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Old 02-22-2017, 01:15 PM   #571 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
Quiet, you. You already commented on this when I first used it, or are you too drunk to remember?
I don't see what me being drunk has to do with not remembering.
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Old 02-22-2017, 02:44 PM   #572 (permalink)
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I don't see what me being drunk has to do with not remembering.
That's because you're too drunk.
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Old 11-20-2020, 06:12 AM   #573 (permalink)
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When I haven't been writing or reading, like most people during lockdown (two now and counting) I've been watching a lot of TV. Most of it was pretty good, so I thought maybe I might try this again and give you a flavour of what I've been watching. These are in no order.



Gangs of London (crime, thriller, action)

If you want action, you got it. If you want suspense, you got it, if you want violence, oh man you got it. If you want touching romantic scenes and complicated relationships, you don't got it: look elsewhere. Chronicling the lives of a London gang family after the patriarch is killed (Colm Meaney, in his shortest role ever) Gangs of London sets a new bar for ultra-violence but the story very much demands it and is really well written. Renewed for a second season, and I can't wait.

Verdict: 10/10

Public Enemy (Ennemi Public) (Crime, thriller, mystery)

A Belgian production that follows the release of a paedophile from prison, who is taken in by monks, and whose presence in the town is clearly unwelcome. Almost as soon as he arrives kids start turning up dead. Is he up to his old tricks already?

The twists and turns and unexpected ending in this series makes it for me, one of the very best I have ever seen, in any language. Harrowing, unapologetic about its subject matter and bleakly realistic, it should be required viewing, and it's only a pity that, as a subtitled programme, it will not be seen by as many people as it should be. Hopefully nobody though gets it in their head to do an updated, English-language version because I feel it would be very hard indeed to capture the spirit of the original, and any copy would suffer. Try and see it; you won't regret it. Though you might have some trouble sleeping.

Verdict: 10/10

Spiral (Crime, mystery, thriller)

Actually in its seventh season, though I could only get the one, being the seventh, so have probably missed out on a lot of the details of relationships between characters, previous cases etc. An excellent French crime drama which seems to wrap up a long-running story arc, a pity I can't get the rest of it.

Verdict: 9/10

Before We Die (Crime, mystery, thriller)

Exposing police corruption in the Swedish police force, another powerful crime drama with engaging leads. There's a second season I have yet to watch, but I certainly enjoyed the first.

Verdict: 9.5/10

Alex (Crime, mystery, thriller)

I wasn't so impressed by this one; maybe it's that I had watched the two previous series before it and this then fell a little short, but it's still good. Another Swedish offering, about a cop I think on the run. Self-contained but as I say I found it a little disappointing.

Verdict: 7/10

Thou Shalt Not Kill (Crime, mystery, murder)

A sort of Criminal Minds or FBI-style series, with different stories in each episode but an overall arc running through most of the series. Very impressive.

Verdict: 9/10



Gomorrah season 4 (Crime, murder)

I'm sure most people by now know or have heard about this Italian crime drama, if not then quickly, it focuses on the rise to power of Genarro Savastano, scion of one of the major crime families in Naples, and his friend Ciro di Marzio, who becomes his mentor. Violent, unapologetic, gripping, it has earned its place in mainstream TV and season 4 is the current with another, final season in the works. There is also a movie, L'Immortale, which chronicles events between season 3 and 4. Highly recommended.

Verdict: 10/10

Hitmen (Comedy)

Mildly amusing series about two, well, hitmen - or I should say hitwomen - trying to carry out their assignments and usually bungling them. Not as funny as it sounds, or as it should have been. Weak, but worth a look.

Verdict: 6/10

Trust (Drama)

The true story of the godson on John Paul Getty, who arranged his own staged kidnap in 1973, only for it to turn into a real one. Pretty gripping; Donald Sutherland shines, but then you'd expect that. Self-contained.

Verdict: 9/10

Succession (High finance, drama)

The story of a family (perhaps somewhat modelled on the Trumps) who believe winning is everything, and as they wait for their father to pass on the reins of power a struggle develops within the family as they jockey for position. Sharp, funny, often sad, with plenty of twists; makes you glad sometimes that you aren't rich, if you have to be like these people!

Verdict: 10/10

Prodigal Son (Crime, murder, mystery)

An interesting premise, where a convicted and jailed serial killer's son must seek his father's aid in solving murders which appear to copy his style. Probably copied from La Mante, a French series, and which was probably better, but definitely this one is enjoyable. New season has been authorised.

Verdict: 9.5/10

The Outsider (Horror, mystery)

Superb story from Stephen King about a creature who can assume anyone's shape, and thus manages to have people blamed for horrible crimes they have no part in, and even have alibis for. Just stunning. One season, self-contained. Based, of course, on his novels.

