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Also, It's a Wonderful Life

Your Humble Blogger used to watch a lot of Christmas Specials on television, but I kicked that habit (and kicked the television-watching habit generally) and haven’t seen very many in recent years. I understand that there are now half-a-dozen new ones a year, for various channels. I’m wondering if they still follow the same pattern:

  • There is a threat to the Christmas celebration of a fairly large number of people, ranging from a part of town to the entire world.

  • There is a child, who is either ill, homeless or bereaved.

  • There is someone who does not have the Christmas Spirit. That person is often a banker, but could be anyone in a position of authority: a corporate executive, a store owner, or the personification of a supernatural force, or even royalty.

  • The Person without Christmas Spirit has an associate or assistant who does, secretly, have the Christmas spirit, but is for most of the plot sufficiently cowed to acquiesce in the PwCS’s plans.

  • In the end, the PwCS takes the Christmas Spirit into his (or her) heart, and learns to keep Christmas in his (or her) heart all the year round.

  • The child does celebrate Christmas, with more material plenty than ever before.

It’s a syndrome, not a disease. I mean, that there’s a set of symptoms, and if the show has, say, four out of the six symptoms, then it’s got Christmas Special Syndrome, whether it has the other two or not. And of course not all Christmas Specials have the Syndrome, and not all the ones that do have the Syndrome are the worse for it. YHB’s absolute favorite Christmas Specials are How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original animated special, of course), which is clearly Syndromic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is not, and the Vicar of Dibley Christmas episode from the third series, which is also not. At all. Also, The Christmas Carol is Syndromic, I think, as is The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, if you stretch a point.

So, Gentle Readers, what are your favorites, and do they have the Syndrome? And have I forgotten some symptoms?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


I like those that you mentioned, with the caveat that "Christmas Carol" has to be either the Alistair Sim or Muppet versions. Also: "March of the Wooden Soldiers" with Laurel & Hardy, "A Wish for Wings that Work," and the original "Miracle on 34th Street."

I also believe that all recording artists owe us a Christmas album. Heck, both Barry Manilow and Barbara Streisand have each recorded two of those. The time has come for a Tom Jones or Metallica ("Enter Santa") Xmas CD.

Oh, also "The Hebrew Hammer," the recent homage to 1970s Jewsploitation movies...

My favorite Christmas release of all time will doubtless be Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which I went to see tonight. I wanted to blog about it, but I didn't.

It's bloody. Extremely so. Also, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are not really fabulous singers, either one, but passable - they hit the notes they tried to hit, and if they failed to try on some, well who could blame them?

Depp, however, would rule an arena as the front man for any band. Sure, why would he want to? But he would.

Also, Miz Bonham Carter is unbelievably fine, and let no one tell you otherwise.

Weird taste in women, you say? Well, okay, yeah. I'll give you that one.

Anyway, each of them inhabited their role like they would a comfortable pair of sweats on laundry day. The supporting cast was astonishing, as well. Tim Burton was in rare form. Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Sweeney Todd. And if the rest of them were crap, or at best mediocre? I don't care.

I have to say, though, that the similarity had never previously occurred to me between Sondheim's composition style and Danny Elfman's.


Depp started out as a guitarist/singer when he went to Hollywood. Yep, it's true.

Helena is a fine, fine woman. My gay friend Garry said he'd turn (temporarily) straight for Helena, so whatever kookoo voodoo she do seems to work.

My current favorite Christmas special is "The Runaway Bride" from season 3 of the new Doctor Who.

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