Thursday, December 23, 2010

Let Nothing You Dismay

Hello everyone from my holidays! I'm desperately trying to get some actual holidaying in this festive season, but it's always shameful to neglect one's blog for too long, and so I thought I would update with something that, in the spirit of the season, is both Christmassy and lazy.

Those of you read my Age column last weekend will be aware that it was on the subject of Christmas TV (no, it's not online yet and no I don't know when it will be). I contend that television is one of the essential parts of the Christmas season, lending a flavour and a mood to the holidays that really bring them alive. If you're anything like me you'll have many fond memories of sitting down in front of the Christmas favourites - specials, movies, whatever - in the lead-up to the big day. It's not Christmas without Christmas TV, and I therefore here present you with my Christmas message, in the form of my...



In this reporter's opinion the king of Christmas movies - yes, even better than Die Hard. Beautifully capturing the insanity both of Christmas and childhood, and the innocent materialism of youth.


A close contender for the title claimed by A Christmas Story, probably only losing because it falls into the classic "adults don't believe in Santa Claus even though he's real" trap of complete illogic that most Santa movies do. But still the best Sante/Elf movie ever, one of the best fish-out-of-water movies ever, a prime showcase for Will Ferrell's demented man-child bit, and it has Zooey Deschanel. ZOOEY DESCHANEL.


One of my fondest of childhood memories, and sadly one they don't seem to play anymore these days. The old Rankin Bass stop-motion classics were a staple of Christmas viewing in my youth - thank God for DVDs allowing me to keep the memory alive. This is the one with the Snow Miser and Heat Miser songs, and - wondrously - one of the very, very few movies or specials NOT to fall into the illogical trap mentioned above with Elf - in this one the grown-ups believe in Santa Claus, as well they should - because if Santa was real, parents would have to wonder where the presents were coming from...


Yes, another from Rankin Bass, and another from the days when childhood dreams were narrated by Fred Astaire. In this one, Mickey Rooney stars in the origin story of Santa Claus. As a kid I was absoutely enchanted by the idea of learning Santa's secret history. It humanised him somehow. I'll stop with the Rankin Bass now, but it's also worth checking out Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.


There have been approximately 7 billion versions of A Christmas Carol produced over the years, but as is true with pretty much everything in life, the best version is with the Muppets. Another indisputable fact about life is that everything is better with Michael Caine, so this is kind of like the perfect storm.


Frank Spencer's Christmas holds a very special place in my heart for a particular reason: when I was a kid we used to have Psycho on VHS, taped off the TV, and at the end of it a Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em Christmas special was recorded. So if you watched Psycho, it would cut directly from the terrifying psychotic smirk of Norman Bates in his cell, to Frank Spencer in green tights playing the chief pixie in a department store. Unfortunately, I couldn't find that particular scene - which was from the 1975 special (there were three specials in 74, 75 and 78). But I found a really funny one from a different special - the Some Mothers specials were classics of the Britcom Christmas genre.


Futurama has had two marvellous Christmas specials too, revolving around Evil Robot Santa, which is, I think you'll agree, an unbelievably perfect conceptual confluence, and also he's voiced by John Goodman.


Of course I am in desperate, near-sexual love with just about everything the Simpsons has done, and although their Halloween eps overshadow their Christmas ones, they still do a good Christmas. Take your pick of the Christmas specials, but Christmas is a time for nostalgia, and Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire is not only 21 years old (!), and the first Simpsons Christmas ep, it's also the very first full-length Simpsons episode of all!


Oh this is so bad. I mean, really, it's so incredibly bad. Did you watch this as a kid? Wasn't it bad? It's so great how bad it is.

And of course...


Blackadder reigns supreme. That is all.

What are your old Christmas favourites?

Merry Christmas best beloveds.


Tamz said...

You forgot the Mr Bean Christmas classic with the magnet baby Jesus! :O

Unknown said...

Nice nostalgia there Ben! We always watched Jesus Christ Superstar (70's hippy version naturally), Die Hard (first one) and the Life of Brian. All great Christmas stories.

Gail said...

Just watched Gremlins the other night too. I'd forgotten that was a Christmas movie. Gotta love the microwave scene and little green guys singing "Hi Ho Hi Ho" :)

Mike said...

Great list! The only one I would have added was Goodies Earthanasia episode.

Terry Wright said...


Merry Xmas Ben.

I hope you have a great 2011.

Keep up the great work.

jessrs said...

I managed to buy the Rankin Bass collection (includes Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in addition to the two you mention) on DVD a couple of years ago, prolly from Amazon (cop that Gerry Harvey). I'm not going to let any poor Christmas programming decisions get me down... and I don't even have to get out of bed before 9am on a Saturday to watch 'em.