Verdict: 10/10
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Old 11-20-2020, 10:35 AM   #574 (permalink)
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Castle Rock (Horror)

This, on the other hand, I did not enjoy. I tried really hard to like it, being another Stephen King effort, but I just couldn't get into it. It seemed to wander all over the place and most of the time I was like "huh?" It ended very badly too. I see it was cancelled after two seasons. I would have axed it after the first. Big disappointment.

Verdict: 5/10



The Plot Against America (Science fiction/dystopian)

When I started watching this I was all but ready to drop it after episode one, which I found very slow and boring. I ended up being so glad I didn't; it turned out to be excellent, riveting viewing. Based on the novel by Philip Roth, it's an alternate view of America in which FDR does not get elected, and Charles Lindberg, as president, turns America into a fascist state that stays out of the war and helps Hitler. Superb.

Verdict: 10/10


Jeckyll and Hyde (Horror/Fantasy)

Yeah, I don't need to tell anyone what this is about. At the same time, it twists the story a little, introducing MIO, a secret service department that takes care of supernatural threats to the Realm. And it has Richard E Grant in it, how cool is that? I enjoyed it but it was definitely rushed at the end; they must have expected, and been planning for, a second season which they did not get, because the ending almost makes me want to tell you not to bother. You have been warned. But you should still watch it.

Verdict: 8.5/10



Fort Salem (Supernatural drama)

Originally called Motherland, then Motherland: Fort Salem but marketed at least over here simply as Fort Salem, this innovative series sees witches having been co-opted to the US military to combat supernatural enemies, and fighting against a terrorist group called the Spree. Pretty damn good for what it is. Another season has been commissioned.

Verdict: 9.5/10

The Dust Bowl (Documentary)

Another of the superlative Ken Burns documentaries I've been enjoying - I've seen Vietnam War, Prohibition and World War II, and am working through Country Music - this one chronicling the 1930s natural disaster known as the Dust Bowl, which drove so many farming families from the midwest and nearly wiped out agriculture altogether. Stark.

Verdict: 10/10

The Black Stuff (Play/Drama)


Precursor to the legendary cult series The Boys From the Blackstuff, Alan Bleasdale's gritty drama about working life in Liverpool in Thatcher's Britain. This sets the scene for events before the series, laying down some very important background, although you don't have to have seen it to have enjoyed the series.

Verdict: 9/10

Downton Abbey (Period Drama)

Who hasn't heard of this? Took me a long time to get into it, but they started showing it on demand and I decided hell with it, I've wanted to start it for a while now so this is my chance. Wish there was more. Superbly acted and really well written. A time long vanished thank god.

Verdict: 10/10
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Old 11-20-2020, 11:05 AM   #575 (permalink)
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Star Trek Discovery (Science fiction)

When I saw the first episode of this, I really didn't like it but then some time later I happened to come across I think it was episode five, and was much more impressed, so started going back and then once I'd seen them I continued and was really getting into it when it ended. I have season 2 to watch and I believe it's on season three now, so much to watch.

Verdict: 10/10

The Family (Drama, mystery)


Interesting idea behind this. A kid believed murdered 10 years ago returns to his family, supposedly having escaped his tormentor (believed originally to have been his killer and then released when it's clear you can't be a murderer if your alleged victim walks into his house) but questions hang over his identity. Is it actually him, or is someone playing one hell of a game of cat-and-mouse, and why? Sadly cancelled after one season, so I don't know how it will end, but it's good viewing.

Verdict: 9/10

Manifest (Science fiction, mystery)

A plane believed missing returns after five years, and suddenly everyone on board seems to have strange powers. After the initial euphoria of their unexpected return, suspicion turns to fear to paranoia. Two seasons so far. Have only watched season one but loved it.

Verdict: 9.5/10

The Passage (Horror)

Vampire story which seems to infer that they are created as a result of a laboratory-created virus meant to be a cure-all, and the vampires then (anyone?) run amok and try to destroy mankind. Was doing well but a kind of rushed ending, while satisfactory, still left me anyway wishing that they had commissioned a second season. They didn't.

Verdict: 9/10

Emergence (Science fiction, mystery)

A young girl found among the wreckage of a plane seems to have certain powers, and not be who she seems to be. Shadowy government agencies are after her, and it's up to the smalltown cop who rescued her to protect her. Or is it the other way around? Cancelled after one season, but to be entirely fair, it ended well.

