Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas: Let's just watch something and not talk. *UPDATED*

Well. It is Christmas Day...Crap! It's Christmas. That means you may be stuck with family. The awkward questions. The awkward silences. The awkward family members. What to do?!

What do we do in America? Watch some TV. But, trying to be me, let me offer up some ideas you may not have considered. If you can get them, enjoy them. ...So many Christmas choices.

A British Christmas
This is a way I like to enjoy Christmas time. British TV, and in particular Christmas shows. The UK does love a good Christmas episode. So many to pick from.

Doctor Who - This has become a good source for these shows. Since the Christmas Invasion, we've had a steady stream of special episodes (And Christmas Day we have yet another new one.).

Downton Abbey - They also offer up these (Including this year.), but these do seem more enmeshed in the ongoing drama of the larger show.

Sitcoms - This is a rich course of Christmas shows. Almost everyone seems to have a parcel of them. Only Fools and Horses. Yes, Minister. Allo Allo. Keeping up Appearances. Green Green Grass, Are You Being Served. Father Ted. Vicar of Dibley. Blackadder. Miranda, Not Going Out. Good Neighbors. And I could really go on listing them. There are so many you should be able to find one to hit your funny bone just right.

Shakespeare - Twelfth Night. Remember the bit with the decorated tree. Duh.

Christmas Mystery
Looking for something to engage everyone, so they aren't talking politics, what they think of what Aunt Gladys said, or how you're job is going. Try a Christmas mystery.

British Mystery Shows - Kind of a cheat, but I thought I'd put these down here. British mystery shows occasionally offer Christmas shows (or shows at Christmas sometimes, to be honest). Among the ones I enjoy, Jonathan Creek, a magicians assistant constantly being dragged in to solve seemingly impossible mysteries. Midsomer Murders, "enjoyable" murder cases DI Barnaby in a fictional corner of England known as Midsomer.

The Thin Man - This is always a fun movie to enjoy. Based on a Dashiell Hammett's book, it gives us Nick and Nora Charles, a retired detective and his wealthy wife. (And then there's Asta.) He's happy to enjoy his wife's wealth. But when murders start happening, his wife pushes him to get involved. And from there the pair race through the mystery, meeting odd characters, getting guns waved in their faces, and enjoying a drink or two before outing the culprit. A fun start to a movie series. What's it have to do with Christmas? Takes place at Christmas. Good enough for me.

The Lady in the Lake -Is another mystery taking place at Christmas. This time it's a Raymond Chandler mystery. It has Philip Marlowe getting mixed up with dangerous men and even more dangerous women. But the most dangerous aspect of the movie may be how it was shot, in 1st person. That's right 99% of the movie is shot as if from the perspective of Marlowe. You can judge how well that works based on how often we see it used in movies today...Yeah. But it is interesting, and before long you'll start thinking you're in the middle of a 1st Person Shooter Game, except Marlowe isn't going around shooting everyone and everything. Still, it's Christmas time, and it may keep everyone near the TV engaged.

Sherlock Holmes - The Blue Carbuncle is the Christmas related mystery in the Sherlock Holmes annals. It deals with a Christmas time robbery and the mystery of how a stolen jewel ended up in a cooked goose.

The Jeremy Brett version of Holmes has done this story. And, like all of his Sherlock Holmes work, it is quite good and enjoyable. Worth watching.

Also, in the 1960's, Peter Cushing briefly starred in a Sherlock Holmes television series. He to did an episode on the Blue Carbuncle. And it also, to my mind, is quite enjoyable. But it is hard not to enjoy any chance to see Peter Cushing at work.

Batman: The Animated Series - Okay. stretching even more here. But...Batman IS a detective. Anyway, Batman has done his Christmas episode, and it's worth sharing with kids. Christmas With The Joker, Joker breaks out and kidnaps the commissioner and some others and threatens their lives...Kids will love it.

Christmas Fantasy
A perfect pairing for Christmas watching.

Harry Potter - Come on. Every movie spans a school year, including Christmas break.

Hogfather - A Terry Pratchett story, this is, for me, a pleasure to watch every year. I love the story. I love Discworld. In the story, the Hogfather, their version of Santa Claus, is marked for death. And with his death far more than can be seen is at stake. So Death, his grand daughter, and a collection of odd folk must step up and stop a mad assassin  recover the Hogfather, and make sure the sun will rise again.

I love it unreservedly, And sfdebris has recently done a review of the show, if you want some deeper analysis of it.

Santa Claus Kicking Some Butt
Another option is seeing Santa deal with some baddies and deliver toys (And he's all out of toys to deliver.).

Santa Claus Conquerors the Martians - This is a movie you have very likely seen or skipped passed on TV. It seems to have been in the public domain for ages, and shows up anywhere a channel needs to fill 90 some minutes. But it is surreal to see. A kiddie movie for sure, it has goofy Martians come to Earth to kidnap Santa Claus to help make the children of Mars happy...Yeah, it's an odd one. But everyone should see it once, if only to grow to wish harm on the Gilligan of the movie, Dropo.

As noted, this is a public domain movie. So it is shown all over. It also means it has gone into heavy use by shows that weave movies into their episodes  particularly for their Christmas episodes. So, if you are a fan, like me, of horror host shows (like Elvira's Movie Macabre), look and you will likely find an episode around this movie. For example, I have the versions done by Elvira and Penny Dreadful's Shilling Shockers. But I'm sure we could find many more making use of this mad little movie.

