I have had a wonderful year writing what feels like a million and one enthusiastic posts about pop culture and as I permit myself to relax a little (from blogging at least) while I race around the east coast of Australia visiting family for Christmas, I want to thank you for reading my blog and becoming pop culture partners-in-crime with me, and I hope you have the most wonderful Christmas possible spent with the people you love.
And that, of course, you find some time to read, watch, or listen to something special.
(After all, you can’t eat all day can you? Umm … )
* And as a festive treat, I hope you enjoy this small animated treat from the hilarious Simon’s Cat, “Santa Claws” …
Eureka is quirky to its core, which is why I love it, and this episode kept the quirk factor as high as it could go, while still managing to be funny and touching in equal measure.
It’s a little unclear just when the events in “O Little Town” take place. They seem to exist in some odd place off the main time line of the show, and quite frankly may not have happened at all as we’re never entirely sure if Sheriff Carter is entertaining the kids with a far-fetched story (which really in Eureka’s delightful idiosyncratic universe isn’t so far-fetched after all) or relating an actual series of events. Whatever the time period, and whether it really happened or not is immaterial because this is one imaginative, delightful episode.
It features a Secret Santa who seems to know uncannily what each person wants for Christmas – Zoe getting an LP of The Clash’s London calling which she loves; while Alison, who loves Christmas with a passion (thanks to a spartan upbringing by scientist parents) gets pink fluffy bunny slippers like she had as a child – the return of Taggart, who while possessing the most overdone Aussie accent I have heard since The Simpsons Australian episode is over the top, engaging and full of life. He sparks up the show as he pursues his latest madcap quest – to track down the real Santa Claus who he convinced exists since he has a scrap of fireproof red cloth that was ripped off the suit of a man he saw near his Christmas tree as a child. He equips himself for his festive hunt with holographic reindeer, his own powerful sleigh (that is instrumental in saving the day as he and Carter go aloft to do what needs to be done to once again save Eureka), and a miniaturising ray that he believes explains how Santa can carry all those presents for all the kids in the world.
It’s a thread that runs throughout as the miniaturising technology places Eureka in all sorts of peril, and there are hints throughout that a mysterious scientist who no one seems to have heard of may, quite possibly, be the elusive St Nick. Taggart is convinced he is, and confronts him at the end but all “Santa Claus” does is wink and smile and walk off. You’re left wondering and that’s precisely how it should be, with the magic unexplained, and the mystery tantalisingly out of reach.
“O Little Town” does have its fair share of schmaltzy touching moments, and it’s been criticised for that, but I think the critics miss the point. Schmaltz is precisely what you should have in episodes like this. But more to the point, it needs to be anchored to impactful moments for the characters, and its here that the episode really excels. When Jo speaks to Zoe, with tears in her eyes, of her deep abiding love of Christmas (after putting on a “bah, humbug” act throughout) because she misses her brothers who are overseas serving in the armed forces, it reveals more of who she is, and is truly meaningful. Or when Alison speaks about her rational parents treatment of Christmas as just another mark on the calendar, she says she loves them and they’re good people, but that they inadvertently robbed of something magical growing up. Or Zoe mentioning to Jo that she’s glad they’re stuck in Eureka (thanks to the malfunctioning EM shield over the town) because she gets to spend the holidays with the people she truly considers family.
So any of the “corny” moments, if you want to call them, and frankly I think it misses the point if you do, speak directly to who these people are, what matters to them, and why Christmas, and saving it (which is what needs to be done) is so important to them. Yes it is schmaltzy but schmaltzy with purpose and its balanced out anyway by the show’s trademark wit and quirky flights of imagination. It is exactly what you would want a stand alone Christmas episode to be, and it made me cry, laugh and feel warm and fuzzy inside, and that is, my friends, exactly what a festive episode should do.
It is no secret that I love Christmas (unless you have been living under a rock in a small village on the windswept edges of Mongolia in which case you are (a) very odd, and yet quirky, and (b) forgiven for missing that) and naturally being a pop culture junkie, I seek out every TV show and piece of music that feeds this festive obsession.
I know many TV shows are derided for featuring twee and corny Christmas episodes (mostly by elves on internet forums with massive chips on their very small, effeminate shoulders), but many of them actually come up with some of their most creative, clever and funny shows of their season, since they are given the freedom to do pretty much what they want.
So here are the Christmas episodes of my some of my favourite shows (which naturally will be shown in Australia sometime around May next year, with no regard for their sparkling seasonal content):
The Dr Who Christmas episode is a staple of British TV and it sounds like this episode is going to be right up there with the best of them. With a more than passing nod to C. S Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the story takes place during the dark days of World War 2 when a war wear woman, Madge Arwell, flees the death and destruction of The Blitz in London with her two children to a house in Dorset. There, the Doctor, who she mysteriously met two years before, is waiting for her, and sensing they need some magic in their lives, takes them on a fantastical journey through, yes you guessed it, a wardrobe in one of the rooms.
It promises to be every bit as magical as the other six episodes have been, and I can only hope the ABC here in Australia is able to do as they have done in previous years,and beam the episode into our homes in time for us to see this on or near Christmas Day. Fingers crossed!
Here’s an fun promo clip by Matt Smith to get you in the mood.
A prequel was released online on December 6 for the episode and it shows the doctor holding a red button in a space ship desperately calling for Amy Pond to come in the TARDIS and save him. He recalls though that Amy isn’t going to be able to help him as she is long gone. So he releases the button, and the ship explodes moments after he wishes Amy a Merry Christmas. It’s actually quite touching and bittersweet, and bodes well for the full episode to come.