Verdict: 9/10


Vagrant Queen (Science fiction)


The most fun I've had in years. Super hip, funny, tipping a nod and a wink to slacker culture, based on a comic book, and of course destined for cancellation. Worth making sure you don't let the single season pass you by for sure. Should have run and run; we need more sci-fi like this on TV.

Verdict: 10/10




FBI (Crime)

Apart from having the worst and laziest title I have ever come across, this is of course about an FBI team who do what the FBI do, and its spinoff FBI: Most Wanted is similar, except that they go after, well, the FBI's most wanted. Enjoyable hokum from the makers of Law and Order etc.

Verdict: 8.5/10 (for both)

Roadkill (Political thriller)

A somewhat tired idea of a politician climbing the greasy ladder and the things he will do to get there. Stars Hugh Laurie. It's all right.

Verdict: 7/10

Taggart (Crime)
Old eighties show that I used to watch and thought I'd go with it again when they started running it from the first episode. Turned out not to be anywhere near as good as I remembered. Hard-as-nails cop plods the beat in Scotland. Meh.

Verdict: 4/10
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Old 12-12-2020, 10:56 AM   #576 (permalink)
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Christmas comes but once a year - thankfully, no matter what Roy Wood may wish - and this year it’s going to be tougher than ever, with lockdowns, isolations, fears about Covid and possibly much-reduced family gatherings if any at all. A lot to be sad and worried about, but like every other holiday we’ll make it work. You could do worse than stay here with me, where there is absolutely zero chance of infection, where it’s warm and friendly, and where you’re all always welcome.

Disclaimer: Yeah, I have to say that. The lawyers are worried this year about excessive lawsuits, so even though I hate you all, grumble grumble mutter mutter come on in... if ye must. Don't forget to wipe your feet! I said don't forget to - ah, sod it!

Anyway (ahem)...

So this year, why not leave the virus outside where it belongs and spend

As part of this special seasonal feature, I want to look into the various excellent animated Christmas specials from three of the shows I feel do them best, and which I'm most familiar with: The Simpsons, American Dad and Family Guy. With stunning originality, I’m going to pick the twelve I feel are best and feature them here in a little thing I like to call


It’s become something of a tradition on The Simpsons to have a Christmas episode, although unlike the likes of Dr. Who, you can’t be guaranteed one every season. Even so, with thirty seasons and counting that would probably be enough to feature all Simpsons Christmas episodes on their own, but that might be boring, especially to the few among you who may not enjoy the show. Of course, you may not like the other ones either, but at least you have a better chance of seeing something here you may be interested in if there’s a wider spread of programmes.

So each day I’ll choose one from a different show, try to mix it up as best I can. With The Simpsons having been the major force in “adult” animation for decades now though, it’s clear that there will be, shall we say, more than one offering from America’s favourite cartoon family. I’ll try not to let Homer and Co. take this over though. I’ll give him some donuts, that’ll keep him happy.

So we'll be starting with this.

Episode title: “Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire”
Series: The Simpsons
Season: One
First transmitted: December 17 1989
Written by: Mimi Pond

Although this was the first episode ever screened of the show proper (leaving aside the shorts on Tracey Ullman’s show which provided the springboard for the most successful animated show in history), here in Ireland the first screened was “Call of the Simpsons” (seventh in the actual running order). Why do you care? You don’t: but I just want to point out that, unlike everyone else, this episode was not my first experience of the show. But anyway, it basically introduces all the characters - to those who had not watched Tracey Ullman - as well as supporting ones, but really there are three main ones, which I’ll get into shortly.

If this was the first time you ever - and I mean ever - heard of or saw America’s real First Family, the first characters you see are Marge and Homer, who are driving to see their kids perform in the Christmas pageant at the school. We also see, peripherally, Maggie, the baby, in a kind of starfish costume, presumably to keep her warm against the December chill. Next up is a man who will be the bane of the Bad Boy of the Simpsons, it’s Principal Skinner, who introduces the next act, in which we get to meet Lisa, the middle child, and then Bart, the eldest, who establishes his character right away by replacing the chorus of “Jingle Bells” with lyrics which have now become hilariously familiar. Skinner is not impressed and pulls him from the line.

It is the first episode, so no criticism, but it’s still interesting to note that none of the children, nor indeed any of the adults in the audience other than Homer, Marge and Maggie, are in any way distinguishable or ever seen again; they’re generic character drawings and, somewhat like the early episodes of Family Guy, it seem they’re seat-fillers, placeholders to make up a crowd scene until Groening and his team has time to work on other, actual characters. Homer betrays his boredom, moaning “How many grades does this school have?”

