Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2011 Christmas Specials: New & Old

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

I can't believe how much holiday programming was on this year. It seemed that every time you turned around, you ran right into an old rerun or movie or even a new special that just screamed Christmas! I tried out a bunch of different pieces of holiday entertainment that I hadn't seen before, and that's what you'll find below.

Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas: [Overall: not a winner. the Opening with Scrat was cute... I always forget about him until I start watching an Ice Age feature.] Manny brings a Christmas rock out of storage for Ellie and Peaches. Sid thinks that the rock isn't big or sparkly enough to attract Santa, so he wants to decorate a tree instead... with fish skeletons, worms, and spiderwebs. When an ice star goes rogue (no thanks to Sid), it slams into the rock, shattering it. [saw that coming!] Manny tells Sid that he's now on Santa's "naughty list." Peaches wants to go to the North Pole to prove to her dad that Santa is real, so she sets off with Sid and the two opossums. They end up walking off a cliff, but are rescued by a reindeer, Prancer, who joins the gang. He flies them all to the North Pole, as Diego begins tracking Sid. Diego and the mammoths get lost, but when Manny says that he believes, the storm lets up. [surprise, surprise... loved the sugar plums and peppermint bark, tho!] A sentry for the Santourage stops the group from getting to Santa. [haha for the "on the list" comment.] An avalanche brings the mammoths to Peaches and the others. [this seemed so highly unlikely it made me angry...] Santa's also there, and thanks Manny for the idea to have a "naughty list." Manny marvels at the reality of Santa, and soon wants to make sure that they can rebuild Christmas, so he rallies 800 sentries, there's a parody of "Deck the Halls," and everyone manages to get all of the presents, decorations, and sleigh fixed. ["peace and goodwill toward all mammals." haha.] Prancer offers up his flying to help the situation, but the load is too heavy for him. [was Santa pulling the sleigh before??] So, he goes off to get his seven family members (yep, with the names of the other traditional reindeer). [they even manage to get in a lesson about needing help.] Together, the reindeer can pull Santa's sleigh, and the group gets onto the "nice list." Santa tosses packages from the sky, and we end with Scrat getting an acorn that opens like a nesting doll... with the little critter struggling to hold onto the smallest acorn. [it's the ice age but the continents are separated when you look down at the Earth?]

hoops & yoyo Ruin Christmas: [Overall: Worth watching once or twice, but not an annual 'must'] The gang is on the roof, waiting for Santa, and when they see him go down a chimney, Hoops dives into Santa's sack (in the sleigh), convincing the others to join in. But, Santa comes out sooner than expected and they're not able to get off the sleigh in time, so they're onboard during take-off. To get everywhere in one night, this special, has Santa go through a wormhole to handle the time/space issue. [as I sit here shaking my head, I wonder what little kids are thinking...] The group ends up in the past, crashing through Kris Kringle's roof and smashing the toy he just made. Kris was trying to enter a toymaking competition, so they try to put the toy back together. In the middle of the night, Kris comes down and spots them, and they have to convince him to try and fix it (because, clearly, they have failed) in time for the contest. [that cuckoo clock and the accompanying song in the background were a little strange.] At the contest, Kris meets a little girl who has never had a toy, so he gives her the toy rather than entering it in the contest. [saw THAT coming. but the idea was so disgustingly sweet I could've thrown up.] When they get back, the girl is at the workshop with the toy. Of course, she turns out to be magical, and says that only one person has the power to bring a smile to everyone in the world in one night, and it's Kris, who is not Santa Claus. She touches the toy and it multiplies, rats turn into elves, a sleigh appears, reindeer multiply, and Kris gets the costume. [it was all very Cinderella, really.] After delivery, the reindeer will take Kris to his new workshop, "a bit north of here." [shaking my head at the silly jokes made here and there...] The trio debate over whether or not to use Kris to get back home, and he leaves without them. Only a moment later an aged Santa appears and takes them home. The special ends with Santa sprinkling magical dust on the guys so that they can go down the chimney. The old toy is their gift, with alterations of their likenesses being added. The message? give up your dream so that someone else can have theirs. [bleh]

