Tag Archives: Festive TV

New Girl 4.11 “LAXmas” Review: Love Actually and All That

10 Dec

New Girl Christmas episodes* tend to be a chaotic affair and “LAXmas” continues this trend switching out the multiple parties of season 2 and inserting travel plans. Ah yes the traveling over the holiday season frenzy that is usually further hindered by the weather and in this case a storm is majorly delaying almost everyone’s flights. Winston and Nick are traveling back to Chicago, Cece’s mom wants to hand deliver a card to Matt Lauer and so she is on the same flight as Schmidt who is returning to Long Island. Coach is attempting to get some ‘me time’ and instead of going back to Detroit he has booked a vacation to Hawaii. Taking the next big relationship step is Jess as she has been invited to London to spend Christmas with Ryan and his family; cue all the anxiety.

* There was no Christmas episode last season, most likely as a result of New Girl’s post Super Bowl slot in January. New Girl is very good at the holiday themed episodes and so I’m glad to see them back with a strong outing this year.

New Girl 4.11Holiday episodes (and particularly Christmas ones) function in a variety of ways; by addressing the larger issues in a heightened and most likely schmaltzy way, pop culture comes into focus by making fun of movies like Love Actually followed by their own slightly skewed Love Actually moment and because there is a single purpose (on this occasion getting on multiple flights) the obstacles are going to keep coming. Switch out the string of festive parties from “Santa” back in season 2 and there are still the same new boyfriend/girlfriend anxieties, just with different suitors (Julian Morris takes the position of both Olivia Munn and David Walton in this episode as everyone else is single or in Nick’s case it has only been a one episode thing so far and he’s already pretty content, that will change).

Guest stars pop up along the way to help, hinder and skeeze with Billy Eichner’s beleaguered airport worker Barry turning from snark and sass at Jess’ attempts to get Nick and Winston on their flight to new BFF when she gets hit on by the super creepy Santa (played by Saved by the Bell’s Dennis Haskins, no I can never look at Mr Belding in the same way after this proposition). Eichner doesn’t do the whole screaming bit and this is the most sedate I have probably seen him; it would have been easy to go for that route but it sets this character apart from his Parks and Recreation and Billy on the Street style and I hope Barry is a return fixture. The withering looks he gives pretty much everyone give me so much life and this character instantly feels part of the New Girl universe. Barry helps Jess out in the end by getting Winston and Nick on their flight and in first class seats (and in a win by karma the super sleeze from the first class lounge is the person bumped, plus some other random guy); however there is more in this airport saga.

Jumping to the first class lounge and another of the creepy dude characters with Barry Bostwick turning from Schmidt aspiration to a reason to leave the luxury that Schmidt craves in one indecent proposal. Schmidt has decided this season that his millionaire dream is still tangible and while he might pretend he is from Manhattan (with a view of defecating Central Park horses) his inner Long Island will come out under the right circumstances. Invoking all things Billy Joel is pretty much the best amount of Schmidt nonsense “New York. Long Island. Billy Joel” and is the perfect exit statement to this scenario. Schmidt doesn’t tell Cece exactly what was said, just that he had disrespected something important to him – Cece’s guess is Daniel Craig’s tailoring – and I’m really liking how New Girl is dealing with this relationship. Cece tells Schmidt she really likes being his friend and he returns this sentiment, yes something romantic is likely to happen in the future, but I appreciate how they are slowly rebuilding what was previously fractured by Schmidt’s infidelity.

With each mention of Coach’s niece in Detroit, it becomes clear he will definitely ditch his alone time super sweet Hawaiian vacation and go back home to his family. No matter how crowded it is, plus the inevitable family squabbles that will take place there are certain things better than lying on the beach. Even if last week’s clip of Coach’s sisters cutting off their own hair was mildly terrifying. And as Coach finds out airport phone charging stations are a nightmare of different appliances and battery needing desperation.

In fun airport hijnks Winston and Nick set about getting on their flight by trying to scare off other people with tickets with Winston going all in with his fake baby and Nick doing things like ripping up tickets that would most likely get him arrested (or at the very least detained), but hey it is Christmas and his “Debbie, don’t start with me, you’re in a mood” was enough hilarity to negate the plausibility of it all. Also pretty sure Nick would get in some kind of shit for his not turning his phone off, ignoring the flight attendant and then getting off the plane shenanigans but like I said it is Christmas and they need their Love Actually moment.

Jess gets the Ryan related fear thanks to the photos of his Downton Abbey style house – Barry is a fan of this show even if he knows it is a soap opera – and his super moody looking family. The McDuck amount of money is one factor and there is too much pressure, so Jess bails. Or at least she tries to and as is traditional with the Nick/Jess pairing advice is given with a bit of pep and reassurance and all is well. This is what was missing when they were a couple last season and it is why I’ve got the Nick/Jess warm and fuzzy feelings again. As I have already mentioned in previous reviews, I really don’t think they are right for each other at this moment but their strong connection is undeniable and it works best in a personal crisis such as this.

Taking the rushing through the airport cliche and cutting to the super slow cart followed by hugs and love declarations as She & Him’s version of “God Only Knows” starts up is more than enough to leave me warm, fuzzy and very satisfied with this festive outing. Oh and Jess when you tell someone you are no longer coming a) at least end the text with one ‘x’ (that was cold) and b) mention you got on the flight in the end.

New Girl 4.11 Jess and BarryNew Girl Style Watch

This Equipment sweater almost made the Wish List after Mindy wore it (instead I went for this LBD from the same episode) so I am glad I get to showcase it here as it is sweater plaid heaven. And if you want something on the less splurge scale then you can pick up Jess’ duck phone case for the very affordable $4.99 here.

TV Rewind: Felicity, “And to All a Good Night” and “Girlfight”

4 Dec

Felicity, Episodes 3.11 & 3.12
“And to All a Good Night” & “Girlfight”
Original Air Dates: Dec. 13, 2000 & April. 18, 2001

Felicity 3.11 sparkly topEmma: Last time I hoped some holiday cheer would be coming our way and yes this is a festive episode, however the cheer levels are variable and Tag’s gun finally goes off (that Chekhov is a smart fella). The time hop between the two episodes is unnerving, but quick research revealed that the two episodes aired 4 months apart and that is a lot of time to find out who had been shot and also explains why they opted to leap that far ahead. I am jumping further than I want to and I’m guessing we both have thoughts on this amount of time passing, first let’s talk about what led to this event.

Felicity’s mom Barbara has come to say and because there has been so much back and forth with her parents relationship status I couldn’t remember if her singledom was brand new information. What I am very aware of is how often her parents put their own shit onto her and once again her mom uses her past relationship experiences and transfers it onto Felicity. Felicity isn’t entirely blameless in how her mom becomes yet another obstacle in the continuing ‘who/what is going to break up Felicity and Ben?’ guessing game as she hasn’t told her that she has plans to drive to Florida with Ben for Christmas, this is bad form Felicity. In her typical not really thinking things through way Felicity tells Ben that she might change these set plans and spend the holiday with her mom instead. Ben is rightly pissed off about this and this is further compounded by the awful dinner experience with Felicity’s mom fawning over Noel and being super judgmental of Ben’s lack of future plans (he doesn’t have a major! Whaaaaaat?!).