Back home, Marge is writing her Christmas cards while the kids finalise their letters to Santa. Marge’s letter-writing is a clever device, so early in the series, in which the writers get to inform us about other things happening without having to play them out. These include the fact that the Simpsons’ cat, Snowball, was run over and has been replaced by Snowball II, Homer’s father, Abe or Abraham Simpson (though just referred here to as Grampa) is introduced and Lisa is seen to be a straight-A student while Bart, we hear, is, well, not. Homer’s short fuse temper is demonstrated as he growls at Marge to hurry up and finish her letter, and then demands to know where the extension cord for the Christmas lights is, but he’s slapped down, verbally, as we see, and will, as the series winds on, that Marge is more than a match for him and takes no nonsense from him.

Lisa’s interest in ponies is explored, as her list contains nothing but “a pony” several times, while Marge tries to explain, not that they can’t afford it (as Lisa, being only eight years old, still believes in Santa, or claims to) while Bart wants a tattoo. Marge and Homer’s views on this differ somewhat. While his mother tells him that under no circumstances may he get a tattoo (Bart is not as naive as his sister and knows their presents come from the parents - “There’s only one big fat guy in this house who brings us presents and his name ain’t Santa”) Homer declares that if Bart wants one he can pay for it himself.

The phone rings and we hear, but do not yet see, Marge’s sisters, Patti and Selma, who obviously don’t care for Homer, and the feeling is mutual. Another person Homer will have problems with is introduced, as we meet his neighbour, Ned Flanders, a real god-botherer who can’t understand people who aren’t Christians. Homer’s poor efforts at decorating the outside of their house are put to shame by Flanders’ extravagant display and Homer hates him for it, feeling he has been humiliated in front of his children. Marge later produces “the big jar”, their savings put away over the year for presents and other Christmas sundries and the next day they’re off shopping. Bart, defying his parents’ wishes, and thinking Marge will appreciate the fact that it says “mother”, goes and gets a tattoo.

And now we come to one of the greatest, not only Simpsons characters but surely in all of animation - he’s fond of a smoke, likes a good joke - why he’s worth ten times what he earns! You know his name: (and he is NOT pleased to meet you) it’s Mr. Burns! Oh yes. Charles Montgomery “Monty” Burns, feared and ancient owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, where Homer works, a Scrooge figure if ever there was one, advises his staff there will be no Christmas bonus this year. Homer thanks heaven for the big jar! Marge catches Bart before the tattoo is finished and drags him out of the parlour, furious. She tells Homer the Christmas money will now have to go on the procedure to remove the tattoo, so Bart has ruined Christmas for the family. Won’t be the last time.

Marge thinks things will be all right. The big jar may be empty, but there’s still Homer’s bonus to come. Homer has not told her the bad news yet, and now he feels he can’t, as it will be him that is ruining the holiday season for his family. Not that it’s his fault, be he sees himself as the breadwinner and so takes on the responsibility. As he mopes outside, Flanders’ Santa’s low “HO HO HO” seems to mock him. In bed that night, Homer tries to break the news but looking in Marge’s trusting eyes he feels he can’t, and instead hits on a rather ridiculous plan: to do the Christmas shopping himself, getting the cheapest possible presents for everyone so that the meagre funds he has can stretch further. Colliding with Flanders and his kid his cheapskate choices are revealed, which does not help matters.

Now we move to the scene of a place which will become Homer’s second home, Moe’s bar, where Moe asks Homer why he’s so down. When he explains, his best friend Barney Gumble, an inveterate drunk, comes in dressed as Santa. He’s been working as a department store Santa Claus and Homer wonders if he might do the same to earn some extra cash. So he enrols in the training programme and starts his job, though according to his boss he’ll get “not a dime till Christmas Eve” so has to wait to be paid. Inevitably, he runs into Bart, to whom he has to tell the truth about his bonus. Bart laughs at the idea of his father working as a mall Santa, but then takes it a little more seriously. Oh yeah, we also meet, unfortunately, the annoying Millhouse Van Houten, Bart’s best friend. I hate that guy. Nobody likes Miihouse.

Now we get to meet the illustrious sisters in person, as Patti and Selma, twins, visit Marge and complain that there is no Christmas tree in the Simpson house. So Homer decides to go and get one. He can’t afford one though, so goes into the woods to cut one down, leading to the question as to why the Simpsons’ Christmas tree has a birdhouse in it?

Payday arrives, also known as Christmas Eve, but after many deductions Homer is left with a mere thirteen dollars in his paycheque. Barney tells him he has a sure thing in the Springfield Downs dog races and he should bet on the dog. Homer goes but at the last minute changes his bet when he hears the name of one of the dogs is “Santa’s Little Helper”, and thinks it’s a sign. Of course the dog Barney recommended wins and Santa’s Little Helper not only loses, but it kicked out by its owner. Homer and Bart take him home, and he becomes the family dog, allowing Homer to give his family, against all odds, the best Christmas present they have ever had.

