This year saw the trans-media giant Grumpy Cat make the leap on to the silver screen (or at least the boob tube) in her very first made for TV movie and given this convergence of geek and holiday I thought I’d take some time to hit some of the five most interesting geek holiday cross over specials.
5. Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever:
The movie makes a point to remind you of its nature, to say this movie breaks the fourth wall would be an understatement as vast as the Grand Canyon. Recurring jokes about commercials selling you stuff, the boring nature of the b plot, and the fact it’s a Lifetime movie kitty littered the film. There is even a “very special episode” type joke (any child of the 80s will know exactly what I mean by that). Clocking in at 85 minutes the film is a bizarre mishmash of family fun and hipster snark but somehow it works if you are the kind of person who enjoys Grumpy Cat Memes. If you are not, this is probably something you’d best avoid, but it’s an interesting convergence of internet geekery and holiday mirth. (Now I’m just waiting for the Woodrocket porn parody and then the trifecta will be complete.)
I give this 4 Pokey’s out of 5.
4. The Hebrew Hammer
This movie is a pitch perfect parody that if it was made by anyone else would have been considered anti-Semitic. Really it’s taking skewers to the exploitation genre but also the holidays and the entire concept of culture and religious identity. In many ways it plays like if Mel Brooks made a 70s exploitation film for the holidays. There are jokes about the Sabbath, bacon cheese burgers, Yentil, The Black Panthers, Kwanzaa, and It’s A Wonderful Life. This is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea but Adam Goldberg brings the perfect pitch to the role never playing it too hard but never getting lazy about the delivery either, his nemesis Andy Dick… well he’s Andy Dick, if anyone can played a coked out evil WASP I can’t think of any better casting than that though in many ways the Hammer’s real nemesis is Esther. Of course Mordechai’s mother wants him to find a nice girl and settle down and that’s where Esther steps in and proves his true foil. This is a really fun holiday film but really is geared towards those who understand parody.
I give it 5 Hebrew Hammer Action Figures out of 5.
3. AD/BC: A Rock Opera
My love of British comedy led me to The Mighty Boosh which led me to the IT Crowd which led me to AD/BC: A Rock Opera. Starring Matt Berry (as seen in both Boosh and the IT Crowd) as the fictional composer Tim Wynde the premise of the 30 minute special is the BBC recorded his special AD/BC but never aired it. Years later they decided to air it and after his special introduction we get to the meat and potatoes of the presentation. The story of the Innkeeper from the biblical nativity story with Wynde (Berry) as the Innkeeper of lore, but Berry isn’t the only big name the rest of the Boosh make an appearance with Julia Davis as Ruth the Innkeeper’s Wife, Julian Barratt of the Mighty Boosh playing Tony Iscariot the creepy Innkeeper across the road running the high end luxury Inn (according to Wynde Judas’ dad), Richard Ayoade as Joseph in possibly the most comedic application of ADR in film ever, Matt Lucas as a Wrestler playing God and Noel Fielding as a variety of roles. With a cast like that it’s a true bonanza of modern British comedy.
The entire thing has a sheen of greasiness but that’s very deliberate. Like The Hebrew Hammer AD/BC is trying to recreate a very specific filmic language and it nails it on the head. Wynde is almost a prototype for Berry’s current character Steven Toast, a slimy British actor in Toast of London (if you haven’t seen it already do yourself a favour and watch it as soon as possible). The music is the most over the top and overwrought pieces of cheese set to film in decades and the entire premise just reeks of earnestness, hippies and peyote and the delivery is spot on. There are a handful of things I would like to adapt to stage before I die, the dramatic When The Wind Blows, one of the Terry Pratchett Discworld plays, the recent Monkey Island play, and this. It is a piece of comedic freaking genius with even a low-fi film stock and terrible cheesy wipes and camera work.
I give it 5 of carrots out of 5.
2. A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!
The special was an all star cavalcade that included some of the hottest stars of the year as well as friends and legends including his patron Jon Stewart explaining about the Festival of Lights, John Legend being a bit nutty, Tobey Keith being bizarrely self aware and self deprecatory, Willy Nelson being… well Willy Nelson, Feist at her angelic best, Elvis Costello playing up his Britishness, and a very special appearance by George Wendt.
