Made for Christmas TV
written by: Cory Q
Each year I endeavor to write something useful or interesting about the Holidays. In the writing I succeed, but in the second aspect I suspect that I fail. Last year's effort was about things I didn't want for Christmas. It could be argued that this article was actually very successful as I did not receive a single one of those atrocities.
This year I thought I would talk about some of the many made-for-TVChristmas movies there are to pick from this time of year and which ones you should endeavor to enjoy and which you should eschew. Having no way to know what your TV viewing habits or likes are, I can't really recommend what you should and shouldn't watch over the season but I can tell you that the radio is a wasteland this time of year. The FM waves are choked full of mediocre, hackneyed, or over-produced Christmas songs that wear on the nerves after about an hour. Yet despite this low tolerability, these songs run on a vicious loop for a month and a half thereby driving one to watch TV as a type of anti-suicide maneuver. This originally was going to be a rant about the punishingly ridiculous tripe that the ABC Family Channel smears all over the airwaves for the entire month of December but I decided against that. Sure, sure, they played a movie called "Santa Baby" back to back with a movie called "Holiday in Handcuffs", but there was at least something to be had for me in these efforts.
See, "Santa Baby" is a made-for-TV-movie that stars Jenny McCarthy. Yes, the former Playmate of The Year. And George Wendt (Norm, from "Cheers")! As insipid as the plot was (Jennifer [Oh Jenny!]) was playing Santaís daughter (Santa played by Wendt) who was talking over the family business all while trying to find true love and the meaning* of Christmas. I didn't care about that crap. I just like watching Jenny McCarthy in a white sweater. Pretty white bread on the whole but there was plenty of Jenny.
"Holiday in Handcuffs" was flawed very, very deeply from the outset, but I still couldn't turn away. See, this made-for-TV effort stars Melissa Joan Hart (of "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" fame) whom I find to be incredibly attractive. She plays a struggling artist who moonlights as a waitress. Her over-bearing mother (played by a still hot and aging gracefully Markie Post) is all up and down her case to bring her boyfriend home to meet the family for Christmas. Melissa then abducts Mario Lopez (yes, from "Saved by the Bell") from the diner she works at to pose as her significant other. Somehow this kidnapping turns into true love and everyone finds out what Christmas really means*. Thing is, I just can stop staring at Melissa Joan Hart. And then Markie Post gets into the action and my mind starts off down its own strange and dirty path. I blame the handcuffs.
So, as bad as these two movies are, I did get a certain pleasure from them. There is one with Mimi Rogers (you know, Ms. Kensington from the first Austin Powers movie) that ABC Family played last year. I don't remember what it is called or what particular Christmas themed shenanigans there were but I do remember that Mimi is hot.
All this means is that I have to cut ABC Family some slack. They at least pick hot women to muck up the idea of Christmas. And it isn't like I actually watch these productions. The entire plot is visible in the first ten minutes because people like predictable schmaltz. I just pause long enough to get an eyeful of the good looking ladies when I am flipping by to things like monster truck rallies and police chase videos where the suspect is a drunk mall Santa trying to outrun the cops.
The other category of made-for-TV Christmas movies are the Classics. This category is dominated by things of a mainly animated nature, cartoon or otherwise, things we grew up with. Here fall such treats as "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", and "Frosty the Snowman". These perfectly non-offensive properties re-enforce the same basic idea as the movies listed earlier: tolerance and forgiveness. Of course, I like these movies but my fancy towards them is tinged with the unrealistic haze of childhood remembrance. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. I watched two of the three animated movies closely this year. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" still holds up pretty well, but this I attribute to the wickedly advanced and stylized animation of Chuck Jones. If anybody else had animated this, it would have been forgotten long ago. "Rudolph" is good because of Burl Ives. I mean címon, in real life he even looked like the snowman who narrates the story! Stop motion animation always gets high marks in my book (hear that, George Lucas!). The story is goofy, but it has adventure, friends, and of course Burl Ives. Though I have always suspected that the American Dental Association had a nefarious hand in this film in a effort to get kids to like dentists. As for "Frosty", that one I can't watch. My sister's ex-husband was conceived to that movie (I heard that directly from his mother who is a harpy that eats kittens and punches disabled veterans) and so now everything about it turns my stomach a bit.
Side note: Both Frosty and Rudolph were strictly commercial properties invented for the Holiday shopping season by music executives. Go ahead. Look it up.
There is one made-for-TV Christmas special that deserves special mention. "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown" stands alone. This is another piece of animated nostalgia for me but what makes it different is two fold. First off, Charlie Brown still gets screwed in the end. He doesnít end up with a lot of presents. He doesn't learn a lesson (the other kids might, but he knew it all along and stays as woefully trusting as ever). This is not the usual situation of the main character at the end of such a thing. Furthermore, this is the only Christmas special that I know of where somewhere in the show there is an actual and overt mention of the birth of Jesus.
What this boils down to is that any mass media you afflict yourself with during the month of December is going to be strange. Whether it is stop motion deer, mythical green monsters, or Sabrina kidnapping a boyfriend, there is a high amount of contrition to appease the masses. The best you can hope for is good looking women dressed up like naughty elves.
Good luck out there.
*I want it noted here that the meaning of Christmas is not presents. It is not commercialism. It is not the most lights or the biggest festivities. Nor, as much as ABC Family would like us to believe, is the meaning of Christmas finding a child-like joy in the world around us by having a sudden realization that what is most important is those that care for us. It is certainly not about Santa. It isn't about coming together in peace because if it was, we wouldn't all act like complete nutcases when shopping. Christmas is about ham.
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