Notes

As an introductory episode this really gives you a lot of information. Not only are we presented with the Simpsons family and a few peripheral characters, but we’re also apprised of how each of them react. Homer, who will turn out to be even more popular than Bart and who will represent the whole Simpsons franchise, is fat and lazy, somewhat ignorant, tries to be the man of the house but really is just a big softy; the house is run by Marge, and, to some smaller extent, Lisa. Homer is not very bright but his heart is in the right place, and his perceived lower position on the employment (and some would also say, evolutionary) scale is a constant annoyance to him, especially when compared to his saintly neighbour. Marge is the archetypal long-suffering wife, trying to hold it all together both financially and emotionally, stronger than she looks, the glue which keeps the family together. Lisa takes after her mother - strong, independent, smart, opinionated - while Bart is his father’s son in every way. Maggie, at this stage, is entirely one-dimensional, but we will grow to know and love her.

The other characters, though given little screen time, are still well fleshed out. We see the beginnings of the battle to be waged for thirty years between Principal Skinner and Bart, the disdain in which Homer’s sisters hold her husband (and he them) and the somewhat doddery demeanour of Grampa Simpson. Finally, though his toady has but one line in this episode, we bear witness to the birth, series-speaking, of the shadow that constantly falls across Springfield, and especially Homer’s world, and which will, paradoxically perhaps, endear Monty Burns to us all. Truly it will be said: an episode with Burns in it is guaranteed to be a good one.

There’s a perhaps refreshing lack of preaching in this, a Christmas episode. I don’t think any mention is made of God, any god, other than one reference Bart makes to miracles, and even Santa is not in it, other than as a department store employee. Even Flanders holds back what will become his gushing about the Almighty, which possibly underscores the idea that this is a pilot episode, and the writers weren’t ready to sacrifice, or even stalk any sacred cows just yet. Later, of course, there would be a massacre, as everything and anything became fair game as the show’s popularity grew, then exploded. As we all know, when you’re a hit you can say almost anything you like, and when your show is a satire or comedy, you can really get in the sort of digs you can’t in drama or other types of writing.

One thing that is very skilfully handled here is the old-head-on-young-shoulders attitude Lisa exhibits to adults, talking to them (one might even say talking down to them) in their own language. Example: when Patti talks badly about Homer, Lisa makes this plea:
“I wish you wouldn’t. Because, aside from the fact that he has the same frailties as all human beings, he’s the only father I have. Therefore he is my model of manhood, and my estimation of him will govern the prospects of my adult relationships. So I hope you bear in mind that any knock at him is a knock at me, and I am far too young to defend myself against such onslaughts.” Patti’s response? “Go watch your cartoon show, dear.”

One other interesting point: though he will become Homer's best friend in time, an almost literal Barney to Homer's Fred Flintstone (which can't be a coincidence; his surname is almost the same: Gumble) Barney at this time comes across as at best a casual acquaintance, calling Homer "Simpson" as if he barely knows him.
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Old 12-13-2020, 11:07 AM   #577 (permalink)
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Episode title: “For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls”
Series: American Dad
Season: Six
First transmitted: December 12 2010
Written by: Erik Durbin

Note: I’m confused here. Wiki says this is a season six episode, yet shows it on the link for episode seven. My own downloads have it in season seven, so I don’t know, but be that as it may….

The first in a loose trilogy based on the Smiths’ to-be-ongoing war with Santa, this is about as far from The Simpsons as you can get, even further than Family Guy, made by the same team.

Stan, no surprise to anyone, does not believe in Santa and is incensed that not only his own son (who always acts to me like he’s seven years old when he’s like fourteen, but that’s a gripe for another time) but Jeff does; Hayley thinks it’s very endearing but Stan does not agree. Francine is trying to start a new Christmas tradition, but again Stan, the eternal luddite, is not interested. He tells his wife he is getting Steve a gun for Christmas, so that they can bond. She’s not happy and asks him to promise he will not but he does so anyway. Steve is less than impressed with his present, but Stan takes him shooting and, like any kid with a dangerous weapon, he soon warms to it. Meanwhile Roger is on a quest to find the strongest alcohol known to man, and is put on the trail of a legendary brewer who lives high in the Chimdale mountains.