Of course Felicity’s mom is totally into Noel as Noel is great for boyfriend material – he’s charming in a slightly dorky way, he has ambition and he doesn’t beat people up – and Barbara is smitten. If only she knew about his marriage status (which we are reminded of in this episode) and his email stalking behavior. With Ben all she can see is this unambitious and dangerous guy she dated before Felicity’s dad. Ben’s position as the ‘bad boy’ is how he was positioned from the first episode, but they’ve done a really good job of subverting this trope since then. Yes he gets into fights and has some anger issues, however he is also beyond adorable at times and this season has positioned him in a way to get beyond these things that make him ‘bad.’

Bad timing means Ben gets viewed in a negative light as he’s late/forgetful when it comes to the theatre (he’s helping Sean out thanks to some emotional blackmail) and he is ranting about what a dick Tag is when her mom shows up. Gun and drugs are also mentioned in this awkwardly timed, but accurate diatribe. Ben does meet up with Barbara to try and clear the air and it works. He is adorable and charming in his explanation of how much he cares about Felicity and he pretty much quotes that Baz Luhrmann song to demonstrate why his lack of career ideas isn’t so bad. Once again everything is smoothed over and despite the fight they have been in they end the episode happy and dancing.

Some seeds of doubt have been sown and Felicity reacts in a slightly sad way when Noel claims the parrot is Ruby (it is clearly Felicity). What did you make of this moment?

Felicity 3.12 Ben and FelicityJulie: I’m with you that the time jump seems…odd. It’s like a lot has changed, but also not a lot has changed. I don’t know if that’s realistic or what, but it’s what we have.

In the second episode, Felicity and Ben appear to be unchanged (as a couple) in the months after the gun goes off. They’re still together. He still has no life plan. And I thought she’d be further along in her collaboration with Noel than she seems to be. After all the rushing to get the project handed to Scott Adsit, the time table of Loser Pet Shop has really slowed down. Noel is in the middle of (yet another) emotional meltdown. Last time he went rogue, he ended up married to Doritos girl. This time he’s ruminating on the meaning of life and hooking up with a girl who’s obsessed with Ben. Elena has taken to self-defense, and Molly is gone (yay!).

I find the Ben stuff most frustrating in these episodes. He’s a lovely guy and I’m rooting for him to succeed, but it’s like what Gwyneth said about Ben Affleck — he gets in his own way. He should’ve told Sean to fuck off with the tree thing. Ben knew he was meeting Felicity and her mom at the theatre, he knew that her mom wasn’t completely sold on their relationship, and he just should of simply told Sean that he wasn’t going to help. So what if Sean threatened to kick Ben out. It’s not like Sean would really have the balls (er…ball) to do that.

Also, I’m a little with Felicity’s mom here. Ben doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Felicity barely knows what she wants to do. I thought that the experience in the ambulance would’ve knocked some sense into Ben, but apparently it hasn’t. He’s still very much the Brad Pitt here, only defined by the women (Felicity, Molly, rich girl), and not by who he truly is. Ben needs to figure out his identity separate from the girls.

But his speech to her mom, totally cute and charming, but also something a dick might do just to get in good with his girlfriend’s mom. But we know Ben’s not a dick, even if he does say dick a lot. It’s this show’s favorite word.

You asked about Felicity’s reaction to Noel saying the parrot was Ruby. She did look sad, but I kind of don’t get it at this point. What is she seeing in Noel? If Noel were walking around, graphic designing like a boss, not lying on the couch fretting about his existence, I could see it. But Noel as he is now is not worth it. He’s not worth screwing things up with Ben.

You mentioned on Twitter that you feel rage toward a character who’s not Molly. Is it the mom or is it Rich Girl Whose Name I Forget?

Felicity 3.12 FelicityEmma: Other than imprinting her own life onto Felicity’s I didn’t actually mind her mom too much. Even her hideous blouses were nowhere near as bad Avery who has quickly overtaken Molly for character who gives me instant rage. So two people got shot – Elena in the arm and it wasn’t too serious, scary but not life threatening. The other is rich girl Avery and it is still unclear why she was at the party in the first place as it seems like no one knows who the fuck she is even though she’s a big deal (or at least her family is in the publishing world). Avery almost dies, well she technically dies and we see this moment in the ambulance with Ben there holding her hand. Cue an instant infatuation with Ben thanks to the connection and being able to hear his unspoken thoughts ‘please stay’ isn’t exactly an unusual thing to be thinking when something is flat lining in front of you, but Avery sees this as an invite to pursue Ben.

And she is totally upfront about it and admitting to Felicity when she confronts her that she believes she is meant for Ben and vice versa, screw the girl he has been dating for a year and is in love with. The way Avery goes about this is with expensive gifts and court side basketball seats. She even gets a present for Felicity which is pretty much the perfect Felicity sweater and even though she doesn’t want to take it she ends up wearing it anyway (it is a nice sweater/color). This is after Avery has been underhand and not added Felicity and Noel to a club guest list which Noel rectifies by using his Leon magic (so paying the doorman) and later sleeping with Avery, because an existential crisis or something.

I’m glad Felicity confronted Avery about her suspicions and like Ben I couldn’t stop smiling when she was having a major rant about Avery’s behavior because a) I also hate her, b) it is fun seeing Felicity disliking someone. There is a super cute reassuring moment and they once again seem fine, though I am concerned that Avery is going to be a nuisance. Also who owns that many halter tops especially ones for exercise and going out?

Your observation about how Ben is defined by his relationships is so spot on and quite often there has been some element of helping a person out and it goes back to Julie even. Maybe he should look into being a counsellor or something like that as he is very good at it. He stays very calm post shooting as he did when Tag was being super aggressive before. And yeah like Goop Ben Affleck remark he really does get in his own way. Also so many of these communication issues would have been rectified if everyone at this point had a cell phone, but at this point only a few did – I was ahead of the Felicity curve and got my first one in 1999. Ben really does have to learn how to prioritize and sometimes it is fine to tell Sean to find someone else to help. Ben is still one of the most fascinating characters in terms of how he is presented, what you expect from a character like this and how he isn’t really any of these things. I still want to do an in-depth analysis of who is Ben Covington?

What did you make of Avery? Did you get similar rage levels to me? And I know you mentioned on Twitter how you thought Tracy was going to be one of the shooting victims – what did you make of this cliffhanger and how it panned out?

Felicity 3.12 Avery, Felicity and ElenaJulie: You can’t trust a trick in one halter top, let alone many halter tops.

The funny thing about the cliffhanger was that I’ve seen these episodes already. I watched all of Season 3 of Felicity. I just didn’t retain any of it, apparently.

I knew they were going to dispose of Tracy sooner or later (Scrubs started right after this season, actually), and the way they were talking about how he was going to Africa to help AIDS patients and how he and Elena were doing so well and making it work, I figured he’d be a goner. He lifts right out. I kind of wish they had done that. It would’ve been more interesting than introducing this completely new character who has very few redeeming qualities (other than her checkbook). Her getting shot was kind of like the “live” Arrested Development episode where one. of. these. people. will. die. by. the end. of. this episode. And then it was, of course, that random old lady in the promo.

If Tracy had died, Elena would be dealing with something much more major than self-defense and — oh — my boyfriend’s met a new girl and maybe he’s having sex with her too, that religious jerk. Noel could still be having his (recurring) existential crisis, though probably he wouldn’t also sleep with Tracy. And Ben could still be Ben, trying to figure out what he’s doing with his life. I thought that the incident in the ambulance would lead him to believe becoming an EMT is what he  should be doing with his life. Ben is very susceptible to what’s going on around him. I suppose that could still happen. Maybe it actually does happen and that’s why I jumped to this conclusion. Sorry, spoiler? Maybe not, though. I’ve already proved here how little I remember about Season 3.