The Elf on the Shelf: An Elf's Story: [Overall: this is a win. I can't wait to incorporate it into my 'musts' for the holiday season! oh, and wow at the mechanics of that mail system!] One elf finds a letter that fell off the mail cart and brings it to Santa. Santa shares that the boy with whom the letter is connected, Taylor, is a special case - the child isn't sure he believes anymore. [and, apparently, this is absolutely shocking!] The elf is young, but Santa gives him the task of solving the issue. Other elves have other tasks, and all are mailed off to make a difference. [I totally got goosebumps watching the packages fly away via the various contraptions!] The elf comes with a book, and Taylor's parents read it to their children. As expected, Taylor is being difficult as the family names their elf. He does come up with an appropriate name, Chippey, that the family ignores but then comes up with on their own. [this made me angry. LISTEN TO YOUR KIDS.] Now that he has a name, Chippey is magic and can fly. ["Did you get a name" makes no sense... if they hadn't been given a name, they couldn't have flown back to meet up!] The elf comes back from the North Pole each day and lands someplace else in the home. [which is the part about the whole thing that parents aren't so fond of... having to move that little guy each day and come up with new places to put him!] Taylor wants Chippey to do something to prove he's real. ["it's not real belief if you don't feel it in your heart."] Taylor's younger sisters tell the elf what they want for Christmas. We learn that, if a kid touches an elf, he loses his magic. Well, Taylor tries to put this to the test, and knocks Chippey off the mantle. Chippey tries to fly to the North Pole, but he falls and other elves bring him to the North Pole hospital. The other elves head back, but Chippy needs to wait until the next day. Santa checks on Chippey, and tells him that you can't make someone believe - you can just be there. [wow. Santa himself checks in on the hospital? that's interesting...] He then shows Chippey a letter that Taylor wrote, apologizing for hurting the elf. [awwww.] Chippey flies off and returns to the house, perching himself on the fireplace mantle. Taylor sees him and apologizes, then calls the family into the room to see him. The elves all follow Santa back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. [when you read the recap, it doesn't sound like the most intriguing Christmas special. but, honestly, it was pretty good.]

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas: [Overall: a fail. This is a Christmas special that I've wanted to see for years and years, but it's never happened. When I saw it had come to Netflix streaming, I practically screamed at my husband to add it to our Instant Queue. Too bad it didn't live up to the expectations that I had put in place by this time!] We see two otters rowing down the river with some parcels of laundry to deliver. One customer complains of a scorch mark on the previous week's laundry, and says that she'll pay next week. Alice, the mother otter, barters a pair of wool socks for some pumpkins. She plans to make pies to sell to get money to buy more wool. [these people clearly have nothing to work with.] Emmett, the son otter, sees a $40 guitar in a store window and asks for it for Christmas. Inside, some mean animals play the instruments and bust a drum. [well, found the bad guys!] We learn that Emmett's father was a snake oil salesman who passed away a few years ago. Alice asks Emmett not to talk about Christmas so much, as there isn't much use - they don't have enough for normal days. The next morning, Wendell comes to see Emmett, telling him that there's a fence to be mended for 50 cents, but Wendell doesn't have the tools, so he'll give Emmett half if he'll let him borrow his (late father's) tools. The fence is really in dire shape and needs to be rebuilt, not just repaired. [sucks!] Wendell tells Emmett that there's a talent contest on Christmas Eve that awards $50, and some of the other guys want to put together a jug band. Emmett doesn't want to put a hole in his mother's washtub to play in the band, tho. Meanwhile, Alice hears about the contest and considers singing in it... but she doesn't have a nice outfit, nor anything to barter to get one. She's excited at the idea of buying Emmett a guitar, though Emmett is considering that, with the prize money, he could put a down payment on a used piano for Alice. Emmett cuts down a Christmas branch and brings it home. [awww.] Emmett and hit mother go sliding on the bank. Both decide that their deceased family member would have wanted them to do anything to enter the contest, so Alice decides to sell the tools to buy a dress to compete, and Emmett decides to put a hole in the washtub to play in the band. At the talent show, another guy is singing the song that the jug band had planned, so they go to the alley to rehearse a new song, since they don't want anyone thinking they're copycats. [I never really thought of two groups doing the same song as copycats... if you can do it better, why not??] Both acts receive great audience reactions. The mean kids are the final act, singing a song with lyrics like "we take anything we wish." [the frog just splashing in his tank was funny.] However, they're also popular, as they've got fancy instruments and whatnot. They end up winning. [this made me angry. I wanted them to lose!] Emmett and his mother tell one another what they did and why, and the guys and Alice since two songs in a round. Well, they wind up being offered a regular job singing in a restaurant, plus free meals. [...I guess that's a win?] As they walk home from the evening's work, they sing another song, for Emmett's father. He took a chance, and so did they. [blah blah blah.]