Speaking of mad movies, Santa Claus. I'm talking of the Rene Cardona movie from 1959. It is mad. It attempts to take the more religious focus of Christmas in Mexico, and merge in Santa Claus. So, Santa takes on a ever present foe in the movie, a devil named Pitch (see to the right), who's out to corrupt kids and kill Santa. Santa also has an army of junior stereotypes from around the world he's holding in a castle up in the clouds. And did I mention Merlin is Santa's long time sidekick in the movie? Like I said, mad. Also, a must see movie.

Christmas Riffing
For humor, enjoy some riffing, where people talk over a movie, making jokes about what is happening.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 - A classic in riffing, the show would put on old movies while a trio (a man and his bots) joked about the movie. They dealt with many different movies, from horror to scifi to fantasy to Lassie movies to Gamera movies to Westerns. They got around. It also dealt with both of the Butt Kicking Santa flicks shown above. Both episodes are quite fun. And the disc released for Santa Claus included an interesting documentary looking at the director and the making of the movie.

Cinematic Titanic - One of the later takes on the Mystery Science Theater concept, it is headed up by several writers/actors from MST. For me, the live shows they've done (and are available online and on DVD) are the best of their work. So, f you've seen the Mystery Science Theater take on Santa Claus Conquerors the Martians, the team at CT, took it on again, making fresh.

You can watch their take on the movie here.

Rifftrax - This is a great source for some riffing of Christmas material. This is made up of another group of old Mystery Science Theater alumni. They've gone after a score of Christmas related shorts, from Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey to Christmas Rhapsody. You could fill an afternoon with the various magic trees and trips to the North Pole they've covered.

They've also done one of their live shows around a Christmas theme, the Christmas Shorts Extravaganza. I watched this as I typed this up.

Christmas Comedy Shows
Want some straight out laughs over Christmas?

Community - Community is a show that offers up a good Christmas episode a season, giving us a few to choose from. And, seeing as it on the cusp of cancellation, there's a good chance you haven't seen any of these. First season they had Comparative Religion, which is an enjoyable enough episode dealing with the group trying to come together for Christmas and dealing with the very very Christian member of the group. Second season has Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas, which is a fully claymation episode. Third season gives us Regional Holiday Music, which is a song mad episode partially parodying Glee. To me, all enjoyable episodes to watch.

Futurama - A great series that comes from the makers of The Simpsons, it details the ongoing adventures of Fry, a pizza delivery boy from the 1990's, who is frozen and awoken in the distant future, and still stuck being a delivery boy. But his friends and coworkers make sure his life stays ridiculous and life threatening (His head has been cut off more than once...But that's curable in the future.). And Futurama is a show that has given us a number of Christmas episodes. Among the best are the group's run ins with Robot Santa, who takes on the job of terrorizing all of Earth every Christmas. These are fun episodes at Christmas, or any day of the year.

Venture Brothers - This is one of those tricky shows, as comedy can be. It's animated, but it's definitely not for kids. Still, the short Christmas episode is always humorous. It revolves around the Venture family having a Christmas party at their compound, things seem well, except Doctor Venture's nemesis is plotting to blow the building up, and his Venture's kids (the Venture Brothers) have just unleashed the Krampus on the party (This is where I learned of the Krampus.). If you are a fan of the show, but haven't seen this yet, get to it!

Christmas Horror
This might not be for everyone, but if you all like horror, or you want some plans for later, here's some more macabre choices.

Addams Family - Yeah. Not that creepy, to me at least. But it is fun. And the story, towards the end takes place at Christmas. Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, and Angelica Houston? Come on.

Gremlins - How long has it been since you've seen this? Gizmo is a Christmas gift in it. Who doesn't want to see a small town trashed at Christmas?

Rare Imports - This is an interesting movie. It looks at what Santa really is (A few horror movies looking at this have come out.). And it is terrifying. But if you are in the mood for it, I suggest you check the movie out.

Here's the original short that the larger movie comes out of:

Tales from the Crypt - The old series had a Christmas episode the first season, And All Through The House. In it a deranged man, dressed as Santa, stalks a home seeking a women who happens to have just murdered her husband. A creepy tale that may fill a Christmas Horror quota. And who doesn't want a show starring that guy from L.A. Law and Parker Lewis's mom? (Hey, kids? How do you like my real current and hip references?)

Here's the first third of the episode:

So, if you do need something to watch on Christmas, I hope I've given you some ideas.

Have a pleasant day.


Argh! In adding the Batman: The Animated Series episode to the list, I forgot some other obvious choices for Superhero watching:

Batman Returns - Takes place at Christmas...but it's a Tim Burton, creepy era, movie. Still, for some Bat/Cat fun.

Justice League - Comfort and Joy, from the 2nd season, tells some smaller stories. Flash races to find a special toy for some orphans, dealing with the Ultra-Humanite in the process. Green Lantern and Hawkgirl share their traditions. And Superman brings the Martian Manhunter to spend Christmas with his and his parent. It's cute and fun.

Lois and Clark - The old 90's series also has a couple Christmas episodes. Seasons Greedings, where the adults of Metropolis are being turned juvenile and petulant by a fired toymaker. Then there's Twas the Night Before Myxmas, in which Lois and Clark vie against a Time Loop created by Mr. Mxyzptlk.

Smallville - In this proto-Superman series, they have an episode called Lexmas, which is a bizarro It's A Wonderful Life tale.

Also, here's the Venture Brothers Christmas episode broken up.

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