Monday, December 13, 2010

The Sap Is Running

I wonder if I could have been a writer of Christmas specials?

Probably not. I don’t have a high enough sap content.

After all, sappiness seems to be a staple of holiday fare. We can
thank Charles Dickens for that. He set the standard for mawkishness
in “A Christmas Carol” that resonates to this day.

Some do sap better than others. “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” are lump in the throat, tear in the eye tales that are classics of the genre.
Sentimental? Sure. Socko, life-affirming happy endings? You bet.

Contrast them with the parade of offerings each year that shames even
a mediocre medium like television.

It’s the Dickens formula, 21 Century style. Take a tragic figure, mix
in the prospect for a cold and bleak holiday preferably involving
doe-eyed children, add a dash of morality and stir vigorously. Top
with a last-minute Christmas Miracle and pass out the handkerchiefs.

But it’s Dickens as imagined by a room full of monkeys banging on

Take, for instance, “Debbie Macomber's Call Me Mrs.
Miracle.” This Christmas, Emily Merkle (call her Mrs. Miracle!) is
working in the toy department at Finley's, the last family-owned
department store in New York City. And her boss is none other than
Jake Finley, the owner's son.

For Jake, holiday memories of brightly wrapped gifts, decorated trees
and family were destroyed in a Christmas Eve tragedy years before.
Now Christmas means just one thing to him—and to his father. Profit.
Because they need a Christmas miracle to keep the business afloat.

Holly Larson needs a miracle, too. She wants to give her
eight-year-old nephew, Gabe, the holiday he deserves. Holly's widowed
brother is in the army and won't be home for Christmas, but at least
she can get Gabe that toy robot from Finley's, the one gift he
desperately wants. If she can figure out how to afford it.

Fortunately, it's Mrs. Miracle to the rescue. Next to making children
happy, she likes nothing better than helping others—and that includes
doing a bit of matchmaking.

Sounds to me like Mrs. Miracle is a bit of a nosy busybody.

Or consider“Farewell, Mr. Kringle” (not to be confused with “Goodby,
Mr. Chips.”) Annabelle (Christine Taylor), a widowed journalist,
accepts an assignment on Kris Kringle, a Santa Claus impersonator who
lives in a small,Christmas-themed town. To her surprise, Anna is
enchanted by Kris and the townspeople who love him. As her
involvement with the town grows, Anna is able to put the past behind
her and open herself up to love again.

The biggest problem with this story is that any self-respecting
journalist assigned to do a story on a Santa Claus impersonator would
quickly resign and flee into the night.

As silly and schmaltzy as these storylines may be, they read like
“Gone With the Wind” compared to a TV offering entitled “Holiday in

In it, Trudie is an aspiring painter working as a restaurant
waitress. With the pressure to please her parents building, a job
interview that goes poorly and getting dumped by her boyfriend, she
has a nervous breakdown.

Stressed about going home for the holidays, she kidnaps David, a
random restaurant customer at the restaurant in which she works and
introduces him to her parents as her boyfriend. Trudie's family is
vacationing at a isolated house so David is unable to escape. He
finally decides to play along until the police come, but he
ultimately falls in love with Trudie.

But this Christmas holiday comes to an abrupt end when her brother
announces that he is gay and her sister says that she has quit law
school and with the tuition her dad has been sending her bought a
pilates studio. Then the police show up and arrest the family during

Later, Trudie is invited to show her art at a local gallery and is
stunned to see one of her pieces is sold during the show. As she is
leaving the show, she is kidnapped and taken to a nearby building.

Her kidnapper turns out to be David. He tells her he bought this
building and is making it into an architecture/art studio. He decided
to turn his life around and do something he really

He also wanted an art studio and shows her his
first art piece he just purchased, and it turns out to be hers.
David admits his love for Trudie and Trudie admits her feelings
towards him as well. They share a kiss as the credits start to roll.

But it’s not the worst holiday special ever made.

That distinction goes to cable network VH1 which some years ago
contracted zany hard rocker and weapon nut Ted Nugent to help create a
“reality” Christmas special.

Nugent responded with a special that features him bowhunting, and
then making jerky from four calling birds, three French hens, two
turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

In the second half of the hour-long special, Nugent heckles a
vegetarian into consuming three strips of dove jerky.

It was never aired.

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