Cupcake Wars "The Nutcracker" (S04E01): [this is a show that I've never seen, and really don't care for. I'm not sure if this is the same set-up for all of the episodes, but something tells me that it is. I know we have several regular readers who watch other cake/cupcake shows... what do you think of Cupcake Wars?]

There are four contestants: Shawnee - Maryland - cupcake bouquets. Assistant = her twin sister. Jason - Maryland - cupcakes for all occasions. Assistant = Shelly. Crystal - Los Angeles - high-end cheesecake cupcakes. Assistant = Natalia. Michelle - New Orleans - switched from teaching after Katrina. Assistant = Melissa, her little sister.

After three rounds, the winner will get $10,000 and have their work at the premiere of the annual New York City Ballet's The Nutcracker. One person will be eliminated at the end of rounds 1 and 2.

Challenge #1: Taste Test - use at least three ingredients from a table to make a cupcake in 45 minutes that embraces the idea of the candyland in The Nutcracker.[sounds like a pretty good idea for a challenge.]

Michelle does a gingerbread cupcake with sugarplum, cranberry, and chocolate, orange filling and topping. Her concept and flavor went over well with the judges, but the texture threw them. Jason does a chocolate cupcake with chocolate-orange Grand Marnier filling, Chinese orange spiced tea buttercream. Jason's is liked by all, and fit the ballet theme well. Shawnee does a gingerbread cupcake with orange zest and cloves, and a marshmallow icing. But, she forgot to taste the batter before putting it in the oven, so when she does taste it, the orange cannot really be detected. They make an orange glaze to pump up the flavor as soon as they come out of the oven. Crystal does dark chocolate cheesecake infused with orange, topped with marscapone and a rum drizzle. It normally takes their cupcakes 2 hours to set, but they go to use liquid nitrogen to speed it up.Unfortunately, this leaves hers a little liquid in the middle, though it was nice and tangy. However, an unbaked cupcake is bad, so she is sent home.

Challenge #2
: Make three different cupcakes to dazzle. Taste & presentation are worth 50% each. 
Shawnee does a dark chocolate cupcake with peppermint cream cheese icing and poinsettias on top, an almond cupcake with a raspberry icing that has a heart fondant cut-out like a ballerina's bodice, and a cranberry cupcake with toasted walnuts and white chocolate icing, with a fondant nutcracker. She gets great marks for the decorations, but her frostings are too sweet and the cupcakes don't "wow." Jason does a chocolate cupcake with cherry wine reduction filling and wassail frosting, with white chocolate ballerinas (from a mold) for decoration. He also has an almond coconut cupcake with chocolate ganache filling and peppermint frosting, rolled in coconut and garnished with snowflakes, and a five-spice cake with pastry cream, roasted nut-raisin-cherry filling, and spiced rum buttercream - like a fruit cake, modernized. [these things all sounded SO GOOD!] Jason's molded chocolates break when they remove them, so they switch to a shimmer look. [yeah, molds are hard!] Jason is told that coconut and peppermint don't go together, and the chocolate/wine cupcake didn't work for everyone. Michelle does a butter-rum cupcake, glazed with butter-rum sauce, and topped with vanilla bean frosting, a white chocolate cupcake with white chocolate frosting, adorned with a ballerina, and a chocolate cupcake with a gooey filling and bourbon chocolate frosting and a chocolate crown. [the random blue in their batter was strange to me.] She spills flour all over some of the cupcakes, with only ten minutes to go! Her decorations were also really plain. Plus, the goods were over-baked. In the end, Michelle is sent home for crusty, messy, and haphazard cupcakes.

Challenge #3
: You get a master carpenter to help build, plus four assistants. You need them all, though, as you only get two hours to do a 1,000 cupcake presentation. [All of the shrieking at each time update got old.] Shawnee not having enough cupcakes and trying to make more failed when she spilled a bunch of already-measured ingredients on the counter. Both groups are pretty happy with the stands that were built for them. The peppermint frosting became a vanilla bean flavor in Jason's. The gingerbread cupcake had halved the cloves in the batter to bring out the orange more in Shawnee's. The judges think that Shawnee's is traditional and thoughtful, and that Jason's has brilliant movement and coloring. Jason is the winner.

