Featured

Holiday Hangover

Anybody else got ’em? The old “post holiday blues” are upon us again, friends.

I get them every year. The last few months has had so much going on that to hit January and be hit with all of this nothing can come as a bit of a letdown. No more parties to attend, family focused or otherwise. No more brightly colored lights all around the neighborhood. Well, except for that one neighbor’s house who leaves them up year round and doesn’t think to turn them off until February. You know the one.

No mound of presents to look forward to giving or receiving. No more singing old familiar carols in public. At least, not without getting some really weird looks, anyway. Also, no more huge feast type meals which admittedly is good for the waistline, but it makes normal day to day food seem extra boring. Especially if you are dieting.

When I was a child, I had a record from the Sesame Street television show all about Christmas. The only thing I really remember about it is a song sung by Gordon, Bob, and probably a few others, but those are the voices I remember. The lyrics were as follows:

“Keep Christmas with you all through the year,
When Christmas time is over save some Christmas cheer,
These precious moments, hold them very dear,
And keep Christmas with you all through the year.”

Sappy, I know, but through the magic of Christmas it becomes sentimental and charming.

Okay, so the question is, how do you do that? How are you supposed to keep Christmas all the year long? Besides keeping love in your heart for your fellow man, celebrating the life and lessons of Christ, and treating everyone with love, honor, dignity and respect, I mean.

Look, just because the calendar has changed over and the decorations have all been put away, it doesn’t mean you have to stop. If you are committed enough, and don’t mind keeping things a little bit on the down-low, you can keep Christmas going.

First of all, nobody can actually stop you from listening to Christmas music. If you want to keep bumpin’ jingle jams in your car or around the house, that’s your own business. Nobody has to know that your windows are up, the A/C is on and you’re hearing those sleigh bells jingling, ring ting tingling too on May 4th.

Plus, there’s like, literally hours of Christmas stuff on YouTube and the streaming services. If you want to watch Rudolph, Buddy the Elf , or that Hershey Kisses commercial while in bed waiting to drift off, that’s cool. You do you.

Here’s another idea. A lot of touristy places have a year round Christmas shop. Convince your family that it’d be a silly bit of fun to go to the Christmas shop in July. And if you find some new d├ęcor you just have to have, well, it never hurts to be prepared, does it?

Let’s face facts. The next few months are going to be cold, grey, and miserable. If you need to hold on to the holiday season a little longer for your state of mental health then that is what you should do. Also, if Christmas makes you happy and you need that little Christmassy pick me up on and off during the rest of the year, go for it. Don’t let anybody poop on your parade. A lot of people will think you’re a little kooky if they find out you’re vibing on Christmas all year round, but so what? If they can’t be happy that you are happy then they are probably in line for a big ol’ lump of coal next Dec. 24th.

Fellow Christmas enthusiasts, keep on being you and doing what you do. Keep Christmas with you, all through the year. Even if it means leaving your lights up all year round. Unless you’re just being lazy, then come on dude, step it up.

Oh yeah, and try to do all that peace on Earth and goodwill toward mankind stuff too. That definitely shouldn’t stop at Christmas time.

Take care, y’all. See you next week for more MonDAVEs.

Featured

A Very MonDAVEs Christmas (Part Two)

For the next two weeks, we’ll be talking about the wonderful world of Christmas TV specials. From the tried and true classics to some lesser known treasures to the truly oddball offerings, I will bring you gifts of glad tidings and good news that can only come from a mix of Santa’s workshop, a lowly manger, and Madison Avenue.

This week, well, it’s just a hodge-podge of stuff. Read on and join me in the merriment! Is that a word? Merriment? Pretty sure it is. Anyway, let’s kick this edition off with…

The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show (2019)

This show is a salute to the Christmas specials of years gone by, while still managing to actually be one. Back in the day all the big stars had Christmas specials. You name the star, they either hosted their own special or were guests on someone else’s. Some of the more well remembered shows starred Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Andy Williams but even “newcomers” like The Carpenters and even Donny and Marie got in on the action. These shows became staples of the season and were watched by pretty much everyone.

One of the tropes used in these specials was that of the family Christmas party. The show’s star would be throwing a shindig and their famous friends would show up for a little bit of inoffensive comedy and some songs around the conveniently placed piano in the living room. The Hollywood Christmas magic was always in full swing.