As far as rage levels, I didn’t quite get there with Avery because I never saw her as a real threat. I mean, Ben didn’t seem interested in her at all, despite her obvious advances. I think he’s very solidly in love with Felicity right now and she should feel good about that.

What did you make of Elena’s story? What did you think about the condom in the wallet revelation?

Felicity 3.11 Tracy and ElenaEmma: In my notes for the self-defense class scenes other than hating on the halter I did ask for some Americans like moves from Keri Russell and they pretty much gave me some (she really does kick some serious ass on that show). The reason Felicity is at the class is because Elena has been regaining her sense of empowerment through learning how to protect herself. Elena has been showing off her new skills on Felicity and when it is Felicity’s turn to return the favor Elena is having none of it as her heart has been stomped all over.

It was very jarring to see Elena and Tracy going from loved up and sorting out whatever having sex has done to their relationship to him coming back loved up with someone else. I do wonder if the condom is in his wallet for just in case purposes, but I can also see why Elena is so upset by this discovery. Sex was their major obstacle and it got even more complicated after they slept together. It impacted Tracy’s entire belief system and no matter how hard Elena argues about what she feels in her heart, there is something much bigger at work here for Tracy. I’m not sure where this leaves Elena now, but I’m worried she is going to blame herself and her attitude towards sex (which is not at fault).

Like you I also think it would have been better to have his exit tied to the shooting in a more permanent manner. Instead the shooting ends up being really low stakes for everyone involved and if I had to wait four months to see the outcome of this story I think I would have been very pissed off with the results. The shot being fired when the screen turns to black is a very typical TV move because it does leave you in a state of uncertainty and coupled with the intercutting between smiling dancing characters it does imply that one of them has been hit. Yes Elena is shot, but that is also a cop out with how minor it is (not that I want Elena to get hurt at all). The whole resolution made me feel short changed in fact and I really did think it was effective how this sequence was shot even if I don’t find Tag all that believable in his drugged out angry state. Kudos Steven Gyllenhaal for the way he shot this scene (also completely unrelated but kudos for those excellent actor kids of yours).

Felicity wears a super slinky sparkly outfit to the holiday party which makes both Ben and Noel’s faces light up; this is her best dressed up look since the red dress at the start of season 2. Elena also wears a gorgeous metallic frock and it is a winner for the ladies and their festive attire. Suits were still for some reason on the baggier side in the year 2000 and how good would Ben look in slim fit suit with a skinny tie?! Alas baggy was a thing still.

After the Scott Foley awkward dance sequence in Scandal and the end of the Christmas episode I think I can declare that Noel is a better dancer than Jake. Still awkward, but with less elbows. Noel and Ben interactions are still some of my favorites for Ben’s deadpan responses as with when Noel asks Ben if he wants to dance. Ben does not and Noel claims he was joking (I don’t think he was).

I’m not sure if I see Avery as a threat, but for some reason her actions just really bugged me in that ‘sad rich girl who thinks she can do whatever kind of way’ and like Felicity I want her to back the fuck off. Too much? I wonder if now that she has slept with Noel whether she will be hanging around even more now.

What did you make of more Meghan and Sean bickering? Should he have given her a cut of the trees?

Felicity 3.12 Elena and FelicityJulie: Wow, you’re right. I would’ve been so pissed if I had waited four months for that shooting cliffhanger to be resolved. How lame. Someone we’ve hardly even met nearly dies and Elena is grazed in the shoulder. Also, how soon did Tracy leave after the shooting? You’d think Elena getting hit would’ve given him a moment of holy shit I almost lost this girl. Though, as Elena has concluded, maybe he never really loved her all that much. Sad.

Felicity’s outfit at the party is my everything. Especially as we’re going into the holiday sparkle season, I’m jonesing for some sequins. The early aughts were a good time for sequins. There just aren’t as many these days. Also sad.

If we can thank Tag for anything in all of this, it’s for giving us a great example of why we need better gun control in the US. If a cracked-out, derpy-looking mess like Tag can get a gun, then anyone can get a gun and we all need to reevaluate how things are done in this country.

The Meghan and Sean misunderstanding nonsense needs to stop. For the past few episodes it’s been all about them breaking up and getting back together. I guess after the shooting (when Sean called Meghan out for not taking her job at the school seriously or going about working there the right way) they didn’t actually break up, so, progress? I guess that’s how the shooting changed the two of them. They’re less likely to knee-jerk dump each other.

The tree thing was ridiculous. And I was a little squicky about Meghan calling out Sean for being cheap, after much had been made in the last few episodes about his Jewish heritage. I don’t know. I don’t think she really meant it *that* way, but still. Also, he was right, some of that money was going to be spent on her anyway and he was the one who was doing the legwork. I don’t think he really owed her anything, though if it actually were her idea, he should’ve just copped to it. This whole thing was just tired, from the fight down to Sean coercing Ben to help him move the trees.

I was a little more interested in Meghan as a teacher. I think that could work, if she gives the job the right amount of respect. She had a rough childhood and she likes telling people what to do and she does seem to have a good rapport with kids, even if she doesn’t think she does. She can be there for the kids who were different, like she was. I like it.

What did you think of Meghan and Sean?

Felicity 3.12 Meghan and SeanEmma: The constant bickering and breaking up is getting tiresome at this point and Sean did have some valid points when it came to splitting the money earned. Meghan was doing none of the work and she was still going to end up doing well out of this venture. Except it is pretty dumb to invest in this many trees this close to Christmas and instead of making a fortune Sean ended up seeing beyond money and gave them away for free. Felicity was very touched by this whole thing and made sure she told Meghan what an idiot she was being about this whole thing.

Meghan’s teaching story further explored who Meghan is and while I find it hard to believe that this character would a) turn up to school wearing a sheer shirt and b) teach a kid witchcraft it did show her softer side. Meghan and Sean tend to be the comedic pairing of the show so I’m glad to see the writers developing them beyond being here to be funny. As long as they can move past the whole breaking up/getting together thing. It was good to see her focusing on the kid who was being excluded and as you mention it sounds like she had a crappy time when she was younger so it makes sense for her to relate to this situation. Meghan still responds to things in a relatively immature manner so it will interesting to see if they pursue this new path.

So Noel’s existential crisis is caused by the near miss at the party – he bent down to tie his shoelace when the gun went off hitting Avery – and now all he can think about is how nothing matters. Noel has been flailing all year really and this is an extension what happened to him at the start of the season. Instead of clubbing Noel is reading nihilistic texts and eating a lot of spray cheese (I love cheese but even this might be going too far). Felicity tries to get him out of his funk and maybe sleeping with Avery is what he needed. Hey Felicity’s mom is this the kind of guy you want your daughter to be with?

Oh and I definitely agree with you on the sequins thing, you don’t know how happy I am that it is glitter eye makeup season.

Felicity 3.12 Noel and BenJulie: The spray cheese thing was the first time I really identified with Noel all season.

Also I’m with you on Meghan dressing like that for school didn’t jibe with what we already know about her. This is a girl who would put on a Laura Ashley dress to fool her parents. She knows how to dress in every situation.