Yogi Bear's All Start Comedy Christmas Caper
: [Overall: pretty much a snooze. how many different cartoon have you seen where a little rich girl just wants her parents' attention? Because I've seen more than my fair share! Anyway, the opening with a parody of "Jingle Bells" was cute.] The Hanna-Barbera gang is headed to Jellystone to visit Yogi and BooBoo and have a party that will last until Groundhog Day. [that is a LONG party! maybe one to last until New Year's Day?] Ranger Smith is excited that the park is closed for three months... [you know that's not going to last. Also, I was shocked to see Super Snooper and Blabber Mouse.] Unfortunately, it looks like Yogi and BooBoo have headed off to the city to see their friends, in your classic A-goes-to-see-B, but B-went-to-see-A scenario. [ugh. these are generally not so funny...] The group decides to go after Yogi, and the Ranger also rounds up some troops to search for the bears. Meanwhile, in the city, a little girl is at the store with her father, but he drops her off to pick up a present and charge it to him, while he goes to do business. ["be the first kid on your block to level Detroit" was strange. does this date back to a real thing?] The bears dress as Santa and an elf to fool those looking for them, and the little girl soon asks YogiSanta for a daddy who will spend Christmas with her. [awwww. super sad.] Yogi tells Judy that he'll make her Christmas a little merrier, but the trio is soon on the run. Yogi manages to swindle a couple out of their picnic basket, so he, BooBoo, and Judy have some food to eat. It's been hours, and Judy has realized that Yogi isn't the real Santa... she doesn't want to go home, though, since Yogi and BooBoo are so much fun. [haha. love it.] Yogi looks at a phonebook, but realizes that "Jones" is a very common surname. [this made me laugh quite loudly.] Just then, the gang drives up, and plan to help. Snagglepuss runs into FRED AND BARNEY who are trying to earn money for the water buffalos. [yes, I'm serious. The Flintstones made an appearance!] They set him up to scare a woman who then donates money when they save her. [this was a funny little gag, I thought.] Elsewhere, Quickdraw knocks on Jinx's door, who says that there are no Jones folks there. Magilla and Yaki and Wally all help, too, but it doesn't work. [though we're really rounding up everything Hanna-Barbera...] Ranger Smith talks to Mr. Jones, who finally cares more about his daughter than his work. [which, as I'm sure you could guess, is the whole point here.] Judy witnesses Augie Doggie and DoggieDaddy being cute and now wants to go home. Luckily, the police find the group in the park, and Mr. Jones has realized that it's all his fault, not Yogi's. After a shortened "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," even the Ranger makes peace with Yogi. A little "Jingle Bells"wraps up this special. [which was, indeed, "special" in that I never would have expected these characters to appear and interact in this way, LoL.]

A Chipmunk Christmas: [Overall: SKIP IT. I was really annoyed by this and hardly wanted to watch more than ten minutes of it. Maybe it's because I'm so much more into the late-80s animation for The Chipmunks, but I just didn't like this.] There's a little boy named Tommy who is very sick (though at home, not in a hospital). Elsewhere, the chipmunks head out Christmas shopping, as there are only five days left. They sing "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," and their own "Wonderful Day" song. Tommy's sister sees a harmonica in the store that Tommy would want, and Alvin overhears. This puts Alvin in a sour mood when he sings with Simon and Theodore, and makes Alvin decide to give up his own harmonica. [now, as soon as you saw a sick kid, then hears he wanted a harmonica, didn't you know where this was going?] Alvin magically knew where to find Tommy, and presents him with his golden harmonica, making up a line about Tommy having won a contest. [Alvin always was good at lying, haha! His flying was ridiculous, tho.] Alvin returns just in time to record the song for the latest album. Then, Carnegie Hall calls, and invites the chipmunks to play on Christmas Eve. [yes, you read that correctly. THE Carnegie Hall called. just a few days before.] Problem is, they want Alvin to play a harmonica solo, but he was planning to save up to replace the one that he gave away, so he has to come up with a ploy to earn money by dressing like Santa and getting some dogs to pose as reindeer, then charging neighborhood kids for pictures. It doesn't work. [surprised?] The boys end up confessing that Alvin needs money, but Theodore says that it's to buy a gift for himself and Dave gets mad and won't listen to the rest of Alvin's story. [I think I pointed it out already, but this is just another example of how important it is to LISTEN TO YOUR KIDS.] Two hours before the concert, Dave gets a call from Tommy's mother, and he gets the whole story. Meanwhile, Alvin is at the store staring at the harmonica when an old lady comes up and buys it for him on a whim. [yep, it turns out to be Mrs. Claus.] Alvin thanks her and plays "Silent Night." Dave goes to the store to apologize to Alvin, and they ride in a horse-drawn carriage (that would never balance like that, by the way) to Carnegie Hall. Tommy is well now and meets Alvin, who invites the boy to join them on stage. Oh, and there's a strange rendition of "Deck the Halls." 

