Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Everytime a sitcom dies, Google collects another soul: Unironic, Narrowcast Xmas Specials That Ought To Exist Since A Dr. Who Special Does, Apparently.

So I don't know what this is:

but it is apparently a big deal because the Internet, which tends to get all caught up in things that I know nothing about forcing me to try to find out at least a little about them so that I can then say to people in my office "What, you didn't know about that? I thought everyone knew about that!" and make myself seem... cool? No, that's not the word.

That video is for something called the "Dr. Who Christmas Special," or maybe it's not, because to be honest, my "research" for this introduction was limited to

1.  Going to Youtube

2.  Typing "Dr. Who Christmas Special" into the search bar.

3.  Pasting the first video I found.
 So if it's not the video for the "Dr. Who Christmas Special" then don't blame me, blame Google, because if you blame Google they will know it and they will make sure that every search you ever do, no matter what you type in, leads to some terrible result that will get you fired.

That -- Google's ability to screw you over if you make fun of them -- is something I surmised existed from a recent episode of Up All Night, that TV series that I think was briefly on this fall starring Christina Applegate:

and other people who aren't her.

The premise of Up All Night is that Christina Applegate:

and one of those other people are married and have a kid but here's the catch: they used to be cool and go out a lot and now they don't, and so every show revolves around a weird mixture of them trying to do parent-y stuff like make videos of their kids and/or be in a warehouse with their brother-in-law (I didn't really follow the plot of that one) and also their trying to be young and hip even though they are...

get this...

not young OR hip.


Anyway, on the episode of Up All Night I watched the other day when I was, ironically (?) up all night with a toothache, Christina Applegate's

ex-boss, Ava, said something and the people in the room all decided to look it up on the Internet, and all three of the people in the scene began chanting "Search engine it! Search engine it!" and I couldn't decide if that was some sort of ironic (?) commentary on people saying Google it or if they wanted to say Google it but couldn't because of some sort of trademark-y thing, the way nobody can say a name brand on TV, and then I got distracted by thinking "there must be a lot of search engines out there and you couldn't get even one to let you use their name in that scene?  Really?"

I think that might be the new moment for determining when a sitcom dies: when they cannot even get Ask Jeeves to let them use their name in a scene.*

*Apparently, Ask Jeeves no longer exists.  You know how I found that out? I googled it.  Irony! (?)

So this is not about Up All Night.  This is about something called the Dr. Who Christmas Special existing, and also about the fact that I know who Dr. Who is without ever having seen a Dr. Who show, without knowing anyone who has ever seen a Dr. Who show, and without even knowing someone who knows someone who... you get the point.  Somehow, Dr. Who exists in my consciousness the same way Lady Gaga goes, but not for the same reasons:

Lady Gaga is in my consciousness, and probably yours, the way nitrogen is in the atmosphere: for no apparent reason, but taking up tons and tons of space and doing not much of anything of value.  Although to be fair, I believe that nitrogen might help keep our atmosphere from spontaneously combusting every time we light a campfire.  I'm not sure if I read that in an article or just thought it up one night, but now, in the crystal-clear light of day, illuminated by a cake-saturated Lady Gaga, it makes sense: if our atmosphere were pure oxygen, wouldn't the entire Earth have exploded the first time something burnt?

Makes sense to me.

If a Dr. Who Christmas Special can exist, to appeal to those 13 people who write for Boing Boing and who go nuts every time someone on Etsy issues a hand-painted shot glass featuring a Dalek, then what other Christmas specials could exist to cater to a narrow, barely-existing market that shouldn't be forgotten in these days of giant conglomerates overwhelming us with their "Holiday" specials that begin on November 1 and their Black Friday specials starting on Thanksgiving practically during the Lions game that nobody but author PT Dilloway is watching**

**that is an unpaid promotion.  If PT is like Google and those other people who wouldn't let Up All Night use their search engine names, then future archived versions of this post will read "nobody but AUTHOR is watching.

and all those other things that corporations do that we hate, because pretending to hate corporations is good for business which is why I just went on that little diatribe, if all those things, then I might finally get to the premise of this post which is, if you remember the title, me giving you ideas for

Unironic, Narrowcast Xmas Specials That Ought To Exist Since A Dr. Who Special Does, Apparently. 

 which is to say: There are a lot of barely-known, little-remembered things in pop culture, and if Dr. Who gets a Christmas special, why shouldn't they? So I will write the premise for them, and Hollywood will take it from there, and I will get paid.  That's how it works, right?