And, yeah, if only Felicity’s mom could’ve seen this side of Noel. I guess it’s a lot of seeing what she wants to see. Also, she remembers Noel from when he was the responsible, dweeby RA. She does not know married stalker cheese crisis Noel. She also doesn’t know that Ben generally acts out of concern for others. He gets in fights, yes, but usually it’s because he’s been protecting someone and his face just gets in the way (except for the time he hit Sean, but, come on, Sean had it coming).

I’m hoping Noel’s romp with Avery will lead him to a better place because we only have a few episodes left in this season and that’s not a lot of time to compel me to jump back on the Team Noel bandwagon.

What else do you have to add?

Felicity 3.12 PS2Emma: I’m struggling to see how they will get me to jump back aboard the Noel ship too, Ben will have to monumentally fuck up to get me near that point. I’m also wondering how this time jump will impact how I see this season as a whole. It also occurred to me that the first season of Alias has a crossover period with Felicity and I wonder what that means for both Greg Grunberg as a Agent Weiss is in it from the start right? And also for the creative aspect of the show.

Julie: Wow, both Alias and Scrubs started in the fall of 2001 (not to mention 24 and Smallville). What a good time for television.

Julie Hammerle is, according to Klout, an expert in the areas of both Morgan Freeman and glasses. Her writing can be found at chicagonow.com/hammervision and you can holler at her on Twitter as well.

 

Festive Rewind: Grey’s Anatomy “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”

24 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

In our last of the Festive Rewind, Andrew Kendall discusses Grey’s Anatomy and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Thanks to everyone who has taken part in the series and to all who have been reading. Have a very happy holidays!

5It’s considered passé to speak about Grey’s Anatomy these days, let alone admit affection for it. Alas for me, I’ve never known to keep in vogue. In its tenth season, the show is not quite the well-oiled machine it used to be, although it still provides its pleasure. Even if there’s argument on the true quality of its current output, I think it’s fair to call the behemoth sized 27 episode (!!!) season two one of the finest seasons of dramatic television in the last decade. Packed Seattle Grace always has much happening and frayed nerves lead to confusion and awkward humour, and it’s that same overreliance on too many people with varying emotions being forced to inhabit the space together. Which is, incidentally, an excellent description of what the holidays is like for some of us….

“Ironically, it’s that family togetherness that’s thought to be the reason depression rates do spike at the holidays.”

6Every day at Seattle Grace Hospital takes the closeness of work relationships to operatic levels is like Christmas when you’re living out of everyone else’s back pockets. The five original interns – Cristina, George, Izzie, Meredith and Alex – have grown to become a unit themselves, so in a way this is family closeness added to work relationships’ closeness making everything especially volatile. What’s impressive about Grey’s Anatomy’s incorporation of holiday themes in their shows is always the way the holidays end up being a non-event, in “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” in particular like the thanksgiving episode that season the holiday is incidental to the usual madness which comes with life. No one has the time to stop living because it’s Christmas. Executive producer and writer Krista Vernoff is familiar with the show’s beats and exploits them in a way that makes the holiday asides grow organically from the story. It’s not so much a Christmas episode of Grey’s Anatomy as it is a regular episode with a burgeoning realisation that, oh yes, it’s Christmas too. Much is happening, but there are two main aspects that demand focus in relation to the festivity of the season.

7The necessary Christmas spirit is being dispended via Izzie. Heigl’s turn as the well-meaning, kind Isobel Stevens has always been impressive for me and season 2 was her best season. She’s getting over her breakup with Alex and using Christmas as a tool to make her happy. The other interns are less than enthused, but they allow her these peculiarities in the spirit of the season. Meredith, though, is moved to sympathise with Alex when she realises he’s failed his Medical Boards Exams and needs help studying. Soon Cristina gets roped into it, then George and as we expect Izzie ends up finding out. Character beats mean that Justin Chambers isn’t a part of the scene (the most underrated of the five interns) but the scene in the hallway with the original four is a classic example of Grey’s at its best with the great image of Cristina lugging that Christmas tree reminding you what time of year it is.

“He CHEATED on me with George’s skanky syph Nurse!” Izzie screams driven to outrage. And Meredith responds with significant sagacity.

“We know he cheated on you. That’s why we let you turn the living room into Santa’s freaking village! We’re not big on holidays, you know that! But we’re trying to be supportive because you’re having a hard time, just like Alex is having a hard time […] I have a mother who doesn’t recognize me. As far as family goes, this hospital, you guys are it. So, I know you’re pissed at Alex but maybe you could try and help him anyway. Sorta like in the spirit of this holiday you keep shoving down everybody’s throats.”

2And, sure, like dark and twisty season 2 Meredith it’s somewhat cloying but it gets home the point of the season in fine form. It also leads to the perfect example of Grey’s thriving on tragedy and comedy when a few scenes later, Izzie puts her resent aside and does help Alex with his studying.

He’s confused about this apparent Christmas miracle. “Why are you helping me after what I did?” he asks.

And there’s a beat on Heigl’s face where you think the show is going to get steeped in sentiment until you realise what you’re dealing with. I say season 2 of the show is one of the finest for a drama, but Grey’s Anatomy more than most of its contemporaries has honed the mix of comedy to drama in an excellent way, and this scene is an example of that as Izzie she screams at him.

“BECAUSE IT’S WHAT JESUS WHAT FREAKIN’ DO!”

8And it’s a line that works on multiple levels, as earnest and well-meaning as it is funny but in stark contrast to elsewhere in the hospital where atheistic Cristina who clashes with boyfriend Burke over a patient whose mother is overly devoted to Christmas. Vernoff does not ask us to choose sides. Christmas may be happening but life is happening, too. And in the midst of festivity, work must go on. The Cristina arc is one of my favorite representations of atheists dealing with Christmas on a network show, because she does not get a change of heart and she does not get hit with the Christmas spirit as she watches this boy reject the donor heart he’s been given. Instead she delivers a speech completely without sentiment beginning with a line that is a fine estimation of her character.

“You know I don’t believe in Santa either Justin or God. I believe in medicine. And it’s a medical miracle you’re alive.”

The “Festive” season means different things for different people. For Meredith it’s about appreciating the people you call family – blood related or not, for Dr Bailey stuck at the hospital it’s about seeing all the crazy injuries that come with the season while dealing with her pregnancy, for Izzie it’s about god and festivities. And it’s fine that they don’t all see it as one singular thing. Sure, Christmas root are religious but it’s hard to argue that for a non-religious holiday the season has become about more than just Christmas or religion. In all the pieces we’ve covered in this Festive Rewind the question of how the season influences character relationships has come up because with its end of year placement December becomes a time to share with those close to you, in whatever zany way you choose. It’s why Meredith’s closing monologue is about family and finding your tribe. The world of Seattle Grace has always been one full of the hustle and bustle and the festive season does not change that, but it does shine a brighter light on the importance of things like grace and belief systems.

It’s not really an episode ABOUT the holidays, but it’s sort of why the title of “Grandma Got run over by a Reindeer” makes so much sense. During all the festivities, there’s still a lot of dark pragmatism to deal with. Like the man who tries gift wrapping a 75 inch television for his wife and ends up with a hernia. Or the good day who falls off the roof while hanging “Hanumas”. Life drama doesn’t disappear at Christmas. It only gets augmented. And, yet, when that final shot of Izzie, George and Meredith under the tree looking up comes even if Christmas is not your season Vernoff makes me agree, friends are ALWAYS in season. And, being close to people you care about is ultimately what being festive is about, right?

