the show's ratings didn't seem to suffer for this weird structure, and the Chuck Lorre era of the show continued apace.

Dec. 9: Miracle on 34th Street

Look! A movie everyone loves!

My mother managed to get me to this movie before the 1994 remake, which is all right, but not a patch on this one (with its great Edmund Gwynn performance). It's a little cheesy, and the ending with the bags and bags of letters lends itself too easily, perhaps, to parody, but the sheer earnest over-the-topness of it is what makes it work, and the cast is genuinely excellent. There's a reason this is one of the two or three best Christmas movies out there (everyone agrees), and it lies in just how committed this movie is to its slightly nuts premise.

And, of course, Gwynn.

All right. That's all for tonight. I'll catch up over the weekend.

For now, though, here's some more exciting Christmas action with the cast of Scrubs.

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