Let's start with:

Christmas At This Moment: A Billy Vera and The Beaters Christmas Variety Show!

There's not a chance that you are not right now remembering the overwrought, overwhelming performance that catapulted not just Billy Vera, but the Beaters, too, to the top of the charts in 1980-something-or-other.  An entire generation of kids listened to this song and thought Oh my God, I can't wait to fall in love and then have her break my heart because she loves someone else so that I can then wander around a rainy alley in New York City or maybe Boston, listening to this song FULL BLAST on my WalkmanTM and crying.  

And yet, At This Moment, despite defining what heartbreak should be for a brief period of time in 1980-something, has dropped away from our consciousness, having not been used (so far as I can tell) in any TV show, movie, or other visual reference since it was the background music for a Family Ties very special episode:

The Set-Up:  Christmas variety shows, as Stephen Colbert so accurately noted, always involve a celebrity on an obvious stage set with a minimum of plot driving forward guest appearances, so let's go with:  Billy Vera is all set to do his voice-over work that he's known for these days, but when he's asked to do the voice-over as Santa on "Corporations Are People, Too: A Very Citizens United Christmas," in which Santa gets bought out by SantaCo, he has a crisis of conscience and has to decide whether he'll take the money and live large this Christmas, or stand up for the true meaning of Christmas***

***Something about egg nog, I think.  I've lost track.

Billy would then be greeted by obscure special guest stars, like character actor Lewis Smith, who appeared with Billy in the hit (?) movie (?) The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension:

and at the end, would gather up the star-studded cast for a singalong, Christmas-ized version of At This Moment, featuring the lyrics:

I'd fall down 
on my knees
find my present
under the Tree:
you, with a bow on

Is that not doing it for you?  Perhaps you're not the musical variety-show type.  Well, then, how about a very special episode of a sitcom? Something like

Andy Richter, PI, Controls The Universe Via His Quintuplets (At Christmas!)

Who doesn't love Andy Richter and his many wacky sitcoms?  Apparently, everybody, as Andy has repeatedly made the attempt to escape the gravitational pull of Conan O'Brien's cowlick, only to be sucked back into secondbanana-ing a guy whose show can't do any better than TBS.  

I have always been a fan of Andy's, and I loved his show Andy Richter Controls The Universe, which gave me one of the favorite swear words that I use secretly when I am driving because officially I don't swear. *4

*4: The word is asspods.  As in "which one of you asspods turned me in.

but my love of Andy's shows is not shared by other people, and so Andy is sufficiently obscure to serve as a counterpoint to a Dr. Who Christmas Special, while also being able to revive that great 80s tradition of Very Special Christmas Episodes of TV shows, the kind of episodes that would begin by looking out the window of Alan Thicke's house as snow falls, or with Tim Allen coming in from shoveling snow and in either case someone announcing that despite all the snow falling, they just had to get to the Mall to buy that last present for their boss, or some such.

After a series of mishaps, the entire cast of the show would end up huddled in the cab of the tow truck that had itself gotten mired in the swamp trying to pull out the car, and they would at first bemoan their fate, until the truck driver told a story about how his grandpa would have loved to be around on Christmas but he'd gotten drafted for World War II and spent his Christmas getting shot at in France, and then the driver would share his special egg nog recipe and everyone would step outside the cab where fake snow was falling around them and look up and see a star shining brighter than all the others.

*Sigh*.  Remember when Christmas was special because our president wasn't a Muslim who had unleashed God's wrath on us by secretly gay marrying someone in college?

The Set-Up: I'd go with what I wrote up there.  But with more wackiness.

If music and sitcoms aren't your thing, perhaps I could interest you in a little Xmas Xooking?  Everyone loves a celebrity chef, right? And we've got tons of them, what with that big lady who doesn't do charity and that one guy with the hair, plus probably Rachael Ray still cooks, doesn't she?