Months after leaving University Andrew Kendall is still trying to solve the answer to that infamous question – what do you do with a B.A. in English? In the meantime he spends his days as an editorial assistant at a local magazine in Guyana and spends his nights watching too much film and TV, being provoked and provoking others on the internet. If you feel like provoking check him out on Twitter, where he spends too much time.

Festive Rewind: Happy Endings “No-Ho-Ho”

24 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

Switching things up and Yashoda Sampath brings us some sitcom joy (and sadness thanks to cancellation) with Happy Endings and “No-Ho-Ho.”

Happy EndingsI’m going to take this space to celebrate the most tragic television loss of the year. If you missed out on the superlative third season of Happy Endings (and judging by the ratings, most of you did) then now’s the time to reflect on what you missed (and enjoy a Christmas-time marathon).

Happy Endings’ fatal flaw is that its humor is so perfectly off-the-cuff, and so often visually based, that it’s nearly impossible to write about. (Believe it or not, people aren’t usually evangelized by, ‘hey dude, you’ve just gotta see it. you’ve just gotta see it.’). But the Christmas episode, “No-ho-ho”, is not only one of the funniest episodes of the series, it also serves perfectly well as an introduction to our zany group of friends.

The premise, like most things of genius, is shockingly simple. Jane has been hiding the fact that she’s a Christmas baby for most of her life, and naturally the gang finds out. (In a perfect character detail, even her insanely blinkered younger sister, Alex, has forgotten the secret of Jane’s birthday).

So the engines are set in motion: the gang makes a promise to Jane that they’ll completely block out the invasive presence of Christmas just for this one day, so that she can celebrate her birthday on the actual day of her birthday.

But, this being no ordinary set of friends, each one has a particularly bizarre Christmas fetish that threatens the scheme throughout. Max (Adam Pally, who’s earning recognition as a variant of the same character on The Mindy Project), struggles to fight his addiction to eggnog, while Alex struggles against a need so strange that I don’t even want to spoil it (Elisha Cuthbert is an absolute comedy genius, for those of you who’ve only seen her wasted in dramatic roles).

Brad equally gets his moment, as he majestically overreacts to the weaknesses of his friends. Let’s just say that kitchen sink water-boarding is involved.

What makes the episode work, apart from the wonderful A-plot, is how well it uses the characters themselves to drive the humor. Max, the least gay gay man ever portrayed on television, provides the perfect counterbalance to Brad, the exuberant metrosexual, while Jane’s dictatorial tendencies work perfectly against Alex’s outer-space flightiness. Also, three words (possibly five depending how you see it): Hip-hop Santa Dance-off.

The show really found itself in season 2, but in season 3 it takes the ensemble to new heights of hilarity.  Do yourself a favor this Christmas: spend an hour or two with our merry Chicago psychopaths.

Yashoda Sampath is a digital strategist who blogs whenever she has the time, and often when she doesn’t. She firmly believes that 16 months is more than enough time to describe herself as a Brooklyn native, and consequently annoys others by teaching them how to pronounce Long Island like a local (Lorne Guyland).

Festive Rewind: Gilmore Girls “Forgiveness and Stuff”

24 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

Today is a bumper Festive Rewind day (it is Christmas Eve after all) and Kari Peperkorn Marlowe talks us through the Gilmore Girls episode “Forgiveness and Stuff.”

Gilmore Girls

‘Twas the weeks before Christmas and all through the town,

Bright reds and greens filled the square – and Taylor’s sweater, it was brown.

The Christmas pageant – a mess; Jesus missing his arm,

And the smell of sweet apple tarts, like fresh from the farm.

Christmas parties, so merry – Richard adjusting his tie,

Before dessert was served, he dropped like a… fly.

Okay, it’s official.  I can’t pull together a full synopsis of Gilmore Girls’ season one, ‘Forgiveness and Stuff’ to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas without getting callus and corny (which, by the way, sounds like a disgusting combination in itself).  It’s not that I didn’t try, believe me. I just got stuck with rhyming ‘Santa burger’ and felt it would be better for all concerned if I took a more traditional route.  Hey, if it was good enough for the Three Wise Men, it’s good enough for me.

Here’s the scene:

Rory and Lorelai aren’t talking; Lorelai and Emily aren’t talking and Dean is busy lurking outside the Gilmore residence since that whole, ‘we fell asleep at Miss Patti’s after the dance, but nothing happened’ situation. Despite knowing Rory is a good kid – a great kid, really (and we’re still far from season five’s rebellion) – Lorelai is forced to don her ‘Mom hat’ (maybe in this case, more accurately, her Mom jeans, as this was December 2000 and high-waisted pants seemed more of thing).  With Emily mad at Lorelai over letting Rory gallivant about town, the annual Gilmore Christmas party invitation is quickly reneged and Lorelai is left to dream of Emily’s famous apple tarts while eating salad from a bag.  While I’m unsure why Lorelai had bagged salad on hand in the first place, it’s clearly a last resort as she makes an attempt to order pizza, but to little avail.  That’s the problem with a small town.  If dude’s brother has the delivery van, all bets are off.  With starvation imminent, Lorelai puts on her winter coat and heads to town by foot.  First stop?  Luke’s Diner for some festive cheer and an especially good cup of nutmeg-infused coffee.

Lucky for Lorelai, her sadness over the lack of apple tarts prompted Luke to boost her spirits in the form of a Santa burger.  “No one has ever made me something quite this disgusting before,” she says with love and thankfulness in her voice.  The mayonnaise beard is, admittedly, an inspiring and artery-clogging addition to any holiday feast and now I can’t celebrate Christmas without whipping up my own culinary masterpiece.  Or at least watching this episode to remember how it was done.

Gilmore Girls

Before Lorelai can dig into her bearded burger, she gets a message from Rory saying the party has been cut short and Richard has been taken to the hospital.  While Lorelai was trudging through town in her parka and mittens in search of food, the Gilmores were sitting down for their holiday feast.  During dinner, Richard began complaining he was too warm and had to loosen his Burberry bowtie.  This act caused a look of extreme disapproval from Emily who must have been equally toasty as she was sporting a fur-trimmed suit jacket – a piece we thankfully never saw her wear again… but I digress.  It isn’t long before Richard collapses and is taken to the hospital where, believe it or not, Jane Lynch is working as a nurse.  Fortunately, this is in the pre-Sue Sylvester of Glee days, so her demeanor is as even-tempered as one could expect with Emily yelling for puffier pillows and crazy things like ‘answers’ and ‘updates.’

In the end, Richard fends off a bout of angina, Emily and Lorelai make up, Rory and Lorelai repair their relationship, Lorelai and Luke become a little closer and Taylor gets his free hot chocolate.

Looking back on this episode, I can’t help but reflect on the wonderful foreshadowing that was done in such a clever way.  Christmas or other such holiday episodes can often be put on the shelf and filed under ‘filler’ as they don’t necessarily contribute in an active way to a show’s story arch.  That’s not the case with ‘Forgiveness and Stuff’ though.  In fact, there were three great moments that provided flashes into the show’s future:

1)      It’s all about Harvard: Leaning through Rory’s open bedroom window, Dean tells Lorelai that he wants Rory to follow her dream and go to Harvard, and that if she doesn’t, it won’t be because of him.  Of course, by season four, Rory’s new dream is to go to Yale and Dean never stood in her way.

2)      The Dating Game: After driving Lorelai to the hospital, Luke finds himself in the waiting area.  Sitting down next to him, Emily tells Luke he’s an idiot and that he should have been on a date with Lorelai.  Even in this 10th episode I think the world agreed, but their relationship wouldn’t turn into something more until the end of season four.