Firing at a snowman, Steve accidentally kills a mall Santa (department store Santa to us) and while his son gibbers on, traumatised, Stan looks after disposing of the body. But before he can do so, Francine finds it in the boot of his car, and after expressing appropriate outrage that her son has killed a man, with a gun Stan gave him (a gun he had promised not to give him) she decides that rather than have Christmas ruined by having her son and husband locked up, she will go along with the secret burial of the body, and keep the police out of it. Stan seems bemused that the guy’s fingerprints are not on the CIA database, but shrugs it off. Roger meets the moonshiner Bob Todd, who says he will teach him how to make the strongest whisky on earth.

The Smith family start to get cryptic, threatening messages that seem to indicate someone knows what they did this winter (see what I did there?) and Greg the news anchor announces that it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all. There’s something missing, almost as if … as if someone had killed Santa Claus! As they debate the absurdity of such an idea - that Steve could have killed not a mall Santa but the real deal - they dig up the body and find to their horror it is gone! Nothing left behind by a bullet-riddled Santa suit. Another note warns them they have been naughty, and Santa is not happy. Just then an elf appears and tells them Santa is not dead, but recovering in the North Pole, but that he’ll be back in good time - before the sun rises - to kill them all!

Roger, returned from his spell on the mountain, leads them all back there to hide, and they all head inside Bob Todd’s cabin just as the sun sinks below the horizon. Jeff arrives to join them, much to Stan’s anger, and then his anger turns to fear as Santa appears in the sky, leading his elf hordes to war against the Smiths. Bob Todd breaks out the weapons and they engage the enemy. Wave after wave of sleigh-riding elf attacks, and the Smiths pick them off with nothing worse on their side than an arrow shot into Stan’s arm, which he contemptuously removes. Then the ground shakes and the trees part, and a massive snowman approaches.

Bob soaks a barrel in his super-strong moonshine and kicks it down the hill, where it hits the snowman, goes through him, he explodes and ejects a barrage of presents. Opening one which falls into his hands, Bob is attacked by a baby version of the snowman, but it is easily put down. All through the attack Hayley asks her mother when Stan will accept Jeff as part of the family, and Francine advises her to give him time to get used to the idea. Hayley says it’s been four years. Santa lands and tries to get Jeff to defect, tempting him with the polar bear helmet from the movie The Golden Compass, which he had asked for in his letter to Santa at the opening of the episode. Everyone is shocked when he goes forward to accept, abandoning the Smiths, but once he has the helmet on he head-butts Santa. The helmet is spiked, so this really hurts, and Jeff legs it back to help bring Stan inside the cabin.

Hopelessly outnumbered, the family are doomed and Stan and Jeff stand back to back as they face defeat together, going out as a family. Luckily, time has run out on Santa, as he can only exist up to Christmas Day, and the sun is now up, so he has to retreat and pull his forces back to the North Pole, promising to return next year to finish the job.


Notes

While unlike The Simpsons episodes, there are no new characters introduced here, the relationship between Jeff and Stan does reach new lows, and then finally a high as Stan sees that Jeff is ready to die for Hayley’s sake, and resist the temptation to betray the family to Santa. Of course, this won’t hold: Stan will always hate Jeff. Apart from that one time when he thought he was bonding with Jeff but it was actually an alien, but that’s another story. Jeff also comes out of his shell for once, standing up to Stan and telling him he does not approve of how he treats his daughter, Jeff's wife. He tells Stan he did not come back for his sake, but for Hayley's.

I really like this episode because it blows apart the traditional norms of Christmas episodes on TV shows, animated or otherwise. Only Bottom has, to my knowledge, dared to turn Christmas upside down… oh, no: Blackadder did it too. Well, they’re the only ones I know of that do it. In a time of supposed love, fellowship and peace we get a story of murder, revenge, conflict and, um, bestiality high up in the mountains. Bob Todd, a clear caricature (or not) of a moonshinin’, gun-ownin’, government-hatin’ redneck living in a cabin, works well in the story, both giving the Smiths a place to make their last stand and providing them the heavy weaponry to do so, while Roger I have to say is pretty poorly underused here, though normally he’s the one that tends to hold these episodes together, so I guess he was due an off-day.

His story of searching for the perfect whisky is okay, but without the battle it wouldn't stand up on its own, so it’s lucky it’s used as a plot device to get the Smiths to their own kind of Waco stand-off. The irony of Stan, an agent of the CIA, standing shoulder to shoulder with the kind of man who would burn down all government buildings if he could, is not lost on me, though perhaps they missed a trick by not having Stan reveal who he worked for, and making it a kind of “all hostilities suspended/truce” thing between the two while they take on the greater enemy.