This is the premise of Kacey’s show as well, but it takes the extra steps to show the “studio” and live audiences, as well as a few well staged behind the scenes moments. It’s mostly a nostalgic send up, but there are a few nice moments to be found. My recommendation would be to start here, then go to YouTube and look up some of the old specials this was based on to get the full effect.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)

One for the Marvel fans among us. If you have followed the Guardians movies, you have an idea of what to expect. There are lots of laughs, and a little bit of action (as well as some cool Christmas tunes) as Drax and Mantis go to Earth in order to pick up the ultimate birthday present for Peter Quill, who is a melancholy sort around the holidays since, according to a story told to us by Kraglin, Yondu ruined Christmas for Peter when he was a boy. I just realized that people who have never seen these movies are probably totally confused by now. Sorry, but it’s not getting better.

When the pair get to Earth they do what any right thinking friend would do and kidnap Peter’s childhood hero, Kevin Bacon. Will Peter enjoy his gift? Will Kevin Bacon bring the Christmas Spirit to the citizens of Knowhere (where the Guardians are currently stationed) and correct their incorrect interpretation of the holiday? Can anybody save Christmas for Peter? Do you really wonder about how any of this stuff will turn out?

The only real question in all of this is how much of this stuff ties in to Volume 3 of the Guardians movies coming next year. We do get to meet at least one (semi) new character here, and this show does seem like a good jumping off point. Also, one of my favorite bands, the Old 97’s, are in it as a band of aliens trying to write a Christmas song in one of the funniest scenes. Fans of the series should check it out, then check out the Old 97’s. Merry Christmas!

Olive The Other Reindeer (1999)

So, you get the joke name, right? That’s kind of all you need to know. This is a family friendly cartoon (based on a children’s book) with a silly sense of humor, a nice little message, and plenty of heart.

The story follows a sweet little dog named Olive who discovers that Santa may have to cancel his annual run since one of his reindeer is down with an injury. The local news reports that he may be willing to try the run with all of the other reindeer. Well, the doggie mishears this as “Olive, the other reindeer” and figures it’s up to her to save Christmas. Along the way she crosses paths with a two bit con artist penguin named Martini (what else?), and a disgruntled postman who is out to make sure Christmas doesn’t happen.

Okay, so the jokes are mostly groan inducing, but it’s a cute show and I like it. Is it a must see every year? Probably not but it’s certainly worth a viewing as you’re getting ready for the big day.

The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas (1973)

I remember this one from its many airings when I was a kid. After rewatching it this week I have a new take on it. Can’t talk about this one without spoiling the story, so if you are so inclined go stream it now. I’ll wait. Okay, you good? Let’s talk about it.

The titular bear is Ted E. Bear who lives in Bear City and works at the Honey factory. It is almost time for the annual hibernation, but Ted has heard stories of something called Christmas and is obsessed with trying to find it. He has tried to stay awake and look for it in the past but failed. This year he is determined to stay up and find Christmas, no matter what. His friends all think he’s nuts and are worried for his safety, if not his sanity. They all try to talk him out of it, but a bear’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.

So Ted leaves Bear City, mistakenly thinking Christmas is a place, and goes through the forest until he arrives in what I can only assume is supposed to be New York. He sees glimpses of lights and songs, and toys in the display window of a department store. He is so infatuated he goes inside said store, where a little girl and her sister see him through the window and wave at the cute little bear. Oh yeah, he’s super short for a bear too.

Anyway, once the store closes, he wanders the streets looking for Christmas, and bumps into Santa Claus, who tries to explain that Christmas is a feeling not a place. Yet Ted is fairly dim, so Santa gives him an address where he can find Christmas. At first Ted thinks it’s the wrong address, and decides to just rest his eyes for a moment under the sparsely decorated tree in the room. When he wakes up the next morning, Ted finds himself in the apartment of the previously mentioned little girl. She is overjoyed, stating that she knew Santa would bring the little bear she saw in the window. She gives Ted a big hug, and he finally understands the love that makes Christmas what it is. That night he goes to sleep, feeling loved, next to the girl, and the show ends on a sweet, wholesome scene.

Or does it?

I mean, that’s the end, but what happens next? Does Ted just live there now? Does he become an actual teddy bear and lose his entire life and identity? And what of Bear City? Do they never get to experience the joy of Christmas? Do his friends just think he left one night and died horribly out in the wilderness? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.

This is either a classic tale of the love and joy of Christmas, or a harrowing “Twilight Zone” wake up in Hell/be careful what you wish for type morality play. I will leave it to you to decide.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

Here’s a short but sweet retelling of the Dickens classic, starring Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, Goofy as Jacob Marley, Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost OF Christmas Past, and Scrooge McDuck as himself. No, sorry, he stars as Ebeneezer Scrooge, because of course he does.

With a running time of 26 minutes, this adaption breezes through the story a little too quickly but gets away with it because any adult viewers will be familiar with the story, and youngsters won’t have time for their attention to wane. While Scrooge McDuck makes a mighty fine Scrooge (as he should) and the main characters are all fun to watch, the real fun is spotting all the background characters in the crowd scenes and figuring out which movies they were from.

