Tuesday, December 19, 2006

South Dakota Dark's Advent Calendar, volume 3

Our latest chapter begins. I'll post five today, five later this week and five on Christmas Day. How's that sound?

All right.

Dec. 10: The Boondocks, season one, episode seven, "A Huey Freeman Christmas"

I saw this last year when it first aired, and I remember really liking it. Watching it again, I was struck by just how genuine it is in both its melancholy and its humor. It's the true ancestor to "A Charlie Brown Christmas," both in spirit and in the many, many homages it makes to that Christmas classic. The episode is miles more cynical than the Peanuts special (as is to be expected -- the comic strip was a dark riff on the Peanuts set-up), but there's a real heart that gets bruised here, and most of the jokes land (Jasmine's fantasy of a Santa-worshipping holiday, which you can see above, in particular, seems like the worst nightmare of my Sunday school teacher from back in the day). I also like how the episode is basically the story of Aaron MacGruder trying to turn his comic strip into an animated television show. By turns moving and hilarious, "A Huey Freeman Christmas" is the best Christmas episode I've seen in several years.

Dec. 11: Prancer

(Can you believe YouTube has no Prancer videos?)

I've never seen this movie. Is it SUPPOSED to be overwrought and sort of stupid? And has Sam Elliott ALWAYS looked so much like Powers Boothe? And what of the reindeer?

Basically, Santa Claus movies are always doomed to fail (NBC's poorly thought out remake of The Year Without a Santa Claus is sort of exhibit A in this argument). Now, obviously, some don't, but Santa Claus is such a saintly figure that you can't really base a narrative around him, and his hangers-on are all pretty slight (I mean, Prancer is just a NAME from that Night Before Christmas poem). So you either have to beat out a story that divulges from the well-trod path (Rudolph did this, as did Elf) or you have to come up with some new spin on Santa (Miracle on 34th Street). Since almost nobody can do this, we end up with movie after movie that are just silly.

Hence, Prancer.

Dec. 12: How I Met Your Mother, season two, episode 10, "How Lily Stole Christmas"

Not the best HIMYM ever, but, then, how can you hope to top "Slap Bet" anyway? I'll give the episode points for daring to include Harry Groener, who's a fine, fine actor and will make a fine, fine Clint for the show. Also, writing around the one-word-you-really-can't-say-in-polite-conversation-anymore was pretty well-done, even if "Grinch" wasn't the best word to choose (though it WAS seasonally appropriate). Mostly, the episode was worth it to see Barney and Marshall duet on Silent Night, speaking of which. . .

Dec. 13: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Also speaking of which.

Rudolph was never my favorite as a kid (if you'll let me be blindingly personal again), but it's really grown on me as an adult. There's something so DIY about the animation that it can't help but be charming, and the Abominable Snowmonster (which terrified me as a child) always looks sort of ratty, which amuses me. Plus, as Libby says, Christmas just ain't Christmas without Burl Ives, who makes this into a soundtrack worth owning.

Dec. 14: The Office, season three, episode 10 "A Benihana Christmas"

I don't think I've laughed harder all year than I did at Jim tricking Dwight into telling the waitress the best way to drain a goose of blood. Just sayin'.

That's it for now. I'll try to get another one of these up soon AND I promise it will be filled with old-timey special goodness!

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