The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room
'Twas The Season Of TV

Elizabeth Grunewald | 10 Dec 2010 20:00
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"Marge Be Not Proud," The Simpsons

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This had all the makings of a tough choice, as The Simpsons has aired many notable Christmas episodes. The family's very first appearance in their own series, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," dealt with Christmas bonuses and mall Santas, and who could forget the "craptacular" Christmas tree in "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace?" But Season 7's "Marge Be Not Proud" is not only the show's most exceptional Christmas special, but one of the Simpsons episodes that pushes the boundaries of what such a cartoon can accomplish.

Bart finds himself tempted by the "coolest videogame ever," Bonestorm. Marge shoots down his hopes like so many "you'll shoot your eye out"s, arguing that not only is the game violent and distracting, but "those games cost up to, and including, $70." Bart is forced to turn to other means to procure his desired bone-crushing action, ultimately turning to shoplifting -- what Nelson promotes as "a victimless crime, like punching someone in the dark." There are some serious laughs up to this point, including a particularly pointy interchange with Comic Book Guy, but the episode stops cold when Marge discovers Bart's indiscretion.

Never has a cartoon instilled such discomfort. The audience follows Bart as he shoulders the guilt of his actions, and endures the disappointment of his loving mother. Marge Be Not Proud rapidly switches gears from being a good ol' laugh, as per usual, to a soul-crushing portrait of a parental cold shoulder. The despair the episode instills sets up one of the episode's warmest moments, as Bart and Marge exchange gifts that reflect how they've grown over the episode and in their relationship. Watching Marge Be Not Proud can take you back to your childhood, in the most hysterical and uncomfortable ways.

"How The Ghosts Stole Christmas," The X-Files

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The holidays can be awfully depressing. The ever-present allusions to friends and family can wreck havoc on the lives of the lonely, and reports are always telling us suicides peak at this time of year. "How The Ghosts Stole Christmas" plays on this loneliness, and traps Mulder and Scully in a loop of depression and distrust.

In what must have seemed like a good idea at the time, Agents Mulder and Scully set out to investigate a pair of ghosts, said to be the apparitions of two lovers who killed one another on Christmas 81 years past. They wander into an appropriately creepy house, only to find themselves besieged by their prey. Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin separate our intrepid pair and begin what amounts to a psychological war. The ghosts prey on the loneliness within the pair, and the ambiguity of their relationship, urging them all the while to follow the old example and kill one another on Christmas, there in the house.

This one is a psychological trip, wrapped up nicely in one setting with a great big creepy bow. Doors and walls appear and disappear, and time itself seems to be shifting around Mulder and Scully. It all serves to isolate and displace them until they can succumb to the ghost's desires. The penultimate scene finds our protagonists shot and bleeding, inching themselves across a great tiled floor as a scratchy Bing Crosby urges them to "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."

It's enough to give you the heebie-jeebies, that's for sure.

Save "How The Ghosts Stole Christmas" for a time when you're feeling cheery. If you watch it lonely, just remember that it's not as bad as Mulder and Scully think.

So those are the shows that I now recommend
To watch in the comp'ny of family and friends.
If you should have your own holiday show
That you love to watch, recommend it below!
And please let me say, as I type this with speed
Happy Holidays to you, geeks, and thanks for the read.

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