3)      Father Knows Best:  Richard did the best for his family and provided in the ways he thought he should.  Lorelai tells Luke that unlike her father, she thinks he would be a good ‘Barbie-buying’ Dad.  While Luke seems vaguely open to the idea of being a father – or at least to this discussion – he said he would give his daughter the money to buy what she wanted and would wait outside.  Of course, by season six, Luke’s daughter, April, had joined the show and it turned out that Luke loved being a hands-on father.  He would pick out the Barbie’s, or in April’s case, a cat-themed vanity bathroom set, complete with toothbrush holder.

The one thing that I love most about Stars Hollow, holidays or not, is that despite the fact this was the first Christmas we experienced in the town, it felt like we’d been there forever.  Maybe a few seasons, or maybe a lifetime.  It’s as though we’d heard Luke explain that he doesn’t have a holiday menu *again* this year and we know that he’s turned Taylor down in his plea for free hot chocolate before.  It’s a warm a cozy place – like coming home in December and sitting down with a giant cup of eggnog (with or without rum, no judgment) in one hand and a minty candy cane in the other.  It’s a place I came to love for 154 glorious episodes.  And it’s a place I feel comfortable saying, “But there’s food, and there’s people and there’s a burger with a face.”  It’s family… and in the end, that’s what “Forgiveness and Stuff” and Gilmore Girls is all about.

With a passion for theatrics and a flair for the dramatic, Kari is a self-proclaimed TV fanatic and someone who’s not afraid of getting zealously immersed in the fictional lives of her favourite characters.  If the world was a different place, Kari would most likely be found running Stars Hollow’s Dragonfly Inn or climbing her way to the top at Lockhart Gardner or Florrick Agos and Associates. Kari writes all about The Good Wife over at Lockhart Gardner

Festive Rewind: The West Wing “In Excelsis Deo”

24 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

I’m going to be chatting about The West Wing’s first Christmas episode “In Excelsis Deo” in relation to catching up with a show long after it has finished. The Christmas narrative reveals a whole lot more about these characters to the audience and for me personally, it shaped my feelings towards one particular pairing.

The West Wing Donna2013 is the year I finally sat down and watched all of The West Wing, prior to this the only Sorkin show I had seen more than a handful of episodes of was The Newsroom (I know). Marathoning a show this long after it has been on air and one that has a large fanbase means there are plenty of people who are willing to chat with you about this watching endeavor. While this isn’t the same as seeing something as it airs for the first time, it does still lend itself to the notion of a shared experience even if most of these chats occur with people who have already seen the episodes you are watching for the first time. “In Excelsis Deo” was mentioned by several different people as being a favorite West Wing episodes and it’s one that shows off a variety of strengths from character to story.

As you have probably gathered from this Festive Rewind series I like holiday themed episodes because they give shows a chance to do something different even if they are often variations of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life. Leo points out “In Excelsis Deo” that the country doesn’t shut down just because it’s Christmas Eve and while there are no visits from ghosts or angels these characters are faced with life changing events both big and small.

TobyFor Toby we get to see a softer, compassionate side as he becomes involved with the very real issue of homeless vets. CJ deals with another heartbreaking situation with the death of a teenage boy and the reason why he was murdered stirs up emotions. We see just how far Josh and Sam will go for Leo (something Leo does for Josh in the season 2 Christmas episode “Noël”), even if they go about it in the wrong way. Mrs Landingham reveals a heartbreaking piece of her past and why Christmas has the potential to make people feel sorrow as well as joy. The final sequences which cuts between the funeral and the carol singing at the White House brings the tears; “Little Drummer Boy” is the perfect rousing and misty eye inducing festive song.

West Wing groupIt’s not all despair and this brings me to the Donna and Josh of it all. Here’s the other thing about marathoning a show; you don’t have to wait seven years to see the couple you want to hookup finally make the move and get together. “In Excelsis Deo” is the episode in which the Donna/Josh stuff clicks for me; from Donna imploring Josh to do something for Leo and telling him “It was my regular face Josh, I wasn’t trying to guilt you” to the back and forth banter about what Josh is going to get Donna for Christmas. The scene that had me jumping on board this good ship is when Josh eventually gives Donna her gift – Heimlich Beckengruber on The Art and Artistry of Alpine Skiing.

It’s not the book but what’s written on the inside that counts (something that remains between Josh and Donna alone) and it’s the combination of the hug, Josh’s “I meant it” and the sneaky look back and smile that shows the intimacy between this pair long before they sleep together.

Festive Rewind: Boy Meets World “A Very Topanga Christmas”

23 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

More ’90s treats and Whitney McIntosh discusses Boy Meets World and “A Very Topanga Christmas.”

topanga“A Very Topanga Christmas” isn’t the worst episode of Boy Meets World by a long shot; I wouldn’t even classify it as a particularly bad episode when taken as a whole. The problems I had with the episode are few, but any fan of BMW would be able to tell immediately that a few characters seem off in their mannerisms and reactions to certain things. Which is unfortunate, because I really think this show is one of the TGIF programs that could pull off a holiday episode seamlessly and without it feeling like a “very special episode” every time.

The episode, which originally aired around halfway through Season 5, centers on Topanga spending the holidays at the Matthews’ home because her parents are away and she didn’t want to spend the holiday season alone. That is where the premise starts and end, no more details needed than that simple set up. Shenanigans are obviously bound to ensue, but the way everything unfolds is fake seeming and almost feels like someone wrote a spec script and the producers decided to film the episode without reading it first.

Instead of acclimating herself to the Matthews traditions and participating in a family Christmas, as anyone who has ever watched an episode where Topanga speaks could tell you she would be likely to do, she instead decides to be uncomfortable with other people’s traditions and pressures the Matthews to change their holiday to make her feel at home. It’s a false feeling storyline to start with, and only becomes increasingly so when this division between the way the holiday is celebrated is then used to cause a divide between Cory and Topanga and cast a shadow on Cory’s feelings for his girlfriend of many years.

Most of the episode centers on these “issues”, but still manages to be funny. Topanga making them drive all the way to Vermont from outside Philadelphia just to get a real tree may be unrealistic, yes, but the subsequent cut shots to show the passing of time were well done and Topanga not letting Cory have maple syrup on his pancakes when they just drove all that way to get it definitely made me laugh. Of course the two make up at the end of the episode and give each other the promise rings they bought for each other (cue the awwwws from the audience), but I just didn’t feel the need for manufactured drama when so much of the joys of Boy Meets World come from the way we know each character inside and out and how they interact in their tight knit group of friends and family.

The appearance of Mr. Feeny as the annual reader of A Christmas Carol to the Matthews family was a welcome one, if not exactly surprising. His annoyance at being told the tradition had changed was classic, as was the decision to have Cory dream he was in the Christmas Carol situation of being visited by a ghost. Having this only be a brief part of the episode is a nice nod to the cliché of Christmas episodes using it as a framing device, and I liked the creative decision not to suffocate the episode with it. The joke of Topanga being married to Jack in the future was there, it was funny, and they didn’t ruin it by beating it into the ground for more than 2 or 3 minutes.

The Shawn and Jack part of the episode feels a little shoehorned, but not enough that it should have been cut completely. Since most of the later seasons took place in their apartment and treated them as brothers who get along for the most part, it’s always interesting to go back to when they were first introduced and see how far the relationship came from these early days. For most of the main plot both of them served as the peanut gallery for everyone else’s issues, but what else are you going to hire a Lawrence brother for if not that reason exactly?

