RevPub Christmas Special Favorites: Part 1

Back in October, we here at RevPub shared are favorite Halloween specials. In the spirit of that, we decided to share our favorite Christmas/holiday specials as well.  Though Halloween still has most of our favorite specials, Christmas isn’t entirely left out and can produce some great, memorable moments as well.  Here they are:

Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration (1987):  This is one of the most memorable from my childhood, though I only remember seeing it once, maybe twice.  It was the height of claymation in the 80s after the California Raisins hit it big in their TV commercials.  I loved this special — doo-wop, camels, the self-striking bells, and the “wassailing” lyrics runner.  Of course my favorite, being the person I am, were the dinosaur hosts, Rex (the actor sounds like he’s doing a George Plimpton impersonation) and Herb the Styracosaurus.  I just rewatched it for the first time in probably over 20 years, it’s still a great show.

A Garfield Christmas Special (1987):  I still love all things Garfield.  While this one has a more sappy ending than most Garfield stories (even the orange feline himself acknowledges it!) it is still one of my childhood favorites that still holds up.  From the “gift that keeps on giving,” to the “doc boy, doc boy, doc boy” runner, and of course Odie’s gift exchange.  Even the music’s good!  I hope they still show this one every year!

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (1989): It’s not the strongest episode of the veritable TV family, but it was the first time they broke out from shorts on the Tracy Ullman Show and had their own 30 minutes to fill.  It’s still a great episode, and because it’s early in their lifetime, it feels more like an animated sitcom than a zany cartoon.  The voices are still works in progress and the animation a little primitive, but it’s still a great show and takes you back to the basics of what made the Simpsons a hit.

MST3k Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1991) and Santa Claus (1993):  I have distinct memories of watching these two episodes on Christmas Eve night during that “can’t sleep” phase of Christmas.  Martians is completely absurd but perfect for riffing, and contains a number of hilarious runners, my favorite being “head butt” when the martians touch heads.  Santa Claus is a goldmine of humor, from the creepiness of Santa’s cloud-spy lair, his horrible laughing reindeer, and the weirdo antagonist, “Pitch” the devil.  It also has a quote that sticks in my mind, “Santa has the power to reverse film!”

Futurama Xmas Story (1999), A Tale of Two Santas (2001), Futurama Holiday Spectacular (2010), and the holiday song in Bender’s Big Score (2007):  ALL of Futurama’s holiday episodes are brilliant shows about the nature of the holidays.  They are also so dark that even the creators comment during the audio commentaries “wow, we shouldn’t have been able to air this!”  But they are so wonderful.  Where else can you see a robot Santa who judges EVERYONE to be naughty and tries to gun them down?  Or Hanukkah Zombie (voiced by Mark Hamill) or Kwanzaa Bot, voiced by effin’ Coolio! (who’s been giving out the same book What the Hell is Kwanza? for 647 years!)  Watch them with a sense of humor and they won’t disappoint.

Honorable Mention: AVGN’s Bible Games (2006), Bible Games II (2009), and Bible Games III (2012): I found the first of these episodes RIGHT after I found AVGN.  They are some of the best and most entertaining Internet videos out there.  They have throwing baby Moses in the water, “Sunday Fun Day,” and the great word search in the Game Boy version of the King James Bible. Definitely give them a watch to lighten the holiday mood!

Off the Charts: Fond Farewell to Futurama

Off The Charts Header

In 1999 a terrific show aired its first episode.  It was smart, yet low brow; classy, yet crude; and cruel, yet hilarious.  I have never before, or since, seen a show that could so span genres and play with emotions, pop culture, and trending topics as well as it did.  It could actually make you tear up in the same episode your sides hurt from laughter.  One of the best shows, consistently, I’ve ever seen.  And now it’s come to an end…….again….

Yes I’m talking about Futurama.

Futurama is a singular show.  You care deeply about the characters, their plights, and their relationships, but can still laugh uproariously when they get heads hacked off (only to be put back on again.  It’s the future, people!)  I started watching Fry, Leela, Bender, Amy, and company from premiere night.  I knew it would be my kind of show, and I’ve followed it religiously since.

Fox never knew how to use the smart writing and thought it should play to the same market as The Simpsons. (Ok to get something off my chest…I LOVE(D) The Simpsons.  I thought it was one of the best shows ever made…from about 1989-1998…  Since then it has become a showcase of Homer’s high-pitched screaming, and nonsensical guest stars…I haven’t watched a new one in years and don’t plan to)  Fox put it on adjacent to its venerable yellow-skinned family comedy and hoped to capture the same crowd.  Unfortunately, by then, the Simpsons’ comedy had become a little “dumber” while Futurama played to a newer “uber-nerd” crowd and was written by math, physics, and computer science PhDs.

The show was pre-empted by sports, moved to and from various time slots, and delayed (and delayed, and delayed) until it was finally “cancelled” in 2003.

After extended runs on the Cartoon Network, Futurama fan outcry was such they creators made four direct-to-dvd movies and eventually found their way onto Comedy Central where they’ve run the past four years.

It was a strange event to see a show cancelled, brought back on DVD, and then renewed on a whole new network.  But I was thrilled to see it back.  It was just as funny and insightful as ever, and without the network TV yoke could add a little extra crude humor to the mix.

All of the voices returned, which is essential as the BEST, seriously people, the BEST voice acting possible can be seen in this show.  Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal, Phil Lamarr, Lauren Tom, Maurice LaMarche, Tress McNeille, Dave Herman, Tom Kenny and the legendary Frank Welker make the finest ensemble cast I’ve ever seen.  And they truly make you appreciate good voice acting, especially when compared to the celebrity-voiced cartoon features cranked out by Hollywood nowadays!

Now the show’s third incarnation will sadly come to an end in September.  Which means one of the greatest shows to ever air must also have the distinction of being one of the most cancelled programs in TV history.

To me this is one of the reasons TV is in the state that it’s in, and why more and more viewers are turning to fan-supported programs on YouTube and other internet sites.  Yes they run on “ratings” too, however with an audience (like me) able to watch and have our ratings count at non-standard times (I’ve found people in my generation may not want to watch the show when the channel airs it, the internet provides us this option!) our views count whether we’re watching on release day or weeks later.  Granted for every Geek & Sundry there is Annoying Orange but both can live in harmony on the internet rather than in competition.  Unlike TV where great shows like Futurama go up against the likes of Honey Boo Boo and somehow come up short.

Though David X. Cohen, the terrific co-creator of Futurama, has stated the show will never again return like it did before, I’m holding out hopes we’ll see something of the characters again.  How about a theater feature, guys?  Your fans will come out to support you!

I’ll still relive the show again and again on DVD (and for those who don’t own them, this is a series that is a MUST buy on dvd.  Don’t think you get the full enjoyment watching it on Netflix.  The audio commentaries for this series are the best ever.  Seriously EVER.  As good as the show without them.)  and hope that Futurama somehow attains more unlikely one-ups than can be found in a 1988 issue of Nintendo Power.

If it doesn’t (which it likely won’t) it will be one show I will truly miss.  It represented the best that TV could put together.  Well-made, well-written, well-acted programming that made you feel the people behind it truly cared about their show rather than just produced it to make a few extra bucks or pander to the lowest common denominator.

So here’s to Futurama.  ::spooky tremolo::  Good bye to the world of tomorrow!  (I hope to see you again out there!)

Give it up for a great show…

Official Website

Great fan page, Can’t Get Enough Futurama