This is standard Disney fare for the time, and succeeds in telling the story in a way that can appeal to young and old alike. Die hard Disney fans should love this one, but there’s plenty here to like for the rest of us too.

Alright, thanks for reading this stuff. As mentioned last week, I’d love for you to track down these shows and give them a view. Hopefully it will add to your enjoyment of the Holiday. Come back next week when I’ll talk about some stone cold classics-including my favorite Christmas special ever made. See you then!

Featured

A Very MonDAVEs Christmas Part One

For the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about the wonderful world of Christmas TV specials. From the tried and true classics to some lesser known treasures to the truly oddball offerings, I will bring you gifts of glad tidings and good news that can only come from a mix of Santa’s workshop, a lowly manger, and Madison Avenue.

This week, we will be looking at TV Christmas specials based on comic strips.

Comics in Newspapers aren’t really a thing anymore, mostly because newspapers aren’t really a thing anymore, but for years both the papers and the comic strips were huge. People turned to the “funny pages” daily to see what their favorite characters were up to. Sometimes the strips had continuous story lines, but mostly not. Many had repeating gags, and an overly formulaic pattern. Some were one panel, sometimes three-and were even longer on Sundays! Some strips were bizarre, and truly funny, others were barely humorous but we read them all and these characters felt like friends. Many newspapers no longer carry comics, or if they do they feature very few. However the artform lives on online.

It’s only logical, then, that film studios would want to make these features into full fledged animated cartoons to try and repeat the successes in another medium. This also had the advantage of gaining larger exposure for some characters that appeared only regionally, or were not carried by as many papers as other strips. The earliest example I am aware of was a series of cartoons from the 1940’s starring Nancy, but it would not surprise me to learn of an earlier attempt. Anyway, this practice has been going on for years, to varying degrees of success.

When it comes to Christmas specials, ground zero would have to be 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which was a gigantic hit that many popular strips have been trying to achieve yet never quite getting there. I’ve been watching a few of these shows this week in preperation for the blog. Let’s talk about some them.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Well, there’s not much to say about this special that has not already been said, but when has that ever stopped me?

Back in 1965, somebody got the idea to adapt Charles M. Schultz’s adorable “Peanuts” gang to the television screen, and they actually let Schultz have a say in the proceedings. Every decision made seemed to be the wrong one, on paper anyway. These weirdos made a television special about kids that actually had kids doing the voices-not professional adult voice artists. They used groovy piano jazz as the soundtrack. There was a strong focus on the religious aspect of the holiday and practically nothing involving Santa. It should have been a disaster.

Yet that Christmas magic was definitely at work because it all worked beautifully, and has become the Gold Standard by which all other cartoon specials are measured. Even non religious types love it, as well as anyone who has ever pictured themselves as a Charlie Brown type-which is everybody. This is a stone cold classic, and if you don’t have a place in your heart for this one, you need help because you are dead inside.

Bill n’ Opus: A Wish For Wings That Work (1991)

This is the first, and to date only, screen adaptation of characters from Berke Breathed’s “Bloom County” and “Outland” strips (although a new series is in development for Fox). Bloom County was my favorite strip at the time, still is actually, because it was topical, goofy, and just plain bizarre, but it also had a tender heart underneath all that craziness. This special does its best to bring the whole loopy experience to the screen.

Okay, how do I summarize this? Opus the penguin is not happy with his lot in life as a flightless waterfowl. His biggest wish is for a pair of penguin wings that actually work. He is made fun of by a trio of ducks that are strongly reminiscent of the Three Stooges, and attends a therapy group with a chicken who thinks she’s a 747 and a kiwi who’s wife left him for an albatross. All along he is followed by his friend Bill The Cat (the anti-Garfield) who basically bungles everything up and barfs hairballs a lot. After a failed attempt at flight involving a corset and balloons, Opus decides his only recourse is to write a letter to Santa. It’s all up to the big guy from then on.

So, does this special succeed? Well, yes and no. If you are a fan, there’s enough here to keep you happy, although I think the filmmakers tried to include too much content into a short space. The jokes don’t quite land the way they ought to, and the heart so inherent in the story doesn’t transfer well to the final product. If you are new to Breathed’s world this will probably confuse more than delight. Still, if this kind of anarchic humor is your cup of tea, it’s worth a look. Also, there’s a cross-dressing cockroach, so there’s that.

A Garfield Christmas Special (1987)

If Peanuts was the most popular comic strip in America, Garfield was a close second. He was, and remans, America’s favorite fat cat who hates Mondays, loves lasagna, and tolerates those around him as he simultaneously disdains and loves them. He’s just like you and me-only in cat form. Formulaic? Sure, but in the 80’s, Garfield was everywhere and his TV specials (pre Saturday morning series) were beloved.