The best part of “A Very Topanga Christmas” is that even with all the useless drama, the story wraps up with not only Cory and Topanga recommitting to a healthy and happy relationship for many years to come but also with Alan giving Cory some fatherly advice. Once Cory grew out of the early high school years that relationship didn’t get as much screen time and the advice between father and son aspect of it was mostly phased out. Which is true to life, as fathers and sons only share so much in conversation after a certain point, and this was a nice moment between the two.  The episode ends with everyone being happy together as a family, having fallen asleep to the sound of Mr. Feeny reading Dickens aloud. Even Morgan gets some face time this episode, although I’m pretty sure she didn’t actually get a line. All in all, it isn’t the best holiday episode I’ve ever seen, but it does reinforce familial relationships (as you would expect an ABC show to do during this era) and supply a lot of laughs in what feels like a short 20 minutes.

Whitney McIntosh is a marketing professional/sports and television lover who blogs in her spare time. She is currently in the process of moving to New York after living in Boston all her life, which can only end in interesting ways. You can read more of her writing at her blog MyTVSangtoMe.

   

Festive Rewind: Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Amends”

21 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

In today’s guest post Ian Austin talks about the season 3 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Amends.”

amends-pic-21So when I heard this site was doing Christmas rewinds, it took me less than a second to figure out the show I’d focus on. And the episode took a half-second less. Buffy The Vampire Slayer brought the world in the season 3 episode “Amends” and like every truly memorable Buffy episode decided to do something different from the norm. Instead of a happy, fun Christmas episode, they gave us an episode that is among the saddest and most adult episodes that the show ever produced. Which is fascinating, given the same show brought us “The Gift,” “Lie to Me,” and something called “Passion” which I can’t even get started from…

The basic gist of the episode is that when Angel died in S2, he spent a near-eternity in a Hell dimension suffering for his sins. His re-emergence from Hell wasn’t explained, and the show did a (sometimes subtle, sometimes not so) decent job of bringing him back into the fold while ensuring that there were lasting repercussions. Prior to this episode there was tension between Buffy and Angel, and the sense that Angel didn’t come back quite right. When the Scooby Gang find out Angel is alive they, remembering he went evil in Season 2, were suspicious. After all, Angel (as Angelus) did have a tendency to go for the hurt rather than the pain; who’s to say he wasn’t pulling a long-con to destroy Buffy mentally and physically.

And that wasn’t a basic gist at all, and didn’t even get to this episode. I’ll try again.

So “Amends” focuses on Angel’s psyche, presenting us with flashbacks to his days as an evil, drunken, lecherous vampire through to his present as a broody, sober, striving to be asexual and failing vampire. He’s taunted by The First, a Dickensian concept if ever there was one in the form of an ancient being who – like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol – taunts Angel with his past, present (and future) failings, forcing him to relive the terrible things he’s done, is doing in the present, and wants to do in the future; the last being ‘bite Buffy.’ Buffy never strived away from pointing out the correlation between Angel’s soul and a rehab mindset, and in this episode they go for the jugular in the ‘Christmas is a horrible time for addicts’ sweepstakes.

After all, Christmas is a time for excess. Which is hard enough for anyone, but for someone like Angel who is constantly teetering on the wagon it’s torture. In this context, pig’s blood can be seen as an allusion to non-alcoholic beer; the cravings have to be transferred, they can’t be removed entirely. At this point it’s worth noting that The First appearing as Jenny isn’t a clever twist on the work of Dickens, as Scrooge is shown the importance of family via Tiny Tim, a being who will die because of greed, while Angel is shown that Jenny died because of him and – as a result – Giles is never going to have the family. The concept of a stolen life resonates with Angel, tying in with how Darla turning him into a vampire removed his potential for rising above his laddish attitude.

Incidentally, the Christmas Carol contrast is fascinating in regards to Darla. Belle left Scrooge and broke his heart; Darla chose Liam and stole his humanity. In retrospect that flashback would work brilliantly here, but that’s hindsight for you.

Back to the episode… and we see Angel’s passivity (it’s clear The First is using the truth, or Angel’s perceived truth, as a weapon) is rooted in his desire to die. Not showing us what happened to him in Hell is a clever way of getting around some of the logic flaws here; the show can play the post traumatic stress disorder angle without it feeling patronising. The combination of his addiction and PTSD combine to make Angel suicidal, which is a brave concept for a Christmas episode now, but back then was pretty damn huge. Events build until a fantastic scene between Angel and Giles, where Giles raises the obvious question of whether Angel thinks he deserves to be saved.

One of the flaws of Buffy’s second season was that, after “Passion,” they mostly dropped the Angel-Giles issues. I mean it makes sense conceptually, with Buffy punching Giles and begging her to let it go after “Passion,” but at the same time it cuts back on dramatic material for Anthony Stewart Head. In this episode, we get some great and subtle acting from him, as you can visibly see his demeanor go from ‘I don’t trust you and would kill you if you turned evil, regardless of Buffy’ to ‘I trust Buffy.’ The show doesn’t make a big thing of it, it’s just that the narrative complexity fascinates me; Giles isn’t offering holiday cheer, he’s choosing to believe in Buffy generally and this is heartwarming.

Indeed, there’s only three bits of holiday cheer in the episode. The first is Xander helping research The First using Christmas as an excuse and… well, we won’t get into the horribleness of Xander’s ‘camp out at Christmas’ tradition because the show has never established whether vampires inability to enter a home means they can’t climb a fence, and it’s unpleasant to think of how abusive the Harris household is.

The second bit is more a subversion than anything as Buffy tackles the ‘virginity’ concept with Willow. She’s just gotten back with Oz after the events of “Lovers Walk,” where she cheated on him with Xander. It was a thing. Anyway, the episode triumphs because Oz – who has had sex before – and Willow don’t have sex because he’s not ready. Yeah, ‘HE’S NOT READY.’ Again, it’s a pretty big thing for a show nowadays to point out that guys don’t want sex 24/7, and this was another sweet moment in one of the nicest relationships in TV history. You could read the scene as Oz sensing Willow wasn’t ready and taking the pressure off of her, but I think an equally valid reading is that Oz just wasn’t used to the idea of sex with someone he cared about. Which gives the scene a slightly more intense undertone, book-ending “Lovers Walk” nicely as that episode was about how obsessive love can be bad, whereas here it’s more selfless: love where characters don’t take advantage of each other just because they can. I think Willow realising Oz wasn’t that guy was probably the best Christmas gift she could have ever gotten. Even if she’s Jewish and doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

Which brings us to the third and final ‘Christmas Spirit’ moment. Namely the end of the episode, where Angel’s given up and has walked out in the throes of a rising sun to end it all. It’s a very powerful moment and a very sad moment; the idea of this character feeling he has nothing to live for, and is a bane on the existence of everyone around him. Buffy’s pleas with him to not do this don’t work because, sadly, suicidal people already know all of the ‘don’t do it’ arguments. They think about them constantly, and the disease can still win. Seeing Buffy breakdown is brutal stuff for a Christmas episode, knowing that in the end she’s powerless to stop this. And then, a miracle happens…

It starts to snow.