To my great and enduring delight, Eureka has crafted what looks to be another standout Cristmas episode. The entire episode has been rendered in a number of different animation styles, packed full of the trademark wit and idiosyncrasy that has made this show so beloved by so many (although not enough for syfy, the channel it appears on, who declined to keep it on the air.)
So how do these usually flesh and blood characters end up as claymation figures, CGI and even South Park-esque doppelgängers? It’s all thanks to a super photon generator which as we all know can’t just be left lying around the house, and it takes all the wit and ingenuity of Sheriff Carter (Colin Ferguson – check him out talking about the episode here) and the Eureka gang to fix the mess this device generates.
What’s most impressive is that the producers of this fine series decided to go right outside the creative box, and explode out of the other side of the envelope (yep mixed metaphors – got that – thank you) with colour, fun and a great story to boot! But I’d expect nothing less from such creative minds who have granted fans of great writing, characterisation, and style the best show to come along in years.
This preview looks wonderful, and I can’t wait to watch it.
Community, beloved for it’s off the wall characters, and even quirkier plots, is going all Glee this Christmas!
When Greendale’s very own Glee isn’t available to perform at short notice, tour favourite group of study buddies, and unlikely friends are seconded to fill in for them, driven to perfection by the college’s very own Mr Shue-like glee club director, who’s possibly a few notes short of symphony in the sanity department, played by Saturday Night Live’s, Taran Killam. All the songs are supposed to be originals and I can’t imagine this not being poptacular!
Here Joel McHale (Jeff) talks about the episode:
Oh, and in news to thrill the heart of any fan of this greatly underrated comedy which has to be the funniest, wittiest sitcom on TV at the moment, Community was voted the Fan Favourite by TV Guide readers and made the covers…yes three different ones! It’s brilliant publicity for a show that deserves to be a lot of love, and be watched by millions more than it is!
This year Glee wanted to invoke old-time 70s Christmas TV specials (the fact this time period is now considered ‘old-time’ disturbs in ways I can’t even articulate adequately) by having the New Directions gang appear on a TV special within the episode. It will evoke the Star Wars and Judy Garland holiday specials which explains, at least, why Chris Golfer (who plays Kurt) is hugging the most famnous Wookie of all.
The episode, which will feature about 6 holiday songs, has scenes showing Kurt and Blaine exchanging gifts in the hallway (what looks like jewellery – what could it be?!), Sue helping out a homeless shelter showing she’s not a total grinch, and Rachel and Finn in the front of the lockers possibly giving gifts. Whatever happens the choir room is full of tinsel and a massive beautifully decorated tree and everything seems set for an “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” indeed!
One can only hope Channel 10 gets in the festive spirit and shows this before Christmas…
Matthew Morrison, who directed the episode speaks on Jimmy Kimmel Live about directing his costars, which had some funny moments:
Here’s an interview with some of the cast on the special:
This looks, from the trailer, to be one of the classic ‘something-inexplicably-weird-has-happened-and we-have-to-sort it out-really-quickly episodes with a seasonal twist. The basic story pivots around Eddie McClintock’s Pete Latimer being hit on a head by an artifact while stacking them out in the titular warehouse, and waking up to find himself in an alternate reality where he doesn’t work at the warehouse, and McPherson, a very dead bad guy, and ex-Warehouse 13 agent, is very much alive. The episode also involves the usual cast, who all must be convinced in one way or another that they are living the completely wrong lives. As usual there’s lot of laughs to go along with the drama, and this has all the appearances of a great addition to the Warehouse 13 canon.
I am standing on a crowded train platform in inner west Sydney, sweat slowly trickling down my back, and yet thanks to this perfect Christmas album, I feel like I am walking the snow covered streets of Christmasville (I am sure there is such a place) with chestnuts roasting nearby and holly wreaths on every day.
It started feeling like that from almost the first note of It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas when the silky smooth voice of Mr Buble, which radiates all the happy warmth you could possibly want, slid with festive ease and grace into my morning commute-weary ears. It continued on with every track following, with even Jingle Bells and All I Want For Christmas is You (yes Mariah’s very own!) possessing a quiet joy-inducing festive air.
Naturally the album contains Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas which is, I would argue the heart and soul of any festive collection. I know the lyrics are melacholic to a degree, which makes sense given the song’s original context, but somehow Michael, more than anyone I know, strikes that perfect balance between wistful longing and here-and-now contentment, which suits the song perfectly.
He is savvy enough to then follow with the peppy fun of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) which is jaunty and upbeat but suffused with a sadness that his beloved may not come home even with all his pleading. He once again strikes a delicate balance between hope and resignation. You would think it would be a low emotional point in the album, but he sings it in such a way that the optimism somehow triumphs over the harsh reality his love likely won’t find her way to his side for Christmas.
And that is what makes or breaks a Christmas album for me. Call it the ‘warm and fuzzy’ factor if you will, but a collection of seasonal tunes must radiate the sense that, regardless of the harsh realities screaming in your beleaguered face, that this Christmas will be exactly like the perfect postcard version you want to believe is possible.
I am fortunate that I have a warm, caring family who makes Christmas a joyful time of reunion, as does my partner, so I am not desperately needing a Christmas album to conjure up a candy cane and tinsel saturated reality that my own life simply can’t manage. Even so, life is never perfect for anyone, including me, and an album as perfectly rich and warm as Mr Buble’s makes the frantic, and the dull, just that little bit more magical than they would otherwise be.
And that is why I urge you to get this album, load it into whatever listening device floats your 21st century portable music boat, and drift away into a world where I’ll Be Home For Christmas, sung with a sweet expectation that all will be well this Christmas, will make even sardine-can like sweating on a Cityrail train seem joyful and trascendant.