She sure does. 
The problem is that most celebrity chefs are pretty well-known and/or really really annoying and insufferable, so to get one that's truly as obscure as the aptly-named Dr. Who, I went way back in history and found this guy:

 Who is not as cleavage-y as Rachael Ray but who was, nonetheless, the first-ever celebrity chef.  That guy is Bartolomeo Scappi, who was the personal chef to Popes Pius IV and V.  I am not sure where those popes fit into the Pantheon of Popes -- good? bad? indifferent?-- but they were Popes and so that probably constitutes putting the Christ back in Xmas.

Bartolomeo's cookbook was called Opera and had over 1,000 recipes, some of which are a bit impractical today; he recommends, for example, using the liver of a goose "raised by Jews," but you could use this recipe for Tortelli, which are a doughnut-ball eaten at "Christmas and carnival."

Per far minestra di tortelli d'herba alla Lombarda
Piglinosi biete, & spinaci, taglinosi minute, & lavinosi in piu acque, & strucchi fuori l'acqua, faccianosi soffriggere con butiro fresco, & con esse ponasi a bollire una brancata d'herbe odorifere, & cavinosi, & ponganosi in un vaso di terra oo di rame stagnato, & giungavisi cascio Parmeggiano grattato, & cascio grasso, tanto dell'uno quanto dell'altro, & pepe, cannella, garofani, zafferano, uva passa, & uove crude abastanza; & se la compositione fosse troppo liquida pongavisi pan grattato, ma se sarĂ  troppo soda, metavisi un poco piu di butiro, & habbiasi un sfoglio di pasta fatta nel modo che se dice nel capitolo 177. E faccianosi i tortelli piccoli, & grandi, facendoli cuocere in buon brodo di carne, & servanosi con cascio,. zuccaro, & cannella sopra.

 You won't even need a Jew!  But you will need beets and spinach, which you will then top with cheese, sugar, and cinnamon. Sounds like my mother-in-law's cooking! (Ba dum bum.  Don't forget to tip your waiters!)

The Set-Up: The Xmas Xooking special would resurrect... sorry, wrong holiday... some of Bartolomeo's recipes, prepared by the celebrity chefs of today, with intermittent performances from some opera guy or something ('cause duh, Italy!) because opera always sounds Christmas-y:

And did I mention celebrity chefs?

Can't emphasize those enough.

If, though, none of those do it for you, then all I've got left is An Animated Xmas, getting together long-forgotten cartoon heroes whose heydays have come and gone.  Heroes like


 And Wonderbug:

and Grape Ape:

and they'd all get together and do something Christmas-y because the only way to make even more sure that everyone tunes into something than by slapping "Christmas" on it is to make sure that you somehow make it nostalgic, too.

Or, to put it another way:  Cobra C.L.A.W.S. are coming to town existed:

Have you heard about this?

It starts Friday! Click the picture for details!


Andrew Leon said...

I've been watching Dr. Who since I was a kid. It's one of my very favorite things. A ton of my kids' friends also watch it. There has been a Christmas Special every year for a while now.

I own Buckaroo Bonzai. Great movie!

I had something else, but the microwave just beeped, and I forgot whatever it was.

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

If I'm lucky I won't even be watching the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. Of course the alternative is probably to watch Pingu or something like that on Netflix for my nieces. That's still probably better.

There does seem to be a dearth of XMas specials these days, which is why we keep showing Rudolph and Charlie Brown even though they're from the 60s.

Briane P said...

Andrew: So now I know someone who watches Dr. Who. That still doesn't explain how I know about that show despite not having known anything about it.

PT: If you don't watch the Lions, and they lose because they could sense that they were missing that 0.0001% of support you provide, well, then, THAT IS ON YOU. I hope you can live with yourself.

Also: I don't know what Pingu is. Mysteries wrapped in riddles wrapped in enigmas! But have a happy birthday.

Andrew Leon said...

It's actually a show I bet you would like, but I'm not sure where to tell you to start watching...
I love the old Tom Baker's, but those are hard for modern audiences to get into because of the cheesy SPFX. You could start with the new series, except that I'm reluctant to suggest you start with season 1 because of Ecclestein. Season 2 brings in David Tenant, and he's brilliant.

Andrew Leon said...

@PT: Happy Birthday!

Liz said...

You know two people who watch Doctor Who. Although, I'm a johnny-come-lately as I only got into the new iteration when they rebooted with Eccleston.

BTW, Doctor Who is huge. It's gaining popularity here (I now see the kids with gear daily). And Andrew is right, the Christmas episode/special is a yearly thing.