Now lots of people have debated the meaning of this, as to whether some sentient force brings the snow to spare Angel’s life. And maybe there is an explanation there (given the prophecy from Angel’s self-named TV show), but for me I think in the end it’s just snow. The importance is not the event, rather what it does for Angel. It doesn’t solve his problems (indeed, those continue into his own show, and are the reason he leaves Sunnydale), they just give him a stay of execution. And he walks off with Buffy into the unknown, a Christmas Day where – for once – while there isn’t a happy ending, there’s a moment where things can’t possibly get any worse for the characters.

I know this wasn’t the most cheerful episode to do a Christmas retrospective on, but I think it’s important to note during the holidays that lots of people are in real-life situations of pain and suffering. And while they can’t be fixed easily, or in some cases at all, to me the true meaning of Christmas should be letting people know they’re not alone. Whether it’s donating to charity, sending a ‘merry Christmas’ message to someone you used to know, or just letting your loved ones know you care about them, stepping outside of presents and commercialization sometimes brings more joy than anything else.

Oh, and go watch “Amends” again. It’s a tough episode to sit through, but one of the true underrated gems from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Having written in the past for TV OvermindCult Den and Haddonfield Horror, Ian Austin will soon be debuting on Inter-comics with an article on Firestorm (of DC Comics infamy.) Until this occurs, his fan-fiction scripts for a Daredevil series can be found on BZN. If you want to tell him The Avengers is a good film and get into a long-winded debate, you can follow him on twitter @https://twitter.com/I_A_Austin.

Festive Rewind: Frasier “Merry Christmas Mrs. Moskowitz”

20 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

Today’s guest post comes from Noel Kirkpatrick as he discusses Frasier’s take on different faiths celebrating the holidays.

FrasierMoskowitzIt’s a Chanukah miracle! Andrew Rabin discussed Rugats and its lackluster take on Chanukah earlier in the feature, and now I present you with “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz” from Frasier. If Andrew “A Rugats Chanukah” credited with at least exposing kids to a non-mainstream holiday even while still sort of abandoning it, then “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz” demonstrates why it might’ve been helpful for those who celebrate in Christmas — even if it’s in a more secular than religious way (something else this episode touches on) — to be aware of other religions and traditions other than our own. The episode is classic Frasier farce, complete with mistaken identities, hiding people and things from unsuspecting guests, near-constant lying, and it all culminates in the big reveal that brings all the chaos down a single big punchline. In this case, it’s Niles dressed up as Jesus, hiding in the bathroom with a Christmas tree.

You see, Frasier was buying his son, Freddie, a menorah (Lilith, Frasier ex-wife, is Jewish, which makes Freddie Jewish) and a woman overhears him. After helping Frasier pick out an appropriate sweater for Roz, Helen, the woman, asks Frasier to do a favor for her daughter: “A date with a nice, unattached doctor.” Frasier and Faye actually hit it off very well, but as Faye and Helen are about to head off to Florida, they decided to stop by Frasier’s apartment, which is in the processed of being decked out with a tasteful (horrid) Christmas, and here we learn that Faye and Helen are Jewish, and that Frasier not being Jewish may be a point of concern for Helen. So Frasier, Niles, and Martin pretend to be Jewish until Helen and Faye finally leave. Oh, and Niles is helping Daphne put on a Christmas revue that’s a combination of religious and secular songs.

As farcical episodes of the show go, “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowtiz” isn’t their best, though David Hyde Pierce dressed up as Jesus is still a total hoot. Much of the humor of the episode derives from the fact that for all their supposed learning and culture, Frasier and Niles are largely clueless about Judaism. When questioned about his bar mitzvah, Frasier mentions that the mohel was there, so not to show there were any hard feelings. Niles’s toast is a string of Jewish platitudes — “L’Chaim! Mazel tov! Next year in Jerusalem!” — and when Martin asks Niles “how to be Jewish,” Niles advises him to answer questions with a question.

The episode should be horrible since it trades in tired Jewish stereotypes — meddlesome mothers, massive amounts of guilt — but it trades more heavily in the fact that non-Jewish people know next to nothing about the traditions of Judaism. Not only are there the above examples, but Roz doesn’t know what a menorah is, and Frasier isn’t aware of how kosher wine is supposed to taste (apparently kosher wine has gotten tastier). The episode is funny because a) because people who don’t know anything about Judaism see their own cluelessness on display, and in a safe way and, more importantly, b) Jewish viewers get their experiences of dealing with gentiles distilled into one 22-minute episode, and, hopefully, get a good laugh at reliving the conversations when people ask about their faith and traditions.

Of course, if we were all a little more aware, then this wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place! This idea is complemented by Frasier and Martin’s battle over Christmas decorations in the apartment. Being aware of others’ needs and lifestyles is an important aspect of our lives, and it’s a one that is very much a part of the season.

Noel Kirkpatrick is the co-founder of Monsters of Television and This Was Television and he writes episodic criticism for TV.com. You can follow him on Twitter, if you like, as well.

Festive Rewind: Rugrats “A Rugrats Chanukah”

18 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

Andrew Rabin talks about “A Rugrats Chanukah” in today’s festive guest post.

Rugrats

If you Google “list of Chanukah episodes,” a surprising 16.8 million results pop up (interestingly, if you Google it with any other spelling of the holiday, only 520,000 results appear). The first link is a list of “The Top 8 Chanukah TV Episodes of All Time.” I do not know who wrote this list, but it is notable in two ways- only five of the eight listings are actually episodes of television, and only three of those five are actually Chanukah episodes.

The second link is the Wikipedia page for “A Rugrats Chanukah.”

Between June, 1994 and May, 1997, nearly a three year span, Nickelodeon aired only two new episodes of Rugrats; “Passover,” on April 15, 1995, and “A Rugrats Chanukah” on December 6, 1996. Most kids, me included, certainly did not realize that the episodes airing in between were all reruns. But I certainly noticed that these two episodes existed.

“A Rugrats Chanukah,” like its predecessor, does away with the two cartoon-per-episode format that existed for most of Rugrats run. It starts, again echoing the Passover episode, with Tommy and the babies playing the roles of the Chanukah story. Tommy even alters his catchphrase, pronouncing that “a Maccababy’s gotta do what a Maccababy’s gotta do.”

The episode quickly shifts, however, to a modern day story centered on Grandpa Boris putting on a play at the local synagogue telling the meaning of Chanukah. When Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, and Lil hear this as the “meanie of Chanukah,” they decide he must be defeated. This leads to their entertaining, if standard, shenanigans, and a strange confrontation between Boris and his friend Shlomo, which concludes in the revelation that Shlomo could not have children. Even the most Chanukah-heavy episode gets derailed.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the episode is Angelica’s storyline. All Angelica wants to do is watch the Cynthia Christmas Special. Angelica is, as always the antagonist to Tommy’s protagonist. This puts the show in the position as having the one character who is interested in celebrating Christmas, even if it is just because of her love of Cynthia rather than some deep religious beliefs, on the “bad” side. It comes off, at least at some level, as portraying Christmas as less important than Chanukah, if not flat out worse.

“A Rugrats Chanukah” is not a great episode of television, or even a great episode of Rugrats. Heck, it’s not even the best Jewish-holiday themed Rugrats episode (and I’ll be happy to come back in the spring when you ask everyone to write about their favorite Easter episodes). But Rugrats was also willing to teach kids about the non-mainstream holiday, something even most adult shows avoid. It serves its purpose. And it’s what we’ve got.

Andrew Rabin is very nearly, but not officially, a lawyer. If you want to read more from him, check him out on Twitter @arrabin56. If you want to read less from him, his blog is almost never updated, so that seems like a good bet.

 

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