Casper's First Christmas: [Overall: strange and kinda cute. Not an every-year addition, but worth watching.] The Hanna-Barbera gang is driving along and singing "Coming up Christmastime." [this is particularly interesting because BooBoo has a solo line in it... the same line in the same song can be heard in Yogi Bear's First Christmas, but BooBoo isn't in that scene, so I always found that to be weird. Well, now I know that they just copied over the song without editing it to fit who is in the scene! Cute shot of Boo Boo with a striped tongue from sucking on a candy cane, tho!] At a condemned house, Casper wonders if Santa will visit him there, and writes Santa a letter and puts it in his stocking. [it's been a LONG time since I saw someone put their letter in their stocking!] It's 8pm and Casper goes to bed in a drawer. He's awoken shortly thereafter by Hairy, who wants to do some haunting. Once Hairy hears that "the spirit of giving" is coming, he gets excited... but Casper explains that Santa isn't a ghost, per se. Hairy says that ghosts don't get presents nor have friends. Meanwhile, the gang is looking for a lodge, but they're lost. They pull up to the old house and go inside. They clean up the place, find decorations, and go to town making the place festive. Hairy and Casper return, not having found any new houses to haunt. [and they managed to make me feel bad for them, LoL.] Casper wants to make friends, so he introduces himself to BooBoo. He's frightened at first, but soon they're friends. He goes to warn them about Hairy, but Yogi cuts him off. Meanwhile, Hairy scares DoggyDaddy in the kitchen. Casper goes to yell at him but Hairy hides when the group comes in. Then, Hairy scares Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound, and QuickDraw in the basement. They run into DoggyDaddy, who says that they just saw Casper, but then he sees Hairy, too. [at this point I'm half-giggling.] Hairy comes across Casper's letter to Santa, which asked only to save Hairy's house, which leads Hairy to realize that Casper is a nice guy, and a friend. [awww. hallmark moment.] So as not to disappoint Casper, he gets into the spirit. Santa shows up and everyone gets presents that they're excited about. [I'm not a big fan of Casper's voice.] Hairy is afraid of Santa, but Santa gives him a house deed for life. [awwww!] He also fixes it up and calls it "Hairy's Haunting Lodge." Hairy then invites the Hanna-Barbera gang to come visit every Christmas.[though, as far as I know, they never return. though this may be worth looking into, as they now have at least three Christmas episodes to my knowledge.]

The Nanny "Christmas Episode" (S01E08): [Overall: worth watching, not worth repeating.] While the family decorates the tree, Maxwell asks Fran to work on Christmas Day since he won't be home. Grace tells her that he is usually busy, and they just celebrate a day early. Niles tells Fran that they get four-figure holiday bonuses. Grace wants her father for Christmas. [of course.] Fran learns that Edna, Maxwell's personal shopper, buys the children's gifts. [yeah, yeah. we're supposed to hate her for this. I don't.] CC suggests that Fran pick out the gifts, but Fran tells Maxwell that the kids would be much happier if he picked out the gifts himself, so he gives it a try, getting Brighton a bicycle, for example. Fran gets Maggie a great sweater, and buys gifts with checks that might bounce if she doesn't make a deposit Monday morning. Grace gets a large, blow-up Munch's The Scream. Niles gets a bonus, but Fran receives a vase, so she has to pawn it. But, when Maxwell tells her that it reminded him of her, she wants it back. [dumb, dumb, dumb.] She doesn't have the $200, so she gives the pawn shop her dead grandmother's watch. Niles tells Maxwell the truth, so when Maxwell's plane is delayed, he rushes home and meets the family at the Christmas Eve service. There's a strange round of telephone in the pews when Fran heads to the confessional. [made me laugh!] Maxwell got the name of the pawn shop from Val and tried to retrieve the watch, but gets the wrong one. [haha, this was funny.] He sits right on the vase, breaking it and injuring himself, so the rest of the evening is spent in the hospital, with the whole family. A strange Santa-dressed patient shares the room but disappears when the clock strikes 12. [meh. odd ending.]
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