In this special, Garfield and his house mate Odie the dog spend Christmas with owner Jon’s family on the farm. Garfield is unhappy about it and being a total grump, while the others are annoyingly excited. The extended family is, of course, eccentric as they can be and yet it is through them that Garfield has that magic moment where he embraces the whole family and the spirit of Christmas.

This is simple stuff, but it actually does have a few decent jokes in it. The voice work is also top notch with Lorenzo Music as Garfield and David L. Lander as Jon’s brother Doc Boy (which I guess is a “Waltons” joke?). This is a nice bit of nostalgia that your kids can enjoy too. Give it a go.

B.C.: A Special Christmas (1981)

From the “WHAT?” file, comes this addition which I have just so many mixed feelings about.

For those who may not be familiar, the strip B.C. was not about British Columbia, but cavemen. You know, our ancestors who existed several millennia before the birth of Christ (even if you believe in a “young Earth” the timeline is still way off), and yet here we are with a Christmas special. So what gives? Spoilers ahead for a 40+ year old cartoon, I guess.

The storyline is as follows. Caveman Thor wakes up noticing that the morning star is a few degrees off that day, and goes cave to cave among his village looking for his calendar (which he invented) that has been loaned out to a neighbor. Once he finds it in Peter’s cave, we learn that it is Dec. 24th. After being kissed on the cheek by an attractive cave girl, he somehow gets the idea to make others feel good by conning them. I know. Stay with me. So he and his pal Wiley make up a myth about a man in a red suit who leaves presents on what they have decided to call Christmas Eve. It is written on the ancient slab that they “found and translated” (wrote) that all should carry on this tradition. The next step is, of course, to dupe their friends into buying the gifts from them the next morning, and making a quick buck.

During the night, however, the real Santa shows up to ruin their plans and bring real, awesome, actual Christmas to all. Oh, and he also almost gets eaten by true troglodyte Grog, but no one ever said this Santa gig was going to be easy. Anyway, after all this happens, Peter goes to bed Christmas night but is awakened by the sounds of travelers and sees some dudes on camels going past the cave, as he rushes out to see the star brightly shining in the East. End of show.

This is just a mess y’all. I mean, I grew up with the comic strip so this is high on the nostalgia scale for me. You also have to smile that the two main characters are played by legendary comedy team Bob and Ray. It’s just that the timeline is so messed up. I don’t mind there being a religious aspect to any Christmas themed show, but how awkward can you get? Speaking of awkward, the female characters are named “the fat broad” and “the cute chick” because sexism was alive and well back in the day. Those characters have since been renamed “Jane” and “Grace” respectively, but they still have the cringe names here. Otherwise, the quality of the animation and voice work is really good. So this one is a mixed bag at beat, worth a look as a curiosity or if you just really like cavemen.

Ziggy’s Gift (1982)

Remember Ziggy? Man, in the early 80’s he was like a pop culture icon. While the strip is still produced, you just don’t see ol’ Ziggy around much these days. For those who may not be familiar, Ziggy is a short, bald man with a rather large round nose, who lives in an apartment with his pets, works in some sort of office building, and never wears pants. His one panel comic strip mostly features him dealing with the inconveniences of life. He is a loveable loser who mostly manages to stay positive while everything around him goes wrong. He has been featured on many a poster/coffee mug/ t-shirt with a funny play on words or super positive heartfelt message. Which is how you live your life, I suppose, when you don’t own pants.

Anyway, Ziggy seems like an unlikely fit for a Christmas special but it actually works very well. Long story short: Ziggy becomes a street corner Santa, unknowingly working for a business that is defrauding the charities they claim to be working for and keeping all the dough for themselves. Ziggy, along with his loyal dog Fuzz, must contend with not only his crooked boss, but also other crooked Santas, a pickpocket who constantly follows him around, and a suspicious cop. Can Ziggy’s kindness and good nature save him from arrest? Will the Spirit of Christmas prevail? Will he freeze his little tucchus off in the snow? Probably.

This one is a little bit odd, because it actually deals with some shady goings on in a way that isn’t too broad or cartoonish. There is a bit of a harsh look to some of the city scenes and night time action, bringing an unexpected touch of realism. This just goes to set Ziggy’s inherent goodness off from the rest, and bring focus to the message. The animation is truly the best of the bunch, and the show won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. If you’re looking for a surprisingly sweet tale that isn’t too saccharine, you could do worse than to check out this underrated gem.

Okay, that’s the round up for this week. All of these features are available either on streaming services or YouTube, and some have a physical release as well. Check out the programs that appeal to you and I’ll be back next week with more fun stuff.