I don’t like the scene where the guy interrupts the shop keeper as he’s explaining to Roger about Bob Todd - he keeps asking annoying questions and I guess it’s meant to dilute the tension, slow down the drama and poke fun at the whole idea of the story, but to me it’s just irritating and I don’t see any reason for its being there. It’s kind of a small niggle though in a story that is otherwise very satisfying, the perfect antidote for those who are at this point up to here with Christmas and peace on Earth and all that guff.

The battle is of course modelled strongly on those from The Lord of the Rings, right up to the emergence of the massive snowman (who doesn’t last long, and should, I believe, have been given more of a chance to wreak havoc before being so easily disposed of) and the last-stand nature of the attack; I guess it’s meant to be Helm’s Deep or something. Very clever. The resolution is also good, almost a nod to vampire movies where the vampire realises too late that he has strayed into the morning sun and burns up. Santa kind of fizzles out as the sun rises, unable to maintain his coherence in the world after Christmas Day, perhaps also a wry comment on how quickly the feelings of brotherhood and love are forgotten once the presents have been opened and the dinner consumed.

American Dad’s Santa is somewhat similar to Futurama’s Robot Santa, a nasty dude to encounter when he’s mad. So, you know, you better watch out. I like the touch where he lights his cigar off Rudolph’s red nose (well, one of the reindeer; it’s never named as Rudolph but you would guess so) and also the idea of using another reindeer as a battering ram - the antlers bringing the word back to its origin, perhaps.

It’s also nice to see - though we’ve seen it before so it’s no real surprise - that the makers of American Dad aren’t afraid of showing violence or blood, even - especially - in a Christmas episode. If red and white are the traditional Christmas colours, there’s a hell of a lot of the former on display here! It’s violent; comically violent and yet, in a way, maybe not so much. Maybe this is a kind of catharsis, a chance for those who really have had enough of the Christmas season, carols, presents, snow and mistletoe (and overpriced toys to be bought) to really let loose on the festive period and let out a collective, animalistic roar of NO! ENOUGH!

Or, you know, maybe it’s just a really funny cartoon.
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Old 12-13-2020, 02:21 PM   #578 (permalink)
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American Dad is my favorite cartoon, I might watch the episode you posted. Plus I also think the FBI show on CBS is lame (and I haven't even watched it, just the previews). All of your journals are awesome also! So many and so well thought out that I get information overload.
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Old 12-13-2020, 04:16 PM   #579 (permalink)
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Hey thanks man. Appreciate the compliments.
Yeah that American Dad is definitely worth watching: one of the best Christmas cartoons I ever did see. I agree about FBI. That and its partner show FBI Most Wanted. They're good to pass an hour but I wouldn't cry if I missed one. What annoys me is I keep shouting at the TV when they have the bad guy cornered "Shoot him down like a dog!" and they seldom do. No matter what or how many crimes he's committed, they talk him into being arrested. Boo! We want blood and death!
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Old 12-15-2020, 06:18 AM   #580 (permalink)
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Title: “A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas”
Series: Family Guy
Season: Three
First aired: December 21 2001
Written by: Danny Smith

Look, I’m going to be honest here: the Family Guy Christmas specials, with one or two notable exceptions (and perhaps a few I have not seen; I stopped watching it some time ago) are nothing to write home about. Family Guy seems to subsist on the idea of usually poking - not always gentle - fun at traditions, and Christmas is of course ripe for such treatment. Now, that’s all well and good, and I have no issue with it - providing you do it well, or at least make it funny. Look at how American Dad (another show I have stopped watching) handled the idea of turning Christmas on its head, and yet managed to make it somehow not seem an insult to those who believe. Maybe. But over the years I have found Family Guy to be getting more and more offensive, seemingly just for the chance to knock races and religions, and less and less funny.

This, however, comes from the third season, before Seth lost it, and while it’s not great it’s at least worthy of inclusion in this feature, if for no other reason than we see Lois, the usually solid, workaday mother go totally apeshit and climb the Christmas tree, King Kong-like! But I get ahead of myself.


We open at the lighting ceremony of the Christmas tree in the Quahog town centre, where it becomes clear that the reason the senior citizens volunteered to decorate it was so they could arrange the fairy lights to spell out YOUNG PEOPLE SUCK! How they managed a) to climb up the massive tree in the first place and b) to arrange the lights without testing them I leave to you to puzzle out. Like much in this series, logic is not a welcome visitor and reason can go shove it. Lois is waxing lyrical about the Christmas season when, as usual, Peter arrives and wrecks everything. Literally, this time, as he ploughs into the manger and destroys it. Drunk as always, he dances around singing. Lois is not impressed. At home, she berates Peter for not yet getting a Christmas tree for the house, and he goes outside to chop down the one owned by his neighbour.