The special, as with all things Colbert, was tongue firmly planted in cheek sending up of the corporate structure that he was effectively a part of including his very own Christmas Song intended to “cash in” on those Christmas Greenbacks even at the expense of his own kids (who made a brief appearance in the show as caroling street urchins). Trapped in the woods while his cabin in the Holiday Special was being filmed back in New York he struggled to get home despite the interference of his nemesis a Bear. His guests had walk ons like the classic Bing Crosby holiday special. In the end Colbert finds the true spirit of Christmas… a product placement for his own special which was on sale at stores shortly after its airing. For a kid who grew up in the era of the “All Star Christmas Special” at its worst (the 1980s) this was a treat.
For it’s meta-hilarious self awareness I give this 5 hallucinatory Willy Nelsons out of 5.
1. The Star Wars Holiday Special
Now, if you haven’t seen this, I will say right away it is truly TERRIBLE! Yes the entire original cast show up including Harrison Ford phoning it in clearly understanding what a mess this is, Peter Mayhew at his furry best, a bizarrely orange Mark Hamill with more eyeliner than really is required, R2 and 3P0 of course and Carrie Fisher who is either suffering from a bipolar episode, REALLY coked out, incredibly drunk or all three. But that’s not all, add to that Bea Arthur yes from Golden Girls but at that time more famously Maude, Harvey Korman a comedic genius who was in the public consciousness in The Carol Burnett Show at the time and Don Franks a Canadian Jazz Crooner as the voice of Boba Fett in his first ever appearance… that’s right the very first appearance of Boba Fett is in this special and he’s Canadian!
The premise was… odd. Chewbacca is trying to get home for Life Day, a Wookiee celebration of life that involves robes and lanterns and some kind of weird processional and that’s about all I understand of it. We are also introduced to Wookiee-Ookiees, Chewie’s wife Mallatobuck (Malla for short), son Lumawaroo (aka Lumpy) and father Attichitcuk (aka Itchy… seriously). They are all concerned Chewie will not make it home but Han is on it they will get past the blockade. We get interstitials with Lumpy making a transmitter, Malla cooking and watching Harvey Korman doing a space Julia Childs impersonation on “space TV” as well as going to the store and itchy perving out… like seriously. Watching videos of a humanoid and CLEARLY thinking inappropriate things about this woman in his soft core song. There’s even a moment when Imperials searching the Chewbacca family home is distracted by a Jefferson Starship music video. Yes, you read that right, Jefferson Starship. We also get a torch song sung by the impressive Bea Arthur who runs a local bar and a bunch of little interstitials that include Korman as various characters.
Add to that a cartoon by Nelvana (in their very distinct 70s style animation similar to the work they were doing at the time for a Doctor Who cartoon which was sadly never realized). This is the cartoon that created and introduced of Boba Fett (which explains the Canadian voice talent)! We also get the establishing of Kashyyyk and the first shots of the planet, lots of songs, and a cut aways to Luke and Leia with Leia even closing out the show singing a song set to the iconic score of the movie! (That’s some grade a Rodenberry musical weirdness there.)
The special was bizarre and made so little sense Anthony Daniels joked how it is the special “nobody talks about” and while Lucas claimed to have little involvement Patty Maloney (Lumpy) indicated he was sent dailies so could have said something if he wanted to. That’s not even the only Star Wars Christmas material, there’s also an album with Star Wars Holiday Songs including one that places Santa in the Star Wars universe. You want to know the most crazy part of all of this? While the album may no longer be canon ALL OF THIS SPECIAL IS! This stuff is considered canonical to the Star Wars universe! I don’t know what drugs they ingested during the making of this special but it’s clear whatever they were there was a lot of them.
How can I rate this? This is a canonical part of my very fandom that went on to shape some of my favourite parts of the Star Wars universe (I love the Mandalorians and always have and to know they are a Canadian creation gives me a bizarre sense of national pride).
This is in many ways un-ratable but if forced I would have to give it 5 drunken Carrie Fishers out of 5.
In the end everyone has their special holiday traditions and memories, everyone’s is precious and special. While we geeks are caught up in the joy of being Nintendo Kid unwrapping our NES or our Red Rider BB gun or consuming vast quantities of hot chocolate and whiling away the hours watching the TV in the company of family the one recurring element there is family. It’s the moments we share with loved ones that are as important as what we are sharing.
If you have any special geeky holiday moments share them with us in the comments and may this holiday season be bright and special for all of you.