A visit to Joe and Bonnie’s - a place Peter didn’t want to go anyway, offering to ensure Lois doesn’t have to lie if she excuses herself by saying her mother has died, by offering to kill her mother - is not much better. Joe is drunk on eggnog and not feeling the Christmas spirit. Quagmire and Cleveland arrive to go wassailing and off they go, leaving the women behind. To his horror and intense annoyance, Joe tells Peter he must be the designated driver, so no beer for him. Stewie is intrigued by the news that Santa is watching him, and every child, and comes to the conclusion that the only way this is possible is if Santa has hidden cameras in the ornaments on the tree. That night he has a dream of being captured by him and set to work as one of his elves. Waking, he fears he is now indeed under surveillance, and may be dealing with someone who could be his match.

Peter is aghast the next morning to realise that he has mistakenly dropped off ALL of the presents to the charity, when Lois told him only one was to go, and the rest were the actual presents for the family. He really has no excuse for this, as he was the only one not drunk last night, but then, he does labour constantly under the crippling handicap of being dumber than a bag of rocks. Luckily for him, Lois takes his stupidity as an act of kindness, however unintentional, and goes to buy more presents. At home, Brian goes to check the turkey, not noticing an ember that jumps from the fire and when he comes back in the place is on fire! Stewie meets Santa in the mall, and makes a deal with him that if he brings him some plutonium for Christmas he will be a good boy.

Returning home, Lois sees the mess but takes it surprisingly well, considering the house is all but burned down. Peter, however, seeing his beloved couch and television destroyed, is less sanguine. Clearly, though, this has all been coming to a head in the mother of the family, as, as she attempts to cheer everyone up and make out things are not as bad as they seem, she finally explodes when she is told there are no kitchen towels with which to clean up the mess. She goes on a rampage, and Peter and the family, believing the Christmas pageant, in which Stewie was to star, and to which she had been looking forward, might bring her to her senses, head there. At this point, I should add, she’s scaled the Christmas tree, as I spoilered at the beginning. Yeah. They end up taking her down with a trank dart, and she drools her way through Christmas.

Notes: There’s a pretty good parody of one of those annoying Christmas specials that air on US TV, this one starring KISS, of all people. Ridiculous, but it does illustrate rather well the kind of crap you poor Americans have to watch during the festive season, and how any star or has-been will agree to be in a Christmas show to boost their profile, ego, ratings or all three. Stewie’s battle of wits with Santa is handled reasonably well, and Peter’s boorishness is not lessened for the holiday season. I do question though why, when he’s chasing the old woman through the mall in pursuit of the last pair of barettes, and they’re on the escalator, she a few steps ahead of him (and older) he doesn’t just run up and grab them? But instead he stands there as the staircase moves slowly on, as if he can’t or hasn’t thought of walking, or is too lazy. It’s probably intentional, to show how thick he is, but it’s a little unbelievable. Still, that’s Family Guy for you.

It’s a little hard on Lois. She’s the one arranging everything, she’s the one holding it together, then when she finally loses it she ends up being a drooling idiot in the corner, missing Christmas. But Seth has never been one to care much about female characters - look how Meg is consistently - yeah, you really can’t call it anything else - consistently abused by, well, the whole family, but mostly by Peter. Chris as usual may as well not be there for all the impact he makes, and this pretty much applies to Meg too, though this is par for the course: apart from the odd Meg-centric episode, the female Griffin child is usually conspicuous by her absence, or just there to hang bad taste/abuse jokes on. Peter as usual is the centre of things, and does his usual moronic and ignorant job, while Stewie’s encounter with Santa Claus (culminating in his actually getting plutonium for Christmas, a nice touch) is okay but doesn’t really add much to the story.

The story itself is quite thin. Basically we watch the often sad breakdown of the mother of the family, while at the end she’s ignored as the family laughs at the television and enjoys their Christmas. Quite how the house got repaired on Christmas Day is not established, but again, Seth has his own world where logic and reality don’t really tend to make many house calls, and where things just happen because shut your yap that’s why. As a Christmas episode it does at least break the traditions of Christmas specials by attempting, in a rather ham-fisted way and in a reasonable speech given by Stewie at the end as Jesus, to explain why people behave - or should behave - better at Christmas, but as usual Seth can’t resist poking his finger in the eye of Christianity by mocking the Virgin Mary. I’m not a believer, but even I think this is in poor taste, especially at Christmas.

Oh, and why is it that when Peter slaps in his new tape of KISS save Santa it starts at the end? Any reason for that? All right! All right! I’m going! Just thought I’d ask; no need to set the wild reindeer on me. Sheesh!
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